China’s Chief Justice Rejects an Independent Judiciary, and Reformers Wince
Michael Forsythe, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Chief Justice Zhou Qiang, China’s top judicial official, used warlike language on Saturday to denounce the idea of an independent judiciary and other cherished liberal principles, warning judges not to fall into the “trap” of “Western” ideology. Observers in China and abroad were shocked and dismayed. “We should resolutely resist erroneous influence from the West: ‘constitutional democracy,’ ‘separation of powers’ and ‘independence of the judiciary,’” Chief Justice Zhou, the head of the Supreme People’s Court of China, said in a speech to a group of legal officials in Beijing. “We must make clear our stand and dare to show the sword.”
In Latest Move, China Halts over 100 Coal Power Projects
China’s energy regulator has ordered 11 provinces to stop more than 100 coal-fired power projects, with a combined installed capacity of more than 100 gigawatts, its latest dramatic step to curb the use of fossil fuels in the world’s top energy market. In a document issued on Jan. 14, financial media group Caixin reported, the National Energy Administration (NEA) suspended the coal projects, some of which were already under construction. Putting the power projects on hold is a major step towards the government’s effort to produce power from renewable sources such as solar and wind, and wean the country off coal, which accounts for the majority of the nation’s power supply.
Treasury Department Reaches Settlement with Pro-Cuba Activist Accused of Violating Embargo
Nora Gámez Torres, THE MIAMI HERALD
The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has agreed to drop legal proceedings against longtime pro-Cuba activist Albert A. Fox Jr. in exchange for a fine of $10,000. The settlement comes four months after OFAC hit the Tampa-based businessman with a $100,000 fine for alleged violations of the US embargo during two trips to the island within the past six years. Fox, president of the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation, was accused of providing unauthorized travel services to the island for delegations of Americans as well as conducting unauthorized transactions during two separate business trips.
German Opposition Leader Calls for Security Union with Russia, Dissolution of NATO
Sahra Wagenknecht, who leads the opposition Left Party in Germany, added her voice to calls to dissolve the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the wake of US President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial remarks concerning the military alliance. “NATO must be dissolved and replaced by a collective security system including Russia,” Wagenknecht told Germany’s “Funke” media group. The Left Party is Germany’s largest opposition group in parliament, and holds seats in several state legislatures.
Hong Kong Leader Warns on Independence Push in Final Speech
Hong Kong’s outgoing leader has issued a warning in his farewell policy speech to those advocating independence for the Chinese-controlled territory. In his annual address to the legislature, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Wednesday that Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China. He said, “There is absolutely no room for independence or any form of separation.”
North Korea Vows to Pursue Weapons Development, Condemns New Sanctions
Elizabeth Shim, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
North Korea is resisting pressure to denuclearize and vowing to continue the “parallel development” of weapons of mass destruction alongside economic growth. Pyongyang is standing firm following a US decision to blacklist Kim Jong-un’s younger sister for her propaganda activities. Seoul also decided recently to accelerate plans for a special assassination unit targeting the North Korean leadership.
Envoy to UN Calls Russia Threat to US and World Order
Steve Herman, VOICE OF AMERICA
In a parting shot to Moscow and a warning to America three days before leaving her post, Samantha Power, the top US envoy at the United Nations, said Russia is “a major threat facing our great nation.” Power, in her speech, also cautioned that easing punitive actions the Obama administration had taken against Moscow, “when they haven’t changed their behavior, would only embolden Russia” and encourage other rule-breakers, such as Iran and North Korea.
Russia Extends Edward Snowden’s Asylum to 2020
Joel Williams and Konstantin Toropin, CNN
Edward Snowden’s leave to remain in Russia has been extended until 2020, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has confirmed to CNN. Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor, sought asylum in Russia in June 2013 after leaking volumes of information on American intelligence and surveillance operations to the media. On Tuesday, Zakharova announced an extension of a “couple of years” in a Facebook post that criticized former CIA acting director Michael Morell for an opinion piece he wrote suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin should consider returning Snowden to the United States as “the perfect inauguration gift” to President-elect Donald Trump.
Taiwan Carries Out Drills Amid Rising Fears of Chinese Invasion
Nicola Smith and Tom Phillips, THE GUARDIAN
The Taiwanese military is preparing for a Chinese invasion as fears grow about the impact that future Donald Trump policies towards Beijing may have on regional stability. A two-day military drill that began on Tuesday simulated an attack by the People’s Liberation Army across the 112-mile (180km) Taiwan strait that separates the mainland from the island nation of 23 million, amid deteriorating relations between Beijing and Taipei. The drills come one week after China set off alarm bells in Taiwan by sailing its only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, through the strait, accompanied by a fleet of warships.