Hong Kong Police Arrest Activist Over Abduction Claim
A democracy activist in Hong Kong who claimed he was abducted and tortured by mainland Chinese agents has been arrested by police. Authorities are accusing Howard Lam of providing misleading information. Mr. Lam claimed last week he was abducted because of his efforts to get in touch with Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. He had showed reporters what he said was evidence of torture, including staples embedded in his thighs. The BBC’s Hong Kong correspondent Juliana Liu says Mr. Lam’s revelation shocked the city, and many people demanded an inquiry into what they called a serious potential violation of the city’s autonomy. Mainland agents are not allowed to operate in Hong Kong, which is a semi-autonomous territory responsible for its own law and order. But now Mr. Lam himself is under arrest and his home has been raided for evidence, with officers removing mobile phones, a tablet and other personal items.
Outcry After Hong Kong Broadcaster Axes BBC World Service In Favor Of Chinese State Media
RADIO FREE ASIA
News that Hong Kong government broadcaster RTHK will cease rebroadcasting the BBC World Service on AM radio has prompted calls for its reinstatement, after the station said it would be replaced by programming in Mandarin from China’s state broadcaster. BBC World Service programming, which has been rebroadcast in the former British colony since 1978, will be replaced with China National Radio Hong Kong Edition from Sept. 4, ending nearly four decades of continuous broadcasting in the city, the station said. The decision was taken to “enhance the cultural exchange between mainland China and Hong Kong,”RTHK spokeswoman Amen Ng said. BBC World Service programming will still be available after the nightly shutdown ofRTHK Radio 4, however. The move comes as media watchdogs cite growing influence wielded by the ruling Chinese Communist Party over the formerly freewheeling city’s political life and media, saying Chinese money is largely behind self-censorship on the part of Hong Kong news organizations. Ng told RFA the move wasn’t politically motivated, however. “I don’t accept that this was a political arrangement,” she said. “Otherwise, why would we have worked so hard to keep international broadcasters like the BBC? This entire decision has been RTHK’s.”
Amid Renewed North Korea Tensions, China Appoints New Special Envoy
Ben Blanchard, REUTERS
China has appointed a new special envoy for the North Korean standoff, the foreign ministry said on Monday, a relatively low-profile diplomat now in charge of Asian affairs, amid renewed international concern over China’s nuclear-armed neighbor. Concern that North Korea is close to achieving its goal of putting the mainland United States within range of a nuclear weapon has underpinned a spike in tensions in recent months, with US President Donald Trump warning at the weekend that the US military was “locked and loaded” if North Korea acted unwisely. China’s new envoy, Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, 58, is an ethnic Korean from the northeastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang, who has overall responsibility for Asian affairs at the foreign ministry, according to his resume. He has held senior positions at the Chinese embassy in Japan and from 2011 to 2014 he was China’s ambassador to Vietnam, two countries with which China has often troubled relations. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that Kong had taken over from previous envoy Wu Dawei, but that there was no connection between the appointment and the current situation on the Korean peninsula.
Cuba Celebrates Fidel Castro’s Birthday With What The Late Leader Most Enjoyed
Nora Gamez Torres, THE MIAMI HERALD
Cuba celebrated what would have been the 91st birthday of late leader Fidel Castro with a museum dedicated to denouncing “aggressions” lobbed by the United States during the more than six decades of rule by the Castro brothers. “This is the work of our country facing the aggressions of the empire. Here is, on one hand, American evil, and on the other, the heroism and triumph of an entire people,” Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel said Sunday in Havana during the official opening of the Memorial of Denunciation, which is housed in the former museum dedicated to the Ministry of the Interior. “It is sometimes inexplicable that a country as large as the United States has devoted so many resources to trying to crush a revolutionary process that, after all, what it has always defended is our sovereignty,” added Díaz-Canel, who does not usually comment on US-Cuba relations.
Kim Jong-un’s Disappearance Sparks Concerns Missile Launch Could Be Imminent
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has vanished from the public eye for two weeks, South Korean media reported, prompting fears that he may be preparing to mark Tuesday’s public holiday by firing a new rocket. The last time Kim went days without being seen was prior to the ICBM launch in late July, when he remained incognito for two weeks before making his grandiose public appearance. His public withdrawal comes as nuclear tensions mount between Washington and Pyongyang, and on the heels of the leader’s threat to attack the US island territory of Guam. On Tuesday, North Korea is set to commemorate the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japan at the end of World War II. Adding to the speculation of an imminent rocket-fire test, last week US-based North Korea watchdog site 38 North released satellite imagery of a submarine base in the hermit country, showing that tarps had been placed above both the fore and aft decks of the Sinpo-class submarine base, presumably to conceal any inside movements.
North Korea Touts “International” Idolization Of Kim Jong-un
Elizabeth Shim, UPI
North Korea invited foreign journalists into the country for coverage of the fifth anniversary of Kim Jong-un’s assumption of control. The celebration is a five-day event this week idolizing the North Korean leadership. Pyongyang may be emphasizing the “international” character of the event, by inviting more than “200 foreigners with friendly ties to North Korea,” Japan’sKyodo News reported Monday. On Sunday, North Korea allowed visitors to pay their respects to the embalmed bodies of founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il at Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, according to the report. Kim Jong Il died in 2011 after a heart failure that led to the swift succession of power to his son, the current leader. Kim Jong-un then fully assumed power in 2012. On Monday, there may have been a commemorative event at Mount Paektu, a dormant volcano situated along the China-North Korea border that is also the official designated birthplace of Kim Jong Il.
North Korean Defector Says Kim Jong-un Followed Out Of Fear
Travis Feschun, FOX NEWS
A defector from North Korea says Kim Jong-un is significantly weaker than portrayed—despite images broadcast to the world last week of large crowds cheering the tyrant’s fiery rhetoric. The man, who asked Sky News to hide his identity because his daughter is still inside North Korea and would be in danger if he is recognized, said he wants people to know the truth about life under the Kim regime. “These civilians, if the government tells them to come, they are gathered by the system, they’re forced to come, they don’t have the freedom not to,” he told Sky News. “I feel sorry for these people, they will all be cannon fodder.” Images of the rally released last week by North Korea’s state media outlet show North Korean workers dressed alike in white button-down shirts and matching red ties, raising banners lauding the North Korean military. Participants were shown raising their right fists in the air in a public gesture of solidarity with Kim. “On the surface they look thankful, but none of it is genuine,” the defector told Sky News in South Korea.
North Korea Factories Humming With “Made In China” Clothes, Traders Say
NEW YORK TIMES
Chinese textile firms are increasingly using North Korean factories to take advantage of cheaper labor across the border, traders and businesses in the border city of Dandong told Reuters. The clothes made in North Korea are labeled “Made in China” and exported across the world, they said. Using North Korea to produce cheap clothes for sale around the globe shows that for every door that is closed by ever-tightening UN sanctions another one may open. The UN sanctions, introduced to punish North Korea for its missile and nuclear programs, do not include any bans on textile exports. “We take orders from all over the world,” said one Korean-Chinese businessman in Dandong, the Chinese border city where the majority of North Korea trade passes through. Like many people Reuters interviewed for this story, he spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Dozens of clothing agents operate in Dandong, acting as go-betweens for Chinese clothing suppliers and buyers from the United States, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Russia, the businessman said.
North Korea Says It Won’t Fire Missiles At Guam, After All
Bill Chappell, NPR
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reviewed his military’s plans to rain “an enveloping fire” around the US territory of Guam—but opted not to fire missiles at this time, according to state media. Despite the stand-down, some Guamanians were alarmed after two radio stations aired an erroneous emergency alert Tuesday. Kim visited the Korean People’s Army as the self-imposed mid-August deadline for a missile demonstration approached, the Korean Central News Agency reports. But after hearing the plan and considering it, Kim opted not to give the order to launch missiles, but instead “would watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees,” the report says. Kim also warned that the US should not test North Korea’s self-restraint.
Taiwan Urges Restraint After China Plane Enters Defense Zone
CHANNEL NEWS ASIA
Taiwan on Tuesday (Aug 15) urged Beijing to exercise restraint after a Chinese military aircraft entered its air defense zone following a recent spate of drills that have ratcheted up cross-strait tensions. The Chinese military plane was spotted in Taiwan’s air defense zone on Sunday, according to the defense ministry. Chinese military aircraft have flown near Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on seven other occasions since July. “We keep on high alert to prevent unidentified or Chinese planes and ships from entering our air and sea space. We urge restraint to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait,” said ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi. Taiwan has scrambled aircraft to monitor the Chinese planes each time they have flown near the island. Relations with China have rapidly deteriorated since the inauguration of President Tsai Ing-wen who refuses to acknowledge both sides are part of “one China.”
Reports Indicate Crackdown In Tibet Leading Up To 19th Party Congress
Molly Lortie, TIBET POST
Reports from Tibet indicate a crackdown on “illegal activity,” further persecuting any attempts at expressing the Tibetan identity. A report in the Tibet Daily identified a crackdown aimed at targeting both pornography and other “illegal activity,”specifically listing the “Tibetan independence propaganda” as a main target in the buildup to the 19th Party Congress, taking place this fall. According to the report, the effort has been launched in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in order to tighten security and ensure compliance to the party-state prior to the important Party meeting in Beijing, which could be held as early as October. The official report mentions that further actions will be taken to “prevent problematic information distributed by Dalai Clique and other Western hostile forces and track down online circulation of negative information, hyper-speculation and rumors.” The measures include an intensification of supervision over “all kinds of illegal cultural products,” a reference to increasing controls over music, publishing and printing. Strict measures are already in place across Tibet to eliminate any books or materials mentioning the Dalai Lama, who is specifically mentioned in the Tibet Daily article as a target. The report also refers to “the field of news media and publishing” in order to ensure no publication of “harmful political content.” Tibetan singers, writers, and artists have been detained imprisoned for these references, but bans have also been applied to Tibetan songs and books without overt or obvious political content. The new ruling states that the Chinese authorities will “strengthen the supervision of music and dance entertainment programs” according to Tibet Daily.
This High-Tech RPG Could Be Direct Evidence Of Russia’s Secret War In Ukraine
Daniel Brown, THE BUSINESS INSIDER
Russian-backed separatists have begun using a new rocket-propelled grenade against Ukraininan forces in the Donbas, 112.uareported. The rebels used a Russian RPG-27 Tavolga anti-tank grenade launcher against Ukrainian troops in a village on the front lines of the Luhansk region, 112.ua said, citing the International Human Rights Community. The war in eastern Ukraine started shortly after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 when pro-Russian Ukrainians proclaimed parts of the Donbas as independent states known as the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic. Russia has funded, managed and supplied weapons to these rebel states ever since, which Moscow categorically denies. The separatists also claim that most of their weapons have been captured from Ukrainian armories or the battlefield. But this new development is just more “evidence of the direct involvement of Russia in Eastern Ukraine,” the International Human Rights Community said, since Ukraine has never had this kind of grenade launcher.
National GOP Slams Bill Nelson On Cuba, Venezuela In Spanish-Language Radio Ad
George Bennet, PALM BEACH POST
With Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson up for re-election next year, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is weighing in with a Spanish-language radio ad that accuses Nelson of being soft on communist dictators in Cuba and Venezuela. With encouragement from President Donald Trump and other Republicans, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is expected to challenge Nelson next year but hasn’t opened a campaign. The new NRSC ad, which will air in Miami, notes Nelson’s support for President Barack Obama’s normalizing of relations with Cuba and a visit Nelson made to Venezuela in 2005 in which he and other senators met with the late communist strongman Hugo Chavez. In an English translation of the ad provided by the NRSC, the narrator says “Our government in Washington has to stop (Nicolás) Maduro and his accomplices” in Venezuela.
US General And South Korean Leader Push For Diplomacy On North Korea
Choe Sang-Hun, NEW YORK TIMES
Emphasizing diplomacy and sanctions over war, the top American general and South Korea’s president said on Monday that they hoped to avoid armed conflict with North Korea, as China vowed to enforce new United Nations penalties. The developments suggested that officials of the United States, South Korea and China are seeking to emphasize a message in Asia of lowering tensions after President Trump’s apocalyptic threats last week over North Korea’s missile and nuclear testing. In a meeting with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, whose country has been alarmed by Mr. Trump’s threats, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said military options were a last resort. “The United States military’s priority is to support our government’s efforts to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through diplomatic and economic pressure,” General Dunford was quoted as saying in a Korean-language statement released by Mr. Moon’s office after the meeting. “We are preparing a military option in case such efforts fail.” Before the meeting, Mr. Moon issued one of his strongest statements yet against armed conflict. “Our national interest is peace, and there should never be war on the Korean Peninsula again,” Mr. Moon was quoted as saying in a meeting with his senior staff. “No matter what it takes, the North Korean nuclear problem must be resolved peacefully.”
Visiting Region, Pence Keeps Threat To Venezuela On Table
Vice President Mike Pence is demonstrating the delicate balancing act that has thus far defined his term, walking a line during a trip to Latin America between the region’s opposition to possible US military intervention in Venezuela, and President Donald Trump’s surprising refusal to rule out that option. Speaking during a joint news conference with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos shortly after his arrival Sunday, Pence also declined to rule out possible military action against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whose efforts to consolidate power in the country have drawn alarm. Still, Pence stressed the US would much prefer what he called a “peaceable” solution to the growing political and humanitarian crisis. “President Trump is a leader who says what he means and means what he says,” Pence said. “But the president sent me here to continue to marshal the unprecedented support of countries across Latin America to achieve by peaceable means the restoration of democracy in Venezuela, and we believe it is achievable by those means.” Mr. Trump’s startling comments Friday sparked backlash across the region, including from Venezuela’s chief opposition coalition and the Colombian government.
Maduro Regime Wants To Arrest Venezuelans In Miami
Johanna Alvarez, THE MIAMI HERALD
The Venezuelan government says it’s seeking to arrest 23 persons—including several who live in South Florida—allegedly linked to an attack Aug. 6 on a military base in the north-central state of Carabobo, a result of the continuing protests against the government of President Nicolás Maduro. Gustavo Gonzalez, head of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service, declared in a televised appearance Sunday that “arrest orders have been issued for everyone involved” and displayed a placard with the names of nine Venezuelans said to be living abroad. The placard includes Patricia Poleo, a Venezuelan journalist who was executive editor of the El Nuevo País newspaper and is known for her investigative work, including a book on the Venezuelan hideouts of former Peruvian intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos. “I am used to being linked to every case,” said Poleo, who has lived in Miami for the past 12 years. She fled to the United States after she was accused in the murder of prosecutor Danilo Anderson on Nov. 18, 2004.
Venezuelan President Announces Military Drills In Response To Trump Warning
Jeff Daniels, CNBC
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Monday ordered the armed forces of the country to have military exercises later this month, coming on the heels of President Donald Trump warning of possible military action. “Venezuela will not be threatened,” Maduro was quoted as saying, according to the Venezuelan newspaper Panorama. The paper said Maduro added that Trump “should know that threatening Venezuela is like threatening Latin America.” At the same time, Venezuela’s defense minister, Vladimir Padrino Lopez, warned Monday that the US was looking to steal Venezuela’s oil reserves, according to a report from Reuters. Venezuela’s nationwide military drills are scheduled to take place August 26 to 27 and will include the air force, navy and national militia, according to Panorama.
Desperate For Cash, Venezuela Gives Putin Control Of Oil Assets
Will Racke, THE DAILY SIGNAL
Venezuela is handing over unprecedented control of its state-owned oil assets to longtime financial backer Russia in an effort to stave off insolvency and economic collapse. Battered by civil unrest that threatens to become a total political meltdown, the socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro has offered an ownership stake in up to nine of Venezuela’s most productive oil projects, Reuters reported Friday. The deals give Russian President Vladimir Putin an even stronger foothold in the Western Hemisphere’s largest oil reserves and, potentially, a way to skirt US economic sanctions imposed as punishment for Moscow’s election meddling and military intervention in Ukraine. Since at least early this year, Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), has been conducting negotiations with Rosneft, Russia’s biggest state-owned oil company. In addition to equity positions in the nine oil projects, Rosneft has already received guarantees of future Venezuelan oil shipments in exchange for $1 billion delivered to PDVSA and oil industry sources, a Venezuelan official told Reuters. Caracas has reportedly used the Russian cash to avoid defaulting on sovereign bond payments on two separate occasions.