Guangdong Leader Strengthened In China Leadership Stakes As Rival Party Boss Ousted
James Pomfret, REUTERS
Hu Chunhua, the Communist Party boss of China’s southern economic powerhouse of Guangdong has long been considered a rising political star. Now, the surprise dismissal of a key regional rival may well have bolstered that image. Sources close to top party and government officials have long touted the 54-year-old as one of the most promising of the so-called “sixth generation” of leaders born in the 1960s, someone who could be a contender to take the top job when Communist Party leader Xi Jinping eventually steps down. Last weekend, another high-flyer from the same generation, Sun Zhengcai, 53, was stripped of his position as party chief of the megalopolis of Chongqing and, according to two sources with ties to the leadership, has been put under investigation. Both Hu and Sun had been widely tipped as possible newcomers to the party’s most powerful body, the seven-person Politburo Standing Committee, when the party holds its once-every-five-years congress this autumn.
US College Student Being Detained In China, His Mother Says
A University of Montana student is in custody in China after an altercation with a cab driver, the student’s mother tells CBS Missoula, Montana affiliate KPAX-TV. Jennifer McLean says her son, Guthrie McLean, is accused of assaulting the taxi driver—but says it happened after the driver attacked her. Local police in China refused to confirm or deny to CBS News that Guthrie is being held. According to KPAX, Guthrie McLean essentially grew up in China, where Jennifer teaches English. But in recent years, Guthrie has been enrolled at the University of Montana. In late May, Jennifer tells KPAX, he went to China to visit her in Zhengzhou, southwest of Beijing. As Jennifer tells it, on June 10, she took a cab home. The fare came to 70 Renminbi, or $10.36. Jennifer paid with a 100 Renminbi note and, says family friend and Beijing journalist Tom Mitchell, that’s when the trouble began.
Before Anniversary Of Falun Gong’s Persecution, Xi Jinping Stresses Importance Of Helping Petitioners
Larry Ong, EPOCH TIMES
On the eve of the 18th anniversary of Falun Gong’s persecution, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has urged Chinese officials to do their utmost to help “petitioners.” According to a July 19 article by state mouthpiece Xinhua, Xi called on petition work officials to “make ‘every possible effort’ to solve public grievances.” He also instructed officials to handle “people’s legitimate appeals lawfully.” Given the coded operations of the Chinese regime and its tendency to tightly control public messaging near politically sensitive dates, it is difficult to imagine that Xi made his remarks without the expectation that they would be understood as obvious references to Falun Gong. Nor are the remarks a one-off occurrence. Xi’s call to improve petition work is part of a string of such gestures made by his leadership near Falun Gong persecution anniversary dates. There are no current indications that the policy against Falun Gong will change in the near future, but these instances—as well as a series of institutional changes related to the persecution—are suggestive of an eventual shift in the political wind.
N. Korea Calls South’s Efforts To Improve Ties “Nonsense”; Seoul Still Hoping For Talks
Kim Gamel, STARS AND STRIPES
A day before South Korea hoped to hold talks aimed at easing border tensions, North Korea’s main newspaper called efforts to improve ties “nonsense” as long as Seoul maintains what it called confrontational policies and a dependence on the United States. President Moon Jae-in’s administration offered an olive branch earlier this week, proposing rare government-level military talks on ending “all acts of hostility” to be held Friday at the truce village in the heavily fortified buffer zone that divides the peninsula. The talks would be the first concrete outcome of Moon’s policy of pursuing engagement with the North as well as punishing sanctions despite a growing threat from its nuclear weapons program. CNN reported Thursday that US intelligence indicates that North Korea is preparing for another missile test. Rodong Sinmun, a mouthpiece for North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said the South must decide whether it will stick to its sanctions-oriented approach and “submission to the US,” according to Yonhap News Agency.
North Korea Drought: Children At Risk In “Worst Crisis Since 2001”
North Korea is facing severe food shortages after being hit by its worst drought since 2001, a report from the United Nations says. Crop production in the country has been hampered by a prolonged dry period and food imports are now urgently required to fill the gap, the UN has warned. The most vulnerable, such as children and the elderly, will be worst hit. In the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are believed to have died during a widespread famine. The latest drought is serious, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Thursday, because bilateral food aid to the country has dramatically fallen in recent years. This is due in part to sanctions implemented to punish North Korea over its weapons development program. The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) has also seen a steep drop in contributions, the agency says.
After A Famed Prisoner Dies In China, Taiwan Fears For Another
Chris Horton, THE NEW YORK TIMES
For many in Taiwan, the death in custody last week of the Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo had double relevance. It was a reminder of how much Taiwan—but not China—has changed politically since the late 1980s, when both were one-party, authoritarian states. On Saturday, Taiwan, now a full-fledged democracy, celebrated the 30th anniversary of the end of four decades of martial law. On Tuesday, at the opening of the first Asian bureau of Reporters Without Borders, an organization that advocates press freedom, Wu’er Kaixi, a leader of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing, dedicated a moment of silence to Mr. Liu, while praising Taiwan’s progress. But the death by cancer of Mr. Liu, who was serving an 11-year prison sentence for his role in Charter 08, a manifesto for peaceful political change, also deepened concerns over the fate of Lee Ming-cheh, a human rights advocate from Taiwan who went missing after his arrival in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong in March. More than a week passed before Chinese officials announced that Mr. Lee had been detained. In April, Mr. Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu, was blocked from entering China, where she said she hoped to bring her husband his blood-pressure medication. In late May, Mr. Lee was officially arrested on a charge of “subverting state power.” It has not been lost on Mr. Lee’s family and friends, or the news media in Taiwan, that the charge he faces is similar to the one brought against Mr. Liu, of “inciting subversion of state power.”
US Intel Shows North Korea Prepping For Another Missile Test: Report
Rebecca Savransky, THE HILL
North Korea reportedly appears to be taking steps for another potential intercontinental ballistic missile or intermediate-range missile test. US intelligence suggests North Korea is making preparations that could result in another test, which could happen in about two weeks, according to CNN. Earlier this week, Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he is “reasonably confident in the ability of our intelligence community to monitor the testing but not the deployment of these missile systems.” “Kim Jong-un and his forces are very good at camouflage, concealment and deception,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this week. He added that Pyongyang has not yet shown “capacity to strike the United States with any degree of accuracy or reasonable confidence of success.” North Korea on July 4 successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.
Russia, US Duel At UN Over Whether North Korea Fired Long-Range Missile
Michelle Nichols, REUTERS
The United States and Russia are waging rival campaigns at the United Nations Security Council over the type of ballistic missile fired by North Korea earlier this month as the Us pushes to impose stronger sanctions on Pyongyang over the test. US Ambassador Nikki Haley held an intelligence briefing for her council colleagues on Monday to argue that Pyongyang fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), diplomats said, which was attended by Russia and North Korean ally China. UN diplomats said Russia had suggested that Russian and US military experts exchange information on the launch. The US briefing came after Russia sent a brief letter and diagram on July 8 to the 15-member Security Council, seen by Reuters, asserting that its radars determined that the missile launched by Pyongyang on July 4 was medium-range. Russia’s contention that North Korea did not fire an ICBM hinders Washington’s push for the Security Council to impose stronger sanctions on North Korea.
Hawaii Rolling Out Preparedness Plan For North Korean Missile Attack
Fred Barbash, THE WASHINGTON POST
The state of Hawaii is formulating a preparedness plan for a North Korean missile attack, much to the dismay of the state’s tourism boosters. “We do not want to cause any undue stress for the public,” Vern T. Miyagi, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency administrator said in a statement reported Thursday by the state’s news media, but “we cannot wait to begin our public information campaign to ensure that Hawaii residents will know what do if such an event occurs.” The full plan for that campaign will be unveiled Friday, according to Hawaii News Now. The preparation, while reportedly not involving the sort of duck and cover drills of the early Cold War era across the United States where schoolchildren hid under their desks, will include evacuation drills for school students and public service announcements that say “get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned,” the Honolulu Star Advertiser said, quoting officials. Hawaii News Now reported that the campaign will also feature tests of a new emergency siren on the first workday of each month. “The normal siren will sound, followed by a second siren that would be used in the event of an attack,” the news site said.
Venezuelan Business Leader Slams Maduro’s Congress Plan
Deisy Buitrago, REUTERS
Venezuela’s severe economic crisis will worsen if President Nicolás Maduro presses ahead with a controversial new congress that would further undermine investor confidence in the OPEC nation, the head of the country’s biggest business guild said. Despite months of protests by the majority-backed opposition and widespread international condemnation, the ruling Socialist Party is holding a vote on July 30 to set up a legislative super body known as a Constituent Assembly. The assembly would have powers to rewrite the constitution and abolish the existing opposition-controlled legislature in what foes fear would enshrine a leftist dictatorship. “What country in the world has a successful socialist model? None!” Carlos Larrazabal, 60, president of Fedecamaras told Reuters on Tuesday during its annual meeting in the sweltering western city of Maracaibo. “In a constituent process, with the characteristics that are being proposed, there is no legal certainty and that does not attract investment but rather scares it away,” added the US-educated economist.
Venezuela’s 24-Hour Strike Includes Sporadic Violence
Mariana Zuniga, USA TODAY
A 24-hour national strike shut down large parts of Venezuela’s capital Thursday to protest President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution and gain more power. Protesters clashed with riot police in some areas, after masked young men set fire to a handful of blockades and hurled stones. Police fired back with tear gas. People here woke up to a nearly deserted city despite government demands for businesses to stay open. Shops were closed, the subway was partially shut, bus traffic halted, and homemade barricades blocked many streets. Most parts of Caracus, known for its traffic-choked streets looked tranquil. “It feels like Sunday,” Rosalia Vegas told her neighbor while walking her dog in the morning. After almost three months of daily demonstrations and protests as Venezuela’s economy falters, the daylong strike was to disapprove of Maduro’s plan to replace the National Assembly with a “Constituent Assembly” in a vote at the end of the month. The new assembly is to rewrite the constitution to consolidate the ruling party’s power over the few institutions that remain outside its control. The opposition is boycotting the July 30 election to select members of the assembly. Thursday’s strike was more noticeable in eastern Caracas when it began at 6 am. Many people woke up early to block their own streets and turn away cars that tried to pass, including those living in the residential complex.
Venezuela UN Diplomat Calls On Maduro To Resign
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Venezuelan diplomat to the United Nations is calling on President Nicolás Maduro to resign immediately. Isaias Medina said in an interview withThe Associated Press Thursday that he decided to break with the government and resign shortly after a wave of political unrest began in early April. He made the decision official in a letter and video shared widely on social media Thursday harshly criticizing Maduro. Medina says he could no longer tolerate the “incoherent” actions of a government advocating for human rights and violating them at the same time. More than 90 people have been killed during near-daily demonstrations demanding new presidential elections. Medina is among the few Venezuelan officials outside the opposition-controlled National Assembly who have broken ranks with Maduro’s government.