Liu Xiaobo: Censored By China, Supporters Take To Social Media
Cindy Sui, BBC
A social media movement—styled as a “global memorial”—has been launched to mourn and commemorate the loss of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo. On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, supporters are posting pictures of an empty chair next to the sea with the hashtag #withliuxiaobo. At 17:35 Beijing time (09:35 GMT) on Wednesday, and even shortly beforehand, people around the world began posting the photos of a single chair placed by the sea. One person whose Instagram account name is Chi_Yuen_Lam posted what looked like an antique chair on a seashore with the words, “Salute to the true hero #withliuxiaobo” Another called submarine vintage posted on Instagram a picture of a small plastic toy chair with plastic flowers, next to what appeared to be a Hong Kong harbor. Others shared pictures of themselves raising three fingers to symbolize resistance, freedom and hope.
Get Out! Chinese Agents Bar Access To The “Free” Wife of Liu Xiaobo
Tom Phillips, THE GUARDIAN
Chinese authorities claim Liu Xia is a free woman. But one week after the death of her husband, the Nobel laureate and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, a visit to the couple’s Beijing home immediately gives the lie to that claim. Within seconds of arriving at the tree-lined property on Wednesday, the Guardian was surrounded by plain-clothes security agents, shouting orders and questions, demanding that its reporters leave. “Where are you going? Where are you going?” snapped one man, wearing black Bermuda shorts and Adidas Superstars, as he used his body to block the path that leads to the fourth-floor flat. A second agent arrived, also clad in black, and then a third, brandishing a golden Chinese smartphone with which he threatened to call the police. Asked if Liu Xia was at home he said: “I have never heard of her.” He went on: “There are thousands of people living here with that name. How should I know which one you are talking about?” In the lead-up to the death of her jailed husband, Liu Xia had been forced to endure almost seven years of unofficial house arrest–Communist party retribution, observers say, for her husband’s 2010 Nobel peace prize. Now, with Liu gone, the 56-year-old artist and poet appears to have been thrust straight back into that invisible prison.
China’s Cyber Watchdog Orders Top Tech Platforms To Increase Self-Censorship
Cate Cadell, REUTERS
China’s top cyber authority ordered the country’s top tech firms to carry out “immediate cleaning and rectification” of their platforms to remove content deemed offensive to the Communist Party and the country’s national image, it said on Wednesday. The watchdog held a meeting with representatives from firms including Tencent Holdings Ltd, Baidu Inc and Sohu.com Inc, on Tuesday where it gave them a list of specific errors, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a statement on social media. The violations include distorting Chinese history, spreading fake news, misinterpreting policy directives and failing to block content that subverts public stability. “[The sites] must adhere to the correct political line and moral norms,” the statement said. Chinese authorities have recently cracked down on platforms that allow users to share media from outlets that are not sanctioned under state-issued licenses, amid a wider censorship campaign spearheaded by Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.
North Korea Gets Strict On Recruiting Workers To Go Abroad
RADIO FREE ASIA
North Korea authorities have set strict conditions for citizens chosen to be overseas workers in an attempt to reduce the number of defectors after a group of 13 restaurant workers in China did not return home last year, sources familiar with the situation said. Only residents of the capital Pyongyang are now qualified for recruitment, while people from rural areas are no longer being considered, they said. The authorities are specifically selecting Pyongyang residents that have good family backgrounds and children who live in the country, sources said. “North Korea’s External Construction Bureau downsized recruitment for dispatch work in Russia starting this May,” a source from the Russian port city of Vladivostok told RFA’s Korean Service. “They have stopped recruiting from rural areas, and they are only open to recruiting Pyongyang residents.” North Koreans dispatched to Russia usually work as loggers or construction workers, said the source who declined to be named. “There is a lot of construction work going on in Vladivostok, so North Korean construction workers are the main source of generating foreign currency” for the regime of leader Kim Jong-un, he said. The isolated country has exported workers to Russia, China, and places farther afield such as the Middle East and Africa for years, but requires them to remit much of their earnings to the North Korean government, which is believed to use the cash to fund its illicit weapons programs. Some workers have used the opportunity to try to defect to the North’s enemy South Korea.
North Korea Praises Russia’s Putin On Joint Declaration Anniversary
Elizabeth Shim, UPI
North Korea commemorated a joint Russia-North Korea declaration signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and former leader Kim Jong-ilon Wednesday. Pyongyang’s tribute to its ties with Moscow comes a day after the Russian embassy in Pyongyang announced the delivery of food aid, 2,400 tons of flour, to the country, and more than a week after Russia blocked a statement urging North Korea sanctions at the United Nations Security Council. Korean Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun described the declaration signed in July 2000 as a “milestone in the development of North Korea-Russia friendship.” “It has been 17 years since the joint declaration was adopted,” the statement read. “This joint declaration is a historical document that actively promoted the development of friendly Russia-North Korea relations.” Pyongyang added the maintenance of strong ties with Russia is “beneficial to peace and security in the Northeast Asia region.” According to the Rodong, Putin and Kim agreed in 2000 to strengthen military cooperation and promote exchange that advances friendly relations.
North Korean Parents “Kill Disabled Children At Birth,” A Sickening New Report Reveals
Thomas Hunt, THE EXPRESS
People with disabilities in North Korea are killed at birth, often by their parents, or sent for obscure medical experiments at the secretive and terrifying “Hospital 83,” a new human rights report declared. Sadly those born into the radical regime with a disability have very little chance of survival and if they manage to elude the state they are then hidden from public view. The Database Centre for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB), a non–governmental organization based in Seoul, admitted they were unsure where “Hospital 83” is located. A researcher from the NKDB said: “Many were aware of its existence but didn’t know where it is.” The body conducted 100 interviews with defectors who lived in North Korea between 2010 and 2014. One defector said: “A maintenance worker at a local hospital gave birth to two sons in 2012 and both had abnormal facial features. The scientific institute in Pyongyang took them for experiments. The mother tried to keep them at first but then later gave up on them.” The North Korean regime keeps disabled citizens hidden from the wider population and they are completely banned from Pyongyang.
State Department Drops Cuba Entirely From Annual Detail Of Terrorist Activity
Teresa Welsh, THE MIAMI HERALD
After spending 33 years designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the US government, Cuba no longer has any activity that even merits its own report in the State Department’s annual review of terrorist threats around the world. “It was assessed that there was not sufficient information there to provide a report this year on Cuba,” Justin Siberell, the State Department’s acting coordinator for counterterrorism, told reporters Wednesday. After Cuba was taken off the state sponsor of terrorism list in 2015, only Iran, Sudan and Syria remain labeled the worst of the worst. Other countries are included in the congressionally mandated Country Reports on Terrorism based on relevant information gathered by the State Department on terrorist activity within their borders. The 2015 report, released in June 2016, included paragraphs on Cuba in the section on the Western Hemisphere, but the language did not express concern over terrorist activity on the island or support for terrorism by the nation. But the 2016 report, released Wednesday, had no mention of the island nation. Siberell said no relevant information on Cuba was found by the State Department. “Cuba was removed, and there is no requirement within the report for an individual chapter on every single country,” Siberell said. “We produce chapters in the country reports based upon material, frankly, to include.”
Trump Administration Is Weighing New Sanctions Against Venezuela
Maggie Haberman & Ernesto Londoño, THE NEW YORK TIMES
The Trump administration is considering imposing sanctions on additional Venezuelan officials, one of several options under discussion as a rebuke to President Nicolás Maduro’s government and his efforts to consolidate authority. Administration officials said they were using a number of tactics to persuade Mr. Maduro to hold off on constituent assembly elections seen by critics as a power grab, and more broadly to ease the authoritarian tilt of his government. They stressed that the Trump administration was talking to other governments about how best to proceed. But they said they reserved the right to engage in unilateral actions, if need be. A senior Trump administration official declined in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday to name the potential targets of sanctions. But the announcement came two days after an unusual election organized by opposition parties in Venezuela, in which more than seven million people cast votes to express their disapproval of Mr. Maduro. The government says that vote is illegitimate. “The Venezuelan people again made clear that they stand for democracy, freedom and rule of law,” President Trump said in a statement on Monday. “Yet their strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator.”
In Venezuela, Even An Economist Can’t Afford To Fill Her Shopping Cart
Mariana Zúñiga, PRI
Rosalba Diaz pushes her shopping cart through what, at first glance, seems like a well-stocked supermarket in Caracas. But looking closer, she can see that many of the shelves are jammed with bottles of vinegar, boxes of salt and cans of sardines. “There is nothing to eat. I mean, you’re not going to drink a bottle of vinegar,” she says. Venezuela is in the midst of a humanitarian emergency. After several years of political and economic crises, many Venezuelans are not getting enough to eat. According to the latest Venezuela Living Conditions Survey from 2016, an estimated third of the population is now reduced to eating two or fewer meals a day. And the country’s economic deterioration is increasingly affecting people from all social classes.
Anti-Maduro Strike Paralyzes Swathes of Venezuela
Streets around Venezuela were deserted and barricaded on Thursday for a strike called by foes of President Nicolas Maduro to demand a presidential election and the abandonment of a new congress they fear would cement dictatorship. Many businesses were also staying shut as the opposition sought a 24-hour national shutdown from 6 am to heighten pressure on the ruling Socialist Party. “It’s started well. There’s no movement, everything is closed, we all need to do our best to get rid of this tyrant,” said protester Miguel Lopez, 17, holding a shield with “No To Dictatorship!” emblazoned on it, as he manned a roadblock in Caracas in a main thoroughfare devoid of traffic.
Amid Crisis, Venezuela’s Youth Wait To Live Again
David Gonzalez, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Adriana Loureiro Fernández’s images of the protests and street clashes in Venezuela are dark—masked figures emerging from shadows, backlit by flames or wrapped in swirls of tear gas. People flash a gun or a knife, or show off stones that would soon be launched at police. She gets up close, which is bold considering she once had a fear of crowds. Still, she has gotten used to pushing herself, physically and emotionally, as she witnesses the political chaos that continues to upend her homeland. Her style and subject came about from her earliest days of photography, around 2010, when as a college student she started tagging along with friends in Caracas who were into graffiti. She shot at night with only available light—a flash would have given away her friends—moving through deserted streets. “The city was dangerous and empty, only poor people, drunks and us remained,” she said. “But it was a glimpse of what Venezuela has become now. We saw many things. We got robbed. Police told us they would arrest us unless we handed over what we had. We saw violence. We saw a little bit of everything at night.”