Punches, Kicks, and the “Dangling Chair”: Detainee Tells of Torture in China
Chris Buckley, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Xie Yang, a Chinese lawyer, described the abuse he faced as a prisoner in China to his lawyers. This month, the transcript of his testimony was released. The records lay out the most detailed firsthand allegations thus far that torture has stained a crackdown on Chinese rights lawyers and advocates that began in July 2015. The government detained almost 250 people in that operation, according to Amnesty International. Most were released, but four were tried and convicted last year on charges that they tried to subvert the one-party state, and about 13 are in detention and likely to face trial.
China Cracks Down on Mao Critics
Lucy Hornby and Tom Hancock, FINANCIAL TIMES
China’s ruling Communist party has closed the website of a prestigious economist as it launches a campaign against “nihilist” interpretations of former leader Mao Zedong that is stirring up ghosts of the Cultural Revolution. On Friday, censors closed down the social media accounts and website of a think-tank founded by 88-year-old economist Mao Yushi, a frequent target of neo-Maoists (and no relation with the Communist leader), among others. A total 17 websites were taken down for posting “fake news.”
Graffiti Artist “El Sexto” Released from Prison
Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, 32, was imprisoned the day after Fidel Castro died (Nov. 25) for having spray painted “Se fue” (He’s gone) on a wall in front of the Habana Libre Hotel. He was released “without charges” on Saturday. The artist’s Facebook page noted “It was the growing awareness about his case that has led the Cuban government to liberate him.” Maldonado plans to “continue doing meaningful art towards a free and democratic Cuba,” reported www.local10.com. “The artist was released after the Geneva-based United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention started to review a legal petition filed in his behalf,” noted the ABC news affiliate.
America’s Secret War in Laos
Joshua Kurlantzick’s new book, “A Great Place to Have a War,” provides lucid prose and revelatory reporting to create a compelling picture of the “secret war” in Laos. Fresh interviews and newly declassified records document how American involvement escalated and then swiftly ended, leaving America’s Laotian partners holding the bag. By the time the campaign ended in 1973, a tenth of Laos’s population had been killed. Thousands more accidental deaths would follow from unexploded bombs left in the soil. Also, despite more Americans dying in Laos than Cambodia, the CIA’s conduct did not spark the same outrage from the American public as the bombings in Cambodia.
US Eyes Michael Flynn’s Links to Russia
Carol E. Lee and Devlin Barrett and Shane Harris, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Michael Flynn is the first person inside the White House under Mr. Trump whose communications are known to have faced scrutiny as part of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and Treasury Department to determine the extent of Russian government contacts with people close to Mr. Trump. A key issue in the investigation is a series of telephone calls Mr. Flynn made to Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, on Dec. 29. That day, the Obama administration announced sanctions and other measures against Russia in retaliation for its alleged use of cyberattacks to interfere with the 2016 US election.
Inside Trump’s Shadow National Security Council
Josh Rogin, THE WASHINGTON POST
Incoming chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, senior adviser Jared Kushner and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus comprise an informal council that sits atop the Trump transition team’s executive committee and has the final say on national security personnel appointments. Mr. Bannon has a keen interest in Asia, is committed to working on the buildup of the military and is also interested in connecting the Trump apparatus to leaders of populist movements around the world, especially in Europe.