China’s Xi Jinping Tightens Grip On Power With Ally’s Promotion
Lucy Hornby, FINANCIAL TIMES
Xi Jinping’s elevation of an ally to a key political position has further tightened the Chinese Communist Party leader’s grip on power and marginalized liberal factions ahead of a key Communist party conclave this autumn. Chen Min’er, an associate of Mr. Xi from his days in the eastern province of Zhejiang, has been appointed party secretary of Chongqing—a role viewed as a near guarantee of a seat in the 25-member politburo. The politburo is the staging post for the standing committee, the elite party body that holds ultimate political power. Mr. Chen’s elevation leaves Mr. Xi’s allies holding three of the country’s six most powerful regional posts—in Beijing, Chongqing and Tianjin. Mr. Xi has placed protégés in a number of other provincial posts, positioning them for national elevation in five years. Mr. Chen’s promotion comes at the expense of Sun Zhengcai, a man once viewed as a contender to succeed Mr. Xi as party secretary. His unceremonious departure leaves few candidates for top positions who trace their political allegiance to reformist wings of the party.
China Disrupts Whatsapp Service In Online Clampdown
Paul Mozur, THE NEW YORK TIMES
The last of Facebook’s major products that still worked in China was disrupted by the government on Tuesday, as Beijing broadly tightened its controls over the internet. The product, WhatsApp, a messaging app used across the globe, was partly blocked by Chinese filters, leaving many unable to send videos and photos and some also unable to send text-based messages. The disruption of WhatsApp was the latest in a long line of big digital services running up against China’s “Great Firewall,” the country’s system of internet filters and controls. In recent weeks, the government has appeared to increase its grip, an online crackdown fed by a perfect storm of politically sensitive news, important events and a new cybersecurity law that went into effect last month.
China Rolls Out TV Series Eulogizing Xi Jinping Ahead of Key Congress
Nectar Gan, SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
A documentary series extolling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s ideas and achievements in pushing for reforms is airing on state-run TV in China as the country’s propaganda apparatus steps up efforts to burnish his image ahead of a key Communist Party congress this autumn. The 10-episode series, Carrying Reform through to the End, started airing at 8pm on the state broadcaster CCTV on Monday. The programs will also be replayed on local TV channels the following day and streamed on online media platforms. The series debut came after China’s broadcast regulator banned TV stations from airing programs such as costume dramas during the “major propaganda period” ahead of the party congress. The state broadcaster said the documentary series would focus on the spirit of Xi’s important speeches and his governing ideas and reflect how his administration “made solid progress on the comprehensive deepening of reforms.”
Cuba’s Finanicial Crisis Worsens: Economy Minister
Marc Frank, REUTERS
Cuba’s two-year-old financial crisis worsened during the first half of this year, and the country is having difficulty obtaining trade credits due to late payments to suppliers, according to Cuban Economy Minister Ricardo Cabrisas. In a report to a closed-door session of the National Assembly on Friday, which was broadcast by state-run television on Monday evening, Cabrisas said export revenues through June were short of expectations by $400 million. Cabrisas said imports in 2017 would decline again and be $1.5 billion less than planned “due to difficulties in using credits, limits assigning liquidity and debts on expired letters of credit that have not been paid.” A cash crunch and lower oil supplies from political ally Venezuela forced the Caribbean island to slash imports and reduce the use of fuel and electricity last year, helping tip its centrally planned economy into recession for the first time in nearly a quarter century.
North Korea Conducts Public Executions For Theft, Watching South Korea Media
Christine Kim, REUTERS
North Korea carries out public executions on river banks and at school grounds and marketplaces for charges such as stealing copper from factory machines, distributing media from South Korea and prostitution, a report issued on Wednesday said. The report, by a Seoul-based non-government group, said the often extra-judicial decisions for public executions are frequently influenced by “bad” family background or a government campaign to discourage certain behavior. The Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) said its report was based on interviews with 375 North Korean defectors from the isolated state over a period of two years. Reuters could not independently verify the testimony of defectors in the report. The TJWG is made up of human rights activists and researchers and is led by Lee Younghwan, who has worked as an advocate for human rights in North Korea. It receives most of its funding from the US-based National Endowment for Democracy, which in turn is funded by the US Congress.
Celebrity North Korean Defector Appears To Resurface In Propaganda Video
Nick Robins-Early, HUFFPOST
A recent propaganda video out of Pyongyang has South Korean authorities investigating whether a North Korean defector was kidnapped and taken back across the border. Lim Ji-hyun, 26, who defected from North Korea in 2014, fled to South Korea and eventually appeared in several TV shows there, gaining a following in the country. On South Korean television, she sometimes told audiences about life under North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and once visited a talk show in a North Korean military uniform, laughing with hosts about her experiences. But on Sunday, a woman resembling Lim and identifying herself as Jeon Hye-sung (the name Lim used when she was in North Korea) appeared in a propaganda video posted on the North Korean state-run website Uriminzokkiri. In it, she denounces South Korea and claims she has returned to the “bosom of the fatherland.” South Korean authorities believe Lim is indeed no longer in South Korea, and are currently investigating the circumstances that might have taken her back to North Korea.
In Cuba, Trump’s Policy Proving Hard To Follow
Melanie Zanona, THE HILL
In the heart of Old Havana along the city’s historic Cathedral Square, a restored colonial mansion housing a popular tourist restaurant is packed with travelers sipping mojitos and nibbling on plantain chips. El Floridita, a daiquiri bar made famous by novelist Ernest Hemingway, has become such a hot spot for tourists that the establishment sells merchandise in the corner. Not too far away, a historic Cuban building has recently been turned into a five-star hotel with a rooftop pool that is operated by Kempinski, a luxury Swiss resort chain. All of the lucrative tourist spots have something in common: They are run by Cuba’s military, which will soon be restricted from receiving US business under President Trump’s new crackdown on the island. Many US visitors to the island have no idea which entities are tied to the Cuban government and which are privately owned.
Spike In Venezuelans Seeking Asylum In US Could Hit Another Record
Amanda Trejos, USA TODAY
Between January and March, 8,301 Venezuelans requested asylum in the United States, nearly double the number in the same period of 2016. In 2016, the US received the most asylum applications from Venezuela — 18,155, a number that surpassed Chinese asylum requests for the first time, according to the Associated Press. That spike in applications comes just as the Trump administration has made it more difficult for asylum seekers to gain entry into the US as part of its broader efforts to increase vetting of foreigners in the name of national security. Immigration advocacy groups say the administration has gone too far, filing a lawsuit last week that claims the administration is illegally refusing to allow some asylum seekers to even file an application.
Violent Police Raids On Rise In Venezuela Amid Protests
Brian Ellsworth, REUTERS
Venezuelan security forces last week arrived at an apartment complex in a town outside Caracas following an opposition demonstration, shouting accusations that weapons were being stored inside, according to witnesses. Without showing search warrants, dozens of troops ripped out gates and broke down doors in the 11-building Montana Alta complex in Los Teques, residents said, adding that they fired rubber bullets and tear gas once inside. Such raids have become an increasingly common response by the government of President Nicolás Maduro to three months of often violent opposition protests demanding early elections and a resolution to the country’s chaotic economic collapse. Montana Alta resident Dilcia Diaz, 63, said the troops broke a window of her ground-floor apartment with their weapons.
Venezuela’s Opposition Plans Parallel Government
Kejal Vyas and Anatoly Kurmanaev, WALL STREET JOURNAL
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro came under growing pressure Monday as the opposition announced plans for a parallel government. “It’s time for the zero hour,” the vice president of congress, Freddy Guevara, said at a news conference on Monday flanked by other foes of Mr. Maduro. Mr. Guevara called for a 24-hour strike on Thursday, a day before lawmakers in the opposition-controlled National Assembly are scheduled to name replacements for some of the magistrates allied to Mr. Maduro on the country’s top court. The opposition’s new strategy came as the Trump administration said it would impose “swift economic actions” if Mr. Maduro goes ahead with a planned election on July 30 to the constituent assembly charged with rewriting the constitution. Mr. Guevara and other opposition leaders said they were working to create a “government of national unity,” an alliance between longtime government foes and dissidents from within Mr. Maduro’s ruling Socialist Party. Some formerly loyal lieutenants in the government have openly broken with Mr. Maduro recently, saying he rules in a dictatorial manner. “This path that we’re forced to take carries risk,” opposition lawmaker Juan Andrés Mejía said, regarding the creation of parallel institutions. “This state of national unity will not be recognized by everyone. The important thing is for it to be recognized by the people.”