Hong Kong Moves Ahead With Trial Of Nine Pro-Democracy Protesters
RADIO FREE ASIA
Nine prominent figures of Hong Kong’s 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement warned of possible violations of their civil rights as their trial date was set for June 15, more than two years after the event. The former protest leaders will face charges of incitement to public disorder, conspiracy to create a public nuisance, and other public order offenses. The three initiators of the 79-day civil disobedience movement—professors Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man, and reverend Chu Yiu-ming—said they are still deciding how to plead. “If they use our articles and speeches… as evidence against us, and are successful, then it will certainly damage our freedom of expression and other civil rights.” Hong Kong was promised the continuation of its traditional freedoms of speech and association by a mini-constitution drafted by UK and Chinese officials ahead of the 1997 handover to Chinese rule.
Why China Is So Afraid of Chinese Students in the United States
John Pomfret, THE WASHINGTON POST
In 1944, amidst a crackdown on liberal dissent at home, the government of China launched a program to ensure the ideological purity of Chinese students studying in the United States. The government ordered that all students planning to go to the United States be first checked for political reliability and authorized Chinese officials in the United States to monitor the students and report back to China. In the spring of 1944, American reporters got wind of the story, and the outcry was swift. The New York Times editorialized that the program appeared “totalitarian.” When a Chinese government spokesman defended the program, he only made matters worse. The Chinese government was not indoctrinating its people, he claimed—it was just teaching them table manners. The US press howled in disbelief. Here we are 73 years later, and it seems that not much has changed. Recent events involving Chinese students in the United States highlight that American ideas remain a source of anxiety to authorities in China.
China Hitches Yuan to the Dollar, Buying Rare Calm
Lingling Wei and Saumya Vaishampayan, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
China’s central bank is effectively anchoring the yuan to the dollar, a policy twist that has helped stabilize the currency in a year of political transition and market jitters about China’s economic management. The yuan weakened more than six percent against the dollar in 2016; this year, it is up roughly one percent, and the expectation that the currency will fluctuate—a gauge known as implied volatility—is around its lowest in nearly two years. The newfound tranquility may not last: the focus seen in recent weeks on stability against the dollar, whether it goes up or down, means pressure on the yuan to weaken could get dangerously bottled up, potentially bring bouts of sharp devaluation.
While Tourists Drink Water Out Of A Bottle, Cubans Ration and Boil A Limited Supply
Briana Erickson, THE MIAMI HERALD
Cuba seems like a water-rich country, with abundant rainfall, rivers crisscrossing the island and groundwater that bubbles up in turquoise springs. But it has always struggled to provide enough fresh water for its people. Part of the problem is that the water isn’t where the people are. While Cuba’s capital city is in the wetter western part of the country, its population of over 2.1 million means that it has less water per capita than many other regions. Atop distribution problems, Havana and other parts of the nation also lack sufficient infrastructure and water-quality treatment. The strain has worsened in recent years due to drought.
North Korea Calls South Korea’s Border Firing Reckless Provocation
North Korea on Thursday accused South Korea of firing 450 machine gun rounds at a flock of birds earlier this week, dismissing as a fabrication Seoul’s claim that it had fired warning shots because of an object flying across their border. The North’s General Staff said the South’s firing is a “reckless military provocation” aimed at promoting hostility toward Pyongyang and maintaining confrontation on the Korean Peninsula. It was also a “stopgap measure to check the war-weariness sweeping the puppet army in the face of the rapidly developing nuclear and ballistic rocket technology” of North Korea, the General Staff said in a statement carried by state media. It said North Korea will closely watch how South Korea’s “confrontation hysteria” would develop.
Taiwan Holds War Games Simulating Chinese Island Attack
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Taiwan’s military practiced repelling a simulated Chinese assault on an outlying island group on Thursday as part of annual military drills addressing the threat from across the Taiwan Strait. Units from the army, navy and air force were deployed for the drills on the Penghu islands. They featured tanks, rocket launchers, assault helicopters and soldiers using shoulder-fired missiles to repel a force invading from across the 160-kilometer (100 mile) wide strait. Warships maneuvered offshore and fighter jets deployed flares. The drills come amid heightened tensions with China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen observed the drills wearing a helmet and flak jacket and said they would improve command and cooperation between the different branches of the military.
For First Time Under Trump, US Challenges China in Disputed Waters
China protested a US Navy patrol that sent a guided missile destroyer near a group of man-made islands in the South China Sea on Thursday, in the first American challenge to Beijing’s claims to the waters since President Trump took office. China’s Defense Ministry told reporters that it had sought an explanation with US officials over the incident, which involved the USS Dewey and took place around Mischief Reef, one of a chain of artificial islands China has built and fortified to assert its claims over the strategic waterway. The Dewey came within six miles of the reef. A Chinese frigate shadowed the American warship during its passage, and two other Chinese vessels were in vicinity. CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports the Dewey was challenged 23 times by the Chinese vessel over the radio. The Dewey’s crew responded with standard language identifying their vessel, and stating that it was operating in international waters.
South Carolina US Rep. Joe Wilson Looks To Cut Off American Tourism Travel To North Korea
Schuyler Kropf, THE POST AND COURIER
South Carolina Republican US Rep. Joe Wilson has introduced a bill that would require the Treasury Department to issue a mandatory license for travel to and from North Korea. The measure provides that no licenses can be issued for tourist travel. “Tourist travel to North Korea does nothing but provide funds to a tyrannical regime—that will in turn be used to develop weapons to threaten the United States and our allies, as I saw firsthand on a rare visit to Pyongyang,” Wilson said in media release. “Worse, the regime has routinely imprisoned innocent foreign civilians and used them as bargaining chips to gain credibility with the West. We should not enable them any longer, which is why it is critical to carefully regulate travel to North Korea.” The bill was co-authored by California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff.
Top Venezuela Prosecutor Says Protestor Killed by Police
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Venezuela’s chief prosecutor has further distanced herself from the socialist administration, deepening the widest rift in a government that has otherwise presented a united front against six weeks of protests. Public Prosecutor Luisa Ortega said a 20-year-old protester had been killed by a tear gas canister fired by state security forces, giving a version of events that contradicted others in the administration who have strenuously denied state forces were involved. Those officials said the protester was killed either by fellow demonstrators or criminals trying to make the government look bad. Late Wednesday, Ortega announced that she was opening seven investigations into civilians who have been detained by military tribunals as a result of the anti-government protests. She said trials of civilians by military authorities violate the country’s constitution. State-run television usually carries the speeches of government officials, but did not broadcast the one by Ortega.
Death Toll In Venezuela Protest Violence Rises to 56
Merry Mogollon and Chris Kraul, LOS ANGELES TIMES
The death toll from nearly eight weeks of Venezuelan street protests rose to 56 on Wednesday after three opponents of President Nicolás Maduro were reported killed by gunfire in Barinas state, the birthplace of late President Hugo Chávez. Violent clashes between demonstrators and police and national guardsmen trying to contain the protests have been reported across the country, with more than 1,000 reported injured and 2,700 arrested, according to the civil society group Penal Forum. The rising toll and the use of firearms by armed forces in most of the killings provoked claims by Maduro opponents that the government is using excessive force. With eight reported deaths since the demonstrations became almost a daily routine, Barinas state and its capital of the same name have become a focal point of ongoing violent clashes.