June 16th, 2017 | Victims of Communism

Victims of Communism — Memorial Foundation

June 16th, 2017


China’s Crushing Of Independent Lawyers Is a Blow to Rule of Law
Shortly after he took over as China’s leader in 2012, Xi Jinping had some encouraging words. It was essential, said Mr. Xi, “to ensure that all citizens are equal before the law, to respect and guarantee human rights, and to enable citizens to enjoy extensive rights and freedoms in accordance with the law.” His exhortation was aimed at the rapidly growing middle class that wanted the Communist Party to rule with a lighter and fairer touch. Without their support, officials feared, the party’s grip on power would be in jeopardy. But it turns out that Mr. Xi is even more fearful of giving the middle class freer rein than he is of upsetting them. Three years later, in 2015, he launched a sweeping clampdown on hundreds of legal activists, the boldest of whom state media label sike lawyers. The term literally means “death bashing,” suggesting they are activists willing to fight to the death in defense of society’s underdogs, such as farmers and the urban poor. Reports suggest the authorities are not just jailing and harassing legal practitioners and their relatives, but also subjecting some of them to appalling torture.

Chinese Deal Maker Held In Corruption Probe
A highflying Chinese business tycoon whose company owns New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel was detained in China late last week by authorities who are investigating corruption and trying to curb risky financial behavior. The probe centers on whether Mr. Wu was involved in bribery and other economic crimes at Anbang, these people said. Politically connected tycoons such as Mr. Wu, who has been married to a granddaughter of former leader Deng Xiaoping, have become a focus for China’s leaders as the Communist Party gets set to hand their leader Xi Jinping a second five-year mandate at a high-level conclave this fall. Mr. Xi’s political standing depends in part on party views of his signature anticorruption campaign, now nearly five years old.


Inside Cuba’s Military Cyber Command
Andrea Mitchell, Richard Greenberg, and Mary Murray, NBC
On a quiet palm tree-lined street in a residential area of Havana, there is a beige house that looks like any other—only this house is a military cyber security center. Earlier this week, Cuban officials took NBC News there to meet exclusively with the center’s commander, Lt. Col. Yohanka Rodriguez. Lt. Col. Rodriguez said that in the past 18 months, Cuba has handed over intelligence on at least 17 cybercrime cases tied to the US: “addresses that we traced to the United States, for both the suspected attackers and potential victims.”  Cuban officials say they also have notified a special cyber security team at the Department of Homeland Security about hacking attacks aimed at Cuban networks and apparently originating from IP addresses in the United States. Miguel Gutierrez, director general of Cuba’s Office of Internet Security, showed NBC News an automated DHS reply his office received in January after reporting one such incident, and said his office reported another incident as recently as May 22. He said he does not know what US authorities have done to follow up on those reports.


Otto Warmbier Got An Extra Dose Of Brutality From North Korea. The Mystery Is Why.
Choe Sang-Hun, Austin Ramzy, and Rich Motoko, NEW YORK TIMES
Despite a history of mistreatment of prisoners dating to the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea has generally refrained from physically abusing the Americans it has held in recent decades. That makes the case of Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American college student who had been serving a 15-year sentence in North Korea, even more striking. Mr. Warmbier was released in a coma and returned on Tuesday to the United States. A senior American official has said the United States obtained intelligence reports that he had been repeatedly beaten. His fate has cast new attention on how North Korea treats foreigners in captivity. North Korea is known to have detained 16 American citizens since 1996, including three who are still in custody. They have been subjected to varying degrees of mental abuse but less often physical torture. Despite its longstanding enmity toward the United States and its allies, North Korea remains deeply sensitive to outside criticism of its human rights record, billing itself as a righteous nation that respects international norms.

The NSA Has Linked The Wannacry Computer Worm To North Korea
The National Security Agency has linked the North Korean government to the creation of the WannaCry computer worm that affected more than 300,000 people in some 150 countries last month, according to US intelligence officials. The assessment, which was issued internally last week and has not been made public, is based on an analysis of tactics, techniques and targets that point with “moderate confidence” to North Korea’s spy agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, according to an individual familiar with the report. The assessment states that “cyber actors” suspected to be “sponsored by” the RGB were behind two versions of WannaCry, a worm that was built around an NSA hacking tool that had been obtained and posted online last year by an anonymous group calling itself the Shadow Brokers. Though the hackers raised $140,000 in bitcoin, a form of digital currency, so far they have not cashed it in, the analysts said. That is likely because an operational error has made the transactions easy to track, including by law enforcement.


Taiwan Says China “Impertinently” Wants It To Soften Representation In Five Countries
China has been pressuring the United Arab Emirates and four other countries to ask Taiwan to rename its representative offices in another sign of diplomatic pressure on the self-ruled island, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said on Thursday. The pressure from Beijing on the UAE, Bahrain, Ecuador, Jordan, and Nigeria follows Panama’s decision this week to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and instead recognize China and its “One China” policy. “China is acting to suppress us in an impertinent way that has seriously offended the sensibilities of Taiwan’s people,” the statement said. Lu Kang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, did not confirm Taiwan’s claim, but said the “one China” principle was “an important political prerequisite” for the country to establish diplomatic ties. The cross-strait rivals have often engaged in “dollar diplomacy”, dangling generous aid packages in front of developing nations, although Taiwan has struggled to compete with an increasingly powerful China.


State Dept. Official Met With The Three Americans Still Being Held In North Korea
The three US citizens still being held in North Korea are in fairly healthy condition and were allowed to meet with the State Department’s top official on North Korea, Joseph Yun, when he traveled to Pyongyang this week. Yun went on a secret mission to North Korea to bring out Otto Warmbier. The revelation that he had been in a coma in North Korea for more than a year will inject new momentum into efforts to free the other three who are detained there, said Evans Revere, a former senior official in the State Department who still talks to North Korean representatives. “The suspicions and the concerns about the way that Otto was treated [are] going to lead to a very determined effort by the administration to put pressure on North Korea and get these men out of there,” Revere said. “The North Koreans will realize there will be very negative consequences.”

Rex Tillerson: Trump Mulling Travel Ban To North Korea
President Trump is considering whether to impose a ban on all American travel to North Korea, the administration’s top diplomat told lawmakers. “We have been evaluating whether we should put some type of travel visa restriction to North Korea,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a House panel on Wednesday. “We have not come to a final conclusion, but we are considering it.” Dictator Kim Jong-un has given a warm welcome to former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who praised the family of dictators as “great leaders.” Such trips have driven some lawmaker to propose legislation banning American travel to North Korea.  A government restriction on American freedom of movement, even to North Korea, could be expected to draw opposition from other lawmakers who have denounced travel restrictions to Cuba. “Long the party of personal freedom and limited government, we have always found it difficult to rationalize why our side of the aisle would seek to curtail the ability of US citizens to travel to Cuba or anywhere else in the world,” a trio of Republican senators wrote to Tillerson last week.


Venezuela Opposition Condemns “Vandalism” In Apartment Block Raids
Diego Oré, REUTERS
Venezuelan opposition lawmakers on Wednesday said security forces used excessive violence during a raid to capture protesters in a sprawling middle-class apartment complex carried out after officers came under fire. Videos taken during the raid show an armored truck smashing through the gates of the Los Verdes complex, in an operation that Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said resulted in the capture of 23 people who had been involved in attacks on security forces. “These subjects were involved in violent acts in which several officials were injured by gun fire,” Reverol said, describing clashes at a barricade close to the apartments as the trigger for the raid. Los Verdes is located in a Caracas neighborhood that has been the site of almost nightly clashes over two months since protests broke out against government restrictions on the opposition and chronic shortages of basic consumer goods. Dozens of car windows were smashed and at least 12 elevators broken during the operation on Los Verdes, said a Reuters witness at the site on Wednesday. One resident said an agent shot her dog in the eye.