China police detain gay activists after Xian event canceled
U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT
Police in China’s northwestern city of Xian briefly detained nine gay activists, saying the city did not welcome gay people, after they tried to organize a gay rights conference there, one of the activists told Reuters on Wednesday. The move came as China’s gay community has been celebrating Taiwan’s recent decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry, a first for Asia, and amid a broader clampdown on civil society and rights activism under President Xi Jinping. The event organized by the Chinese group Speak Out was to have started on Sunday, but police took away nine of the organizers early that morning and questioned them for several hours before letting them go, an organizer who gave his name only as Matthew told Reuters.
Plight of activists detained at Chinese factory making Ivanka Trump shoes is “nothing new”
Charlie Campbell, TIME
The arrest and disappearance of activists investigating alleged labor violations at a factory producing Ivanka Trump branded shoes has shone a spotlight on worker conditions in China, though rights groups warn that arbitrary detentions are exceedingly common, possibly involving multiple big name brands that many Americans own right now. On Tuesday, the New York-based NGO China Labor Watch (CLW) revealed that one of its team had been arrested and two others had gone missing during an investigation of Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co., which makes shoes carrying the name of US President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter. The firm has plants in the southern Chinese manufacturing hubs of Dongguan and Ganzhou.
Tibetan social media draw Chinese police attention after self-immolations
Kunsang Tenzin, RADIO FREE ASIA
A recent surge in self-immolation protests by Tibetans living in western Chinese provinces has brought a clampdown by authorities on internet communications, with police regularly monitoring social media sites for evidence of news-sharing outside the area, Tibetan sources say. Many have now been detained for reporting politically sensitive developments with media contacts outside China, one former political prisoner told RFA’s Tibetan Service. “The authorities are watching and investigating, and recently took some individuals into custody,” RFA’s source said, speaking from Sichuan on condition of anonymity.
Agricultural exports to Cuba would help compensate those whose properties were seized
Nora Gamez Torres, MIAMI HERALD
The congressional battle between lawmakers from farming states and Cuban American colleagues on funding food exports to Cuba could be coming to an end thanks to an “elegant” solution that is part of proposed legislation: a two percent user fee on agricultural products sold to the island that would be used to compensate those who have certified claims of properties confiscated by the Cuban government. “We know there are a significant number of Cuban Americans who are aggrieved because they had their properties thieved years ago in the revolution,” said Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford, the bill’s sponsor. “We have come out with a vehicle by which they actually receive compensation, which is a key component of the legislation.
Americans are visiting Cuba, but not in the numbers expected
Kris Van Cleave, CBS
It’s been nearly a year since direct commercial flights began from the US to Cuba—and Americans are making trips to the communist nation long off-limits, but not in the numbers expected. US carriers rushed to launch service to Cuba in August after the U.S. government approved 110 daily non-stops. But many are already cutting back. Collin Laverty, who runs Cuba Educational Travel, which organizes high-end tours, addressed a possible gold rush that never happened. “I think a lot of that has to do with confusion about the legality,” Laverty said. “Once you book your ticket what do you do? How do you book a hotel, how do you book a tour? What support system is there here? There’s a lot of confusion. It’s a tough country to navigate.”
North Korea is helping China in the South China Sea—whether it knows it or not
Steve Mollman, QUARTZ
Like most of the world, China is fed up with North Korea, which just conducted its third missile test in three weeks, in defiance of international pressure. The unpleasant neighbor is steadily progressing toward its goal: the ability to hit much of the world, including the US mainland, with nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. But, for Beijing, North Korea’s saber-rattling does serve one useful purpose: It distracts attention from the contested South China Sea. Last year, the world fretted over China’s territorial aggression in that resource-rich waterway, with critics warning it could become virtually a “Chinese lake.” Beijing claims nearly the entire sea, based on what an international tribunal ruled last July to be bogus reasoning, both legally and historically.
Russia’s thorny relationship with democracy
Naphtali Rivkin, NEW EASTERN EUROPE
The assassination of Boris Nemtsov in front of the Kremlin on February 27, 2015 marked the first time since the execution of Lavrentiy Beria in 1953 that a viable contender for Russian power was summarily eliminated. Nemtsov’s murder is emblematic and symptomatic of an increasingly bold authoritarianism in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Russia has never been a democracy, but for a fleeting generation, its governing system was in a democratizing flux.
US shale, trade and sanctions worry Russian Finance minister as economy gets back on track
Geoff Cutmore and Alexandra Gibbs, CNBC
“We see that the Russian economy has started to develop at a higher rate. It has come out of recession this year and we anticipate annual growth of around two percent,” Anton Siluanov, finance minister for Russia, told CNBC Tuesday. This picture, however, wasn’t as buoyant back in 2015, when Russia was struggling to get itself out of a recession and was trying to remain steady despite a sharp decline in the oil price. Sanctions continue to dwell on the country’s economic and political future, after the European Union and the US imposed sanctions on the nation, when it annexed Crimea from Ukraine back in 2014, and then allegedly backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Venezuela socialists met shaming, protests on trips abroad
Adriana Gomez Licon and Joshua Goodman, MIAMI HERALD
Javier Fungairino was eating breakfast with his son at a bakery one recent morning when he noticed a familiar face at a nearby table: a former minister of Venezuela’s socialist government whose presence reminded him of the pain he suffered when he left his homeland for Miami three years ago. Immediately, an angry mob of scolding Venezuelan exiles surrounded the former head of state-run Banco de Venezuela, shouting “Rat!” and “Get out, thief!” until Vasquez and another man with him fled. Public shamings are becoming more frequent. Whether it’s attending the opera in New York or strolling along a beach in Australia, current and former Venezuelan government officials are finding it harder to enjoy the good life abroad while an increasingly violent power struggle plays out back home.
Activists urge Trump to press visiting Vietnam PM Phuc on rights
RADIO FREE ASIA
Vietnamese human rights and religious freedom activists have appealed to the Trump administration to take up the cases of jailed colleagues when Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc visits the White House on Wednesday. Phuc, who will be the first Southeast Asian leader to meet US President Donald Trump, is believed to be seeking a bilateral trade pact to replace the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would have reduced tariffs for Vietnamese exports to the United States but was scrapped by Trump. Hanoi also seeks enhanced security cooperation with Washington in the face of expansive Chinese territorial claims and artificial island building in the South China Sea.
Vietnam to sign deals for up to $17 billion in US goods, services
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said on Tuesday he would sign deals for U.S. goods and services worth $15 billion to $17 billion during his visit to Washington, D.C., mainly for high technology products and for services. “Vietnam will increase the import of high technologies and services from the United States, and on the occasion of this visit, many important deals will be made,” Phuc told a US Chamber of Commerce dinner. Phuc, who is due to meet with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday at the end of a three-day visit to the United States, did not provide any further details of the transactions.