China’s Australian Extradition Bust
WALL STREET JOURNAL
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s state visit to Australia didn’t go according to plan. As he talked up economic and cultural ties over the weekend, agents in China detained an Australia-based professor and barred him from leaving the country. That helped turn lawmakers in Canberra against a pending extradition treaty with Beijing. China seeks a treaty (and has threatened to halt counternarcotics cooperation without one) because it wants international respectability and help with “Operation Fox Hunt,” its effort to round up corrupt officials and other fugitives who have absconded overseas. These fugitives include journalists, activists, Falun Gong members and other political targets.
Hong Kong Protest Leaders Appear in Court Smiling After Surprise Summons
Venus Wu, REUTERS
Nine leaders of Hong Kong’s 2014 democracy protests appeared in court on Thursday after their surprise summons, charged with inciting the street occupation that paralyzed parts of the city for months in what some expect to be a long legal battle. The nine were charged just a day after a new Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, was chosen as the city’s next leader. The protest leaders, including the “Occupy Central trio” of Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, entered the magistrates’ court smiling and shaking hands with a few dozen supporters, some holding yellow umbrellas, the symbol of the 2014 civil disobedience movement. The “Occupy Central trio” each face charges including conspiracy to commit public nuisance and inciting others to commit public nuisance.
China’s Extraordinary Response to the 11-Nation Letter Over the Torture of Human Rights Lawyers
On February 27, diplomatic missions in Beijing from 11 countries wrote a letter which expressed their “growing concern over recent claims of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in cases concerning detained human rights lawyers and other human rights defenders.” On March 1 Chinese media launched a sudden and all-out smear campaign claiming that the torture of human rights lawyer Xie Yang was a fabrication, and that Western media coverage of it was “fake news.” China has to be seriously rattled to have launched such a furious and massive counterattack.
Malaysia Mistook Slain Kim Jong-nam for South Korean
Tom Allard, Emily Chow, and James Pearson, REUTERS
Malaysian authorities wrongly identified the slain half-brother of North Korea’s leader as a South Korean national and first alerted Seoul’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur soon after his death. The police error did have a silver lining: it enabled Seoul to quickly inform Kuala Lumpur the dead man was probably Kim Jong-nam, half-brother to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. After examining the victim’s passport, Malaysian authorities had confused the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name of North Korea, with the Republic of Korea, the official name of its estranged southern neighbor, sources said. After the mix-up was realized, North Korea’s diplomatic mission in Kuala Lumpur was informed on the day of the murder.
North Korean Police Restrict Citizen Movements Across Country
RADIO FREE ASIA
North Korean police have started to strictly control the movement of residents and throw those without proper documents into detention facilities as they try to fill a gap in monitoring residents’ activities neglected by state security agents, sources inside the authoritarian country said. The country’s Stasi-like secret police have been trying to control North Koreans following the regime’s purge of Kim Won Hong, the agency’s minister, who was expelled from office in mid-January on charges of corruption, abuse of power, and human rights abuses. Police have issued an order prohibiting the movement of residents throughout the country as of April 1.
IMF to Consider $1bn Ukraine Assistance Next Monday
Roman Olearchyk, FINANCIAL TIMES
The International Monetary Fund will consider the disbursement of a fresh billion-dollar tranche to Ukraine on Monday, after having assessed the economic impact of Kiev’s decision to ban commercial trade with eastern breakaway regions where government forces are battling Russian-backed separatists. Ukrainian officials said a decision on disbursement from the $17.5bn assistance program—originally expected in March—was delayed after the Fund’s executive board requested a macroeconomic impact assessment in light of the economic blockade, which has heavily affected the crucial steel, coal and electricity sectors. To secure continued IMF assistance, Ukraine’s government has pledged to overhaul a dysfunctional pension system, form a functioning agricultural land market and crack down on rampant corruption.
State Department Worker is Accused of Hiding Ties to China
Adam Goldman, NEW YORK TIMES
The FBI has arrested a veteran State Department employee who concealed her extensive contacts with Chinese intelligence agents, who for years lavished her with thousands of dollars in gifts, prosecutors announced Wednesday. Candace Marie Claiborne, 60, of Washington, was charged with felony obstruction and lying to the FBI after her ties to the Chinese were uncovered, the authorities said. Prosecutors did not disclose where or when the Chinese first approached Ms. Claiborne, but did reveal she had once served in Beijing and Shanghai. According to a criminal complaint, Ms. Claiborne, who had a top secret security clearance and was required to report foreign contacts, repeatedly interacted with Chinese intelligence agents for five years.
Venezuela Opposition Cries Foul After Court Takeover of Congress
Diego Oré and Corina Pons, REUTERS
Venezuelan opposition leaders accused President Nicolás Maduro of being a “dictator” and perpetrating a “coup” on Thursday after the pro-government Supreme Court took over the functions of Congress. The Supreme Court had already annulled most National Assembly decisions since the opposition won a legislative majority in late 2015 due to voter fury over an unprecedented economic crisis. Then late on Wednesday, the court explicitly stated it was assuming the legislature’s role in a ruling which authorized Maduro to create oil joint ventures without the previously mandated congressional approval. “As long as the situation of contempt in the National Assembly continues, this constitutional chamber guarantees congressional functions will be exercised by this chamber or another chosen organ,” the court said in its ruling.