China And Russia Strike $11bn Funding Deal
Beijing is to extend nearly $11bn to two Russian state entities that are under western sanctions. The renminbi-denominated funds allow the Russian counterparties—the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a $10bn sovereign fund, and Vnesheconombank, Russia’s state development bank—to escape possible penalties under US sanctions for dollar transactions. The funding was announced after Russian leader Vladimir Putin met his counterpart Xi Jinping in Moscow on Tuesday. The funds from Beijing’s state-run China Development Bank are the fruit of years of efforts by Moscow to attract funding for private industry in Russia. Western corporate lending has fallen dramatically after recession and US and EU sanctions. Russia’s state-run Channel 1 also said it would create a new television network in China to promote Russia. The channel, named Katyusha after a Russian military ballad that is widely popular in China, will entice Chinese viewers with game shows and documentaries about famous Russians.
Doubts Arise Over Chinese Nobel Winner’s Inability To Travel
Didi Tang, ABC NEWS
A friend of imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo said he doubts the government’s claims that the ailing dissident is too sick to leave the country in part because of a video in which Liu is described as being in “acceptable” condition. Whether Liu is able to travel is a key question in negotiations for his possible release from a Chinese hospital. The US and European Union have been calling on Beijing to allow China’s most famous political prisoner, recently diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer, to choose where he wants to be treated. Shang Baojun, Liu’s former lawyer, has said Chinese officials have told Liu’s family members that his health was so poor that he could not travel. Liu’s friend Hu Jia, a political dissident, said Monday a video that emerged on YouTube over the weekend appeared to indicate that Liu was in stable condition. Medical experts were seen saying that Liu’s treatment plan was going smoothly.
Reading Xi Jinping: The Link Between His Economic Policies And Censorship
Weifeng Zhong, FOREIGN AFFAIRS
In preparation for the Chinese Communist Party’s power reshuffle during the 19th Party Congress this fall, Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has begun to install many of his protégés and allies in local party leadership positions in anticipation of receiving a second term. But with China’s economic growth slowing, the most pressing question leading up to the congress is whether Xi will use the next five years to finally deliver on the economic reforms he has long promised. Among them: letting market forces play a decisive role in resource allocation and transforming China into a consumption-driven economy. Although China’s opaque political system makes it difficult to assess its leadership’s true intentions, one unlikely indicator can reveal a great deal about how the Communist Party will approach economic reform: the level of government censorship. In post-Mao China, censorship of the press has become a way to mask bad economic policies.
They Fled To Avoid Prosecution From A Web Of Corruption That Is Part Of Daily Life In Cuba
Mario J Penton, MIAMI HERALD
The couple fled Cuba to avoid the web of corruption and negligence that they say reflects what is normal life on the island. They got stranded in Panama, but still hope to eventually reach the United States. Yudenny Sao Labrada was born in eastern Cuba, three years after the government approved a socialist constitution in 1976. Trained by the Castro revolution as a teacher, she holds university degrees in math and physics but left the classroom to administer one of the state-owned grocery stores that sell rationed goods at subsidized prices. “I liked being a teacher, but the salaries in the Education Ministry are very low,” she said. Running the store in her hometown of Puerto Padre, she added, she had more opportunities to earn money “on the left,”—Cuban slang for less-than-legal.
State-Run Love Motels, Once A Rousing Success, Coming Back To Cuba
Cuba is reviving a network of state-run “love motels” in Havana where couples can rent rooms by the hour as the communist government seeks to “diversify options for love,” the official trade union weekly Trabajadores said on Monday. Havana, the capital of the Caribbean island, boasted dozens of such “posadas” until the 1990s, when the remaining few were given to Cubans left homeless by hurricanes. Privacy has become all the more elusive for lovers, given a housing shortage that forces many families to live in the same apartment and couples to live together long after their divorce. Private establishments have filled in the gap for some, the trade union weekly wrote, but many cannot afford to pay around $5, or a sixth of the average monthly state wage, for three hours of bliss. The less fortunate must resort to “parks, dark staircases, the beach and even the Malecon (seafront),” Trabajadores wrote. But now the state wants to make lovemaking easier again.
North Korea Appeared To Use China Truck In Its First Claimed ICBM Test
North Korea appeared to use a Chinese truck originally sold for hauling timber to transport and erect a ballistic missile that was successfully launched on Tuesday, highlighting the challenge of enforcing sanctions to curb its weapons program. North Korea state television showed a large truck painted in military camouflage carrying the missile. It was identical to one a UN sanctions panel has said was “most likely” converted from a Chinese timber truck. Since 2006, UN sanctions have banned the shipment of military hardware to North Korea. But control of equipment and vehicles that have “dual-use” military and civilian applications has been far less stringent. The vehicle was imported from China and declared for civilian use by the North Korean foreign ministry, according to a 2013 report by the UN panel. Tuesday’s launch was the first time the truck had been seen in a military field operation in pictures published in state media.
Soldier Defections Hit North Korea’s Guns-Over-Butter Regime
Masanori Yamakuchi, NIKKEI ASIAN REVIEW
Daring defections by two malnourished North Korean soldiers across the Demilitarized Zone have highlighted a crack in the regime’s armor. More than 30,000 escapees from the North now live in South Korea. But cases involving front-line soldiers are “different from simple defections,” as one defector put it. Defections by soldiers pose a grave threat: Not only do they lower morale, they also suggest the regime is not as invincible as it seems. One soldier crossed the DMZ on June 13, and another followed on June 23. Both are around the age of 20 and were found to be undernourished, according to South Korean media reports. The last time a North Korean soldier defected to the South was in September 2016.
Malaysia Stops Issuing Permits For North Korean Workers, Official Says
RADIO FREE ASIA
Malaysian authorities have deported all workers from North Korea and stopped issuing work permits for citizens of the communist nation, a senior government official confirmed to BenarNews on Friday. The announcement comes months after a diplomatic row between the two countries broke out following the Kuala Lumpur area assassination of the half-brother of North Korea’s leader in February, and weeks after many North Koreans left the country. “I can confirm all North Korean workers have been sent back. In Sarawak, all North Korean workers have been deported. There are no new work permits for North Koreans,” the senior official at the Home Ministry, which handles issues involving millions of foreign workers, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service. The source who declined to be named, citing the sensitivity of the issue, added that the stop order became “effective two months ago.” At least 140 North Koreans who worked in coal mines and construction industries in the eastern state of Sarawak have been deported in stages.
Taiwan Scrambles Fighter Jets Over Chinese Vessel
Clifford Coonan, THE IRISH TIMES
Self-ruled Taiwan scrambled fighter jets after China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning passed through the strait of Taiwan en route to Hong Kong, where it will berth as part of events to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover of the territory. Hong Kong was back to business as usual on Sunday after the main handover anniversary celebrations, which included a dramatic fireworks display and Xi Jinping’s first visit to the territory as Chinese Communist Party leader. During his trip, Mr. Xi visited the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) barracks, and in a tough speech warned Hong Kong’s democratic activists not to cross a “red line” by challenging Beijing’s authority in the territory.
White House Details Trump Meeting With Putin
The White House confirmed Tuesday morning that President Trump will hold an official bilateral meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of this week’s Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Germany, as opposed to a more casual interaction. Trump will also meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the Hamburg event. The Putin meeting will be the first full-fledged bilateral meeting between a US and Russian leader in two years, when former President Barack Obama held tense talks with Putin. The highly anticipated meeting with also be the first time Trump comes face to face with the Russian leader since his election. The bilateral encounter comes as a special counsel is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Venezuela High Court, Top Prosecutor In Political Showdown
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
A conflict between President Maduro’s government and his increasingly defiant chief prosecutor was coming to a head Tuesday as Luisa Ortega Diaz announced she was boycotting a Supreme Court hearing on whether to lift her immunity from being tried for unspecified irregularities. Ortega Diaz argued the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing was a foregone conclusion decided by the government that violates her legal right to defense and due process. “I am not going to validate a circus that will stain our history with shame and pain,” she said at a news conference as the hearing was getting underway. The case against her for alleged “serious errors” while in office was brought by a ruling-party lawmaker and could lead to her ouster. National Guard troops and riot police took up positions outside the court building in Caracas, where protests against Maduro’s government have been raging almost daily for several months.
Venezuela Military Court Jails 27 Students: NGO
THE SUN DAILY
A Venezuelan military court jailed 27 students accused of “rebellion” in anti-government protests, a non-governmental watchdog said Tuesday. “The prosecutor charged them with crimes of instigating rebellion, theft of armed forces property, destruction and violation of a security zone,” said lawyer Alfredo Romero, director of the judicial watchdog Foro Penal. He said the 27 were arrested on Sunday at UPEL university in the northern city of Maracay after protests against the government. Five other suspects, all women, were sentenced to house arrest after being detained on the same occasion, according to Romero. Foro Penal had previously warned that scores of people were being brought before military courts over civil charges relating to recent months of anti-government unrest. It said the 27 students were sent to regular jails, bringing to 433 the total number of what Foro Penal terms “political prisoners” in Venezuela.
With Social Media, Vietnam’s Dissidents Grow Bolder Despite Crackdown
Julia Wallace, THE NEW YORK TIMES
A prominent blogger and environmental activist in Vietnam was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison on charges of national security offenses, including sharing anti-state propaganda on social media. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, better known by her online handle Mother Mushroom, had been held incommunicado since she was arrested in October, and attendance at her trial was strictly controlled. But barely one hour after the verdict was handed down on Thursday, one of Ms. Quynh’s lawyers summarized his arguments and posted her final statement at the trial to his 61,000 Facebook followers. “I hope that everyone will speak up and fight, overcome their own fears to build a better country,” she said, according to the lawyer. The statement was reposted thousands of times. In authoritarian Vietnam, the internet has become the de facto forum for the country’s growing number of dissenting voices.