Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Rally Displaced by Pro-Beijing Event, Organizers Say
Mike Ives, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Organizers of a pro-democracy rally held annually in July on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China said that they had been denied permission to use a downtown park, a move that threatens to raise tensions ahead of an expected visit by Communist Party leader Xi Jinping. The organizing group, the Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition of pro-democracy activists, has traditionally used Victoria Park as the starting point for a July 1 rally that calls for universal suffrage and the preservation of civil liberties in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous territory. Last year’s rally drew at least 19,000 people, and previous ones have drawn hundreds of thousands. But on Wednesday, the group said in a Facebook post that permission to use the park on July 1 had instead been granted to the Hong Kong Celebrations Association, a group that the local news media identified as being pro-Beijing.
China Now Has a Rail Link Into the Heart of Europe
Trefor Moss, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The trains chugging along the ancient Silk Road through this gateway city to the West are growing in numbers and freighted with geopolitical significance. China’s reboot of old trade routes—Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s signature foreign-policy initiative, known as One Belt, One Road—was designed to link Chinese companies with overseas markets. Four years on, it is emerging as the cornerstone of China’s bid to be the guarantor of globalization at a time when protectionist winds are blowing abroad. Chinese state media have described the project as a “wide and open avenue for all.” For all the hype, a relatively modest share of the major infrastructure investments pledged by China have become reality.
China’s $246 Billion Foreign Buying Spree is Unraveling
Jack Sidders and Vinicy Chan, BLOOMBERG
China’s biggest-ever foreign acquisition frenzy is ending almost as dramatically as it began. After stunning the world with a record $246 billion of announced outbound takeovers in 2016, Chinese dealmakers are now struggling to cope with tighter capital controls and increasingly wary counter-parties. Cross-border purchases plunged 67 percent during the first four months of this year, the biggest drop for a comparable period since the depths of the global financial crisis in 2009. Analysts see few signs of a rebound as Chinese regulators make it difficult for acquirers to move money overseas. Foreign sellers have also thrown up new hurdles after getting spooked by a string of canceled deals. Some are forcing suitors to pay unusually large penalties if offers fall through, while others are shunning Chinese bids in favor of lower-priced offers from elsewhere.
Stunning Photos Reveal What Childhood in North Korea is Really Like
Chris Weller, BUSINESS INSIDER
Childhood is a precious time in human life, so it can be jarring to see kids working in fields or blindly supporting dictators. But if you’re one of the 5.3 million children under the age of 14 in North Korea, that’s the reality of growing up. Kids learn to love the country’s grisly history, from its founder, Kim Il-sung, all the way to its present ruler, Kim Jong-un. They may learn popular art forms like music and illustration, but it’s often in the pursuit of promoting the country’s political will.
North Korea Looking for Culprits Behind Alleged Plot to Kill Kim Jong-un
North Korea is pursuing the extradition of anyone who participated in what the country has claimed to be a CIA-supported plot to kill leader Kim Jong-un. The plan, which the secretive regime claimed it thwarted, was to kill the dictator with a biochemical poison, a North Korean foreign ministry official said. Pyongyang provided no concrete evidence of the alleged plot, described as “vicious” according to a BBC translation. But Han Song-ryol, the vice foreign minister of the country, still called a meeting of foreign diplomats in Pyongyang on Thursday to discuss the claim that the CIA and South Korea teamed up to convince a North Korean man to join the assassination plot, which they said was set for April.
“You’re Just Meat” – Ukrainian Soldiers Get Chilling Texts
Raphael Satter, ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Associated Press has found that Ukrainian soldiers are being bombarded by text messages likely dispatched by cell site simulators. Some are crude threats, while others play on allegations that Ukraine’s billionaire president, Petro Poroshenko, sometimes nicknamed Parasha, is lining his pockets as soldiers fight in the field. Several of the roughly four dozen messages collected by AP and other journalists and activists carried spelling mistakes typical of Russian speakers trying to write in Ukrainian. Others came from nonsensical numbers (such as 77777) or were sent at impossible times (such as the year 1995), hinting at electronic fakery. A few even tried to mimic payment alerts in a bid to trick soldiers into thinking their accounts were being emptied by their commanders.
CIA Establishes Mission Center Focused on North Korea
Max Greenwood, THE HILL
The CIA has opened a mission center focused on curbing North Korea’s advancing weapons program. “Creating the Korea Mission Center allows us to more purposefully integrate and direct CIA efforts against the serious threats to the United States and its allies emanating from North Korea,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “It also reflects the dynamism and agility that CIA brings to evolving national security challenges.” A veteran CIA operations officer allegedly has been tapped to lead the mission center as the assistant director of Korea, though the agency did not give the officer’s name.
Rising Use of Military Tribunals Alarms Venezuela Activists
Christine Armario and Fabiola Sanchez, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Human rights activists say more than 250 detained protesters have been put before military justice over the last week—a sudden upsurge in use of a practice they say violates Venezuela’s constitution, which limits military courts to “offenses of a military nature.” Some lawyers and opposition leaders put the number far higher. Many rights activists see the increasing reliance on military tribunals to try civilian protesters as an echo of the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s, when military dictatorships in Chile, Brazil and elsewhere bypassed civilian jurisdictions to prosecute political opponents accused of being national security threats tied to international communism.
Venezuelans Are Flooding Into Columbia—And It’s Starting to Feel Like a Refugee Crisis
David Noriega, VICE NEWS
A half-hour before dawn, the pedestrian bridges that connect the Venezuelan towns of San Antonio and Ureña with the Colombian city of Cúcuta begin to fill with people. The traffic is circular, as it has been for years, with large numbers crossing in both directions—but those headed into Colombia are greater in number. Venezuelans crossing the border are easily distinguished by their luggage. Many drag rolling suitcases behind them, bulging at the edges; others lug duffel bags and cardboard boxes on their shoulders. Some even have their cats and dogs in pet carriers. In January, 47,095 Venezuelans entered Colombia, more than double the number from January of last year. Some 21,000 of them crossed into Norte de Santander, the state of which Cúcuta is the capital. Here and at other points along the nearly 1,400-mile border, the situation is beginning to feel like a refugee crisis.