China media back Hong Kong chief

CY Leung has criticised 'pro-freedom' students in Hong Kong Image copyright EPA
Image caption CY Leung has criticised students in Hong Kong

Papers warn students in Hong Kong against seeking independence after Chief Executive CY Leung lashed out at "advocates" of self-determination.

In his first annual policy address since last year's pro-democracy protests, Mr Leung said the need for economic growth outweighed calls for greater democracy.

He also criticised the Undergrad, an official publication of Hong Kong University Students' Union, for advocating Hong Kong's independence.

The Global Times dismisses the magazine article as "nonsense". It says mainstream society has ignored these independence activists, but "it is not impossible for them to become one of the major problems facing Hong Kong and become a tool for external forces".

"Both the central government and Hong Kong should figure out how to punish those who propagate talk of independence," it urges.

Praising Mr Leung for slamming the students, Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing Ta Kung Pao daily says that the idea of "Hong Kong independence" is a "time bomb" that needs to be eliminated.

"The advocacy for independence is not simply about freedom of speech or an academic question. It is the root problem for Hong Kong society, a bomb that is hurting social stability and development. There must be a strong social force to stop and get rid of it," warns the article.

The Apply Daily, however, disagrees and criticises the policy address.

The pro-democracy paper describes Mr Leung as "shameless" for not resigning from his post and instead staying on to "threaten" the students.

"There should not be off-limit boundaries in academic discussions… What is the big deal in talking about the issue of independence when students are discussing about Hong Kong's constitution?" the paper asks, pointing out that the Hong Kong government is suppressing the students' freedom of speech.

In a milder tone, the popular Ming Pao daily criticises Mr Leung for targeting the students instead of seeking ways to resolve the political stalemate.

Japan's defence budget

Elsewhere, papers criticise Japan for its "lack of sincerity" after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet approved a record-high defence budget.

Japan announced the 4.98 trillion yen ($42bn; £27.5bn) defence budget on Wednesday, a few days after Beijing and Tokyo held maritime talks.

A commentary in the overseas edition of the People's Daily recalls that both countries seemed to have reached a consensus to improve ties and their defence officials met for talks earlier this week.

"There seems to be a thaw in ties since September 2012. So when the Japanese government decides to raise its defence budget and strengthen its military equipment against China, it makes one suspicious of Tokyo's sincerity to improve bilateral relations," it says, blaming the Abe administration for causing regional instability.

The China Daily highlights that Japan's defence budget is much higher than that of China and notes that its defence minister had accused Beijing for being "a major maritime threat" during his new year address.

Abandoned babies

And finally, papers call for better measures to deal with the problem of unwanted infants after reports suggest that a number of baby hatches have been forced to close down.

China started such centres to ensure that parents could abandon their infants safely rather than leaving them on streets.

However, several baby hatches are ceasing operations, while others are struggling to stay open due to manpower constraints, the Global Times reports.

Zhu Hong, the president of the welfare centre in Nanjing, tells the paper that parents of the abandoned infants "transfer the medical burden and pressure onto welfare centres" because nearly all abandoned babies "suffer from serious congenital diseases".

Lamenting the closure, an article in the West China City Daily suggests that the authorities should step up efforts to forbid abandonment of infants.

A commentary in the China Youth Daily shares a similar view and points out that there is a lack of public assistance package for these parents. 

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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