January 08, 2001 ACE
Newspaper: China Easing Demands (BEIJING - AP) - In a move it hailed as a ``major goodwill gesture,'' a state-run newspaper said Saturday that Chinese leaders are easing demands that Taiwan declare itself part of China before direct travel and communications are allowed. The China Daily said China is now willing to talk about ending a 51-year ban on direct contacts so long as Taiwan agrees to treat the links as if they were taking place within the same country, not between sovereign states. This may represent a softening of Beijing's previous insistence that Taipei declare itself part of China before talks could begin on opening the direct links. ``As long as (links) are conducted as internal affairs within one country, we will take pragmatic steps to work with them,'' He Shizhong, an official in the Taiwan Affairs Office, was quoted as saying. The China Daily said the offer ``should push forward more direct contact'' with Taiwan.

China Extends Lunar New Year Holiday (BEIJING) - China has extended this month's Lunar New Year holiday to a full week. The extension of the usually three-day holiday, also called Spring Festival, is part of efforts to perk up economic growth by encouraging Chinese to spend more on travel. Businesses are ordered to close from the first day of the Lunar New Year on Jan. 24 until Jan. 30, the China Daily newspaper said. During the holiday, airlines, railways and bus companies plan to raise prices by up to 50 percent, the Xinhua News Agency said. Less popular routes are to cost 20 to 30 percent more. Xinhua said airlines are planning 20 percent more flights. This year, the government expects some 1.66 billion passengers to travel during the holiday week - a figure that counts separately multiple trips by a single traveler - a rise of 2.7 percent over last year, Xinhua said. The government began making major holidays a full week with National Day on Oct. 1, 1999. Last year, the strategy was rewarded with double-digit increases in retail spending during holiday weeks.

IP phone price in China drops (BEIJING) - China Netcom Corp has slashed its Internet protocol (IP) phone rates by up to 50 percent. The rate cuts are made possible by looser telecoms price regulations that went into effect on Monday and at least one other firm is considering similar discounts. China Netcom, one of the country's six licensed telecoms operators, said in a statement carried by state newspapers on Tuesday it had cut fees on calls to the United States and Canada to 2.4 yuan ($0.29) per minute from 4.8 yuan ($0.58). IP telephony is a technology that carries voice calls over the Internet rather than traditional circuit-switched phone lines. The service is much cheaper than regular phone service, and China has issued IP licences to at least five carriers. ($1-8.278 Yuan)

Rights group blames China for Falun Gong deaths (HONG KONG) - Torture and persecution by Chinese authorities have caused the deaths of four more followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, a Hong Kong human rights group said on Tuesday. The incidents brought to at least 92 the number of Falun Gong adherents who have died of ill treatment by Chinese authorities while in custody or during arrest since July 1999, the Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy said. In the southwest Sichuan province, 32-year-old Su Qinghua died in a botched police attempt to arrest her on December 20. She fell to her death from her sixth-floor apartment as she grappled with a policeman attempting to abseil into her apartment. Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, combines meditation and exercise with a doctrine loosely rooted in Buddhist and Taoist teachings. It first shocked Beijing with a 10,000-strong protest in April in 1999 and was banned in China later that year.

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