Liu Xiaobo Embodied Hope For China’s Democracy. Now He’s Sick.
Steven Lee Myers And Austin Ramzy, THE NEW YORK TIMES
In the fall of 2008, dozens of activists secretly worked to produce a political manifesto. It was only 3,554 Chinese characters long, but it listed a series of demands on China’s leaders to make the country a liberal democracy. Less than a decade later, one of the main authors, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, is confined in a hospital, released from prison though not from custody, to be treated for what his lawyers described as an advanced case of liver cancer. Mr. Liu’s imprisonment and now his illness have become a grim reflection of the fate of that cause, one born in hope but crushed by China’s intolerance of dissent—and the world’s increasing resignation, even acquiescence, to it, given the country’s diplomatic and economic clout. The document was called Charter 08 and was modeled after one published by dissidents in Czechoslovakia under Communist rule, Charter 77. More than 300 activists in China signed at first—and many more did later, inside and outside of the country.
China Passes Tough New Intelligence Law
Ben Blanchard and Christian Shepherd, REUTERS
China’s legislature passed a new intelligence law on Tuesday after an unusually brief round of discussions, a draft of which gave new powers to monitor suspects, raid premises and seize vehicles and devices. Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has overseen a raft of legislation to bolster national security against perceived threats from both within and outside China. The government gained new powers with a national security law passed in 2014, followed by measures on counter-terrorism, the management of foreign non-government bodies and cyber security, among other subjects.
Struggle For Control Underlies Xi Jinping’s Visit To Hong Kong
Chris Buckley, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Nearly three years ago, when thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators seized major roads in central Hong Kong for more than two months, they mocked Communist Party leader Xi Jinping and demanded that he allow a free vote for the city’s leader. Mr. Xi never set foot in Hong Kong or addressed the protesters, but the local government, widely understood to have his blessing, offered no compromise, deployed the riot police to clear the streets and arrested the leaders of the rallies. On Thursday, when Mr. Xi arrives in the city for the first time as China’s leader, he is unlikely to mention the 2014 upheaval that challenged his young administration, but it will lie behind his message of Beijing’s firm control.
North Korea Vows To Execute Former South Korean President
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
North Korea on Wednesday vowed to execute South Korea’s former president and her spy director, accusing them of planning to assassinate its supreme leadership. The official Korean Central News Agency said North Korea will impose a “death penalty” on ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye and former spy chief Lee Byoung Ho, and they could receive a “miserable dog’s death any time, at any place and by whatever methods from this moment.” It accused Park of pushing forward a secret operation to “replace the supreme leadership” of the North beginning in late 2015 in a plan spearheaded by the South’s National Intelligence Service that included an assassination plot. It said the plan was automatically scrapped when lawmakers impeached Park last December over a corruption scandal.
China’s CNPC Suspends Fuel Sales To North Korea As Risks Mount
Chen Aizhu, REUTERS
China National Petroleum Corp has suspended sales of fuel to North Korea over concerns the state-owned oil company won’t get paid, as pressure mounts on Pyongyang to rein in its nuclear and missile programs. It’s unclear how long the suspension will last. A prolonged cut would threaten critical supplies of fuel and force North Korea to find alternatives to its main supplier of diesel and gasoline, as scrutiny of China’s close commercial ties with its increasingly isolated neighbor intensifies. CNPC and the Ministry of Commerce did not respond to requests for comment. A source with direct knowledge of the matter said CNPC decided to put fuel sales on hold “over the last month or two” and described it as a “commercial decision.”
Sanctions Taking Toll On North Korea Regime, High-level Defector Tells VOA
A senior North Korean defector told VOA Korean that the current efforts to tighten economic sanctions on the North are effective and could over time destabilize Kim Jong-un’s regime. “Economic sanctions, if continued, will erode the North Korean regime’s grip on power, create more opportunities for market activities and stir all kinds of corruption and disorder in the country,” said Ri Jong Ho in his first public interview since his defection in late 2014. “That loosening of government control will strike at the very foundation of the [top-down] leader-based system.” Having served in high-level roles in central agencies of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, Ri spent 30 years overseeing the country’s overall production and trade, and replenishing the Kim regime’s critically-important foreign currency reserves. His last posting was in Dalian, China, as the head of the Korea Daehung Trading Corporation, which is managed by Office 39, a secretive branch of the North Korean government. According to the US Treasury Department, Office 39 engages “in illicit economic activities and managing slush funds and generating revenues for the leadership.”
National Geographic Goofs Up Geography, Lists “Taiwan, China” In “100 Best Destinations”
Keoni Everington, TAIWAN NEWS
Taiwanese netizens have discovered that in the 2017 issue of “National Geographic 100 Best Destinations: Around the World in Four Seasons,” the magazine listed “Taiwan, China” as number 48 under “summer family fun.” Users of the Facebook group “Taiwan Passport Sticker” (TPS), noticed National Geographic in its special travel edition listed “Taiwan, China” in the number 48 spot, prompting them to launch a campaign to provide a geography lesson for the self-proclaimed “world leader in geography, cartography, and exploration.” On its Facebook page, TPS said that it was happy that Taiwan had been included in its top 100 tourist sites, but it was vexing that the country had been added to China. In response, TPS encouraged its 38,000 followers to message National Geographic on all forms of social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that, “Taiwan is NOT part of China. Taiwan does not belong to China. Please STOP including Taiwan in the territory of China!”
Cyberattack Hits Ukraine Then Spreads Internationally
Nicole Perlroth, Mark Scott And Sheera Frenkel, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Computer systems from Ukraine to the United States were struck on Tuesday in an international cyberattack that was similar to a recent assault that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide. In Kiev ATMs stopped working. About 80 miles away, workers were forced to manually monitor radiation at the old Chernobyl nuclear plant when their computers failed. And tech managers at companies around the world—from Maersk, the Danish shipping conglomerate, to Merck, the drug giant in the United States—were scrambling to respond. Even an Australian factory for the chocolate giant Cadbury was affected. It was unclear who was behind this cyberattack, and the extent of its impact was still hard to gauge Tuesday. It started as an attack on Ukrainian government and business computer systems—an assault that appeared to have been intended to hit the day before a holiday marking the adoption in 1996 of Ukraine’s first Constitution after its break from the Soviet Union.
Venezuela Helicopter Attack: Who Is Pilot Oscar Pérez?
Who is Oscar Pérez, the police officer who launched a helicopter attack on the Venezuelan Supreme Court on Tuesday? Out of nowhere, he has become the country’s most talked-about man and he is currently on the run. President Nicolás Maduro has declared him a terrorist, accusing him of stealing a military helicopter and dropping grenades on the court to mount a coup. Here is what we know about him so far. He’s a highly trained agent now in his mid-30s, Oscar Pérez has been a member of the forensic police force, known as the CICPC, for 15 years. The Venezuelan media emphasize that he is a highly trained agent, part of the Special Actions Brigade (BAE), where he is chief of operations for the Air Force division. The president said he once worked as a pilot for the ex-minister of interior and justice, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, who, according to Mr Maduro, has been plotting a coup against him.
Venezuela: A Crisis Is Brewing
According to unnamed Stratfor sources, the Venezuelan government has taken to keeping a closer eye on its troops. The General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence has reportedly begun to monitor midranking military officers deployed to the country’s Strategic Defense Regions (REDI) and Strategic Defense Zones (ZODI). Venezuela’s eight REDI, which are administered by major generals appointed by the president, contain dozens of ZODI commanded by additional officers. And it is apparently these figures’ loyalty that has Caracas worried. The government’s primary concern lies in the fact that REDI and ZODI officers have room to act—and encourage their subordinates to follow—without their superiors’ immediate knowledge. REDI and ZODI commanders have the authority to issue direct orders to the units under their control, and in theory they could lead military action against the state while keeping the defense minister and Strategic Operational Command in the dark as to their intentions.