Surviving Tiananmen “Gentlemen” Mum On Chinese Nobel Laureate’s Death
Benjamin Kang Lim & Philip Wen, REUTERS
Liu Xiaobo was one of the “Four Gentlemen” of Tiananmen Square, the group that staged a hunger strike in the final days of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in China and tried to hold off tanks and troops moving in to crush the student-led movement. Liu, who died in state custody last week, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and was regarded as China’s best-known dissident. But the other three have largely faded from the public eye and none have publicly commented on Liu or his death. Liu’s death came as a campaign under Communist Party leader Xi Jinping to quash dissent is gathering strength. Xi has overseen a raft of legislation to bolster national security ahead of a Communist Party congress to be held later this year, where he is expected to further consolidate power. The best known of the “Four Gentlemen” in 1989 was Hou Dejian, a Taiwanese singer who defected to China before the Tiananmen protests and was later exiled for almost two decades. Zhou Duo, the oldest of the group, remains under police surveillance. The fourth, Gao Xin, lives in the United States.
China In Baltic Navy Drill With Russia
Three Chinese warships are in the Baltic to start China’s first naval exercises with Russia in the region. The Chinese destroyer, frigate and supply ship will spend a week training with the Russian navy off Kaliningrad, a highly militarized Russian exclave. The destroyer called Hefei is a new Type 052D bristling with missiles. Russia is deploying two new corvettes, some other ships and military aircraft in the drills. Anti-submarine, anti-ship and rescue drills are planned. Chinese-Russian military drills have been held every year since 2012, but they are conducting them in the Baltic for the first time, closely watched by NATO. The Western alliance has boosted its forces in Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. NATO accuses Russia of provocative military maneuvers in the region. There is much anxiety in the three Baltic states—formerly part of the Soviet Union—because of Russia’s role in the continuing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
China Whatsapp Crackdown Only Scratches Surface Of Worsening Internet Censorship
James Griffiths, CNN
As Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate, lay dying in a heavily-guarded hospital last month, there was little mention of his fate in China. For many younger Chinese, Liu is an unknown figure, the culmination of years of intense censorship of his life and works. The tiny minority who did attempt to express outrage online at Liu’s treatment, or commemorate him after he succumbed to liver cancer on July 14, saw their posts blocked and images deleted. On Weibo, China’s most popular Twitter-like platform, users were prevented from posting messages with the words “Nobel,” “liver cancer,” “RIP” or the candle emoji, according to researchers at Toronto’s Citizen Lab and Hong Kong’s Weiboscope. Censorship was also widespread on messaging app WeChat, which was once less filtered than Weibo because of its more private nature. Citizen Lab found that even in one-on-one chats, mentions of Liu Xiaobo’s name and photos of him were deleted when chatting with Chinese users.
Cuba’s Top US Negotiator Named To New Post
Cuba has reassigned the woman who led two years of intense negotiation with the United States under the detente worked out by former US President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro, state media said on Sunday. Josefina Vidal, former head of North American affairs at the Foreign Ministry, will serve as ambassador to Canada, according to people close to her. Vidal, a member of the Communist Party Central Committee, oversaw the opening of the two countries’ embassies after decades of Cold War enmity and the signing of 22 agreements on issues including law enforcement, resumption of direct flights, the environment and postal service. Vidal’s reassignment follows President Donald Trump’s declaration last month that the normalization process was a “terrible” deal and that he would ban future business with military-operated Cuban companies and tighten up on travel. The United States’ top diplomat in Cuba, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who often sat across from Vidal during the historic negotiations, left his post earlier this month. There has been little contact between the two governments since Trump took office, according to US diplomats.
North Korea Launches Tourism Site—Weeks After Jailed US Tourist’s Death
It has been just a month since the death of Otto Warmbier—an American tourist jailed by North Korean authorities, sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for pulling down a propaganda poster, and eventually released to the US in a coma under mysterious circumstances. In at least one sense, then, you could argue it’s an odd time for North Korea to launch a tourism campaign. Yet that’s precisely what the reclusive country did this week, publishing a new website designed to draw visitors to its “beautiful and picturesque landscape.” “Today the tourist industry in the DPRK is developing afresh under the wise leadership of supreme leader Kim Jong-un,” the site says in laudatory tones, using the abbreviation for the country’s preferred name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. On offer are beaches where “the water is not so deep, yet clear, the sand is as white as snow” and golf courses that boast “an adequate number of service personnel.” The site also promises a surfing tour, saying “the sea sometimes runs high in some districts, thus giving favorable conditions for surfing.” And all this to “promote mutual understanding and cultural bonds between people around the world and develop the national economy.”
Markets Helping North Koreans Become More Independent Of The Regime, Poll Says
Anna Fifield, WASHINGTON POST
North Koreans are becoming more independent of the ruling Kim regime, with the vast majority of households earning their living through markets rather than relying on the state, according to a new survey that attempts to shed light on ordinary life inside North Korea. Getting reliable information from North Korea is notoriously difficult given the restrictions on movement and information inside the totalitarian state. But the Beyond Parallel project run by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, is trying to extract ever more information from North Koreans who live and work in the country, as opposed to the more prevalent surveys of those who have escaped from the nation. Its latest “micro-survey” found that 72 percent of respondents—or 26 of the 36 North Koreans questioned—said they earned all or almost all income through the markets. Nine others said they earned more than three-quarters of their living this way, according to the survey, to be published Monday.
North Korea Cancels Annual Beer Festival, Tour Firms Say
Sherisse Pham, CNN MONEY
North Korea’s annual beer festival appears to have run dry after just one year. The reclusive country’s Taedonggang Beer Festival, which debuted last year, was reportedly due to start on July 26 but was abruptly canceled, according to two tour companies that organize trips there. The companies—Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours—said they received news of the cancellation on Sunday. No official reason was given for the sudden change in plans, but Beijing-based Koryo Tours cited a looming drought as the likely reason. The “optics” of hosting a beer festival right now would not be good, said Simon Cockerell, Koryo’s general manager. “It won’t look great for Pyongyang middle class to be having a jolly good time while people are working on drought relief,” Cockerell told CNNMoney.
US To Bar Americans From Traveling To North Korea
David Sanger, THE NEW YORK TIMES
The Trump administration said on Friday that it would bar Americans from traveling to North Korea, a month after the death of Otto F. Warmbier, a 22-year-old college student from Ohio who was arrested while trying to leave the country and returned to his parents, more than a year later, in a coma. The announcement came only hours after Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA, strongly hinted that the United States was considering seeking a regime change in North Korea. Mr. Pompeo told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday night that President Trump had ordered him to come up with options that would “separate the capacity” to build and deliver nuclear weapons from “someone who might well have intent,” a clear reference to Kim Jong-un, the country’s leader. Mr. Pompeo was pressed several times in an interview here on Thursday evening conducted by Bret Stephens, a New York Times columnist, about what he meant by that phrase, and whether it was code for regime change. Mr. Pompeo would not utter that phrase, saying instead, “As for the regime, I am hopeful we will find a way to separate that regime from these” missiles and nuclear weapons.
Venezuela’s Opposition, And Its Famous Protesting Violinist, Vow To Fight On
Kevin Lui, TIME
Opposition forces in Venezuela are calling for a new wave of nationwide strikes this week, while President Nicolas Maduro insists on pressing ahead with an electoral process that detractors say would cement his grip on power. This follows another round of skirmishes between protestors and government security Saturday in Caracas, during which masked demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at police officers firing tear gas, the Guardian reports. Among those injured is Wuilly Arteaga, a 23-year-old violinist who has risen to national prominence for playing tunes, including the Venezuelan national anthem, at protests even as they turn violent. “Neither rubber bullets nor pellets will stop our fight for Venezuela’s independence,” The Guardian quotes Arteaga as saying. “Tomorrow I will be back in the streets.” As he was sent to hospital for his injuries, a bandaged Arteaga could be seen still holding his violin, in a video he tweeted out Saturday.
Venezuela Crisis Enters Pivotal Week, Maduro Foes Protest
Andrew Cawthorne, REUTERS
Venezuela’s opposition planned to plaster election centers with banners and rally in honor of dead protesters on Monday in a final week-long push to force President Nicolas Maduro into aborting a controversial congress. The unpopular leftist leader is pressing ahead with the planned vote for a Constitutional Assembly next Sunday despite the opposition of most Venezuelans, a crescendo of international criticism, and some dissent within his ruling Socialist Party. Critics say the assembly, whose election rules appear designed to ensure a majority for Maduro, is intended to institutionalize dictatorship in the South American OPEC nation. But Maduro, 54, whose term runs until early 2019, insists it is the only way to empower the people and bring peace after four months of anti-government unrest that has killed more than 100 people and further pummeled an imploding economy. “This is a crucial week for the future of our country. Democracy, liberty and peace depend on us,” said lawmaker and protest leader Juan Andres Mejia, urging people onto the streets.
Venezuela Opposition Calls 48-Hour General Strike This Week
Javiera Quiroga and Melissa Mittelman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Venezuela’s opposition party is calling for a 48-hour general strike in Caracas Wednesday and Thursday, in a continuation of protests over President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to elect a new assembly next weekend and rewrite the country’s constitution. Deputy Simon Calzadilla, speaking for Unidad Democratica, urged Venezuelans to go to their electoral centers Monday at 10 a.m. to place banners and protest signs that say “in my voting place there won’t be constituent assembly.” Calzadilla, in an email, also asked citizens to rally to Caracas next Friday to “demand massively” that Maduro’s government halt the assembly vote. “If the regime doesn’t cancel this fraud by Friday, the party will inform of the actions it will behold on July 29 and 30,” Calzadilla said in the statement. “Center by center, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood to defeat Maduro’s proposal.” Julio Borges, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, called this upcoming week “crucial” for the country. In an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” Borges appealed for international help in stopping Maduro’s planned assembly and to lay the groundwork for a “real and deep negotiation with the participation of the international community.”