. China News .

China charges Bo Xilai with corruption, abuse of power
by Staff Writers
Jinan, China / Shandong (AFP) July 25, 2013

Work on world's tallest building stopped in China: media
Beijing, Beijing (AFP) July 25, 2013 - Work on a Chinese skyscraper aiming to be the world's tallest building has been ordered to stop just days after breaking ground, local media reported Thursday.

"Relevant authorities" had ordered a halt to work on the Sky City tower in Changsha, in the central province of Hunan, "because it did not complete the required procedures for seeking approval to start construction", the Xiaoxiang Morning Post newspaper said.

At 838 metres (2,749 feet), the tower would surpass the world's current tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, by 10 metres.

Ground was broken on the project at the weekend, the company behind it, Broad Group, said earlier this week, adding that construction would take just four months once the foundations were laid.

The construction schedule has added to concerns over safety, with worries over whether the land surrounding the site could support the structure's tremendous weight.

Certain approvals were needed to assess the project's safety and environmental impact, the Xiaoxiang Morning Post said, citing unnamed authorities.

But a Broad Group spokeswoman told AFP it had all the required permits.

The company -- whose founder Zhang Yue made a fortune from air conditioners -- attracted global attention last year for building a 30-storey tower in just 15 days, using prefabricated units stacked on top of one another.

It had planned to use the same technique to assemble Sky City by the end of last year, but construction work was delayed multiple times amid concerns that the plans were overambitious.

The People's Daily, the official paper of China's ruling Communist Party, has criticised the project, calling it "blind worship for ultrahigh skyscrapers" on Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like service.

China is home to three of the world's 10 tallest buildings, said the research group Emporis.

A 2011 report said China could boast four times as many skyscrapers as the United States has within five years.

China scraps taxes on small firms to boost economy
Shanghai (AFP) July 25, 2013 - China will lessen the tax burden on small businesses, the government has announced, as part of a package of measures aimed at boosting the slowing economy.

Small firms with monthly sales of less than 20,000 yuan ($3,260) will be exempt from paying turnover tax and value-added tax (VAT) from August 1, the central government said in a statement released late Wednesday.

VAT is levied on the difference between a commodity's retail price and its cost.

"Small businesses... are playing an important role in promoting economic development and market prosperity as well as expanding employment," the statement said in explaining the move.

It was among a series of measures to support the economy unveiled by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

The tax exemptions will benefit more than six million small companies, the statement added.

China's economy expanded 7.5 percent year-on-year in the April-June period, slowing from 7.7 percent in the previous three months, raising worries the world's second largest economy could be headed for a sharp downturn.

Among other steps, the government will set up a fund for railway development, offer tax rebates and keep the yuan's exchange rate at a "reasonable" level to boost international trade, it said.

Exporters complain a stronger yuan is hurting their overseas sales by making their products more expensive.

Lu Ting, an economist with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, called the new policies a "small stimulus".

"Premier Li's team has been surely working around the clock to arrest the slowdown," Lu wrote in a research note on Thursday.

China's once high-flying communist politician Bo Xilai was indicted Thursday for bribery and abuse of power, state media said, following a scandal that exposed deep divisions at the highest levels of government.

Bo, the former party chief of the southwestern city of Chongqing, will be the highest-profile Communist official to be put on trial in China for decades.

He has not been seen in public for more than a year since he was detained following the murder of a British businessman by his wife and his right-hand man's flight to a US consulate, triggering a huge political controversy.

"The indictment paper was delivered" to a court in Jinan, China's official Xinhua news agency said, citing prosecutors in the city in the eastern province of Shandong.

Bo "took the advantage of his position to seek profits for others and accepted an 'extremely large amount' of money and properties", it said, quoting the indictment.

A source with direct knowledge of the case, who requested anonymity, said the trial could begin in mid-August.

There was no sign of increased security on Thursday outside Jinan intermediate court, a huge gated building in the city centre where the trial is due to take place.

News of the proceedings comes at a time when the party is trying to show it is cracking down on corruption and government waste.

It has also had to manage the political rifts exposed by the downfall of Bo -- once one of 25 members of the ruling party's Politburo.

The decision to oust such a high-ranking leader would have required tough backroom negotiations among top leaders.

The trial would be an easier final step after the harder task of defusing any backlash among Bo supporters, said David Goodman, a China expert at the University of Sydney.

Holding the proceedings now would also allow leaders to draw a line under the scandal ahead of a key Communist Party plenum expected in the autumn.

"Politically it's logical now to do this before the plenum in October so you've got a neatness about it," Goodman said.

"The most difficult parts were all done," he said, adding that the trial would probably "be dealt with in a boring procedural way with as little drama as possible".

Both Xinhua and the People's Daily, the Communist Party's official paper, urged support for the decision.

Xinhua called on people to "recognise the ugly face" of officials "who sought personal gain" and on local governments to "defend the authority" of the Beijing leadership.

"China's history has repeatedly proved that the stability and security of the country can only be ensured when the authority of the central government is maintained," it said.

The scandal emerged last year ahead of a once-a-decade leadership transition, in which Bo had been considered a candidate for the Politburo Standing Committee -- China's most powerful body.

His downfall was triggered after his police chief and right-hand man Wang Lijun fled to a US consulate in Chengdu city near Chongqing, allegedly to seek asylum. Bo was detained a month later.

He had cultivated an unusually populist public image and led a high-profile anti-mafia campaign, which resulted in scores of arrests but led to allegations of torture against suspects.

Bo also revived some elements of 1960s Communist Party culture as part of a "Sing Red" campaign involving massive rallies, which drew comparisons with China's tumultuous Cultural Revolution period.

His approach won popular support but also divided top leaders, some of whom felt wary about the leftist bent.

Bo's wife was given a suspended death sentence last August for fatally poisoning businessman and family friend Neil Heywood. The penalty is normally commuted to a life sentence in China.

Wang was sentenced to 15 years in prison in September for defection and other crimes.

Bo himself was removed from his party and government posts, losing his legal immunity at the end of 2012.

Official media said he had "borne major responsibility" for the murder of Heywood and had taken "massive" bribes and had indulged in inappropriate sexual relations with "multiple women".

It is unclear what evidence will be revealed in court. Trials in China are not public and move quickly, with judgements often decided beforehand by political authorities, especially in high-profile cases.

One user of China's popular microblog Sina Weibo questioned whether the trial "will showcase fairness and justice".

Bo has appointed two lawyers, both members of a law firm that has close ties to the ruling party.

The last former Politburo member to be tried for corruption, Chen Liangyu, received an 18-year prison term in 2008.


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