China Releases Activists Scrutinizing Ivanka Trump Shoe Factory
Keith Bradsher, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Three undercover investigators who were seeking evidence of abusive labor practices in the manufacture of Ivanka Trump-branded shoes have been released on bail from a detention center in southeastern China pending a trial. Their release on bail represents the first confirmation that the three men have been thrust into China’s labyrinthine criminal justice system, and have not just been quietly detained for a few days. China Labor Watch, the group that sent the men into two factories that produce Ivanka Trump shoes, called for them to receive a fair trial. The spokesman for the public security office in Ganzhou, where the men had been held, did not respond to telephone calls requesting comment.
Xi Jinping Greats a Locked-Down Hong Kong
Ralph Jennings, THE AUSTRALIAN
Xi Jinping was greeted by a sea of red yesterday at the start of his first visit to Hong Kong as China’s Communist Party leader, marking the 20th anniversary of the British handover. As is customary on his trips, his Air China plane landed to be met by carefully vetted supporters, many of them children, waving Chinese and Hong Kong flags. “After nine years I am once again stepping on Hong Kong soil, Mr. Xi said at Chek Lap Kok airport. “I feel very happy. Hong Kong has always had a place in my heart.” He said China would support Hong Kong’s development and improve living standards “as it always has.” He indicated Beijing’s unhappiness with the wave of support among young Hong Kongers for “localism” and even for independence, and added that he “sincerely wishes Hong Kong can once again achieve splendor.” Unprecedented security—involving a third of the city’s police force, 11,000 officers—shut down large parts of the city, ensuring that Xi was not subjected to a single critical placard or chant.
Hong Kong Protesters to Communist Party leader Xi: “Release Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo!”
RADIO FREE ASIA
As Communist Party leader Xi Jinping arrived in the city to mark two decades of Chinese rule on Thursday, protesters gathered in downtown Hong Kong to call for the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and 17 democracy activists held following a protest at the symbolic Golden Bauhinia statue. “On the first day of Xi Jinping’s visit to Hong Kong, we want to express our demands, which are that the Chinese government immediately and unconditionally release Liu Xiaobo,” Chow Hang Tung, one of the event organizers, told the crowd gathered in the city’s central business district. “He is innocent, and he is seriously ill. They make it sound very nice, saying that he has been released on medical parole, but nobody is able to see him or have any contact with him,” Chow said. “He may have been moved to a hospital, but he is still effectively in jail.” Xi refused to answer questions from journalists about Liu’s status after arriving in Hong Kong.
Cuba Expects Tourism Growth Despite Trump’s Crackdown On US Travel
Nelson Acosta and Sarah Marsh, REUTERS
Cuba earned more than $3 billion from tourism in 2016 and expects to better that this year despite President Donald Trump’s tightening of restrictions on US travel to the Caribbean island, a government official said on Wednesday. Tourism revenue totaled $2.6 billion in 2015. The number of foreign visitors to Cuba was up 22 percent in the first half of 2017 compared with the same period last year. Tourism has been one of the few bright spots recently in Cuba’s economy, as it struggles with a decline in exports and subsidized oil shipments from its key ally Venezuela. A surge in American visitors has helped boost the sector since the 2014 US-Cuban detente under the Obama administration and its easing of US travel restrictions, even as a longtime ban on tourism remained in effect. But Trump earlier this month ordered a renewed tightening of travel restrictions, saying he was canceling former President Barack Obama’s “terrible and misguided deal” with Havana.
Cuban Migrants Stranded in Panama Live and Work Secretly
Mario J. Pentón, THE MIAMI HERALD
The radio music broadcasts are amplified by the dozens of speakers positioned in businesses and homes. Salsa, reggaeton and merengue echoes through the narrow streets and mid-20th Century buildings. It could be Havana, but Rita María Triana knows it’s not. The Cuban capital, where Triana was born, is 932 miles away. But here in Panama City, dozens of undocumented Cubans have been working illegally since the end of the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy in late January. On Jan. 12, the United States and Cuba signed a migration accord that eliminated the policy, which had allowed undocumented Cuban migrants who set foot on US territory to remain and obtain residency one year later under the Cuban Adjustment Act. The two nations jointly announced that the United States would apply to all Cuban citizens the same procedures and migration regulations applied to citizens of other countries.
As The World Focuses On Its Nuclear Ambitions, North Korea Deploys Another Weapon: Drones
Matt Stiles, LOS ANGELES TIMES
Earlier this month, a resident in a rural province of South Korea found a small, sky-blue unmanned plane perched nose-up against a tree in a remote forest. The drone belonged to the North Korean military and apparently had flown south for five hours, capturing images of a sensitive new US anti-missile system before crashing. It lacked missiles or other weapons like the larger, more advanced models used by US forces in the Middle East. But South Korean officials and security experts consider such flights unlawful incursions. “It’s a military provocation. It’s an agent spying on a neighboring country’s military information,” Kim Dong-Yub, a professor at Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies. “It’s the same as sending a spy.”
North Korea Conducts Rocket Engine Test: Report
North Korea recently tested a small rocket engine, a monitoring group said Wednesday, after a US official had reportedly suggested the test could be a step to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile. The respected 38 North analysis group however said it was not clear whether the test, conducted at the North’s Sohae satellite launch site, involved an ICBM engine. Based on satellite imagery analysis, the Washington-based group said the nuclear-armed state appeared to have conducted a “small rocket engine test” on or around June 22. Previous satellite imagery of the site taken on June 10 showed no signs of test preparations, which showed the North “possesses the technical and logistical capabilities to conduct such tests with little or no advance warning”, it added.
North Korean Children “Forced To Water Drought-Stricken Fields At 5 AM” Before Shortened School Day
Nicola Smith, THE TELEGRAPH
As North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un steps up the rate of his hi-tech missile tests, schoolchildren in the hermit kingdom are reportedly being forced to cut class to water crops that are dying in a severe drought. According to a report on Radio Free Asia’s Korean service, high school and college students in the north of the country have been mandated since mid-May to help water the dry fields from 5 am to 10 am every day. “Their classes now begin from 11 am,” a North Korean source told the news service, but he added that the drought was too severe to be tackled by manual labor alone and needed state assistance and equipment. “Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un has fired a number of missiles while the people were mobilized and physically suffered to water the crops,” he said, referring to at least five confirmed missile tests by the regime between May 13 and June 23. “The people are resentful of his actions and have expressed their frustrations by saying, ‘If there is money to fire missiles, it could have been used to combat more than ten droughts.’” Last week the Rodong Sinmun, the North’s biggest newspaper and regime mouthpiece, reported that the country had been struck by an “abysmal” drought.
Taiwan Activist Urges Crackdown Against Floating Sweatshops
Nike Ching, VOA
Three videos from a mobile phone that described the beatings of an Indonesian crewman aboard a Taiwan-flagged vessel led Allison Lee to find her role as an advocate for those afflicted: migrant fishermen. Lee, the co-founder of the Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union, was recognized by the United States for safeguarding the rights of foreign fishermen working in Taiwan. In accepting her award in Washington on Tuesday, she made one appeal: to end slavery on the open sea. To know the path from ocean to consumers’ dinner plates is to know the story of floating sweatshops, Lee told VOA on Tuesday. “Migrant fishermen are vulnerable to exploitation,” she said. Flanked by President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, Lee was one of the eight men and women to receive “Hero Acting to End Modern Slavery Award” at the State Department, where the 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report was released.
Ukraine Faces Big Fine After Russia Eurovision Row
Ukraine is facing a substantial fine over delays in the organization of May’s Eurovision song contest and a decision to bar Russia’s entrant from entering Ukraine, the European Broadcasting Union said on Thursday. The annual song fest was hosted in Kiev without a hitch, but the run-up to the competition was marred by Moscow’s decision to boycott the event after Ukraine barred its entrant because she had performed in Russia-annexed Crimea. “As a result of this, attention was drawn away from the competition and the brand reputation of the Eurovision Song Contest was endangered,” the EBU said in a statement. “Therefore the contest’s steering committee … has recommended that UA:PBC (Ukraine’s state broadcaster) should receive a substantial fine, in line with the rules of the competition,” it said, without saying how much Ukraine would have to pay. UA:PBC Director Zurab Alasania said the fine was 200,000 euros ($228,100) and that the broadcaster would appeal the decision.
Amid Venezuela’s Chaos, Protesters Ask: Was Helicopter “Attack” Rebellion Or Ruse?
Joshua Partlow and Rachelle Krygier, THE WASHINGTON POST
A rogue helicopter that buzzed Venezuela’s supreme court building and possibly dropped grenades became a strange centerpiece Wednesday in the country’s meltdown—with some suspecting it was a ruse by President Nicolás Maduro to further clamp down on the opposition. Opposition groups initially hailed the chopper flight Tuesday as a sign that security forces were breaking ranks in the first step in a possible coup. But later, questions crept in. The pilot of the helicopter, which trailed a banner proclaiming “Freedom,” turned out to be an actor, Oscar Pérez, who also served in special operations forces. Maduro opponents then began to interpret the incident as a possible government-staged charade to muster support for even tougher measures against protesters as Venezuela’s political crisis grows more violent and desperate.
Venezuela Bars Attorney General From Leaving Country
Rafael Romo, Elwyn Lopez & Marilia Brocchetto, CNN
Venezuela’s Supreme Court has banned Attorney General Luisa Ortega from leaving the country, and has frozen her assets, ahead of a pre-trial hearing scheduled for July 4. The inquiry, which was requested by an ally of President Maduro, will seek to determine if Ortega committed unspecified “grave errors while in her position.” If enough evidence is found, Ortega, a vocal critic of Maduro’s government, could be taken to trial. It’s the latest twist in the political turmoil gripping the country. Ortega has recently accused Maduro’s government of “state terrorism” by stripping citizens of their right to protest, trying them in military courts and carrying out raids without consulting courts.
Venezuela Is Worse Than The Soviet Union Was: Lt. Col. Peters
Retired US Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters said Wednesday the economic and civil unrest in socialist Venezuela is worse than conditions were in the Soviet Union. “For years now, people haven’t been able to walk into a grocery store and buy eggs or milk or even toilet paper,” Peters told FOX Business Kennedy. “I saw the Soviet Union back before the walls came down—Venezuela right now is worse. The Soviet Union did a better job of feeding its people.” While the crisis in the South American country has been escalating for months, Peters said he doesn’t expect it to spread to other nations in the region. “Socialism’s passed its high-water mark in Latin America, but the problem is its implosion and what can happen,” he explained. Peters also said Venezuelan President Maduro and the country’s military are hindering its return to normalcy.