Hong Kong Rail Plan Raises Fears Of Mainland China’s Influence
Austin Ramzy, THE NEW YORK TIMES
A proposal to lease part of a new Hong Kong rail terminal to mainland China and to allow Chinese officers to enforce mainland law there has raised concerns the plan would undermine the city’s legal autonomy. Hong Kong officials have said that the terminal, which is scheduled to open late next year in the city’s West Kowloon district, needs mainland customs and immigration officers in addition to Hong Kong officers in order to maximize efficiency for travelers. Hong Kong maintains its own borders, and travelers between Hong Kong and mainland China pass through immigration controls similar to those between nations. Under the Hong Kong proposal announced on Tuesday, customs, immigration and quarantine officers from Guangdong Province would have enforcement powers in about one-quarter of the station’s five-story terminal.
China Says Reforms Have Made Military More Nimble
Ben Blanchard, REUTERS
China’s military is more nimble and technologically proficient following reforms to make it more compact and responsive, rather than just relying on strength of numbers, state media on Tuesday cited Communist Party leader Xi Jinping as saying. China’s armed forces, the world’s largest, are in the midst of an ambitious modernization program, from restructuring to troop cuts and investment in technology and equipment upgrades, such as acquiring stealth fighters and aircraft carriers. Speaking to the ruling Communist Party’s elite Politburo, Xi called for all-out efforts to drive military reform, the official Xinhua news agency said. “After the reforms, our military’s scale is smaller, but it is more capable, its structure is more optimized, its formation more scientific,” the report paraphrased Xi, who is head of the military, as saying. This has changed the model of the armed forces, which once depended for victory on strength of numbers, but are now making great strides to becoming a high-quality, effective and technologically proficient military, Xi added. China’s military has not fought a war in decades and the government insists it has no hostile intent, simply needing the ability to properly defend what is now the world’s second-largest economy.
Cuban Activists Say North Korea Fighting Losing Censorship Battle
Brian Padden, VOA
Despite North Korea’s increased efforts to prevent outside information from entering the country, international activists say technology and market forces will eventually overcome state censorship. North Korea is one of the most isolated nations in the world, where foreign media is prohibited and most people don’t have access to the Internet. Still, it is following a pattern similar to other authoritarian regimes that view knowledge as power and have tried to limit and control access to outside information. This is according to leaders from Cuban and Myanmar (or Burmese) independent organizations working to evade authoritarian censorship and outside information restrictions in their own countries, who were recently in Seoul to share their experiences and strategies with Korean counterparts. “I believe that the increasing Internet penetration is going to be inevitable. Eventually, the government will need this for its own development,” said Rafeal Duval with the independent news organization Cubanet. In Cuba, as in North Korea, growing demand for foreign movies and television dramas, not political news, has made smuggling in outside information an increasingly profitable venture.
Qatar’s North Korea Connection Is Dangerous
Salman Al-Ansari, THE HILL
Qatar is helping North Korea, the brutal regime that killed University of Virginia honors student Otto Warmbier last month, by employing North Korean citizens and soldiers. How is this even possible? The North Korean regime, led by Kim Jong-un, is currently subject to international sanctions as it continues to defy calls to end Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs. The foreign currency earned by North Korea’s overseas workforce, which rotates every three years in Qatar, is a crucial tool for propping up the isolated country’s fragile economy. Up to three thousand North Korean migrant laborers are working on the World Cup 2022 construction sites to this day despite the actions of the international community. Ever since FIFA awarded the World Cup 2022 to Qatar, a steady flow of workers have entered the country, now under scrutiny for its support of extremism and terrorism. Doha supports North Korea by allowing workers to come to Doha for work on Lusail City, the location of the World Cup Final. The Qatar-North Korean connection emerged following 9/11, with very heavy activity from 2003 to present.
North Korea Is Attracting Thousands Of Vacationers Every Year. So Who Are They?
Justina Crabtree, CNBC
North Korea was isolated further Friday as the United States that it will ban its citizens from visiting the country. Given the worrying headlines that consistently swirl around the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, common sense suggests that you’d be hard pressed to find a vacationer willing to take a trip there. But international tourists do visit—and in the thousands. Tourists range in age from students to the retired, Simon Cockerell, Beijing-based general manager of Koryo Tours, one of the largest international operators of trips to North Korea, told CNBC via telephone. Cockerell detailed that it was “very common to have people booking alone.” Lupine Tours, a British company that offers trips to North Korea, told CNBC via e-mail that roughly 75 percent of its clientele are male. For Koryo Tours, US and UK nationals each make up 20 percent of its customer base. The rest comprises of travelers from northern and western Europe, as well as Australians, Canadians and those from Middle Eastern countries including Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The non-Chinese tourist market is currently 4,000-4,500 per year, down from a high of 6,000 in 2012, according to Cockerell.
Tibetan Monk Detained “For No Reason” In Kardze
Kunsang Tenzi, RADIO FREE ASIA
Police in western China’s Sichuan province detained a senior Tibetan monk this week without explanation, leaving followers and friends unsure of his present whereabouts and concerned for his well-being, sources said. Tulku Lobsang, a monk of Boroe monastery, had been summoned by police on July 21. “They called him to come to their office in Dartsedo, and when he arrived, police in plain clothes took him into custody,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “No reason was given for his detention,” the source said. Lobsang had been accompanied by the monastery’s manager and “several other persons,” who were sent by police back to Boroe to retrieve Lobsang’s identity card, which he had neglected to bring with him. Boroe monks and laypeople from neighboring villages immediately began to offer prayers for Lobsang’s safe return, while senior monks and community representatives went to Dartsedo to ask unsuccessfully for his release, the source said. No word has yet been received on Lobsang’s whereabouts or any charges made against him.
An Open Letter To Liu Xia, Widow of Liu Xiaobo
Sen. Rubio, TIME
While we have not had the occasion to meet, I join with millions around the globe in extending my deepest condolences on the loss of your husband, Liu Xiaobo. His decades-long peaceful fight for human rights and the end to one-party rule in China earned not only international honors in the form of the Nobel Peace Prize, but also countless admirers, myself among them, who continue to stand in solidarity with his aspirations. Even as there are discussions underway among policymakers in Washington, DC, about how best to honor Liu Xiaobo’s life and legacy, there is a growing sense of urgency regarding your own plight. Few take at face value the Chinese government’s claims that you are free. Many Americans and people around the world believe these and other injustices demand accountability.
Donald Trump’s Venezuela Options Complicated By US Refiner
Jonathan Wheatley, FINANCIAL TIMES
A US subsidiary of Venezuela’s PDVSA that has been used as collateral for a Russian loan has emerged as a stumbling block to Washington’s moves to impose additional sanctions on Caracas, including a possible ban on US imports of Venezuelan oil. US president Donald Trump last week promised strong action as Nicolás Maduro, his Venezuelan counterpart, prepared to sideline his country’s opposition-controlled parliament. But a wrangle over the ownership of Citgo, the PDVSA subsidiary that has three refineries and about 6,000 service stations in the US, could complicate Washington’s calculations, analysts say. This follows reports of a deal between Rosneft, the Russian national oil company, and Caracas that involves the refiner. Citgo and other US refineries on the Gulf Coast are among the last remaining cash buyers of Venezuelan crude.
Keith Ellison Wants American Health Care To Look More Like Cuba’s
Rep. Keith Ellison, (D-MN), would like to see the American health care system become more like Cuba’s. “The countries like Cuba or Canada or Russia or a lot of places in this world spend half what we spend per capita and they got better health outcomes than we do,” said the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee in Washington DC last Monday. Former spokesperson for George W. Bush Mercedes Schlapp recalled the experience of her Cuban parents, who fled Cuba under the Castro regime. “The ignorance of these Democrats like Keith Ellison is just, it’s astonishing,” Schlapp told Fox & Friends.
Venezuela Crisis: Tensions Rise As 48-hour Strike Starts
Opposition leaders in Venezuela have called on workers to stay at home on Wednesday and Thursday as part of a nationwide strike. It is the latest protest against President Nicolás Maduro’s plans to convene a constituent assembly. Elections to choose the members of the assembly will be held on Sunday despite calls by international leaders and the opposition to cancel them. Critics say the assembly is a ploy by the president to expand his powers. On Tuesday, opposition leader Leopoldo López called on Venezuelans to step up street protests saying the president’s plan to rewrite the constitution would bring an end to the country’s democracy. Demonstrations and a 24-hour strike held last week seem to have only hardened the government’s resolve to go ahead with the election. But the opposition says it is confident it will be able to shut down most of the country until Friday, when a massive demonstration has been scheduled in the capital, Caracas.
In Secret Talks, Venezuela’s Maduro Offers To Delay Constitutional Assembly
Antonio Maria Delgado, THE MIAMI HERALD
Under pressure from growing street protests and threats of US sanctions, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has offered the opposition, in secret negotiations, a 45-day delay of Sunday’s election for a Constitutional Assembly and a proposal to hold presidential elections by the end of next year. Maduro’s offer requires the legislative National Assembly, controlled by the opposition, to recall the 33 new judges it appointed last week as well as a “cooling down” of the street protests against the government, according to sources familiar with the talks. Confirmation that the talks were taking place came late Monday night by a message on Twitter by the vice president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Freddy Guevara, who reported that the former prime minister of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, brought the proposal to the residence of opposition leader Leopoldo López, who is under house arrest.
Vietnam Jails Dissident Nine Years For Propaganda Against State
Paul Tait, REUTERS
A court in Vietnam jailed a prominent dissident for nine years and gave her five years of probation for spreading propaganda against the state, her lawyer said on Tuesday, in what appeared to be the Communist-ruled country’s latest crackdown on critics. Despite sweeping reforms to its economy and growing openness to social change, including gay, lesbian and transgender rights, Vietnam’s Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism. Blogger Tran Thi Nga was found guilty at a one-day trial in the northern province of Ha Nam, six months after being arrested for posting the offending material on the internet, lawyer Ha Huy Son said. “This is an unfair verdict,” he said. “Nga is not guilty as stated by the court.” The charges against Nga are “bogus,” said New York-based Human Rights Watch. “The Vietnamese government consistently goes to extremes to silence its critics, targeting activists like Tran Thi Nga with bogus charges that carry a long prison sentence, and subjecting their families to harassment and abuse,” its deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, said in a statement.