Two Former Lawmakers-Elect Arrested in Hong Kong Amid Ongoing Oaths Row
RADIO FREE ASIA
Police in Hong Kong arrested two former lawmakers-elect for “illegal assembly” after they staged a protest in the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo) last year during a row over their altered oaths of allegiance. Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung were formally barred from taking up their seats last year following a high-level intervention from Beijing, when the city’s courts ruled that their Oct. 12 oaths were invalid because they weren’t “solemn and sincere.” The duo, both members of the youth group Youngspiration, had vowed allegiance to the “Hong Kong Nation” and carried banners saying “Hong Kong is not China” during their swearing-in ceremonies.
China is Crushing South Korea’s Tourism Industry
Alex Macfarlane, CNN MONEY
Pro tip for countries looking to keep their tourism numbers up: don’t annoy China. That’s the lesson South Korea is learning the hard way. The country suffered a 40% plunge in Chinese visitors last month, according to the Korea Tourism Organization. Chinese tour groups have been canceling trips because of anger over the deployment of a controversial US-built missile defense system in South Korea. Chinese authorities are believed to have told travel agencies last month to stop selling trips to South Korea. The outlook is bleak, too. Bookings for stays of four to eight nights by Chinese visitors are down 28% in the second quarter of 2017 compared with a year earlier.
Cuba Weathers Storm in Venezuela But Future Looks Uncertain
Michael Weissenstein, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Refineries have gone dark. Gas rations have been slashed for hundreds of thousands of state workers. Construction materials are nearly impossible to find. But Cuba’s hotels and restaurants are packed, major US airlines are adding flights and government stores are full of frozen American chicken and US-made candy. So far, Cuba is weathering the storm as Venezuela’s economy craters and protesters fill its streets to denounce Cuba’s greatest socialist ally. A much-feared return to Cuba’s post-Soviet “Special Period” of food shortages and blackouts has yet to materialize as energy conservation and a boom in tourism and overseas remittances cushion the blow of a roughly 50 percent cut in Venezuelan oil aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Google Just Became the First Foreign Internet Company to Launch in Cuba
Sheera Frenkel, CNBC
Google’s servers in Cuba went live on Wednesday, making the internet giant the first foreign internet company to host content within the long cut-off country. The servers are part of Google’s global network of GGC nodes which store popular content—like a viral YouTube video—on a local server. Instead of having to travel the long distance through a submarine cable, which currently connects Cuba to the internet through Venezuela, Cubans will now be able to access content through the nearest Google server in their country. “I think this will be very noticeable for Cubans,” said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Dyn, a global internet monitoring company. “The internet in Cuba will still be a painfully slow process. This is just another somewhat rare step forward. For Google services, which will be hosted in country, it will be a milestone.”
North Korea’s Soldiers: A Closer Look at the Military’s “Fake” Capabilities
Alex Diaz, FOX NEWS
North Korea is flexing its military muscles again this week, but a closer look at images of the Hermit Kingdom’s soldiers reveals that the fighting force may be better suited for propaganda than actual battle. Some of the most memorable images to emerge from North Korea’s dramatic parade featured the special operations “commandos” who were carrying what appeared to be AK-47’s with grenade-launching capabilities. There’s just one problem, Pregent said. “Where are the magazines? There’s no place for the magazine to go with the mock grenade launcher in the way,” Pregent noted, calling it a “fake capability.” It is also possible that the rifles are equipped with what’s known as a “helical” magazine, which organizes rounds in a spiral shape to maximize capacity. Pregent notes that there is still the question of whether any of these rifles are actually loaded, as ammunition manufacturing is considered a serious issue for the isolated regime.
Calls Grow for Release of Tibet’s Panchen Lama, Now 28
RADIO FREE ASIA
Tibetan advocacy organizations and international rights groups called this week on China to release a high-ranking Tibetan religious figure taken into custody 22 years ago and held incommunicado ever since. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, now 28 years old, was detained together with his family by Chinese authorities in 1995 after he was identified by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, Tibet’s second most-senior Buddhist monk. A Beijing-backed candidate, Gyaincain Norbu, was then installed by China in his place, and remains unpopular among Tibetans. Nothing has been learned of the fate of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima since he vanished with his family in detention, and requests by the United Nations and other international agencies and human rights organizations to visit him have consistently been refused by Beijing.
North Korea Faces Tighter Sanctions Under Trump Strategy
The US is to tighten sanctions on North Korea and step up diplomatic moves aimed at pressuring the country to end its nuclear and missile programs. President Donald Trump’s strategy was announced after a special briefing for US senators. Earlier, the top US commander in the Pacific defended the deployment of an advanced missile defense system in South Korea. Tensions have risen amid fears the North is planning new weapons tests. “The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” said a joint statement issued by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. “We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies.”
Venezuela Says It Will Split From OAS as Unrest Continues
Natalie Gallón, Stefano Pozzebon and Euan McKirdy, CNN
Venezuela will withdraw from the Organization of American States (OAS), according to its foreign minister, who announced the decision on national television. Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told VTV state television Wednesday that the beleaguered country, which is facing huge civil unrest, would take the unprecedented step of leaving the pan-American organization over what it sees as attempts by foreign governments to interfere in its affairs by siding with the opposition in the latest wave of protests in the country. She added that the government will formally announce its withdrawal from the group, and that she expects the process to take two years.
Six Inmates Dead in Venezuela Prison Violence
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
A top prison official says six inmates died and another 11 have been wounded in a brawl among prisoners at a penitentiary in eastern Venezuela. Prison Affairs Minister Iris Varela said that the violence erupted at Puente Ayala penitentiary in Anzoategui state. Her comments were published in the regional newspaper El Tiempo. Venezuela has some 30 lockups with close to 50,000 inmates that suffer overcrowding and violence generated by gangs that control life inside and traffic in drugs and weapons. Some opposition members said they believed the death toll was much higher but it was impossible to immediately confirm that.