Authority to investigate ‘financial service fee’ for Benz sales loan



Authority to investigate ‘financial service fee’ for Benz sales loan

An investigation has been launched after reports that Mercedes-Benz Automobile Finance Co illegally charged a customer a financial service fee, as claims surfaced in Shanghai of dealers also charging fees.

The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Administration has asked its Beijing authority to initiate an inquiry.

A woman who bought a Mercedes-Benz she claims was defective from a dealer in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, has now claimed she was cheated over a “financial service fee.”

The woman said she bought the Mercedes-Benz CLS300 from Xi’an Lizhixing Co for 660,000 yuan (US$98,445) but found the engine was leaking oil after she picked it up on March 27. She asked for a refund or a replacement but the dealer only agreed to change the engine.

The incident attracted wide attention after a video of the woman sitting on the bonnet of a Mercedes-Benz while weeping and arguing with salesmen at the 4S dealer store on April 9 was posted online.

The Xi’an market watchdog launched an investigation and asked the dealer to refund the buyer. The regulator also arranged a face-to-face negotiation between the two sides on Saturday, during which the buyer said she had intended to purchase the car outright.

However, the dealer persuaded her to use Mercedes-Benz finance as it is said to feature low interest.

The dealer also “forced” her to pay a “financial service fee” of 15,200 yuan to a personal account without providing a receipt, she claimed. The woman said she thought this was fraud as the dealer hadn’t provided any services.

Mercedes-Benz issued a statement on Sunday, saying it never asks for any financial service fee from dealers or customers.

A Shanghai consumer surnamed Wang who visited several Mercedes-Benz 4S shops to purchase an off-road vehicle said he was asked to take out a loan at the Songzhixing shop on Changshou Road.

The salesperson said the car was popular, and many 4S shops would not sell it if buyers refused to take a loan, Wang said. A salesperson would not get a commission without arranging a loan.

The same requirement was raised by the Minxing Automobile Service Co 4S shop, Wang said.

The Shanghai Consumer Council said yesterday they had received complaints about other automobile companies charging financial service fees.

Lawyers said car sales companies often use various excuses to charge fees to raise their profits, which infringes consumers’ rights to make choices.

A Shanghai consumer surnamed Huang who wanted to purchase a car at a 4S shop last year was told that he must buy a 13,800-yuan package including sticker and tachograph, and a three-year car insurance if he wanted to enjoy a discounted price of the car.

Huang asked several 4S shops the next day, and some had the same requirement.

Meanwhile, a woman Wang Wen who paid 340,000 yuan for a new Mercedes-Benz at the Zhongshengzhixing 4S shop on Jinyun Road in Jiading District found it was faulty.

She asked for a refund, but the 4S shop refused, and offered free exchange, free components and reduction of insurance fees as replacement.

Wang learnt that the car was an “auction car” sold to dealers at a discounted price, and had probably been used for display or trial runs.

A video of a woman sitting on a Mercedes-Benz and arguing with salesmen has gone viral.

France: President Macron vows to rebuild Notre-Dame



Macron vows to rebuild Notre-Dame after devastating fire



The steeple engulfed in flames collapses as the roof of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral burns on April 15, 2019 in Paris.

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, after a colossal fire tore through the building, sending the spire crashing to the ground and wiping out centuries of heritage.

Macron expressed relief that “the worst had been avoided” in a blaze that had at one point threatened the entire edifice, and left France in shock over the damage to a building described as the soul of the nation.

The inferno destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old UNESCO world heritage landmark, whose spectacular Gothic spire collapsed as orange flames and clouds of grey smoke billowed into the sky.

Around 400 firefighters battled into the night to control the flames, declaring in the early hours of Tuesday that the fire was under control, around nine hours after it broke out.

Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet said “we can consider that the main structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved” as well as the two towers.


Flames that began in the early evening burst rapidly through the roof of the centuries-old cathedral and engulfed the spire, which toppled, quickly followed by the entire roof.

‘France is Notre Dame’

“Notre-Dame survived all the wars, all the bombardments. We never thought it could burn. I feel incredibly sad and empty,” Stephane Seigneurie, a consultant who joined other shocked onlookers in a solemn rendition of “Ave Maria” as they watched the fire from a nearby bridge.

Gasps and cries of “Oh my god” erupted around an hour after the fire first broke out when the top portion of the church’s spire came crashing down.

“We have been dealt a knockout blow,” a stricken-looking Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit told reporters.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear, but the cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work which the fire service said could be linked to the blaze.

French prosecutors said it was being currently being treated as accident.

Historians expressed incredulity at the collapse of a building that has been a symbol of France for almost a millennium.

“If Paris is the Eiffel Tower then France is Notre Dame. It’s the entire culture, entire history of France incarnated in this monument,” Bernard Lecomte, a writer and specialist in religious history told BFM TV.

Deputy Paris mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told the channel that workers were scrambling “to save all the artworks that can be saved.” Officials later said teams had managed to salvage an unknown quantity of the cultural treasures.


Smoke rises around the alter in front of the cross inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral as the fire continues to burn on April 16, 2019, in the French capital Paris.

‘Emotion of a nation’

Macron cancelled a planned policy speech and headed to the scene, where he vowed the cathedral would be reborn.

“We will rebuild Notre-Dame because it is what the French expect,” he said, describing Notre Dame as “the epicenter of our life” and the cathedral of “all the French,” whether religious or not.

France’s billionaire Pinault dynasty immediately pledged 100 million euros (US$113 million) for the effort.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Notre-Dame cathedral a “symbol of European culture” as the blaze raged.

The Vatican on Monday expressed its “incredulity” and “sadness” over the fire.

‘Water bombers not used’

One firefighter was seriously injured in the blaze, the fire brigade said.

US President Donald Trump in a tweet said it was “horrible” to watch the fire but caused controversy by offering advice on how to put it out.

“Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!” he said.

But France’s civil security service, which oversees crisis management in the country, tweeted back at Trump that the use of water-bombing aircraft was not being considered.

“If used, (this) could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral,” it said.

‘Will never be the same’

The cathedral was located at the center of the French capital in the Middle Ages and its construction was completed in the mid-12th century after some 200 years of work.

During the French Revolution in the 18th century, the cathedral was vandalized in widespread anti-Catholic violence: Its spire was dismantled, its treasures plundered and its large statues at the grand entrance doors destroyed.

It would go on to feature as a central character in a Victor Hugo novel published in 1831, “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” and shortly afterwards a restoration project lasting two decades got under way, led by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.

The building survived the devastation of two global conflicts in the 20th century and famously rang its bells on August 24, 1944, the day of the Liberation of Paris from German occupation at the end of the World War II.

“Paris is disfigured. The city will never be like it was before,” said Philippe, a communications worker in his mid-30s.

Jacky Lafortune, a 72-year-old artist and self-described atheist, stood forlornly on the banks of the River Seine staring at the cathedral.

Comparing the mood in the French capital to the aftermath of a terror attack he said: “But this stirs much deeper emotions because Notre-Dame is linked to the very foundations of our culture.”

Xi seeks to boost China-PNG relations with maiden state visit



Xi seeks to boost China-PNG relations with maiden state visit



Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill (right) shakes hands with China’s President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Port Moresby on November 16, 2018, ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in Port Moresby on Friday that he hopes his ongoing visit to Papua New Guinea would help boost relations between the two countries.

During the meeting with PNG Governor-General Bob Dadae, Xi pointed out that this is not only his first visit to PNG, but also the first-ever state visit by a Chinese president.

Thanking the PNG government and people for the warm reception, Xi said interactions between China and PNG go a long way back.

Since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1976, cooperation between China and PNG in various areas has witnessed fast expansion, which laid a solid foundation for the development of bilateral relations, he said.

Xi said the Chinese side has attached great importance to relations with PNG, and that he hopes his ongoing visit would help boost bilateral relations, expand all-dimensional exchanges between the two countries, promote friendly communication between the peoples, and push for fruitful results in practical cooperation in a broad range of areas.

The Chinese side is staunchly committed to strengthening solidarity and cooperation with Pacific island countries including PNG, Xi said.

Extending warm welcome to the Chinese president, Dadae called the visit a rare and grand event for his country in years.

PNG and China enjoy profound friendship, he said, noting that there were Chinese traveling to and settling down in PNG more than a century ago.

PNG established diplomatic relations with China the year after its independence, he said, adding that the visit by Xi is a milestone event for bilateral relations.

The governor-general thanked the Chinese side for its precious assistance to PNG in areas concerning national development and people’s livelihood such as infrastructure construction, education and health.

He also thanked China for its great support for PNG in hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting.

PNG is ready to join efforts with China to lift the two countries’ relations to a higher level, he said.

Prior to the meeting, Dadae held a grand welcome ceremony in Xi’s honor in front of the national parliament house, featuring a 21-gun salute and folk dances.

Hong Kong holds opening ceremony for Express Rail Link to mainland



Hong Kong holds opening ceremony for Express Rail Link to mainland


Imagine China

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, (6-R), the Governor of Guangdong Province Ma Xingrui, (6-L) and other Chinese government representatives officiate at the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link at Hong Kong West Kowloon Station in Hong Kong, China, 22 September 2018.

The opening ceremony of the Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link was held Saturday at Hong Kong West Kowloon Station, one day ahead of the official operation of the first high-speed train from Hong Kong to the mainland.

The opening of the XRL marks Hong Kong’s official connection with the national high-speed railway network, Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, said at the opening ceremony.

On the B1 Level of the station, Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Tung Chee-hwa, Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Leung Chun-ying, Governor of Guangdong province Ma Xingrui, Director of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council Zhang Xiaoming, Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong SAR Wang Zhimin and other officials officiated the opening ceremony.

“Pearl of the Orient” and other songs played by Hong Kong violinist Yao Jue and Hong Kong String Orchestra as well as the video narrating the development of the railway in Guangdong and Hong Kong commenced the opening ceremony.

Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Ma Xingrui, General Manager of China Railway Corporation Lu Dongfu and Chairman of the MTR Corporation Ma Si-hang delivered speeches at the ceremony.

Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Ma Xingrui also unveiled a display embodying the official operation of the West Kowloon Station, the terminal of the cross-boarder high-speed rail trains between Hong Kong and the mainland.

Shanghai approves ambitious plan to develop in 5 core areas



Shanghai approves ambitious plan to develop in 5 core areas

Chen Zhengbao

Li Qiang (center), Shanghai’s Party secretary, speaks during a panel discussion on the sidelines of the fourth plenary session of the 11th Shanghai Committee of the Communist Party of China yesterday. He said Shanghai will need to develop in five core areas — economy, finance, trade, shipping, and scientific and technological innovation — in the next five years.

Shanghai yesterday approved an ambitious “future and global-oriented” plan to become a city of global excellence and a modern international metropolis with world influence.

The Shanghai Committee of the Communist Party of China said the city must improve its capacity and core competitiveness as it takes on the tasks entrusted by the central government, including enhancing its development as global centers for economy, finance, trade, shipping and innovation, serving the Belt and Road Initiative, promoting integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta region, deepening free trade zone reforms, and carrying out further reform and opening-up.

Li Qiang, the city’s Party secretary, emphasized at yesterday’s fourth plenary session of the 11th CPC Shanghai Committee that Shanghai will need to develop in five core areas — economy, finance, trade, shipping, and scientific and technological innovation — in the next five years to improve its attraction, creativity and competitiveness.

In 10 years, it aims to have the city’s capacity in the five areas “comprehensively increased and become a relatively influential member in the global city network.”

By 2035, Shanghai should have developed itself into “a city of global excellence that matches China’s comprehensive strength and international status, an admirable innovative, cultural and ecological city, a Socialist modern international metropolis with global influence, and a leading city in a world-class metropolis cluster.”

To enhance the city’s capacity and core competitiveness, the city will need to make new breakthroughs in core functions as a global center of economy, finance, trade, shipping and innovation.

In the economic area, it will seek high-quality development and promote economic size and efficiency by improving its economic density and input-output rate, according to the committee.

Shanghai will accelerate establishment of an industrial system to develop the economy, scientific and technological innovation, modern financing, and human resources industries.

It will focus on the modern services, advanced manufacturing and strategic emerging industries, and develop intelligence-intensive industries to reduce simple and repetitive labor and promote unmanned models.

In finance, the key task is to enhance Shanghai’s capability in allocating global finance resources. It will also quicken the opening of finance market for participation of overseas investors and encourage diversified cooperation between the domestic and overseas markets.

International and Chinese financial institutions will be wooed to set up headquarters in Shanghai. The city also intends to create several important asset-management agencies to set up a global center.

To improve its function as an international trade center, it will develop high-level “headquarters economy” by encouraging headquarters of multinational companies to expand their function and capacity.

As an international shipping center, the city will focus on high-end services to promote Shanghai’s shipping brand. It will attract famous shipping service providers and international shipping organizations, carry out innovation in system, business model and technology, and develop shipping finance to promote its capacity in relocating shipping resources.

It will also improve its capacity as an aviation hub, expand the coverage of its airline network and promote the construction of an airport cluster in the Yangtze River Delta.

It will promote the development of cruise industry and build an international cruise home port.

To build itself as an international center for science and technology innovation, it should focus on leading-edge researches and strive to be a global source of new academic thoughts, new scientific findings, new technological inventions and new development trends. It will actively promote science research programs.

The city will also focus on eight other areas — mechanism innovation, opening-up, branding, innovation and entrepreneurship, global network, development platform, talent aggregation and quality life.

Shanghai action plan to promote local culture



Shanghai action plan to promote local culture

Shanghai Select

Shanghai has put in place a three-year action plan to develop the city into an international cultural metropolis by shaping the city’s rich culture and promoting it worldwide.

The city will encourage more original Shanghai creations, and pave the way for more cultural products to be displayed and promoted nationwide and worldwide.

With its rich culture, Shanghai will dig deep into its past like the traditional culture that is rooted in the region, “red culture” as the birthplace of the Communist Party of China, and as a pioneering city for reform and opening-up that started in the late 1970s.

It will offer more support to artistic talent, companies promoting arts and culture, and developing innovative ideas in the city.

The city also hopes to become a platform to stage art premieres and cultural exchanges.

For example, along with the development of Free Trade Zone, Shanghai will open its market completely for performances, video games, entertainment venues and printing.

It will set up cooperation mechanisms and develop alliances with countries along the Belt and Road for art and film festivals, art galleries, museums, music creation and performances, and intangible cultural heritage protection.

In addition, reforms will be carried out in some time-honored cultural platforms, Hu Jinjun, an official with the city government.

For example, the Shanghai Spring Music Festival will get more support in promoting ethnic music in China, discover Chinese musical talent worldwide, and spearhead the growth of art performances overseas.

Shanghai Select

China: Technology adds eyes and ears to old building preservation



Technology adds eyes and ears to old building preservation

Toward a people-friendly environment

Li Qian / SHINE

Local officials use a drone to check the condition of historical buildings in the Yuhua Xincun neighborhood in Jing’an District.

Li Qian / SHINE

Sensors have been installed on historical buildings to detect any illegal construction activity.

Officials in downtown Jing’an District are tapping into modern technology to save the old.

Jing’ansi, a subdistrict with many historical buildings, has installed sensors on old buildings to hear disruptions and uses surveillance drones as eyes to ensure that heritage is protected.

Stretching over 1.57 square kilometers — from Fumin and Changde roads in the east, Zhenning Road (west), Changle Road (south) and Xinzha Road (north), about 85 percent of the area features more than 370 landmark structures and is part of the city’s protected historic and cultural zone.

It’s not an easy task to preserve historical buildings when they are inhabited by people, according to Hong Xuegang, deputy director of the subdistrict.

“Owners often move out and rent their units,” he said. “When we need to have documents signed related to maintenance or renovation, or to gain access for inspections, we can’t always find the owners easily.”

One concern is illegal construction that damages the original heritage of a building. Officials can’t just barge their way into an apartment if they get a tip about possible violations but have no direct proof.

Now, historic buildings can speak for themselves.

Since last November, the subdistrict has installed nearly 300 sensors on the facades of 37 historic buildings. Each sensor is the size of two matchboxes and is connected to a big data analytics platform.

Alerts are triggered if vibrations in a building are detected.

“Officials will rush to check whether the alarms signal illegal construction or other violations,” said Hong.

So far, community officials have intervened in 23 valid alerts, arriving in time to prevent damage to buildings.

In addition to the sensors, there are two drones that fly over the historic buildings as part of routine patrols. They can capture and record violations.

“We often can’t just step into residents’ gardens or climb up to rooftops,” Hong said. “The drones do surveillance for us and can provide photographic evidence of violations.”

In one recent example, local officials learned of construction going on inside a protected building. When they went to check, the owner said he was just repairing a leaking roof.

Drones were flown overhead to take photos. By comparing the pictures with archived plans of the building, officials were able to ascertain that the owner wasn’t destroying a heritage roof.

Hong admitted that some people fear loss of privacy when drones are used in surveillance.

“Indeed, there are some concerns,” he said. “We don’t fly drones close to people’s windows. We always use drone operators who are trained and licensed.”

Sensors and drones may be high-tech “eyes” on old buildings, but local residents are still the gatekeepers. Neighborhood volunteers patrol around the buildings daily to ensure that violations like illegal construction don’t occur.

“Previously, many residents weren’t aware that they were living in a building of historical importance,” Hong said. “But now they know, and they clearly value their homes even more.”

Shi Xianghong, 61, is one of the more than 10 volunteers who keep an eye on illegal construction. The volunteer team was set up more than a year ago and has proved to be a success.

“I have lived in Yuhua Xincun neighborhood for more than 30 years, and love the historical buildings and the nostalgic ambience here,” she said.

“Some of my neighbors have rented out their units to others who don’t value the historical facades and the old interior decorations. They like modern decoration and replace the old with new.”

“Once we found iron rods in the lane and we reported it to the authorities. On investigation, they found that the tenant was preparing to build an attic without getting approval. We helped to prevent it,” she said.

Jing’an has three protected historical and cultural zones, and 265 immovable cultural heritage objects.

“At present, work to protect these relics isn’t perfected,” said district director Lu Xiaodong. “We have to pay more attention to preventive measures instead of just relying on rescue efforts in the aftermath.”

In March, Shanghai’s first district-level government body on cultural-relic protection was set up. The Jing’an Cultural Relics Protection Management Center is responsible for collecting and storing archives, making identification cards for historic buildings and repairing heritage structures.

This year, 170 historic buildings in Zhangyuan Garden will be given ID cards that provide information on their age, history and condition. Work on Jing’an Villa, Anlefang and Garden Apartment will start in coming months.

The district is also tapping the memories of older residents to record the history of old buildings and neighborhoods.

The Jiangning Road Subdistrict compiled a book based on interviews with local residents. It included 37 paintings of 24 missing or surviving iconic spots.

The Shimen Road No. 2 Sub-district collected family treasures from residents and displayed them in the city’s first museum of lane house heritage.

China’s Leadership Will Never Tolerate Anyone Being Truthful



China probes foreign companies labeling China’s territories as independent countries


China’s aviation authority on Friday demanded an apology from Delta Air Lines for listing Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website, while another government agency took aim at Inditex-owned fashion brand Zara and medical device maker Medtronic Plc for similar issues.

The moves follow a regulator’s decision on Thursday to suspend Marriott International Inc’s Chinese website for a week to punish the world’s biggest hotel chain for listing Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries in a customer questionnaire.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China asked Delta to investigate the listing of Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website, and called for an “immediate and public” apology.

The aviation authority also said it would require all foreign airlines operating routes to China to conduct comprehensive investigations of their websites, apps and customer-related information and “strictly comply with China’s laws and regulations to prevent a similar thing from happening.”

In a statement, Delta apologized for making “an inadvertent error with no business or political intention,” saying it recognized the seriousness of the issue and had taken steps to resolve it.

Separately, the same regulator that penalized Marriott – the Shanghai branch of the state cyberspace administration – accused Zara of placing Taiwan in a pull-down list of countries on its Chinese website.

Medtronic had also put “Republic of China (Taiwan)” on one of its websites, the office said in a WeChat post.

Medtronic issued an apology via social media, saying it had updated the website. An executive who answered the phone at Zara’s Shanghai office was not able to immediately comment.

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing on Friday that Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet were all part of China.

“The companies that come to China should respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, abide by China’s laws, and respect the feelings of the Chinese people. This is the minimum requirement of any company going to another country to carry out business and investment,” he said.

China eyes 9 areas to upgrade manufacturing capability



China eyes 9 areas to upgrade manufacturing capability

China will enhance key manufacturing technologies in nine areas as the government aims to drive the country to be a top manufacturer in the world by accelerating technology upgrading.

The National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planner, has made three-year (2018-20) targets for railway transport, advanced shipping and maritime engineering, intelligent robots, smart cars, modern agricultural machines, advanced medical devices and medicines, new materials, smart manufacturing and key equipment. The targets are aimed at catapulting China into the top league of manufacturing.

China expects to succeed in producing maglev trains that can run at 600 kilometers per hour and automating the operations of railways in the next three years. It also expects to “realize significant achievements in producing large cruise ships” and building a vessel capable of carrying 22,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), which will be the world’s largest container ship.

China is expected to expand its global market share in advanced agricultural machines.

The NDRC aims to cut domestic medical expenses by introducing at least 10 new medicines to the domestic market and has plans to sell them abroad.

The targets also include intensifying the development of key components for smart manufacturing, such as programmable logic controllers and robots. Development of artificial intelligence and augmented reality will also be vital under the plan.

New materials such as graphene, specialty steel, advanced organic and composite materials are identified to help the development of advanced machines, save energy and cut carbon emissions.

China needs to deepen efforts on technology upgrading to enhance its manufacturing capability, the NDRC said, adding that the country hopes to rapidly integrate Big Data and AI with manufacturing.