Where Is Liu Xia? Activists Seek Wife Of Chinese Nobel Laureate
Eva Dou, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Activists expressed concern for the wife of deceased Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, as she remained out of touch with friends despite the government saying she is “free.” Mr. Liu’s brother, Liu Xiaoguang, was the only family member to appear publicly Saturday. At a government-organized press conference, he thanked officials for their care of Mr. Liu, who succumbed to liver cancer under police guard on Thursday. He said that Mr. Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, was “too weak” to appear. Mr. Liu was cremated Saturday and his ashes scattered at sea, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency. The government has sought to erase Mr. Liu’s legacy and mentions of his name have long been scrubbed from China’s internet; the scattering of the ashes means he won’t have a grave where supporters can gather. The government of the Chinese city Shenyang released photos Saturday of Ms. Liu and other family members at a closed-door funeral, an apparent effort to show the relatives are well treated. “Liu Xia is free so far, and we want her to avoid trouble because she was in a grief,” Xinhua quoted a Shenyang government spokesperson as saying.
China’s Xi Jinping Forges New Body to Tighten Financial Controls
Lingling Wei, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Communist party leader Xi Jinping announced the setup of a cabinet-level committee to coordinate China’s financial regulation at a high-level meeting that ended Saturday, as Beijing focuses on keeping risks at bay ahead of a twice-a-decade leadership shuffle later this year. At the two-day gathering that sought to establish a broad framework to make China’s regulatory system more cohesive, Mr. Xi said a new group, called the State Council Financial Stability and Development Committee, will be formed to make sure financial regulators can work better together. He said the central bank’s role in preventing systemic risk will be strengthened, according to an official statement released at the conclusion of the meeting late Saturday. No detail was given about the composition of the committee. According to people familiar with the matter, one option is for the group to be placed within the People’s Bank of China and headed by its governor. Details are still being hammered out, the people said.
Xi Jinping’s Potential Replacement For Chinese President Removed From Party, Put Under Investigation
A senior Chinese official who was considered a contender for top leadership has been put under investigation, three sources with ties to the leadership said, ahead of a Communist Party congress in the autumn where Xi Jinping will cement his grip on power. Sun Zhengcai had been party chief of the southwestern megalopolis of Chongqing, until an abrupt announcement on Saturday morning that he no longer had the position and had been replaced by a rising political star close to Communist Party leader Xi. The announcement, carried by state news agency Xinhua, did not say Sun either had a new position or use wording to suggest he was waiting for a further appointment. A source who has been briefed on the matter said Sun is suspected of “serious discipline violations,” a term that can encompass everything from taking bribes to not toeing the party line. The source added that it was a “conversation investigation,” meaning it’s not yet at the stage of a formal probe. A second source with ties to the leadership told Reuters that Sun is undergoing investigation for suspected “violation of political discipline.” The source declined to elaborate. “But he is still a comrade. He is still a Politburo member,” the source said.
Cuba Courted In Diplomatic Push On Venezuela Crisis
Paul Rathbone, FINANCIAL TIMES
Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s president, was set to fly to Cuba on Sunday on a mission to convince Havana to support a regional diplomatic push to staunch Venezuela’s growing crisis, which has left 90 dead after three months of protests. The initiative, which Argentina and Mexico are understood to support, is controversial but potentially effective as socialist Cuba is Venezuela’s strongest ally and its intelligence services are understood to work as close advisers to Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s embattled president. “Santos is one of the few people, perhaps the only one, who knows the three key players well,” said one person with an understanding of the situation. “He knows Maduro and Venezuela, he knows Raúl Castro, and he knows Donald Trump and the US state department.”
How Cuba Runs Venezuela
Mary Anastasia O’Grady, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The civilized world wants to end the carnage in Venezuela, but Cuba is the author of the barbarism. Restoring Venezuelan peace will require taking a hard line with Havana. The Venezuelan opposition held its own nationwide referendum on Sunday in an effort to document support for regularly scheduled elections that have been canceled and widespread disapproval of strongman Nicolás Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution. The regime was not worried. It said it was using the day as a trial run to prepare for the July 30 elections to choose the assembly that will draft the new constitution. The referendum was an act of national bravery. Yet like the rest of the opposition’s strategy—which aims at dislodging the dictatorship with peaceful acts of civil disobedience—it’s not likely to work. That’s because Cubans, not Venezuelans, control the levers of power. Havana doesn’t care about Venezuelan poverty or famine or whether the regime is unpopular. It has spent a half-century sowing its ideological “revolution” in South America. It needs Venezuela as a corridor to run Colombian cocaine to the US and to Africa to supply Europe. It also relies heavily on cut-rate Venezuelan petroleum. To keep its hold on Venezuela, Cuba has embedded a Soviet-style security apparatus.
North Korea’s Kim Secretly Monitoring Citizens With Video Footage
RADIO FREE ASIA
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un is monitoring the lives of citizens through secretly filmed video footage, sources inside the country said, citing his recently introduced order requiring the packaging and quality of domestic goods to match that of those produced for export. Multiple sources, who spoke to RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity, said Kim alluded to the footage during a July 5 meeting held at the Central Committee of the North Korean Workers’ Party, where he issued the edict, effective July 1. “The meeting started with Kim Jong-un discussing video filmed at Pyongyang’s Dongdaemun Market, Pyongsong Station, and Nampo city’s Kangso Market [both in South Pyongan province],” said one source from North Hamgyong province, near the border with China. “It is assumed that Kim checked product quality and packaging by watching secretly filmed footage,” the source added.
Corrupt Ukraine Is Ground In Clash Between East And West, US And Russia
Adam Ereli, FOX NEWS
Ukraine is the central battleground between the rapidly fraying West and the brutally ascendant East. As NATO bickers over defense contributions by member states, Article 5 commitments and its renegade member Turkey, Russia is taking concerted action to secure its borders, expand its influence and weaken the bedrock alliance that has kept the peace in Europe for the past 60 years. Ukraine lies at ground zero in this clash of civilizations between the rule of law and the power of the sword. Its moves to join the EU prompted Russian troops to seize the eastern third of the country. Despite US and European sanctions, Ukraine remains a divided and war-torn state on NATO’s eastern flank.
Ukraine To Start NATO Talks: Russia Angry, The West Uncertain
Tom Wheeldon, FRANCE 24
Ukraine will start talks on joining NATO, President Petro Poroshenko announced on Monday, a move likely to strain already tense relations between the West and Ukraine’s neighbor Russia. When Ukraine’s parliament voted to enshrine in law the country’s priority of acceding to NATO membership last month, Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded by saying that the organization’s spread eastwards “threatens our security and the balance of forces in the Eurasian region. Naturally, the Russian side will take all measures needed to rebalance the situation and ensure our own security.” Poroshenko’s statement this week—at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg—that Ukraine will open membership talks will likely cause further ire in Moscow. Poroshenko underscored that his announcement “does not mean we will soon be applying for membership.” And while NATO leaders have agreed since 2008 that Ukraine would one day become a member, they are unlikely to rapidly usher Kiev into the club.
After Dissident’s Death, Ted Cruz Hopeful About Changing Chinese Embassy Address
Neil Thomas, THE TEXAS TRIBUNE
Sen. Ted Cruz is re-upping his push to rename the address of the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC “as soon as possible” after a pro-democracy dissident in the wake of the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s death. The Texas Republican has led a push to change the address of the Chinese Embassy to “1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza” in honor of Liu since 2014, citing as precedent Congress’ 1984 decision to rename the road outside the Soviet Embassy after prominent Russian political dissident Andrei Sakharov—another Nobel Peace Prize winner. In May, Cruz introduced a bill to change the address, setting in motion a process of changing all maps, official documents and street signs related to the embassy’s new designation. Cruz’s legislation, Senate Bill 1187, has been referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs for consideration. Cruz’s press secretary, Phil Novack, told the Tribune on Friday that the bill is a “major priority” for Cruz and that the senator is “optimistic” it will win support from Congress and the White House.
In Venezuela, A Latin American Throwback: Political Prisoners
Ryan Dube and Mayela Armas, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
While the recent transfer of opposition leader Leopoldo López from a military stockade to house arrest has received world-wide attention, Venezuela’s jails now hold more political prisoners than at any time in 18 years of rule by the self-declared leftist Bolivarian Revolution, say human rights groups. The trend harks back to an era in Latin America when dictatorships from Nicaragua to Argentina jailed thousands of dissidents. With the exception of Cuba, the spread of democracy since the 1980s changed all that, but now Venezuela’s government has revived the practice, rights groups say. In all, 3,500 people have been detained since the protests began, most for short periods, more people even than when Venezuela was shaken by sustained street unrest, in 2014. Most aren’t charged; others face charges ranging from treason to inciting violence. “We’ve never seen this rate of detentions before,” said Nizar El Fakih, a lawyer who leads the rights group Proiuris.
Venezuela Referendum: Big Show Of Support For Opposition
More than seven million voters have taken part in an opposition-organized referendum in Venezuela, according to academics monitoring the poll. Voters strongly opposed government plans for a new constituent assembly with the power to scrap the National Assembly and rewrite the constitution. Venezuela is polarized between backers of President Nicolás Maduro and opponents, who want fresh elections. A nurse was shot dead while queuing to vote in the capital, Caracas. Men on motorbikes opened fire, killing 61-year-old Xiomara Soledad Scott, and wounding three others. The opposition blamed a “paramilitary” gang for the shooting, which prosecutors said they would investigate. Separately, journalist Luis Olavarrieta was grabbed by what he said were a group of government supporters who robbed and beat him, but he managed to escape. President Maduro’s plan will see a vote on 30 July for the new constituent assembly.