The Lonely Crusade Of China’s Human Rights Lawyers
Alex W. Palmer, THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE
Liang Xiaojun had just finished breakfast when he received the first instant message: His friends were disappearing from their homes and offices. By itself, this news was unremarkable. As a human rights lawyer in China, Liang had come to accept that periodic spasms of repression were an unavoidable risk of his profession. He also had grown intimately familiar with the rituals of pressure and coercion by which China kept its dissidents in line—the meetings over tea with government minders, the frequent check-ins from the judicial bureau, the police harassment. But on the morning of July 10, 2015, Liang knew that something far graver was underway. A disturbing event from the previous day, he now realized, had been merely a prelude.
China’s “Soft Power” Campaign Extends Through Universities, Media To Tourism: Author
Hsia Hsiao-hwa, RADIO FREE ASIA
China is continuing to extend its “soft power” around the world through a number of carefully planned strategies, an exiled Chinese writer has claimed. Yu Jie, the US-based author of a book about China’s Communist Party leader titled “Chinese Godfather Xi Jinping,” said that a key strand in wielding the influence of the ruling Chinese Communist Party on overseas university campuses is the more than half a million Chinese who study abroad. Chinese students overseas, whose numbers are projected to swell still further in the next few years, are often members of the government-backed Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), which earlier this year slammed graduating student Yang Shuping for “insulting the motherland” in her commencement speech at the University of Maryland. Influence is also wielded via the network of Confucius Institutes, which have sprung up at hundreds of universities and teaching institutions around the world in recent years.
Dissidents Voice Fears That China Will Use Interpol To Come After Peaceful Critics
Ng Yik-tung & Sing Man, RADIO FREE ASIA
As China’s vice minister of public security Meng Hongwei takes the presidency of Interpol, who had issued a “red notice” for wanted billionaire Guo Wengui earlier this year, dissidents in exile have voiced fears that they could be next in line. Earlier this month in Germany, veteran democracy activist Wei Jingsheng and fellow Chinese dissidents and journalists demonstrated outside Germany’s federal police bureau over concerns that Interpol will be coopted by authorities member states to pursue peaceful activists. “Who are the biggest criminals in the world?” Qian Yuejun, chief editor of the Chinese newspaper Europe China Guidance, said in a short speech at the rally outside Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office. “They are the people who take away other people’s human rights.” “There are a number of authoritarian states, authoritarian regimes, that are members of Interpol, and they are now using Interpol to pursue people who challenge their power,” Qian said.
Cuba Rejects Rumors It Will Mediate In Venezuela Crisis
A senior Cuban official rejected rumors the Communist-run island might intervene as a mediator in Venezuela’s crisis and called on Wednesday for “absolute respect for the sovereignty” of its socialist ally. Visits to Cuba this month by the presidents of Colombia and Bolivia have fueled speculation that Havana is being courted to help mediate in Venezuela. More than 100 people have died in four months of protests against President Nicolás Maduro’s government. “Cuba roundly rejects such insinuation and claims absolute respect for the sovereignty and the self-determination of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Communist Party, said in a speech to mark a Cuban national holiday. Cuba and Venezuela became close allies in the late 1990s under the respective leaderships of Fidel Castro and his younger disciple Hugo Chavez, both now deceased.
North Korea Could Cross ICBM Threshold Next Year, US Officials Warn In New Assessment
By Ellen Nakashima, Anna Fifield & Joby Warrick, THE WASHINGTON POST
North Korea will be able to field a reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as early as next year, US officials have concluded in a confidential assessment that dramatically shrinks the timeline for when Pyongyang could strike North American cities with atomic weapons. The new assessment by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which shaves a full two years off the consensus forecast for North Korea’s ICBM program, was prompted by recent missile tests showing surprising technical advances by the country’s weapons scientists, at a pace beyond what many analysts believed was possible for the isolated communist regime. The US projection closely mirrors revised predictions by South Korean intelligence officials, who also have watched with growing alarm as North Korea has appeared to master key technologies needed to loft a warhead toward targets thousands of miles away.
Fairy Tales Overcome Nightmares At South Korea’s Militarized Border Town
A half-hour’s drive north of Seoul, along a highway lined with barbed wire, lie two shopping malls the size of several football stadiums, a stone’s throw from the world’s most militarized border. The malls are in the city of Paju, gateway to the UN truce village of Panmunjom, where military officers from the combatants of the 1950-53 Korean war discuss armistice matters—when the two sides are on speaking terms, which they aren’t these days. “Fairy tales come true in Paju”, is the advertising lure from the Korean Tourism Board. But it was nightmares that were all too true here during the Korean war, when Paju featured some of its fiercest battles. Paju is home to the country’s only “enemy’s cemetery,” where the remains of Chinese and North Korean soldiers are buried. That’s all but forgotten history now.
The Strange Role North Korea Is Playing In the Persian Gulf Crisis
Adam Taylor, THE WASHINGTON POST
In the ongoing diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf between Qatar and a Saudi-led bloc, an unusual role is being played by a country thousands of miles away: North Korea. In recent days, both sides of the dispute have been accused of having an illicit economic relationship with the isolated nation—a touchy subject in Washington, given Pyongyang’s advancing nuclear weapons program and antagonism toward the United States. Last week, reports detailing an alleged arms deal worth $100 million between North Korea and a company in the United Arab Emirates resurfaced online. Then on Tuesday, UAE rival Qatar was accused of having a “dangerous” relationship with North Korea in an op-ed published in the Hill newspaper. There’s at least some truth to both allegations. But both reports also fit into an ongoing propaganda war in the Persian Gulf. The strongest economic relationship for North Korea among the Arab states of the Persian Gulf states is most likely Kuwait, a country that has tried to stay out of the dispute and is an important US ally in the region.
North Korea Marks Rainy “Victory Day,” Commemorating End Of Korean War
In heavy rain, North Koreans put down their umbrellas to bow before the mausoleum of founder Kim Il Sung and his son on Thursday (July 27) as the country marked the end of the Korean War, which it calls Victory Day. There had been widespread speculation in US and South Korean intelligence circles that the North might choose to mark the anniversary with a fresh missile launch. As of late Thursday, no such launch had materialized and, in Pyongyang, the day was given over to memorializing the ruling Kim dynasty as the defenders of the nation. “Our country is ever-victorious because we have the greatest leaders in the world,” said Mr. Hong Yong Dok, who was at the Kumsusan Palace with his granddaughters. The Korean people had suffered at the hands of “US imperialists for ages, and even my parents were killed by them in the Korean war. So we must teach our descendants to take revenge on the US imperialists,” he told AFP. July 27, 1953 marks the signing of the armistice among China, North Korea and US-backed United Nations forces that had fought one another to a stalemate over three years.
China And India File Rival Claims Over Tibetan Medicine
Mike Ives, THE NEW YORK TIMES
China and India have jockeyed for centuries over the Himalayas. The Chinese military invaded Tibet in 1950. India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, in 1959. Three years later, the two countries fought a border war. Now they are in a standoff over an area disputed by China and Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom whose claim is supported by India. The two countries’ latest struggle is over which one will be able to formally tie the ancient practice of Tibetan medicine to its national patrimony. The prize: international cachet and the possibility of significant commercial rewards. In March, China filed paperwork asking the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to recognize medicinal bathing, one of many practices of sowa rigpa, the Tibetan name for this type of medicine, as part of its “intangible cultural heritage.” Unesco’s website indicates that the request will be considered next year. India filed its own bid—for the entire sowa rigpa tradition—around the same time.
US Says Progress With China On North Korea UN Sanctions, True Test Is Russia
Michelle Nichols, REUTERS
The United States is making progress in talks with North Korean ally China on imposing new United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang over its latest missile test, but Russia’s engagement will be the “true test,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said. The United States gave China a draft resolution nearly three weeks ago to impose stronger sanctions on North Korea over the July 4 missile launch. Haley had been aiming for a vote by the 15-member Security Council within weeks, senior diplomats said. “We’re constantly in touch with China … Things are moving but it’s still too early to tell how far they’ll move,” Haley said on Tuesday, adding that she was pleased with China’s initial response to the US proposal because it showed “seriousness.” “We know that China’s been sharing and negotiating with Russia, so as long as they are doing that, we’re going to continue to watch this closely to make sure it is a strong resolution,” she told reporters. China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi told reporters: “We are making progress, it requires time, but we’re working very hard.”
Venezuela: US working with Mexico, Colombia to topple government
Rafael Bernal, THE HILL
Venezuela’s foreign minister doubled down Tuesday on his government’s accusation that the United States is working with Mexico and Colombia to oust President Nicolás Maduro. “Mexico and Colombia are working in concordance with the government of the United States to topple President Maduro’s democratic government,” Samuel Moncada said, according to Spanish news agency EFE. The accusations follow a statement CIA Director Mike Pompeo gave at an Aspen Institute panel Thursday. “We are very hopeful that there can be a transition in Venezuela. The CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there, so that we can communicate to our State Department and to others,” Pompeo said. “I was just down there in Mexico City and in Bogota week before last, talking about this very issue, trying to help them understand the things they might do so they can get a better outcome for their part of the world and our part of the world,” he added.
Venezuela’s Economic And Political Crisis In Charts
Lauren Leatherby, THE FINANCIAL TIME
While the cause of the protests that have swept across Venezuela is President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to rewrite the country’s constitution, the clashes come against a backdrop of collapsing living standards, medicine shortages, increasing international isolation and ballooning corruption. A look at the numbers reveals the rapid changes that have drastically reshaped life in the oil-rich South American nation. Ninety-three percent of Venezuelans said their income was not sufficient to buy the food they need, according to a survey by some of the country’s top universities. Nearly three in four Venezuelans reported suffering weight loss last year, and, of those, a 9kg loss on average. The price of basic groceries for a family is currently about 15 times the minimum wage and prices continue to rise. The International Monetary Fund projects Venezuela’s inflation rate could reach 720 per cent this year. Maritza Landaeta, a director of the Bengoa Foundation, a Caracas-based health and nutrition charity, recently said: “Malnutrition in Venezuela is a problem of corruption, not a lack of money.”
Venezuelan Agents Seize Two More Court Appointees: Opposition
Anggy Polanco & Andrew Cawthorne, REUTERS
Two more people named to an alternative Supreme Court in defiance of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government were arrested on Tuesday by intelligence agents during a fast-escalating political showdown, the opposition said. Jesus Rojas and Zuleima Gonzalez were seized in central Anzoategui state after another appointee, Angel Zerpa, was arrested at the weekend, the opposition-led National Assembly said. Venezuela’s majority-backed opposition is demanding Maduro abandon a Sunday election to create a controversial congress with powers to rewrite the country’s constitution and override all other institutions. The opposition has called for a two-day strike from Wednesday at 6 a.m. (1000 GMT) to try to force Maduro to abandon the vote. Millions took part in a one-day strike last week, during which five people died in clashes.