■ Hong Kong
Road crackdown begins
Police yesterday began imposing tough new penalties on motorists who jump red traffic lights to crack down on rogue drivers blamed for causing one accident per day last year. From midnight yesterday, the fixed penalty for jumping red traffic lights was raised from HK$450 (US$58) to HK$600 (US$77). Motorists caught jumping red lights will also have the number of demerit points on their license increased from three to five under a tally system that can lead to drivers being temporarily banned. The new penalties came into effect after motorists who jump red lights were blamed for an average one accident a day last year, leading to the injury or death of one to two people every day.
New envoy to be named
Japan is set to name a new ambassador to China in a bid to improve bilateral ties, which have soured over Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's controversial visits to a war shrine, news reports said yesterday. Yuji Miyamoto, a career diplomat and expert on China who has been posted to Beijing before, would succeed Koreshige Anami, who will have served five years as ambassador this month, Kyodo News said, citing government sources. The decision could be announced as early as this month, the Yomiuri Shimbun said. But the foreign ministry was to make a final decision on the timing of the appointment after closely watching developments in bilateral ties, Kyodo said.
Five bodies found in mine
Rescue workers have recovered five more bodies from a flooded coal mine in northern China's Shanxi province, bringing the death toll from last week's incident to 13, state media said yesterday. Four workers remained missing after Wednesday's flood at the Fanjiasi mine in Dianwan town in Zuoyun County, Xinhua news agency said. An initial investigation suggested that the accident may have been caused by an error on the part of mine maintenance workers, Xinhua reported last week. China has been hit by a string of deadly mine accidents in recent months as the industry ramps up production to help fuel rapid economic development
Emperor praises war dead
Emperor Akihito paid tribute to Japan's war dead in his New Year's message yesterday, saying today's prosperity is based on the sacrifices of the past. "Last year marked the 60th anniversary of the end of the war. Three million and one hundred thousand Japanese people died in the last war and many foreigners were also victims," he said in the written statement. "We will never forget the people who lost their lives in the war and bear in mind that the Japan of today is built on the sacrifice made by those many people," he said.
Education bill planned
The Japanese government plans to submit a bill to parliament that would make kindergarten compulsory and offer early child education free of charge, a news report said yesterday. The plan would extend the number of required years of education from nine to 10 or 11, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said, citing sources in the government and the ruling party. The draft calls for kindergarten to be made compulsory from the 2009 academic year, the newspaper said.
Four arrested over murder
Police have arrested four Malaysians for the Christmas Day murder of a Myanmar national. The suspects were arrested on Friday night, police said. Officers seized a knife and blood-stained clothing during the raids. Police said two of them were working in Singapore as cleaners while the other two were on social visit passes. The victim, Thein Naing, 41, was found with head injuries early on Christmas Day.