Showing posts with label World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World. Show all posts
31 May 2021

A Chinese Billionaire Dies Every 40 Days

Unnatural deaths have taken the lives of 72 mainland billionaires over the past 8 years...15 were murdered, 17 committed suicide, 7 died from accidents and 19 from illness. 14 were executed. (Welcome to China.)"

By Ray Kwong

Apparently, one Chinese billionaire dies every 40 days: enjoy it while you can.

UPDATE: Chinese nationals aren't the only ones getting in on the China action, writes Business Insider. Tons of foreigners have also come to China to make their fortunes, and many have succeeded. Meet 11 billionaire foreigners here (slide show).

I'm no statistics whiz, but it seems to me that a Chinese billionaire dies every 40 days.

China Daily reported Friday that unnatural deaths have taken the lives of 72 mainland billionaires over the past eight years. (Do the math.)

Which means that if you're one of China's 115 current billionaires, as listed on the 2011 Forbes Billionaires List, you should be more than a little nervous.

Mortality rate notwithstanding, what's more disturbing is how these mega wealthy souls met their demise. According to China Daily, 15 were murdered, 17 committed suicide, seven died from accidents and 19 died from illness. Oh, yes, and 14 were executed. (Welcome to China.)

I don't know about you but I find it somewhat improbable that among such a small population there could be so many "suicides," "accidents" and "death by disease" (the average age of those who died from illness was only 48). I'm only speculating but the homicide toll could really be much higher.

Any way you look at it, of course, the life expectancy for the current crop of Chinese billionaires isn't pretty.

In Mexico, cartels are hunting down police at their homes

FILE - In this Feb. 10, 2020 file photo, a policeman drives past town hall in Apaseo El Alto, Guanajuato state, Mexico. The notoriously violent Jalisco cartel has responded to Mexico's “hugs, not bullets” policy with a policy of their own: the cartel kidnapped in mid-May 2021, several members of an elite police force in the state of Guanajuato, tortured them to obtain names and addresses of fellow officers, and are now hunting down and killing police at their homes, on their days off, in front of their families. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 10, 2020 file photo, a policeman drives past town hall in Apaseo El Alto, Guanajuato state, Mexico. The notoriously violent Jalisco cartel has responded to Mexico's “hugs, not bullets” policy with a policy of their own: the cartel kidnapped in mid-May 2021, several members of an elite police force in the state of Guanajuato, tortured them to obtain names and addresses of fellow officers, and are now hunting down and killing police at their homes, on their days off, in front of their families. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The notoriously violent Jalisco cartel has responded to Mexico’s “hugs, not bullets” policy with a policy of its own: The cartel kidnapped several members of an elite police force in the state of Guanajuato, tortured them to obtain names and addresses of fellow officers and is now hunting down and killing police at their homes, on their days off, in front of their families.

It is a type of direct attack on officers seldom seen outside of the most gang-plagued nations of Central America and poses the most direct challenge yet to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s policy of avoiding violence and rejecting any war on the cartels.

But the cartel has already declared war on the government, aiming to eradicate an elite state force known as the Tactical Group which the gang accuses of treating its members unfairly.

“If you want war, you’ll get a war. We have already shown that we know where you are. We are coming for all of you,” reads a professionally printed banner signed by the cartel and hung on a building in Guanajuato in May.


“For each member of our firm (CJNG) that you arrest, we are going to kill two of your Tacticals, wherever they are, at their homes, in their patrol vehicles,” the banner read, referring to the cartel by its Spanish initials.

Officials in Guanajuato — Mexico’s most violent state, where Jalisco is fighting local gangs backed by the rival Sinaloa cartel — refused to comment on how many members of the elite group have been murdered so far.

But state police publicly acknowledged the latest case, an officer who was kidnapped from his home on Thursday, killed and his body dumped on a highway.

Guanajuato-based security analyst David Saucedo said there have been many cases.

“A lot of them (officers) have decided to desert. They took their families, abandoned their homes and they are fleeing and in hiding,” Saucedo said. “The CJNG is hunting the elite police force of Guanajuato.”

Numbers of victims are hard to come by, but Poplab, a news cooperative in Guanajuato, said at least seven police officers have been killed on their days off so far this year. In January, gunmen went to the home of a female state police officer, killed her husband, dragged her away, tortured her and dumped her bullet-ridden body.

Guanajuato has had the highest number of police killed of any Mexican state since at least 2018, according to Poplab. Between 2018 and May 12, a total of 262 police have been killed, or an average of about 75 officers each year — more than are killed by gunfire or other assaults on average each year in the entire United States, which has 50 times Guanajuato’s population.

The problem in Guanajuato has gotten so bad that the state government published a special decree on May 17 to provide an unspecified amount of funding for protection mechanisms for police and prison officials.

“Unfortunately, organized crime groups have shown up at the homes of police officers, which poses a threat and a greater risk of loss of life, not just for them, but for members of their families,” according to the decree.

“They have been forced to quickly leave their homes and move, so that organized crimes groups cannot find them,” it reads.

State officials refused to describe the protection measures, or comment on whether officers were to be paid to rent new homes, or if there were plans to construct special secure housing compounds for them and their families.

“This is an open war against the security forces of the state government,” Saucedo noted.

López Obrador campaigned on trying to deescalate the drug conflict, describing a “hugs, not bullets” approach to tackle the root causes of crime. Since taking office in late 2018, he has avoided openly confronting cartels, and even released one capo to avoid bloodshed, saying he preferred a long-range policy of addressing social problems like youth unemployment that contribute to gang membership.

But former U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau said in April that López Obrador views the fight against drug cartels “as a distraction ... So he has basically adopted an agenda of a pretty laissez-faire attitude towards them, which is pretty troubling to our government, obviously.”

29 April 2021

Myanmar Guerrillas Capture Gov’t Base; Airstrikes Follow

In this image made from video by the Transborder News, smoke rises from a Myanmar Army camp near the border of Myanmar and Thailand Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Ethnic Karen guerrillas said they captured a Myanmar army base Tuesday in what represents a morale-boosting action for those opposing the military's takeover of the country's civilian government in February. (Transborder News via AP)

BANGKOK (AP) — Ethnic Karen guerrillas said they captured a Myanmar army base on Tuesday near the border with Thailand, representing a morale-boosting action for those opposing the military’s takeover of the country’s civilian government in February.

Myanmar’s military staged airstrikes several hours later on villages in territory controlled by the Karen forces, according to a guerrilla spokesman, a senior Thai official and a relief worker.

The fighting took place three days after a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders to try to hammer out a plan to restore peace in Myanmar, where the military government has attempted to suppress widespread opposition to its rule through the use of lethal force. More then 700 protesters and bystanders have been killed by security forces, according to several detailed estimates. The junta’s figure is about one-third of that.

A spokesman for the Karen National Union, the minority’s main political group seeking greater autonomy from Myanmar’s central government, said its armed wing attacked the base at 5 a.m. and burned it down just after dawn.

Casualty figures were not yet known, the KNU’s head of foreign affairs, Padoh Saw Taw Nee, said in a text message. There was no immediate comment from Myanmar’s military government.


The KNU, which controls territory in eastern Myanmar near the Thai border, is a close ally of the resistance movement against the military coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Its armed wing is called the Karen National Liberation Army.

Video shot from the Thai side of the border showed flames rising from the government position on the banks of the Salween River amid the sound of heavy gunfire. The river marks the border with Thailand.

Padoh Man Man of the KNLA’s 5th Brigade, which launched the morning attack, said Myanmar’s military carried out airstrikes in the early afternoon, but he did not know how many casualties there were. He described the air raids as a “heinous war crime” and called for the international community to pressure the junta to stop them.

Sithichai Jindaluang, the governor of Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province, confirmed at a news conference that Karen guerrillas had overrun the Myanmar base and said a woman on Thai soil was wounded by a stray bullet. He said about 450 villagers have been evacuated from Mae Sam Lap for their own safety.

Sithichai also said a Myanmar military aircraft later bombed a Karen village.

Dave Eubank of the Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian aid group with extensive experience in the area, said he could confirm there had been airstrikes on Karen villages in Papun district. He said five bombs were dropped but caused no casualties. Myanmar’s army was also staging ground attacks in the area, Eubank said.

Fighting between the KNU’s armed wing and Myanmar’s military has been intense since February.

Myanmar jets have bombed and strafed Karen villages since March 27, and its army has deployed new battalions to the area, in possible preparation for a large-scale offensive.

Up to 25,000 villagers have fled their homes and are hiding in jungles and caves, according to Eubank.

In response, the KNLA has kept up guerrilla attacks on Myanmar patrols and bases. The KNU has also given shelter to activists against military rule who have fled the government’s crackdown on the resistance movement in the cities.

There is a similar situation in northern Myanmar, where the Kachin minority says it has captured several government outposts and has been the target of air attacks.

The Karen and the Kachin are two of the bigger minority groups that have been seeking greater autonomy for decades, during which there have been periods of armed conflict punctuated by cease-fires.

The city-based resistance movement against the ruling junta has wooed the ethnic guerrilla groups in hopes that they can form a federal army as a counterweight to the government’s armed forces. A parallel National Unity Government established by elected lawmakers prevented from taking their seats by the army has appointed representatives of several minority groups to ministerial posts.

On Tuesday, a flash mob of anti-military protesters surged through an area of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, for the second successive day to show fleeting but unyielding defiance of the ruling junta.

Such open protests have become less frequent since a brutal crackdown by the security forces began, but activity has picked up following Saturday’s meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, with junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing in attendance.

The meeting prompted some guarded optimism after it issued a statement reporting a “five-point consensus” on Myanmar’s crisis. It called for the immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue among all concerned parties, mediation of the dialogue process by an ASEAN special envoy, provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels, and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet all concerned parties.

However, a statement from the junta about the meeting published in Tuesday’s state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper made no mention of the consensus statement. It emphasized that Myanmar would “give careful consideration to constructive suggestions made by ASEAN Leaders when the situation returns to stability in the country since priorities at the moment were to maintain law and order and to restore community peace and tranquility.”

Sri Lanka cabinet approves proposed ban on burqas in public


Citing national security concerns, the Buddhist-majority island nation’s cabinet clears proposal to ban full-face veils in public.

A burqa-clad Sri Lankan Muslim woman in the capital, Colombo [File: Eranga Jayawardena/AP]
A burqa-clad Sri Lankan Muslim woman in the capital, Colombo [File: Eranga Jayawardena/AP]
Sri Lanka’s cabinet has approved a proposed ban on wearing full-face veils including Muslim burqas in public, citing national security grounds, despite a United Nations expert’s comment that it would violate international law.

The cabinet approved the proposal by Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekera at its weekly meeting on Tuesday, Weerasekera said on his Facebook page.

The proposal will now be sent to the Attorney General’s Department and must be approved by parliament to become law.

The proposal could easily be passed as the government holds a majority in parliament.

Weerasekara has called burqas, a garment that covers the body and face worn by some Muslim women, a “sign of religious extremism” and said a ban would improve national security.

The wearing of burqas was temporarily banned in 2019 after Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks killed more than 260 people.

Two local Muslim groups that had pledged allegiance to the ISIL (ISIS) group were blamed for the attacks at six locations – two Roman Catholic churches, one Protestant church and three top hotels.

Last month, Pakistani Ambassador Saad Khattak tweeted that a ban would hurt the feelings of Muslims.

The UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Ahmed Shaheed tweeted that a ban would be incompatible with international law and the right to free religious expression.

Muslims make up about 9 percent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people, with Buddhists accounting for more than 70 percent. Ethnic-minority Tamils, who are mainly Hindus, comprise about 15 percent.

South Korea cancels Korea-China Culture Town project amid mounting anti-Chinese sentiment


  • Over 650,000 people signed an online petition against the project in Gangwon Province, despite officials repeatedly stating it was a cultural park, not a Chinatown
  • South Korean public sentiment against China has been growing in recent years, with an analyst warning this could damage diplomatic efforts to improve ties

Had it gone ahead, the Korea-China Culture Town would have been built on a site 10 times larger than the country’s most famous Chinatown in Incheon (pictured). Photo: APHad it gone ahead, the Korea-China Culture Town would have been built on a site 10 times larger than the country’s most famous Chinatown in Incheon (pictured). Photo: AP

A US$1 billion project to build a tourist district in South Korea has been scrapped due to mounting anti-Chinese sentiment sparked by an online petition wrongly depicting it as a Chinatown.

The decision came after what Gangwon Province head Choi Moon-soon said was a series of “fake news” allegations that taxpayers’ money would have been used to build a settlement town for Chinese immigrants – despite repeated clarifications that it was intended as a cultural park. “It is not a Chinatown,” the province had stated.

Kolon Global Corporation said on Monday it had cancelled the Korea-China Cultural Town project in the face of a fierce public ire sparked by the petition on the presidential Blue House website’s online petition page.

“The company acknowledges that the Korea-China Cultural Town cannot move forward any longer” despite “huge losses” the withdrawal would incur, it said in a notification to Gangwon Province.

Kolon Global said the project was not aimed at building a Chinatown as was claimed by the petitioner and some news reports, but a culture-themed district where tourists would be able to enjoy traditional and modern culture from both China and South Korea.

“Regardless of the truth and facts, we have no alternatives but pay heed to the voices of the 650,000 people who have signed the petition, because [South Korean] people are also clients who are no less important than foreign tourists,” it said.

Had it gone ahead, the Korea-China Culture Town would have been built by 2022 on a site 10 times larger than the country’s most famous Chinatown in Incheon city, west of Seoul.

It would have provided a range of facilities and attractions, including Korean style buildings, traditional Chinese gardens, a K-pop museum and a Korean Wave video display, “enabling mutual cultural exchanges between the two countries”, the province said.

But the clarifications failed to quell the rumours and soothe public anger, which was further stoked by further false reports that the province planned to bulldoze a prehistoric site to build hotels catering to Chinese tourists.

“Why should we create a little China on the soil of the Republic of Korea [South Korea],” read the online petition titled “Scrap the Chinatown Construction in Gangwon”.

“People don’t understand why we should provide chances for experiencing Chinese culture on our own land. Don’t yield any piece of our land to China,” said the petition which garnered a whopping 660,000 signatures since it was published on the Blue House website on March 29.

South Koreans in traditional hanbok attire visit Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul. Photo: EPA-EFE
South Koreans in traditional hanbok attire visit Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul. Photo: EPA-EFE

The hostility to what Gangwon was promoting as a cultural exchange venue reflected popular perceptions that China is engaged in “cultural imperialism against Korea”, said the Korea Joongang Daily.

The petitioner said Koreans were worrying they might lose their cultural identity to China’s attempts to “plunder” Korean traditional cultural heritage and distort history to include ancient Korean kingdoms that existed in Manchuria as part of China.

“It is time to confront China”, which keeps trying to steal our culture”, said the petitioner.

This could spark angry reactions from Chinese people, especially young online warriors, damaging diplomatic efforts to improve ties Professor Yoon Sung-suk

A different online petition posted on March 24 on the Blue House website condemned a new SBS TV history-themed fantasy series Chosun Exorcists as distorting historical facts and using props of Chinese origin such as mooncakes and specific home decorations.

It has secured some 250,000 signatures over the past month, forcing SBS to pull the plug on the series after airing only two episodes, incurring millions of dollars in losses.

“It is quite regrettable that public opinions have been trending in the wrong direction against truths and facts, forcing Kolon Global to abandon the project,” a Gangwon Province official told This Week in Asia.

‘That's my story’: Oscar-winning Minari resonates with South Korean farmers.

“Some Chinese people may see this incident as an epitome of anti-China sentiments in this country,” said Yoon Sung-suk, a political-science professor at Chonnam National University.

“This could spark angry reactions from Chinese people, especially young online warriors, damaging diplomatic efforts to improve ties.”

Public sentiment against an increasingly assertive China has been growing in the country in recent years, especially after China’s economic retaliation against South Korea over its 2016 deployment of the highly sophisticated US missile defence system known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).

Controversies over Korean food and clothing, and China’s purported attempts to distort history and “hijack” cultural heritage further stoked public anger, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic, compelling many young South Koreans and Chinese to denounce the other country online.

“Korea is becoming like a colony by the Chinese Communist Party … Politics, economy and culture are all commandeered by China,” tweeted one user.

But others voiced different opinions. “Chinatown in Gangwon Province turned out to be a fake news! Someone attempted to frame it up (as a community settlement for Chinese immigrants),” tweeted Kim Mi-kyoung.

Hong Kong Passes Law That Can Stop People Leaving

Bar association and activists decry Beijing-type immigration act with ‘exit ban’ powers

people waving goodbye at Hong Kong airport
There are fears that Hong Kong’s new law, which sailed through the legislature, gives the government unfettered powers on who comes in and out the territory. Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Hong Kong has passed a new immigration law that includes powers to stop people entering or leaving the city, raising fears of Chinese mainland-style “exit bans” in the international business hub.

The legislation sailed through a legislature now devoid of opposition, as Beijing has quashed dissent and sought to make the semi-autonomous city more like the authoritarian mainland after huge and often violent democracy protests.

Activists, lawyers and some business figures have sounded the alarm over provisions in the bill, including one allowing the city’s immigration chief to bar people from boarding planes to and from the city. No court order is required and there is no recourse to appeal. The city’s bar association (HKBA) said the bill’s wording gave “apparently unfettered power” to the immigration director.

Labour activists and legal critics said the legislature had ignored concerns about the law’s broad wording, and they feared exit bans could now be used in Hong Kong. “When they have this power, absolute power, you don’t know who they will use it on,” said one barrister, Chow Hang-tung, from the pro-democracy Hong Kong Alliance.

Hong Kong’s government said the immigration bill was needed to address a backlog of non-refoulement claims and to screen migrants travelling illegally before they left for the city. The security bureau said the bill would only apply to flights into Hong Kong.

However, the wording of the bill does not limit the government’s powers to those arriving in the territory or to immigrants, and legal experts say it could also be used against people trying to leave Hong Kong.

“Exit bans” are often used in mainland China against activists who challenge the authorities, and have also affected business figures. One example is Richard O’Halloran, an Irish national who has been prevented from leaving Shanghai for two years because of a legal dispute involving the Chinese owner of the Dublin-based company he works for.

Under Beijing’s direction, Hong Kong’s government has become more authoritarian since the 2019 protests. Faith in official assurances that the city is not becoming like the mainland has been rattled by the recent crackdown.

Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong last year, arguing it was needed for a return to stability and would not affect freedoms. But its broad wording and subsequent application has criminalised much dissent and radically transformed a once politically pluralistic city. Many of Hong Kong’s prominent pro-democracy figures have been arrested, detained or have fled overseas.

The city’s formerly raucous legislature has been cleared of pro-democracy opponents, who resigned en masse late last year after three of their colleagues were disqualified for their political views. Since then, the government has fast-tracked a number of laws with limited scrutiny and dissent in the legislature.

Wednesday’s immigration bill received 39 votes in favour and two against. It was passed shortly after lawmakers approved a budget in record time, with just one dissenting vote.

Beijing has also announced a new plan – nicknamed “patriots rule Hong Kong” – to vet anyone standing for office and reduce the number of directly elected seats in the legislature to a small minority.

Critics of the immigration bill say it will make it easier to detain and deport refugees. Hong Kong approves only about 1% of refugee claims, one of the lowest rates in the world, and there is a huge backlog. Refugees are not able to work while their applications are being processed and live in often miserable conditions.

26 April 2021

50,000 fans attend rock concert in COVID-free New Zealand

By Jesse O’Neill

As the rest of the world isolates, New Zealand rocks!

More than 50,000 people gathered for a massive rock concert in the island nation, which is free of social-distancing requirements after virtually stamping out COVID-19 with strict policies.

The band Six60 has been playing to huge crowds across the county, and its Saturday tour finale in Auckland’s biggest stadium was billed as the largest concert in the world since the pandemic began.

And it wasn’t just Kiwi rock fans who got to gather this weekend — with 78,113 fans packing into a stadium in neighboring Australia for an Aussie rules football match on Sunday.

The game, between the Collingwood Magpies and Essendon Bombers at the 100,000-seater Melbourne Cricket Ground, was the highest attendance at any sports stadium since the pandemic started.

Last year’s clash between the teams was played in an empty stadium, and fans roared back Sunday for the game that fell on Anzac Day, a day of remembrance in both Australia and New Zealand. It ended with a 109-85 win for Essendon.

Fans cheers as Six60 perform at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on April 24, 2021.

At the Six60 concert, the band honored military musicians and invited Maori performers to join them onstage for music sung in the indigenous language.

“We know what it’s like to be in lockdown. It sucked. And we didn’t know if we’d be able to play gigs again,” lead singer Matiu Walters said before the show. “But we are fortunate, for a few reasons, here in New Zealand.”

“It was amazing to see how fanatical people were, and excited about being out and seeing live music, and seeing something to drag them out of a long, brutal year,” Guitarist Ji Fraser said. “It was very special.”

A fan who lived in lockdown laden Britain during the past year found the experience to be dreamlike.

Maskless fans enjoyed a concert in COVID-free New Zealand on April 24, 2021.

“It’s very important for us as humans to be able to get together and sing the same songs together,” Lucy Clumpas said. “It makes us feel like we’re part of something,”

Not everyone was thrilled about the show at the large Eden Park rugby stadium, where concerts used to be banned.

Fans listen as New Zealand band Six60 perform at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on April 24, 2021.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said shows there would represent a “home invasion” of noise.

“But the people wanted it. And the people spoke,” Walters said, as he invited the PM to the next gig.

Six60 performs before a sea of fans at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on April 24, 2021.

“Six60 is for everyone. And maybe if she came and enjoyed herself, she’d have a change of heart.”

Only 26 people have died of the coronavirus in the nation of five million, according to Worldometer.

Armenians Celebrate Biden's Genocide Declaration as Furious Turkey Summons US Ambassador

By Christina Zhao

Armenia celebrated President Joe Biden's recognition of the massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide on Saturday, as Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador and strongly condemned the move.

"Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring," Biden said in a statement released on the annual Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

In acknowledging of the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide, Biden went further than his predecessors in the White House after years of careful language on the issue. The move risks fracturing America's relationship with Turkey, a longtime U.S. ally and NATO partner.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan sent Biden a letter praising his statement. "I highly appreciate your principled position, which is a powerful step on the way to acknowledging the truth, historical justice, and an invaluable of support for the descendants of the victims of the Armenian Genocide," Pashinyan wrote.

In a tweet, Armenian President Armen Sirkissian stated that the move "opens new prospects for US-Armenian relations. It also makes this world a better place!"

Meanwhile, officials in Turkey quickly denounced Biden's remarks and summoned the US Ambassador to Ankara.

In a statement, Turkey said its foreign minister, Sedat Onal, has told ambassador David Satterfield that Biden's remarks caused "wounds in ties that will be hard to repair." Onal also reportedly told Satterfield that Turkey "rejected it, found it unacceptable and condemned in the strongest terms."\

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, "We have lived together in peace in this land for centuries, we find peace under the shadow of our crescent and star flag."

Ankara acknowledges that many Armenians were killed amid clashes in the Ottoman Empire, but refutes the number of deceased and insists that the events should not be considered a genocide.

During his 2020 presidential race, Biden's campaign promised that if elected, "Joe will recognize the Armenian Genocide and make universal human rights a top priority for his administration so that such a tragedy can never occur again."

Earlier this week, a group of 100 bipartisan lawmakers signed a letter spearheaded by California Rep. Adam Schiff urging Biden to stand by his word and "recognize the Armenian Genocide."

Americans of Armenian descent also celebrated the move on Saturday. In an Instagram post, reality TV star Khloe Kardashian wrote, "Thank you for honoring the stories, the pain, suffering and loss of the Armenian people. Today we honor our ancestors on Armenian Remembrance Day."

20 April 2021

Report: China, Russia fueling QAnon conspiracy theories

Michael Isikoff
·Chief Investigative Correspondent
·5 min read
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images, Getty Images (3)
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images, Getty Images (3)

Foreign-based actors, principally in China and Russia, are spreading online disinformation rooted in QAnon conspiracy theories, fueling a movement that has become a mounting domestic terrorism threat, according to new analysis of online propaganda by a security firm.

The analysis by the Soufan Center, a New York-based research firm focused on national security threats, found that nearly one-fifth of 166,820 QAnon-related Facebook posts between January 2020 and the end of February 2021 originated from overseas administrators.

An advance copy of the report, which is being released today, was provided to Yahoo News.

“It’s very alarming,” said Jason Blazakis, a senior research fellow at the Soufan Center and a former State Department counterterrorism official who is one of the authors of the report. “We have enough problems without the amplification of conspiracy theories by foreign actors, and that foreign impact really does stir up a hornet’s nest.”

The report injects a new element into the debate about how to counter QAnon — a bizarre but increasingly widespread conspiracy movement that has pushed the idea that the U.S. government is secretly run by Satan worshipers involved in a global sex trafficking ring.

Speaking to lawmakers last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray expressed concern that the extremist nature of the movement could lead to violence, citing as an example the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. He said the bureau is preparing a formal “threat assessment” of QAnon that he expects to share with Congress “very shortly.”

QAnon conspiracy theorists hold signs and protest the California lockdown due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on May 01, 2020 in San Diego, California.  (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
QAnon conspiracy theorists protest the California coronavirus lockdown in May 2020 in San Diego. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Despite the outlandish nature of QAnon claims, the report also suggests that adherents to the movement’s conspiracy theories may be far more prevalent than some previous studies have shown. A new poll of 9,308 U.S. adults, conducted for the Soufan Center by Limbik, a data analytics firm, found that between 20 and 23 percent of respondents self-identified as a QAnon believer, member or supporter — figures far higher than in some earlier surveys.

The numbers became even higher when those polled were asked about specific issues that QAnon has emphasized. For example, when asked whether they believe “elites, politicians and/or celebrities are involved in global pedophile rings,” 35.8 percent said they did, up from 26.7 percent from a similar sample last December.

Asked whether they believe COVID-19 was created in a lab, 30.6 percent said they did in February compared to 29.1 percent in December. The survey in February also found that 25 percent supported the actions of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists.

David Reinert holding a Q sign waits in line with others to enter a campaign rally with President Donald Trump Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., on August 2, 2018 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP)
A man with a Q sign before a campaign rally featuring Donald Trump and Republican Senate candidate Rep. Lou Barletta in August 2018 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP)

These data points, the report concludes, suggest that there may be a “significant cognitive opening” among the U.S. population “that makes Americans more susceptible to further radicalization within the QAnon movement.”

If true, it is an opening that, according to the report, foreign actors are aggressively seeking to exploit. Limbik, which uses artificial intelligence and other techniques to sift through huge volumes of data, analyzed Facebook content that pushed QAnon-related content and concluded a significant portion was coming from overseas, apparently for the purpose of sowing societal discord or distrust about the American political process.

Zach Schwitzky, the founder of the firm, acknowledged in an interview that identifying foreign content was not “an exact science” since there is rarely publicly available account information about individuals or groups who post on Facebook. But by conducting linguistic analysis of the posts and logos or photos posted, the firm was able to unmask Russian, Chinese, Saudi and Iranian actors who were posting messages or stories that advanced QAnon beliefs about child sex trafficking rings, election fraud, vaccines and COVID-19 and related issues.

The Q-Anon conspiracy theorists  hold signs during the protest at the State Capitol in Salem, Oregon, United States on May 2, 2020. (John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
A Q-Anon conspiracy theorist at a protest at the Oregon Capitol in Salem in May 2020. (John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

For much of last year, the report found, Russian actors dominated the foreign QAnon space on Facebook. But they have been overtaken in recent months by those based in China as the government there has ramped up its disinformation efforts in response to increased tensions with the United States, the report says. From Jan. 1 to Feb. 28, 2021, 58 percent of foreign-based QAnon posts came from administrators in China — more than double that from Russian administrators, the Limbik analysis found.

The Limbik analysis was unable to say whether the Russian or Chinese administrators posting the material on Facebook were acting as part of a government operation. But Blazakis, the former State Department official, said: “Do I think the Russian and Chinese governments have awareness of this? I think the answer is absolutely yes.” He noted in particular the “firewall” the Chinese government uses to block foreign content it disapproves of from penetrating the internet in that country, while tightly monitoring content within the country.

“In China, nothing is going to be done without the Chinese government being aware of it,” he said. “I think there is at a minimum tacit support for the amplification we’re seeing.”

A Facebook spokesperson said the company couldn’t comment on the report because it hadn’t yet had a chance to review it. But the spokesperson said it took “aggressive action” to stop the spread of dangerous content on its platform last year by expanding its “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” policy to include foreign conspiracy networks. This has resulted in the removal of about 3,300 pages, 10,500 groups and 27,300 Instagram accounts that were spreading QAnon content. “We remain vigilant to this evolving threat so we can stay ahead of it and keep people safe,” the spokesperson said.

Sex workers get priority vaccine access in Vancouver

 A sex trade worker is pictured in downtown Vancouver in this file photo.

Everyone’s version of essential workers is different when it comes to vaccinating the population. Some think health workers should be at the front of the line, others think teachers.

In Vancouver, sex workers are now getting priority treatment.

The PACE Society, an organization in the city’s Downtown Eastside which “provides support, advocacy, and education by, with, and for current and former sex workers of all genders,” is hosting a vaccination clinic for sex workers Thursday.

“Enter through the alley,” the poster says.

PACE Society poster for a vaccination clinic for sex workers in Vancouver.
PACE Society poster for a vaccination clinic for sex workers in Vancouver.

The clinic is for a first shot only and is being presented as a way to “protect yourself and those around you!”

It was just days ago that police and other frontline responders in Surrey, a COVID hotspot in the Lower Mainland, were given their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I am pleased to advise you that we have received approval from the province and Fraser Health for all Surrey detachment staff (all categories of members and municipal employees) to receive vaccines on a priority basis,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards wrote in a memo to staff.

Like many other provinces, British Columbia has been allocating vaccine doses primarily through age ranges with some occupations getting earlier access. Right now, with some exceptions, vaccination appointments for the general public are open to those 50 years of age and older, with those over 40 able to book appointments starting next week.

So far, more than one million residents have received a COVID-19 vaccination.

12 April 2021

China's plans for Himalayan super dam stoke fears in India

The structure will span the Brahmaputra River before the waterway leaves the Himalayas and flows into India, straddling the world's longest and deepest canyon
The structure will span the Brahmaputra River before the waterway leaves the Himalayas and flows into India, straddling the world's longest and deepest canyon STR AFP

Beijing: China is planning a mega dam in Tibet able to produce triple the electricity generated by the Three Gorges -- the world's largest power station -- stoking fears among environmentalists and in neighbouring India.

The structure will span the Brahmaputra River before the waterway leaves the Himalayas and flows into India, straddling the world's longest and deepest canyon at an altitude of more than 1,500 metres (4,900 feet).

The project in Tibet's Medog County is expected to dwarf the record-breaking Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in central China, and is billed as able to produce 300 billion kilowatts of electricity each year.

It is mentioned in China's strategic 14th Five-Year Plan, unveiled in March at an annual rubber-stamp congress of the country's top lawmakers.

But the plan was short on details, a timeframe or budget.

The river, known as the Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibetan, is also home to two other projects far upstream, while six others are in the pipeline or under construction.

The "super-dam" however is in a league of its own.

Last October, the Tibet local government signed a "strategic cooperation agreement" with PowerChina, a public construction company specialising in hydroelectric projects.

A month later the head of PowerChina, Yan Zhiyong, partially unveiled the project to the Communist Youth League, the youth wing of China's ruling party.

Enthusiastic about "the world's richest region in terms of hydroelectric resources", Yan explained that the dam would draw its power from the huge drop of the river at this particular section.

- 'Really bad idea' -

Beijing may justify the massive project as an environmentally-friendly alternative to fossil fuels, but it risks provoking strong opposition from environmentalists in the same way as the Three Gorges Dam, built between 1994 and 2012.

The Three Gorges created a reservoir and displaced 1.4 million inhabitants upstream.

"Building a dam the size of the super-dam is likely a really bad idea for many reasons," said Brian Eyler, energy, water and sustainability program director at the Stimson Center, a US think tank.

Besides being known for seismic activity, the area also contains a unique biodiversity. The dam would block the migration of fish as well as sediment flow that enriches the soil during seasonal floods downstream, said Eyler.

There are both ecological and political risks, noted Tempa Gyaltsen Zamlha, an environmental policy specialist at the Tibet Policy Institute, a think tank linked to the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharamshala, India.

"We have a very rich Tibetan cultural heritage in those areas, and any dam construction would cause ecological destruction, submergence of parts of that region," he told AFP.

"Many local residents would be forced to leave their ancestral homes," he said, adding that the project will encourage migration of Han Chinese workers that "gradually becomes a permanent settlement".

- 'Water wars' -

New Delhi is also worried by the project.

The Chinese Communist Party is effectively in a position to control the origins of much of South Asia's water supply, analysts say.

"Water wars are a key component of such warfare because they allow China to leverage its upstream Tibet-centred power over the most essential natural resource," wrote political scientist Brahma Chellaney last month in the Times of India.

The risks of seismic activity would also make it a "ticking water bomb" for residents downstream, he warned.

In reaction to the dam idea, the Indian government has floated the prospect of building another dam on the Brahmaputra to shore up its own water reserves.

"There is still much time to negotiate with China about the future of the super-dam and its impacts," said Eyler.

"A poor outcome would see India build a dam downstream."

‘The Dictators Will Not Have Good Days Forever,’ Says Veteran Myanmar Activist


‘The Dictators Will Not Have Good Days Forever,’ Says Veteran Myanmar Activist Min Ko Naing, a Myanmar democracy activist and 88 Generation Students Group cofounder, speaks at a ceremony commemorating the 30th anniversary of an uprising against a former military junta, at Yangon University in Yangon, Aug. 8, 2018.

Democracy activist Min Ko Naing, who has has spent more than half of his 58 years opposing military dictatorship in Myanmar, has been on the run following the military coup on February 1 that overthrew the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. A key leader of the student led protest on Aug. 8, 1988 at Yangon University, he spent 15 years in jail after his arrest in 1989, and founded the 88 Generation Students Group to pursue the goal of democracy. Arrested again in 2007 for organizing peaceful demonstrations in support of the Buddhist monk-led Saffron Revolution, he was sentenced to 65 years in prison in 2008, but was released under a mass pardon in 2012. Nearly two months after the current military junta charged Min Ko Naing and six others under section 505(b) for inciting unrest against the state, he spoke to Khin Maung Soe of RFA’s Burmese Service about the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group of elected lawmakers from the ousted National League for Democracy government that has emerged as country's "shadow government" to coordinate opposition to the military regime that has killed more than 700 people in the 10 weeks of protests across the country.

RFA: I hear you are now working with the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH). Since when you were working together with CRPH and what are you doing?

Min Ko Naing: We have worked together with the MPs before the coup. After the coup, we have become determined to work together more closely. There are cases that the military’s State Administration Council and their informers are fabricating stories to make people distrust the CRPH. They are making deliberate attacks to damage the reputation of the CRPH. The CRPH has been rejuvenated with members of new generations. The CRPH is marching on under a collective leadership and holding collective responsibility. It is different from organizations built on the fame of a single leader. This collective leadership and responsibility have given us the robustness and the ability to think broadly. I am very pleased about that. I believe that we will see more concrete results soon. I want to ask everyone to have faith in them.

RFA: As the fight against the coup has been prolonged, the people, especially young people, are now becoming exhausted physically and mentally. They are financially starved and every day they are wondering what to do next. What advice do you have for them?

Min Ko Naing: I am very sympathetic to them. I have experienced the same things over 30 years ago. The revolution we pursued faced a brutal crackdown. They shot and killed so many people that the bodies were piling up in the street. At that time, we felt that we were totally lost. Now, I see the same things happening to young people. They don’t even have 500 or 1000 kyats in their pockets, but they are scraping by to keep things going. I’ve heard about them all. As I have said earlier, the CRPH should first consolidate a public administration. Then, they should work on the people’s security and then their defense. They should go to the territories where they can be safe. There are all kinds of training available in these territories. These territories will become ‘free zones’ where they can continue the fight against the military together with ethnic minorities. Those who remain in the cities will continue their fight by guerilla protests. The important thing is to keep showing our resistance.

RFA: Now, many young people are waiting to see the plan for a federal army materialize. What can you tell me about that?

Min Ko Naing: As we are establishing a federal union, the forces we employ should be federal army forces. How will we get there? We should take several steps. We don’t want that to take a long time. But we cannot skip the necessary steps. We should be quick and, at the same time, should meet certain standards. That’s why these young people should travel to the safe zones I have mentioned and they should join training programs. I think you know what kind of training I am talking about. They need to join hands with ethnic armed groups in these free zones. I cannot lay out the route to get to these safe zones on the map of Myanmar. They should check out what is the closest zone in your area and decide how to get there by themselves. Speaking from my experience, what we have learned about these places in prison is not very reliable because there are many informers among the detainees. We know the price to pay is high because we want to see enormous changes. So I want to reiterate that the processes of forming a federal army will not be lengthy, but we cannot skip the necessary steps.

RFA: The employees who are participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) are also holding out as much as they can now. What do you think they should do next?

Min Ko Naing: Mainly, they need a guarantee for their future. I am sympathetic. The guarantee should be for both long-term and immediate needs. They need accommodations and food supplies, at the least. We are trying to meet these needs as much as we can. The CRPH has dedicated committees to address these issues. For the long term, we need to know how long we should be providing to these CDM employees. It depend on how much donors in the country and abroad can contribute. In fact, the government bureaucracy is in ruin now and they cannot function anymore. That’s why the military authorities are using both intimidation and incentives to break up the CDM movement. They have lost and the CDM movement has already won. Currently, the CRPH is assisting these employees. But our channels have been blocked at times. We are using all available channels to support them. If these CDM employees no longer feel safe living in their homes, they can go to one of these safe zones. People like Dr. Zaw Wai Soe or Dr. Win Myat Aye are helping them. We are all working to make the changes happen before the end of April. Take a look at the banks. Even if they are all reopened, they cannot be operational. People are withdrawing all the money they have in the bank.

RFA: How do you view international support for Myanmar?

Min Ko Naing: There are only two kinds of countries in the world: those who condone the dictatorship and those who support democracy. Take a look at the allies who support democracy. It is not just one or two countries that are supporting the movement in Myanmar. Many countries are teaming up to back up the fight for democracy in Myanmar. Now, there will be a hearing at the United Nations. Zin Mar Aung will be attending to testify. The UK, one of the permanent members of UN Security Council, is organizing that meeting. They invited her as an acting minister of the CRPH. UNSC members will hear the voice of the CRPH and they will carry it to other members. This is very important. It means that UNSC members have recognized the legitimacy of CRPH. The meeting will pressure the UNSC to take appropriate actions. The allied countries who support democracy are trying to prove that they have done everything they can. If they don’t succeed, they will use a different strategy. There are mechanisms like the IIMM (Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar). They have requested evidence from the public. I learned that they have recorded over 270,000 pieces so far. They are archiving the strongest evidence.

RFA: What can we expect out of the movement in coming days?

Min Ko Naing: In the next few days, we are going to announce the formation of a National Unity Government (NUG). We have a shared vision of removing this terrorist military council. All sorts of organizations will be included in this government. We have been busy bees in the past few days. We have been negotiating with all the groups at home and abroad. In addition to the widely known ethnic armed groups, we are recruiting civic groups, and prominent actors, and so on. When it comes out, you will see how strong it is and how much support we have from our allies around the world. We also have plans to broadcast public TV programs. We have plans to disseminate the information through SMS messages even if internet connections are totally shutdown.

RFA: People are very concerned about the prospect of China influencing ASEAN to intervene in Myanmar. What do you think about that?

Min Ko Naing: Our people can clearly distinguish who are good friends and who have been exploiting us. We can see what the U.S. is doing now. They have teamed up with the Philippines, Malaysia and other countries to launch naval exercises. The dictators will not have good days forever. They will have bad days also. There will be good days for the truth of democracy. We have seen the military’s State Administration Council attempting to take control of our UK embassy. This is such a terrorist act. Everything they have done is wrong. Besides, take a look at the press tour they arranged with the CNN reporter. The world got to know more about their persecution. I strongly believe that the world will see the truth and the people will prevail. In the meantime, we have to persist and not break off the joining of hands.

Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung for RFA’s Myanmar Service.


Source: RFA

Rhino Numbers on the Rise: 16% increase in Nepal’s rhino numbers

Kathmandu, Nepal – Nepal’s rhino population has shown a promising 16% increment as indicated by the results of the National Rhino Count 2021 released by the Government of Nepal today. The current population of the species stands at 752 individuals compared to the 2015 estimate of 645 in Nepal’s Terai Arc Landscape. 

The National Rhino Count 2021 began on 22 March 2021 and concluded on April 10, 2021 covering rhino range areas within the country including Chitwan National Park, Parsa National Park, Bardia National Park, and Shuklaphanta National Park as well as their buffer zones and vicinities outside protected areas.
The count was led by the Department of National Parks of Wildlife Conservation, mobilizing over 57 elephants and 350 technicians and trained personnel, sweeping parallelly across jungle blocks and documenting numbers based on a headcount. Populations estimates are based on individual rhino information collected, categorized based on statistics such as sex, age group, and unique identifying features. During the process, data on habitat conditions, invasive species in the area, and human activities in the region are also collected.
“The overall growth in population size is indicative of ongoing protection and habitat management efforts by protected area authorities despite challenging contexts these past years,” stated Ghana Gurung, Country Representative of WWF Nepal. “This achievement is yet another milestone in Nepal’s conservation journey showcasing the impact of concerted efforts of all stakeholders and providing much needed impetus to the global conservation fraternity.”

The count was conducted in collaboration with the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation, Nepal Army, Buffer Zone Users Committee, Community Forest Users Groups, NTNC, WWF Nepal, ZSL Nepal and other local organizations.
Every five years, Nepal takes up the immense task of counting its rhinos to monitor their status in the wild. The rhino count supports the assessment of management effectiveness in these regions and guides the nation’s rhino conservation strategy.
23 March 2021

Myanmar Regime Troops Shoot 8 People Dead in Mandalay Night Raid

Eight people were shot dead and more than 30 were injured when police and soldiers opened fire with live rounds during a raid on residential areas in Mandalay on Sunday night.

The shootings followed a deadly confrontation between security forces and anti-regime protesters earlier in the afternoon.

Including the night raid fatalities, 249 people have been killed by the military regime as of Sunday night during crackdowns on peaceful pro-democracy supporters.

Local said security forces opened fire with automatic weapons in Aung Pin Lae in Mandalay’s Chanmyathazi Township. Rescue groups and locals said the shooting continued until midnight. In a video filmed by a resident, the sound of gunfire can be heard.

A 16-year-old teashop waiter was one of the victims of the violence, along with a 43-year-old member of a charity group who died after being shot, according to a local charity group. Security forces also broke into homes and beat residents.

Earlier on Sunday afternoon, police and soldiers also fired live rounds while cracking down on a protest by residents in Aung Pin Lae.  One man was killed after being shot in the head and at least six people were severely injured.

There were also reports of the military opening fire on anti-coup demonstrations in the Shan State capital Taunggyi 


source: By The Irrawaddy

China Makes It A Crime To Question Military Death Toll On The Internet


A paramilitary police officer talks next to a screen showing frontier soldiers of the People's Liberation Army during an event at a primary school in Wuzhishan, Hainan province, China, on Feb. 22. On the screen are (L-R) Qi Fabao, who was seriously wounded in the border clash with Indian troops in June last year, and four who were killed: Chen Hongjun, Chen Xiangrong, Xiao Siyuan and Wang Zhuoran.

BEIJING — When China acknowledged this year that four of its soldiers had died fighting Indian forces on the two countries' disputed mountain border eight months prior, the irreverent blogger Little Spicy Pen Ball had questions.

"If the four [Chinese] soldiers died trying to rescue their fellow soldiers, then there must have been those who were not successfully rescued," he wrote on Feb. 19 to his 2.5 million followers on Weibo, a Chinese social media site. "This means the fatalities could not have just been four."

The day after, Qiu Ziming, the 38-year-old former newspaper journalist behind the blog, was detained and criminally charged. If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to three years.

"Little Spicy Pen Ball maliciously slandered and degraded the heroes defending our country and the border," according to the annual work report published by the country's chief prosecutor office this month.

A contrite Qiu, sitting behind bars, called his actions "an obliteration of conscience" in a taped statement aired on the state broadcaster's prime-time news show on March 1.

Qiu's is the first case to be tried under a sweeping new criminal law that took effect March 1. The new law penalizes "infringing on the reputation and honor of revolutionary heroes." At least six other people have been detained or charged with defaming "martyrs." The government uses the terms "revolutionary heroes" and "martyrs" for anyone it memorializes for their sacrifice for the Communist Party.

The detentions typify the stricter controls over online speech under Chinese leader Xi Jinping, which have deterred nearly all open dissent in the country. The new law even seeks to criminalize speech made outside China.

Such is the case of Wang Jingyu, 19, who lives in the United States and is now a wanted man in his hometown of Chongqing, China. The authorities accuse him of slandering dead Chinese soldiers after Weibo reported him for a comment questioning the number of border fight casualties.

"This is killing a monkey to scare the chickens," Wang says. "The Chinese state wants to show others that if anyone wants to be like me or relay the truth, then you will be pursued."

A 2018 law allows police to investigate speech defaming martyrs. Several people have been detained as a result, according to an online spreadsheet kept by a free speech activist, but such behavior did not carry a jail sentence until now.

"Cyberspace is not outside the law," the Chongqing public security bureau said in an online notice after it declared Wang would be "pursued online" for his comments. "Public security organs will crack down on acts that openly insult the deeds and spirit of heroes and martyrs in accordance with the law."

It's unclear how authorities plan to apprehend Wang. A police officer who contacted Wang, asking him to turn himself in, did not answer calls and texts from NPR.

China's ruling Communist Party is hyper-sensitive to challenges of its rule. One of the newer threats it has identified is "historical nihilism" — that is, rejecting the party's official version of history and its pantheon of revolutionary heroes and martyrs.

The four Chinese soldiers who died during the border clash last June are the newest members of this canon. They were killed high up in the Himalayas, where hundreds of Chinese and Indian soldiers armed with nothing but stones and batons beat each other bloody, with each side accusing the other of alleged encroachments over an unmarked border line. Days after the incident, India said 20 of its troops died in the brawl.

China refused to confirm fatalities on its side until this February, when it released the names of four soldiers killed and a fifth who was critically injured in the disputed Galwan Valley area. State media ran extensive footage of their service and the last hours of their lives.

The sudden media blitz infuriated Wang, he says. He had closely followed China and India's border tensions and questioned the initial lack of fatalities reported by China. He wondered about the families of the soldiers who he suspected had died, left to grieve silently in the absence of official recognition.

In late February, as he sat in the backseat of a friend's car in Europe, Wang went back and forth for half an hour over whether to write anything online. He currently lives in California but his parents remain in the Chinese municipality of Chongqing, where they worked for two state-owned firms.

"I knew if I mocked these soldiers, it would bring a negative impact on my parents," Wang says. "But I was just too angry." He pressed publish on three comments under a news item lauding the four Chinese troops.

The People's Liberation Army soldiers "deserved to die," he wrote, and the Indian forces were within their rights to confront their "offenders." Wang now acknowledges the comments were offensive, but he says he deliberately crafted them to push the bounds of speech in China.

His comments went viral and were aired on China's most-watched evening news program. Shortly after, Wang says his parents were questioned for hours by police officers.

Chongqing's police department did not respond to a request for comment.

In the days following his social media posts, Wang says his mother and father were kept under effective house arrest in their Chongqing home, where they were able to call Wang twice, briefly, under police watch. He has been unable to reach them since.

"They told me they support me, and they are proud of me," Wang said.

Amy Cheng contributed research from Beijing.

As the Chinese embassy in London prepares to move into its new location...

Councilors voted to consider naming roads and buildings in the surrounding area of the site Tiananmen Square, Uyghur Court, Hong Kong Road, and Tibet Hill.

Tiananmen Square, Uyghur Court: Tower Hamlets plans name changes in solidarity

As the Chinese embassy prepares to move in, councillors vote to support the ‘freedom and diversity of our borough’

view of the Royal Mint building in Tower Hamlets, London
The Royal Mint building on Little Tower Hill in London has been purchased by the Chinese government to house its UK embassy. Photograph: Nigel Bowles/Alamy
By Haroon Siddique

At the handing-over ceremony for the site in the East End of London where the Chinese embassy is to be relocated, the ambassador boldly proclaimed that it would “write a new chapter for a China-UK golden era”.

Three years later, before the redevelopment has begun, those hopes appear in tatters after councillors in Tower Hamlets voted to consider naming roads and buildings in the surrounding area of the site Tiananmen Square, Uyghur Court, Hong Kong Road and Tibet Hill, to assert “support for the freedom and diversity of our borough”.

In a move that is likely to infuriate the Chinese government, the councillors said they welcomed the relocation of the embassy from the West End but “we must continue to make clear where our own standards and principles apply”.The motion was passed after months of campaigning by opposition councillors for the local authority to issue a statement about human rights abuses by China, in light of Beijing’s purchase of the Royal Mint site in the borough for its embassy. The repression of Uighur Muslims is particularly sensitive for Tower Hamlets, which has the highest proportion of Muslim residents (38%) of any borough, according to the latest census.

The motion states: “This council resolves that Tower Hamlets council investigates whether roads or possibly new buildings near the location of the proposed Chinese embassy could be renamed appropriately as acts of solidarity with historic symbols or placenames of Chinese significance; for example Tiananmen Square, Tibet Hill, Uyghur Court, Hong Kong Road and/or Xiaobo Road (in memory of Liu Xiaobo).”

Liu, a Nobel laureate and democracy campaigner, died in Chinese custody aged 61 in 2017, having been sentenced to an 11-year jail term for demanding an end to one-party rule.

The motion also notes that the Chinese embassy in the UK has written to a number of schools in the area to explore opportunities for potential collaboration, and calls for the nature of this to be ascertained to ensure it reflects the borough’s “proud history of standing up for each other as one community and celebrating our differences”.

It extends a welcome in the borough to Hong Kong residents taking up British citizenship under a new visa scheme and says the council will investigate what other actions it can take to show solidarity.

It is a far cry from the March 2018 handing-over ceremony for the historic Royal Mint site facing the Tower of London, when China’s ambassador Liu Xiaoming said the embassy would become “a new landmark in London” and the Tower Hamlets mayor, John Biggs, said the move showed the borough was “an open and dynamic place to live and work”.

Since then China has faced international condemnation of its repression of the predominantly Muslim Uighur people and clampdown on dissent in Hong Kong.

There have been heightened tensions between China and the west of late. Last year the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, condemned what he called “gross and egregious” human rights abuses in China’s western Xinjiang region, and last week he accused China of breaching the legal deal over the governance of Hong Kong.

The Liberal Democrat councillor Rabina Khan, who proposed the council motion, said: “Tower Hamlets has a unique history of welcoming people and at Wednesday’s full council meeting politicians unanimously came together on the amended motion that whilst we welcome the proposed relocation of the Chinese embassy, we also stand up against the CCP’s [Chinese Communist party’s] human rights violations.”

The motion assures the borough’s constituents that there will be no financial cost to them associated with the naming of the roads or buildings.

Last month council officers raised concerns about a separate issue in relation to the embassy: the impact on views of the Tower of London.

In a previous statement to the Guardian, the Chinese embassy in the UK said the new building would be a symbol of a “robust relationship” between the countries and that people should “stop using human rights as an excuse to interfere in China’s internal affairs”.

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