Daily Archives: November 7, 2012

Blizzard Freezes Beijing Before Congress

A bird flies over The Forbidden City after a heavy snow-fall in Beijing on Nov. 4, 2012. In the early morning on Nov. 4, Beijing’s Weather Bureau issued their most severe weather warning. (Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)

Epoch Times | Nov 5, 2012

By Ariel Tian

A blizzard swept through northeastern China on Nov. 4, shutting down transportation in Beijing just before the opening of the 18th Party Congress. The unexpectedly early snow storm was commented on heavily, with Internet users drawing a connection between the inclement weather and the Chinese Communist Party’s upcoming political meeting.

Breaks Records

In the early morning on Nov. 4, Beijing’s Weather Bureau issued their most severe weather warning, a red alert, for the western and northern parts of the city and a second most severe warning, an orange alert, for the entire city, reported the state-run China Daily.

Official media reported storm related deaths and destruction in Beijing and other areas of northeast China. Tourists were trapped by the snow near the Great Wall, with three Japanese tourists dying there. The blizzard affected the power supply to 36 thousand residents in Beijing, reported Southern Metropolis Daily. The severe winds accompanying the blizzard uprooted large willow trees in the Chaoyang District of Beijing.

China’s transportation bureau is working overtime to restore transportation to the freeways, trains and airports mired in snow. Travelers were stranded for 12 hours on a section of the Beijing-Tibet expressway, waiting for the highway to be cleared, said Xinhua.

Due to the severity of the blizzard, 10 highways were partially closed across several provinces, with 12 expressways entirely shut down, according to the China News Agency.

The report added that flights at Beijing Capital International Airport were severely interrupted, with at least 38 flights canceled. According to Beijing West Railway’s official microblog, the severe blizzard resulted in the suspension of nine train routes.

The chief weather forecaster in Beijing commented that this amount of downfall surpasses all historic records for the colder part of the year, which lasts from November to March. Residents are amazed at the amount of snow, too. “I am 83 years old and I have never seen such a large blizzard, with snow up to my knees,” said Ms. Zhou, a life-long resident in Yanqing County, Beijing.
Linking Blizzard to Congress

Weibo, China’s social media, hummed with netizens searching on the terms “snow” and “18th Congress,” making a connection between the two events.

Searches on Nov. 5 yielded 50 pages of results, most of them censored except for the first page of content.

“Such a severe snow storm, is it related to the 18th National Congress?” asked netizen “Duke Yangqi.” Guangdong netizen “Kathy Yihui” commented, “Such an early snow to welcome Sparta,” using the word Sparta to avoid censorship, as it has the same pronunciation as “18th Congress” in Chinese. “It is a sign of a storm beneath the surface … they are being blamed by both the heavens and the people!”

Some Weibo users are concerned with the price of the Congess, both in human and monetary costs.

“Those policemen guarding the 18th Congress and the 1.4 million volunteers still need to patrol, no matter what weather it is,” observed “Lao Xu Shi Ping.” “[The Party] guards against their own people … poor guys in such a cold weather,” replied another netizen.

Other irate netizens are calling for the government to spend half the cost of maintaining security for the 18th Congress to assist Chinese people who have suffered in the snow disaster, an article in Secret China said on Monday.

Arctic sea ice doubles in October

Wattsupwiththat | Nov 6, 2012

by Anthony Watts

In Sea Ice News #14, we noted that the Arctic refreeze was the fastest ever. According to NSIDC, Arctic sea ice extent doubled in October.

Arctic rapidly gaining winter ice

Ice extent doubled in October. The rate of increase since the 2012 minimum was near record, resulting in an October monthly extent 230,000 square kilometers (88,800 square miles) greater than the previous low for the month, which occurred in 2007.

Despite this rapid growth, ice extent remains far below normal as we begin November. Average ice extent for October was 7.00 million square kilometers (2.70 million square miles). This is the second lowest in the satellite record, 230,000 square kilometers (88,800 square miles) above the 2007 record for the month. However, it is 2.29 million square kilometers (884,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average. The East Siberian, Chukchi, and Laptev seas have substantially frozen up. Large areas of the southern Beaufort, Barents and Kara seas remain ice free.

As of November 4, sea ice extent stood at 8.22 million square kilometers (3.17 million square miles). This is 520,000 square kilometers (201,000 square miles) below the extent observed in 2007 on the same date, and ice extent remains 2.04 million square kilometers (788,000 million square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average for this date.

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China cracks down on critics during Communist Party congress

Activists are side-stepping police, who are running a dragnet as part of China’s wide-ranging crackdown on critics during the Communist Party congress in Beijing.

Associated Press | Nov 6, 2012

By Gillian Wong

BEIJING — During her 30-hour train journey to Beijing, Wang Xiulan ducked into bathrooms whenever the conductors checked IDs. Later, as she lay low in the outskirts of the capital, unidentified men caught her in a nighttime raid and hauled her to a police station. She assumed a fake identity to get away, and is now in hiding again.

Wang’s not a criminal. She’s a petitioner.

She’s among many people attempting to bring local complaints directly to the central government in an age-old Chinese tradition that has continued during the Communist Party era. But police never make that easy, and this week, as an all-important leadership transition begins, a dragnet is aimed at keeping anyone perceived as a threat or a troublemaker out of Beijing.

“There is no law in China, especially for us petitioners and ordinary folk,” Wang, 50, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Even common gangsters and hoodlums get to leave after they serve time for crimes, but for us, if we get locked up, we never know when we might be freed.”

Authorities want no surprises as the handover of power begins in the capital Thursday. The transition already has been rocked by the party’s messiest scandal in decades, involving a former high-flying politician now accused of engaging in graft and obstructing the investigation into his wife’s murder of a British businessman.

Rights groups say the wide-ranging crackdown on critics bodes poorly for those who hope the incoming generation of leaders will loosen restrictions on activism.

“China’s top political leaders are very nervous, as they have since early this year been consumed by one of the most destabilizing and disharmonious power struggles in decades,” said Renee Xia, international director of the Chinese Human Rights Defenders. The group estimates that hundreds or thousands of people have come under some kind of restriction in preparation for the party congress.

Lawyers have been held under illegal house arrest, dissidents sent back to their hometowns and activists questioned. Internet users report difficulties accessing many websites and the failure of software meant to bypass Internet filters.

Veteran activist Huang Qi, who runs a website on petitioners like Wang, said nearly 1,000 people have contacted him over the past few weeks to complain that authorities have hired thugs to harass and beat them.

“I hope that the Chinese authorities will face up to the social problems,” Huang said in an interview. “Using violence will only escalate the resistance.”

The crackdown reflects the leadership’s nervousness as slowing economic growth exacerbates public outrage over corruption, social injustice, pollution and favoritism toward state-run agencies and the elite at the expense of ordinary people.

Under normal circumstances, petitioners are relatively safe once they reach Beijing’s outskirts, though in their home provinces they are almost perpetually on the run from hostile local officials or thugs-for-hire who want to nab them before they can get an audience with central government agencies.

Now, however, even the capital’s fringes are off limits.

Wang, a petite woman with shoulder-length hair neatly tied back, has been trying for two decades to draw central government attention to what she says was police mishandling of a serious assault she suffered in her native Harbin. Not only did her attacker go unpunished, but Wang ended up getting dismissed from her job years later.

Wang arrived in late October in Lu Village in Beijing’s southwest, where petitioners have sought refuge for years. A police post guards the road into the village, and residents say officers have lately blocked petitioners from entering.

Wang had rented a bed — a wooden plank on bricks — in a tiny concrete room shared with two others. A gang of two dozen men barged in one night at 11 p.m., demanded to see her ID, searched her belongings and grabbed her cellphone.

“I was scared to death when they suddenly barged in here,” Wang said, pointing at the door, where the lock had just been replaced.

The men refused to identify themselves and bundled her into a minivan with other petitioners. At another stop, she saw a couple dragged into the vans in their pajamas, the woman wearing only one shoe.

All were taken to a police station in nearby Jiujingzhuang village, where many petitioners say police process them for return to their hometowns. Using someone else’s identity, Wang was able to evade police suspicion and was released. Many of the others were sent back, she said.

The raids are having an effect. The compound that houses her room and others now has only a handful of residents, down from about 30.

“They’ve all been chased away, caught or scared home,” said Liu Zhifa, a 67-year-old petitioner from Henan province and one of the holdouts. Liu confirmed Wang’s description of the Oct. 31 raid and described his own encounter with thugs breaking his lock and entering his room three times in one night in mid-October.

“I asked them to show their identifications, and they yelled at me, saying ‘What right do you have to see our identification? Who do you think you are?” said Liu. “They were ruthless. The authorities and the police are working with people in the underworld.”

A police officer who would only give his surname, Wei, answered the phone at a Jiujingzhuang police station (not ‘the’ because the police station has another name) and denied that authorities were raiding petitioners’ villages. “We only act according to the law,” Wei said. Questions about the broader crackdown were referred to the Beijing public security bureau, which did not respond to faxed questions.

The crackdown has extended to lawyers such as Xu Zhiyong. He said Beijing authorities have held him under informal house arrest since mid-October, stationing four or five guards outside his apartment in Beijing around the clock.

Xu has campaigned for years against Chinese authorities’ use of “black jails,” or unofficial detention centers run by local governments to hold petitioners. The government has denied the existence of such facilities, but even the tightly controlled state media have reported on them.

“The illegal restriction of a citizen’s personal freedom for a long period of time is criminal behavior,” Xu wrote in an email. “In an authoritarian state, this type of crime takes place everywhere.”

Authorities in Shanghai also have ratcheted up pressure on critics, sentencing veteran women’s rights activist Mao Hengfeng to a year and a half of labor camp. Mao, accused of disturbing social order, had been detained in Beijing in late September, said her husband, Wu Xuewei, who indicated she was being put away to silence her before the party congress.

Even dissidents’ relatives have come under pressure. Beijing activist Hu Jia said he was warned by police to leave town, and that even his parents told him that police had told them to escort him to his hometown.

“My parents said to me: ‘Hu Jia, you don’t know what kind of danger you are in, but we know,'” he recounted in a phone interview from his parents’ home in eastern Anhui province. “They said: ‘Beijing is a cruel battlefield. If you stay here, you will be the first to be sacrificed. Don’t do this.'”

Snow and ice threat as Britain falls to -6C

PARTS of Britain could be blanketed by snow today with temperatures expected to plunge below freezing.

thesun.co.uk | Nov 6, 2012

Cairngorms plough

Weathermen are blaming the after effects of Superstorm Sandy — and warn that tomorrow could be the coldest Bonfire Night this century.

Snow ploughs were out after blizzards in Scotland yesterday where temperatures fell to almost -6C. Those areas of England that escape today face floods with 40mm of rain falling — more than we usually get in a fortnight.

This week could see gales too, with temperatures staying up to 5°C below average for the whole of November. Forecasters say the early-winter chill has been caused by Superstorm Sandy strengthening mid-Atlantic high pressure and blocking mild south-westerly winds. This has allowed Arctic air from Greenland to buffet us.

Snow is predicted on the North Downs, South Downs, Chilterns, Cotswolds, Salisbury Plain, Exmoor and Dartmoor.

Dan Williams, of the Met Office, said: “It feels rather cold, with temperatures below average, frost in places and an ice risk.

“The windchill makes it feel even colder.

“Unsettled is the best way to describe this week, with showers and rain with a risk of snow over higher ground and widespread UK frosts.”

Met Office Predicts Coming Winter Will Be Colder Than Average

Cold is the main feature of this winter

BRITAIN faces a freezing winter and yesterday’s unseasonal snowfall is just the start, the Met Office has predicted.

dailystar.co.uk | Oct 28, 2012

By Alistair Grant and Sian Hewitt

The UK’s official forecaster has prepared its three-month outlook for ministers and council bosses.

But, after predictions of a “barbecue summer” were ridiculed in 2010, it no longer releases such forecasts to the public.

Despite that, the Daily Star Sunday has seen the document and can reveal:

It is almost twice as likely that ­temperatures will be “well below ­average” than “well above average” from November to January.

The most-likely scenario is ­“slightly below-average” temperatures for the next three months.

Predicted average precipitation combined with cold conditions could lead to heavy snowfall following last year’s drier than average winter.

More high pressure is predicted over the coming months, which could cut off mild Atlantic air and lead to a repeat of December 2010’s big freeze, when the mercury fell to -22C and caused transport chaos.

Also, more snow could fall than last winter, which was much drier than ­average in England.

This winter shows a “preference” for average precipitation levels, meaning more snow if temperatures tumble.

Last year saw the mildest winter since 2007-08 but this is unlikely to be repeated after falling temperatures in the north Atlantic and a weakening of the “El Nino” effect, the forecast said.

The Met Office said its winter ­outlook is based on forecast models, past ­observations and “expert forecaster judgment”.

It says the system uses new software which spots cold weather patterns that could previously have been missed.

Met Office expert Dave Britton said: “This contingency forecast, based on percentage probabilities, forms all of the information we brief into ­Government, the Cabinet Office, ­councils, emergency responders and local winter resilience groups.”

Meanwhile, two independent forecasters have predicted a bitter winter ahead.

British Weather Services projected a colder than average winter with ­“significant” snow, -18C temperatures and transport disruption.

WeatherWeb warned of repeated chilly spells and added: “Cold is the main feature of this winter.”

The warning came as freak snow showers hit eastern Britain in the worst October cold snap since 2008.

Yesterday the UK was cooler than the Arctic after temperatures fell to -7C in some areas.

The North bore the brunt of the bad conditions.

Five inches of snow settled in ­Aberdeen and Newcastle saw an inch of the white stuff. Even London got a dusting, which experts said was a “once in 50 years” event.