Chinese Citizens Evade Internet Censor To Remember Liu Xiaobo
Javier C. Hernandez, THE NEW YORK TIMES
The death on Thursday of China’s most prominent political prisoner, Liu Xiaobo, set off a frenzied effort by government censors to block discussion of his legacy online. Candle emoticons and the phrase “R.I.P.” were banned on Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging site. On many sites, searches of Mr. Liu’s name turned up zero results. Still, Mr. Liu’s admirers found creative ways around the controls, using code words, videos and photographs to show solidarity and to criticize the government’s treatment of China’s only Nobel Peace laureate. When a thunderstorm erupted over Beijing shortly after Mr. Liu’s death, internet users embraced the imagery. “It must be to mark the exit of a hero,” one Weibo user wrote. “The heavens are also moved.” “Heaven is watching,” wrote a WeChat user, suggesting that China was being judged by a higher power for its treatment of Mr. Liu. The activist, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, had been sentenced to 11 years for his efforts to promote democracy. Activists have accused the government of depriving Mr. Liu of proper medical care after a cancer diagnosis. Some critics warned that the treatment of Mr. Liu has marred China’s international reputation and tarnished the legacy of Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, who has taken a hard line against dissidents.
Germany Focuses On Fate Of Liu Xiaobo’s Wife
A newspaper published by China’s ruling Communist Party is dismissing late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo as a political pawn of the West whose legacy will fade. The rare mention of Liu in Chinese-language media comes as international tributes flow in for the political prisoner. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman says Germany will continue to push for a “humanitarian solution” for the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. Liu, China’s most prominent political prisoner, died Thursday of liver cancer. A German and an American doctor visited him last weekend, and Berlin had urged Beijing to allow him to leave for treatment abroad—possibly in Germany. After Liu’s death, Germany’s foreign minister pressed China to allow his wife, Liu Xia, to leave for Germany or another country of her choice. Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said Friday that Germany has supported a “humanitarian solution” for the couple “and that will not end from one day to the next with the very regrettable death of Liu Xiaobo.” He didn’t elaborate. Japan’s government says it will continue to pay close attention to human rights in China after the death of its most famous political prisoner.
Chinese Imports From North Korea Fall Sharply, A Sign That Beijing Is Cracking Down?
Anna Fifield, THE WASHINGTON POST
China’s imports from North Korea dropped sharply in the first half of this year, according to figures published Thursday that suggest Beijing is more serious about cracking down on Pyongyang than President Trump has recently claimed. The Trump administration has been calling on Beijing to use its economic leverage over its errant neighbor to make the Kim regime stop firing off missiles and bellicose threats. But, after North Korea launched a missile technically capable of reaching the United States last week, Trump suggested he’d given up on China. Thursday’s figures suggest a different picture, although they also showed significant growth in overall bilateral trade in the first six months of the year thanks to a 29 percent spike in Chinese exports to North Korea.
With Materials Scarce, Cuban Designers Master Recycling Chic
Sarah Marsh, REUTERS
Olaff Alejo’s salt lamps are eerily beautiful and designed to purify the air. Yet the Cuban designer must rummage through trash bins and scour the sidewalks of Havana for scraps of wood and obsolete electrical devices to manufacture them. In Communist-run Cuba, designers of clothes and household goods say the absence of wholesale stores as well as the expense and scarcity of raw materials have forced them to get creative. Many turn to repurposing and recycling the materials at hand. These pioneers of the island’s fledgling private sector say they are turning a competitive disadvantage into an asset, while yielding unique, ecologically-friendly designs. “It’s not easy to get the materials so we have to adapt and improvise a lot,” said Alejo, 37, whose lamps contain salt crystals. “Some 50-60 percent is recycled material.”
South Korea: No Proof Cash to Kaesong Went to North Korea Arms Programs
There was no evidence that North Korea had diverted wages paid to its workers by South Korean companies operating in now-suspended industrial park on their border to its weapons programs, a South Korean official said on Thursday. The assertion by the official in President Moon Jae-in’s government was a reversal of the contention by the previous government that most of the cash that flowed into the jointly run Kaesong project was diverted to North Korea’s military. South Korea suspended the operations at the industrial park, just on the North Korean side of their common border, where South Korean factories employed North Korean workers, last year after the North launched a rocket that put an object into orbit. At the time, South Korea said it would no longer allow the funds paid at Kaesong to be used in the North’s missile and nuclear programs.
For North Korea This Element Matters, And It’s Not Uranium
Bruce Einhorn & Jiyeun Lee, BLOOMBERG
North Korea has little the world wants. But it does have iron. Despite the international opprobrium over its nuclear ambitions, North Korea has managed to take advantage of a loophole in United Nations sanctions by increasing its exports of iron ore. The key buyer, as usual, is China. In global terms, the dollar figure is small: North Korea exported an estimated $74 million of iron ore and concentrates to China during the first five months of 2017. Still, that’s real money for the economically isolated country — which shares a land border with China — and represents a 212 percent increase from the year before, according to data from the Korea International Trade Association. North Korean iron tends to be of higher quality than the ore found in China, according to Sabrin Chowdhury, a commodities analyst with BMI Research in Singapore. That makes it attractive to some state-owned Chinese steelmakers looking to reduce costs, she said. “There is genuine demand for North Korean iron ore,” said Chowdhury.
A Collection of North Korean Stories And The Mystery of Their Origins
Mythili G. Rao, THE NEW YORKER
The story goes something like this: nearly thirty years ago, a talented North Korean propagandist secretly began writing fiction critical of the North Korean regime. When a catastrophic famine beset North Korea in the mid-nineties, the propagandist’s misgivings about his country’s leadership deepened. Over the next several years, he chronicled the deprivation and disillusionment of his countrymen in a series of stories that he shared with no one. Roughly two decades later, a close relative defected to South Korea, and the writer saw an opportunity to get his work across the border. In 2014, a book of his stories was published in South Korea under the pen name Bandi, which means “firefly.” It is believed to be the first work of dissident fiction by a living North Korean writer ever smuggled out of that country.
Irina Ratushinskaya, Soviet Dissident And Writer, Dies At 63
Sam Roberts, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Irina Ratushinskaya, an indomitable Soviet dissident poet and novelist who, after barely surviving nearly four years in a brutal prison camp, delivered a singular woman’s perspective on the forbidding gulag, died on July 5 in Moscow. She was 63. Her death was reported by the Russian news media, which said the cause was cancer. Sentenced in 1983, on her 29th birthday, to the seven-year maximum term for “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda,” Ms. Ratushinskaya composed some 250 poems in prison, many drafted with burned matchsticks on bars of soap. She memorized them and smuggled them on cigarette paper through her husband to the West, where they were published, and where human rights groups indefatigably lobbied for her release. She was finally freed in October 1986 in a gesture of glasnost, the more permissive policy pursued by the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. She was released on the eve of the summit meeting between Mr. Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in Reykjavik, Iceland. “The Soviet Union, as Russia was before it, is a land where poet is the proudest and the most dangerous of all professions,” Maria Carlson, a professor of Russian, wrote in 1987 in The New York Times Book Review about Ms. Ratushinskaya’s “Beyond the Limit,” an anthology of her prison poetry.
Venezuela’s Loss Is Miami’s Gain
Noreen Marcus, US NEWS & WORLD REPORT
Valentina Villarrubia, a Venezuelan jewelry designer, co-owns a boutique in the trendy Wynwood section of Miami and commutes across Biscayne Bay to her home in Miami Beach. The young entrepreneur would rather live in Caracas, where she has a small company that turns Italian silk and leather into high-end baubles. But the cost of doing business in her chaotic native land is prohibitive. “Earning in Bolivars and spending in dollars is impossible,” she says. What’s new is the nature of Venezuelan investment and a push to diversify by old-money families who anticipated the current calamity. Images of starving citizens and bloodied politicians symbolize the riotous socialist regime of President Nicolás Maduro, the late President Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor. Inflation tops 700 percent in this nation of 31 million people with the world’s largest oil reserves.
Green Cross Volunteer Medics, On The Frontline Of Venezuela’s Protests
Megan Specia, THE NEW YORK TIMES
A teenage boy lay on the ground after a clash with the police. “Medico, medico!” a young man screamed through the thick fog of tear gas at a protest in Caracas, Venezuela. The medics he was calling for, known as the Cruz Verde or Green Cross, have become a regular fixture at violent clashes between opposition protesters and government forces. At least 90 people have died since the demonstrations began in April, and the volunteer medics have found themselves treating a range of injuries from major head wounds to minor scrapes. Video showed Green Cross volunteers crowding around the injured teen, Neomar Lander, 17, and carrying him out of the worst of the fighting. Mr. Lander later died. But group organizers say they treat dozens of patients daily, and believe that the first aid they deliver has been key in saving lives. The Venezuelan economy’s near-collapse has devastated medical facilities and supply lines and limited state-run emergency care at demonstrations, according to the group. The volunteer group of young doctors and medical students has become a symbol of how Venezuelans are trying to replace critical government functions.
How Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Bourgeoisie” Profits From Crisis
John Paul Rathbone, FINANCIAL TIMES
As with many of the so-called “Bolivarian bourgeoisie”, the small class of newly rich created during Venezuela’s 18 years of “Bolivarian Revolution,” little is known publicly about how Mauro Libi Crestani first made his fortune. Mr. Libi is an owner, shareholder, director or legal representative of some 30 companies across three continents, according to public records reviewed by the Financial Times. What makes Mr. Libi’s success extraordinary—and provides the context for the multiple corruption allegations on which he has been investigated—is that he built his fortune in a country better known for shortages of basic goods, obscure business dealings and revolutionary confrontation rather than wealth creation. This is building up to a controversial July 30 constitutional convention, where the ruling Socialist party hopes to cement its control by suborning institutions such as the opposition-controlled National Assembly to communal councils selected by President Nicolás Maduro. Critics fear it will install a Cuban-style dictatorship. Instead, even as three-quarters of Venezuelans lost an average nine kilograms of body weight last year, according to studies, and 10 per cent of infants suffer malnutrition according to the Catholic charity Caritas, Mr. Libi’s Venezuelan oatmeal business, Avelina, made this comment on April 19: “Being vegetarian is an excellent way to reduce calorie intake.”
Venezuela’s Fugitive Helicopter Cop Appears At Opposition Rally
Euan McKirdy, CNN
The fugitive police pilot who allegedly stole a helicopter and used it to attack Venezuela’s Supreme Court has appeared at an opposition rally in the capital, Caracas, attendees tell CNN. Oscar Perez, an officer in the country’s investigative police force, addressed the gathering, urging the opposition to continue protesting. “It’s time for this narco-government to fall down,” Perez said in video of the incident. “A general walkout for July 18, walkout with no return. The zero-hour will start on Tuesday. The referendum, we’ll do it, with dignity, we’ll be in the street defending the people.” A freelance cameraman, who asked not to be named told CNN, that he appeared “out of nowhere” at the protest, which was held to honor Venezuelans who have died in the recent unrest. “Out of nowhere, guys with masks covering their faces called out to the media members to come and see Oscar Perez,” he said. “Oscar briefly spoke. While he was speaking, guys with masks on their faces were protecting him from the crowd. They were not letting people get close to him.” Perez spoke briefly to journalists from Univision and TVE and then hopped on a motorcycle and left, according to photographer Miguel Rodriguez, who also attended the rally.