China. In early January, a 40-year-old Tibetan monk died after lighting a fire on himself in Qinghai Province. According to the Tibetan exile government in India, the monk protested against the lack of religious freedom and the difficulties for the Tibetan monks to practice their religion in China. According to human rights organizations, some 80 people lit fire on themselves from 2009 to autumn 2012 in protest of China’s Tibet policy. Most of these actions took place in Qinghai’s neighboring Sichuan province, which borders on Tibet.
Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, condemned self-incrimination, but said China’s “cultural genocide” on Tibetans is making people desperate. The Chinese authorities claimed that the Dalai llamas encouraged people to set fire to themselves. China does not want to admit journalists to Tibet, so it is difficult to get credible reports from the area.
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At the end of January, at least three Tibetans were killed and over 100 were arrested during clashes between police and ethnic Tibetans in Sichuan. At one point, the Tibetans must have protested that policemen killed one of the monks who lit a fire on themselves while trying to extinguish the fire. According to unconfirmed information, at least five more people were killed in connection with Tibetans protesting the celebration of the Chinese New Year. The fires continued in 2012. In May, one monk died and another was injured when the two lit fires on themselves in Tibet’s capital Lhasa. It was probably the first time self-incineration took place in Tibet. In October, eight Tibetan monks died in China in the course of a few days when they had set fire to themselves.
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During a visit to Japan in November, the Dalai llama criticized the Chinese government for not taking self-burns seriously. He said the government should find out the causes of the suicide attacks, and not just criticize him. The Dalai Lama also called on foreign journalists and MPs to travel to Tibet and then report on the situation there. At the end of November, four more self-reported fires were reported, leading to a demonstration by Tibetan students in Qinghai.
In January 2012, official statistics showed that for the first time, the urban population in China had become larger than the rural population. More than 51% of the country’s 1.3 billion residents lived in urban areas.
At the end of January, activist Lin Zulian was elected local party secretary in the village of Wukan in Guangdong Province. Lin replaced the leader he and the rest of the village had severely criticized a month earlier. In December 2011, the villagers had protested that municipal leaders sold the villagers’ leased land without compensating them. The protests led to the sale being stopped, and the choice of the activist was seen as a victory for the villagers and for democracy.
On March 15, influential politician Bo Xilai was dismissed from his post as party secretary in the city of Chongqing, which was the start of one of the biggest political scandals in China in decades. Bo was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and of the Politburo, and was seen as a hot candidate for its standing committee which was to be renewed in conjunction with the party congress in November. The reason for the dismissal may have been that the local police chief had found evidence that Bos’s wife, the former lawyer Gu Kailai, had been involved in the death of British businessman Neil Heywood in the fall of 2011. It had previously been said that Heywood, who was hanging out privately with Bo’s family, had died of alcohol poisoning. There were also reports that the Chief of Police had sought in vain at the US Consulate in Chengdu for fearing for his life after the disclosure.
No official explanation for Bo Xilai being fired was given, which also led to speculation about an ideological power struggle within the Politburo. Bo stands to the left of the Communist Party and wanted to see a change in the current market economy system. There were also rumors of an imminent military coup, which caused the authorities to shut down some of the micro-blogs that supported Bo.
On April 10, the scandal developed further. Then the authorities announced that Bo Xilai had been excluded from the Communist Party Central Committee and the Politburo because of “serious disciplinary violations”. On the same day, Xinhua State News Agency stated that new investigations showed that the British businessman, who was found dead in a hotel room in Chongqing in 2011, had been murdered. It was said that the businessman and the Bo-Gu family had become enemies because of business. On April 10, Gu Kailai and a domestic worker were arrested as the main suspects of the murder.
The trial of Gu Kailai was held in August. She did not deny that she had poisoned the British businessman because, according to the indictment, he had threatened to reveal her plans to bring black money out of China. Gu received a conditional death penalty, which means that the sentence is likely to be converted to life imprisonment.
At the same time, speculation continued as to why Bo Xilai had been deposed. According to the American newspaper The New York Times, he had devoted himself to extensive interception to be sure what his colleagues and other politicians thought of him. Even President Hu Jintao must have been eavesdropped. According to sources in another US newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, the slain British businessman must have been an agent for the British intelligence service MI-6, which the latter denied.
In September, Bo Xilai was expelled from the Communist Party, causing him to lose his prosecution immunity and could face trial. He was suspected of discipline violations, abuse of power and bribery. In September, the former chief of police in Chongqing was also sentenced to 15 years in prison for bribery and for helping to conceal the murder of the British businessman.
Another scandal arose in April around self-taught lawyer and human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who has been in house arrest since 2010. On April 22, Chen, who is visually impaired, fled from the house arrest in Dongshigu city and went to the US Embassy in Beijing where he was declared have applied for asylum. The issue came to affect China’s relations with the United States. At a security meeting between the countries in early May, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that China cannot deny its citizens their aspirations in life. The Chinese authorities then agreed that Chen may study in the United States. In late May, Chen traveled with his wife and children to New York, where he began to study law. Chen criticized the Chinese authorities for their treatment of him and his family.
In August, Chen appealed to the US authorities to investigate his case and to protect his relatives in China. The human rights activist said the Chinese government had not kept its promise to investigate the abuses against him in Shandong Province. Neither did they guarantee the safety of his relatives in Shandong, where a nephew of Chen had been arrested by the police.
Police hit two major leagues dealing with children in early July, according to the Chinese authorities. The operation was carried out simultaneously at different locations in the country. 181 kidnapped children were released and 802 people were arrested for human trafficking. Every year, thousands or maybe tens of thousands of children are kidnapped in China. They are sold for adoption or as a labor force. China’s one-child policy has created a demand for small boys among other childless. Demand, and the difficult financial situation for many, also cause some families to sell their newborn or toddlers to criminal leagues.
At the end of July, 37 people perished when Beijing was hit by the worst skies in the capital over 60 years. Most people drowned in the floods, while others died in the masses of buildings when buildings fell due to high water levels. About 65,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Roads were flooded and this led to major traffic problems. Around 500 flights had to be canceled, affecting tens of thousands of passengers. A few weeks earlier, other parts of China had also been hit by floods as a result of rainfall.
During the summer and autumn, China’s old unresolved conflict with Japan re-emerged with the Senkaku archipelago – in Chinese Diaoyu – in the East China Sea. The uninhabited islands are controlled by Japan, but China and Taiwan also claim them. The great interest is because there is natural gas and minerals in the waters off the islands. In early July, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced that the Japanese government had entered into bargaining with the businessman who owned three of the islands. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman then went out and warned Japan to state what he described as Chinese territory. Japan bought the three islands, which increased tensions between China and Japan. In September, both countries sent patrol boats to monitor the islands.
The conflict was also noticed in China, where people demonstrated, looted Japanese stores and businesses and vandalized Japanese cars under the prevailing Japanese atmosphere. Some large Japanese companies closed their offices and factories waiting for the protests to subside. At the end of September, China’s foreign minister raised the issue at the UN General Assembly, but Japan was not interested in negotiating with China. Japan’s Prime Minister Noda explained that the government had bought the islands to avoid Tokyo city doing so. Tokyo’s mayor would then have built the islands, and through the purchase, the government wanted to avoid the provocation it would have meant for China. In mid-December, Japan accused China of violating its airspace with a Chinese aircraft. Japan sent a battle plan and submitted an official protest to the Chinese government. China also accused Japan of violating its airspace. At the same time, China submitted a request to the UN with its demands on the Senkaku Islands. China claimed that there is geological evidence that the islands are a natural extension of China’s territory. A UN commission with geological experts would investigate the matter, but had no mandate to resolve the conflict. The last days of the year, the conflict was further diluted when a Chinese fishing boat was seized by Japanese Coast Guard and the crew was accused of fishing on Japanese waters. Japan’s new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office after the December elections, promised tougher deals with China.
In October, Chinese author Mo Yan was named the 2012 Nobel Laureate in Literature. The appointment was well received by the Chinese authorities, at the same time as Swedish media felt that the praise of Mo would thus not be conducive to the development of human rights in China. Mo is considered by many Swedish literary critics to be socially critical, but in a way that does not go against China’s Communist Party. The Chinese city of Gaomi planned to build a large tourist park dedicated to Mo Yan.
During the Communist Party’s 18th Congress in November, as expected, Vice President Xi Jinping, 59, was elected new Secretary-General of the Communist Party after the outgoing party leader and President Hu Jintao, who turned 70 in December. In March 2013, Xi becomes China’s president. Xi was also given the second most important position in China, as chairman of the Central Military Commission. In previous changes of leadership, the outgoing president has continued as chairman of the Military Commission for a few years, but Hu also left that post.
According to analysts, the change of leadership will not mean a major change to China’s policy. In the speech Xi made after the appointment, he stressed the importance of fighting corruption and addressed the problems of party officials who are mutually mutually bureaucratic and who have come too far from the people. In addition to Xi, the new members of the party’s most powerful body, the Politburo’s Standing Committee, were presented, which was reduced from nine to seven members. Responsible for the economy was Li Keqiang, who will take over as China’s new prime minister after Wen Jiabao in March 2013.
The world’s longest express train was opened in China in early December. The line, which is close to 230 kilometers, links the capital Beijing in the north with the industrial hub of Guangzhou in the south. On the new track, the trains run for 300 kilometers per hour, which has halved the travel time.
At the end of December, China’s new government tightened its already tough Internet rules. Under the new rules, Internet users must disclose their identity when purchasing Internet subscriptions. Actually, this was a requirement already before, but it was not always fulfilled and with the new rules control would be tightened. The authorities justified the tightening of the desire to protect personal information on the Internet, but critics felt that the government wanted to limit freedom of expression.
According to countryaah, the population of China in 2012 was 1,406,847,759, ranking number 1 in the world. The population growth rate was 0.550% yearly, and the population density was 149.8526 people per km2.