China media: Papers hail sackings over Shanghai deaths

A man holds a portrait of a victim of the New Year's Eve stampede in Shanghai next to other mourners on 6 January 2015. Image copyright AP
Image caption Some say higher-level officials need to be questioned over the deaths

Chinese state media applaud the sacking of four district officials over the New Year's Eve stampede that left 36 people dead, but warn that this must only be the "starting point".

The four officials were dismissed and several others disciplined for failing to prevent risk, but no action has been taken against more senior, city-level officials.

A report released by investigators said district police and officials had been aware of growing crowds on the Bund riverfront walk, but failed to act or report the danger to higher authorities.

"We hope that holding people accountable is the starting point, so that all staff in relevant departments will be more aware of their responsibilities and take measures to prevent such incidents in future," an article in the Beijing News says.

The China Daily bemoans the fact that no municipal officials have been punished so far, and urges the Shanghai mayor to apologise.

"The mayor can never shirk his responsibility for the incompetence of district leaders under his leadership," it says.

But a Beijing Youth Daily commentary is more cautious, warning that "one cannot conclude that top-level officials should be held responsible" before a thorough investigation has been carried out.

It also defends investigators from accusations that they were reluctant to question any officials

"We believe that the team will not disappoint the Beijing government and will eventually give the public a convincing conclusion," the article - which was subsequently deleted from the paper's website - concludes.

'Declining' US

In international news, papers lash out at US President Barack Obama for criticising China over trade issues in his State of the Union address.

"China wants to write the rules for the world's fastest-growing region," he told Congress on Tuesday.

"That would put our workers and our businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field."

China has pushed for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) agreement, seen by some observers as a potential rival to the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership that involves 12 regional countries, but excludes China.

A commentary in the overseas edition of the People's Daily suggests Mr Obama's criticism of China is a sign of growing US weakness.

"In the past, the US was always seeking to promote an open global system, now it can only push for regional US-Asia or US-Europe trade deals, and has adopted an exclusive approach," the paper says.

"This shows that Washington's ability to shape and lead the international system is declining."

It also urges the US to show understanding for countries "that are catching up", accusing it of refusing to "co-operate with them on the same platform".

Zha Xiaogang, a researcher at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, tells the Global Times that China does not seek to become the "rule-maker", but is "more interested in developing an economy that aims at creating mutual benefits".

"Mr Obama's address indicates that the US still wants to dominate the world," Mr Zha says. "They worry that China's fast development will challenge the status of the US."

Li Haidong of the China Foreign Affairs University urges the US to "pay more attention to developing co-operation with China instead of excluding China in its regional trade pacts".

And finally, papers welcome the abolition of a target-based assessment method for law enforcement officials.

The Commission for Political and Legal Affairs - the leading organ responsible for supervising law-enforcement and judicial institutions - announced on Tuesday that it will abolish "unreasonable" targets for measures such as arrests, prosecutions and convictions.

Backing the move, an article in the China Youth Daily points out that the assessment method was controversial in the past, as there were doubts on whether such a system is "scientific and reasonable".

"We often see that 100% or 99% of the crimes were solved or criminals convicted. But behind these figures, were some people being wrongfully convicted?" the article wonders.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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