Chinese Delegation Blows Up at Anti-Conflict Diamond Meeting to Sideline Taiwan
Robbie Gramer, FOREIGN POLICY
Australia kick-started an international meeting on conflict diamonds with an indigenous-themed welcome ceremony. It was supposed to be a nice touch to give its international visitors a quintessentially Aussie welcome, but the official Chinese delegation threw protocol and respect out the window. As a senior Australian official began to introduce the ceremony, the Chinese delegation hijacked the microphone and loudly interrupted. They were incensed a Taiwanese delegation was invited to the four-day meeting in Perth. The dust-up didn’t stop there. African delegations loudly aligned with China, prompting Australia to scrap the panel altogether.
China Gets Rare Rebuke from North Korea for “Betrayal”
Jeff Daniels, CNBC
North Korea’s official news agency jumped into overdrive Wednesday, accusing China of fomenting trouble and outright “betrayal.” “China should no longer recklessly try to test the limitations of our patience,” said the commentary released by the state’s Korean Central News Agency. The KCNA agency added, “We have so devotedly helped the Chinese revolution and suffered enormous damage.” It said China has regularly “infringed upon the strategic interests” in becoming closer to the US and thus committed a “betrayal” in the process. The rare rebuke from Pyongyang’s official mouthpiece follows President Donald Trump’s warming ties to Chinese Communist Party Leader Xi Jinping.
Religion is Alive and Thriving in Officially Atheist China
The communists who took the reins in China in 1949 viewed religion as backward and superstitious. Authorities did their best to wipe out religious life. And by the end of the 1970s, they’d been very successful. “There were basically no functioning places of worship in the entire country. This is a place that had over one million temples and scores of churches and thousands of mosques,” says Ian Johnson, the author of the new book The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao. “They were all closed down or destroyed.” But these days, Johnson says, religion has not only survived in modern China, it’s thriving. “(Karl) Marx said that religion was the opiate of the masses, and sometimes I think that the (Chinese) government is a little cynical and thinks, ‘Yeah maybe it is the opiate of the masses, but for us, now, we’ll use it as the opiate to keep the people in line.'”
Tibetan Protesters’ Home Villages Harassed by Chinese Security Troops
RADIO FREE ASIA
Chinese paramilitary police and work teams have forcefully moved into Tibetan-populated counties of Sichuan in reaction to self-immolation protests staged in March and April. “Following these incidents, Chinese paramilitary forces and other workers were deployed to the home towns and villages of the protesters and to Kardze town itself,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The workers called community members to a meeting and conducted patriotic reeducation workshops for them,” the source said, adding, “The movements of Tibetans were also restricted, adding to tensions in the area.” Authorities have also increased their scrutiny of online communications and the use of social media by Tibetan residents.
Raúl Castro’s Daughter Says Would Not Want to Be Cuban President
Sarah Marsh, REUTERS
With Cuban President Raúl Castro set to step down next year, his daughter Mariela Castro said on Wednesday she would never want to be a contender for the presidency, but that there was room for surprises in the succession process. Raúl, 85, who took the reins from his older brother, the late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, has said he will step down in February 2018 at the end of a second five-year term. His heir apparent is Cuba’s First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel, 57, and experts say the latter would have to stumble badly for someone else to leapfrog him in Cuba’s arcane system for choosing its leader. Still, speculation there could be other candidates is rife on the Communist-ruled island.
Russia Resumes Oil Shipments to Cuba, Helps Fill Venezuela Breach
Marc Frank, REUTERS
Russia has begun shipping large quantities of oil to Cuba for the first time this century, as supplies to the island from crisis-wracked Venezuela have dwindled. A Russian oil tanker with 249,000 barrels of refined products is due to arrive in Cuba on May 10, according to Reuters, bringing back memories of when the Soviet Union supplied all of the Communist-run Caribbean island’s energy needs. More tankers apparently will follow. Rosneft, Russia’s state oil company, announced on Wednesday it had signed an agreement with Cuba’s state-run Cubametals to supply 250,000 tonnes of oil and diesel fuel, without providing further details.
North Korea Confirms Detention of Tony Kim, an American Teacher
Choe Sang-hun, THE NEW YORK TIMES
North Korea confirmed on Wednesday that it was holding an American citizen, saying the man was being held for committing “hostile criminal acts with an aim to subvert the country.” The dispatch by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, was its first official confirmation of the arrest in late April of Kim Sang-duk, who also goes by his American name, Tony Kim. Law enforcement officials were investigating Mr. Kim’s crime, KCNA said. It gave no further details. Mr. Kim was detained at the airport in the capital, Pyongyang, on April 22 while he was trying to leave the country. His arrest raised the number of Americans thought to be held by the secretive nation to three.
North Korean Defector Disowned by Family in Pyongyang
Will Ripley and Tim Schwarz, CNN
Thae Yong Ho says he defected from North Korea for the future of his family. His sister says it makes him a “rotten scumbag… not even an animal.” Thae, the former deputy ambassador at the North Korean embassy in the United Kingdom, became the highest-ranking defector in nearly 20 years when he left his post last year. He told CNN he defected because he could not miss the opportunity to “cut off this slavery chain” for his sons. But Thae, who fled with his wife and children, worried about his family back home. Relatives of defectors are often sent to prison camps or used by the regime as propaganda tools. “Kim Jong-un abuses even the love between parents and children,” Thae said. But back in North Korea, Tae Ok Ran, Thae’s sister, calls that answer “100% evil propaganda.”
Venezuelans Are Losing Weight Amid Food Shortages, Skyrocketing Prices
Stefano Pozzebon and Patrick Gillespie, CNNMoney
Mariana Mejias can’t afford to buy a bag of rice in Venezuela. She lives in Mariche, an extremely poor neighborhood in the country’s capital, Caracas, which suffers from severe food and medical shortages like the rest of the country. If the government doesn’t provide a subsidized monthly bag of food, Mejias would go hungry. Skyrocketing prices have made food at her local market prohibitive. The monthly food bag, worth 10,000 bolivares ($2.25), includes rice, milk, pasta, beans and a few other items. Venezuela’s socialist government raised the minimum wage 60 percent on Sunday to 200,021 bolivares ($45) a month, including food stamps. But that won’t buy much at the supermarket.
Venezuelan Leaders Welcome New US Sanctions, Say Washington’s Role is Pivotal
As the political crisis in Venezuela intensifies by the day, sinking it further into social and financial turmoil, a group of US senators filed legislation on Wednesday toughening sanctions against corrupt officials and providing financial assistance to the starving country. The bill would provide $10 million in humanitarian aid, require the State Department to coordinate a regional effort to ease the crisis, and ask US intelligence to report on the involvement of Venezuelan government officials in corruption and the drug trade. US officials have long been reluctant to be too vocal about Venezuela, but political analysts and opposition leaders say Washington’s role is now decisive.