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Category: Asia (page 1 of 340)

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Pompeo Says Hong Kong ‘No Longer Autonomous from China’

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that he has reported to the U.S. Congress that Hong Kong is “no longer autonomous from China” and “Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws,” given facts on the ground. Today, I reported to Congress that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China, given facts on the ground. The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong.— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) Riot police form a line as they plan to clear away people gathered in the Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong, May 27, 2020.Taiwan React China’s moves have also reverberated in Taiwan, where many have long watched how Beijing treats Hong Kong residents. On Wednesday, more than 20 civil society groups gathered in Taipei Wednesday to show solidarity with Hong Kong.  One attendee, named Justine, told VOA, “If the national security law is passed, 7.5 million people in Hong Kong will be unsafe, and the Chinese Communist Party is labeling the people who seek democracy and autonomy as terrorists, so now (every) Hong Konger is a fighter.”Many in Taiwan see China’s moves in Hong Kong as the start of a new, tense era over the region’s future.  Wu Rwei-ren, a research fellow with the Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica told VOA that this is a “calculated brinkmanship” from China while other countries are struggling with combating the COVID-19 pandemic.   “This marks the first war amid the new cold war between the US and China,” he said, “Hong Kong’s fight for autonomy will be persistent, and Taiwan will likely be the next target.”Joyce Huang, Yihua Lee, Jeanette Chiang,  and Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report


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Human Rights Watch Details Harm to Filipino Children from Drug War

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday released harrowing accounts of the drug war’s impact on Filipino children.The 48-page report outlines police killings of children, the bullying and stigma that drug users’ children face, the psychological damage to those who have witnessed family members’ deaths, and the resulting poverty when parents and guardians are killed.The HRW report followed similar ones by Amnesty International, which further detail the devastation of drugs.Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on the illegal drug trade began with his inauguration in June 2016. His anti-drug campaign garnered international attention when human rights advocates uncovered thousands of killings and extrajudicial executions by state forces and vigilante groups.Within the first six months of Duterte’s presidency, more than 7,000 people believed to have been connected with the drug trade were killed — an average of 34 a day. Besides instructing law enforcement to rid the country of drugs, Duterte encouraged citizens to kill suspected drug dealers or users as a part of their “duty.”Since then, Filipino activists have alleged that more than 27,000 people have been killed under Duterte, while the government said the number was closer to 6,600. Contrasting reports and increasing concerns prompted the U.N. Human Rights Council to launch an investigation into the killings in July 2019.UN Launches Probe on Philippines Drug War DeathsFilipino activists have claimed some 27,000 people have been killed as police terrorize poor communitiesThe Duterte administration’s drug crackdown has contributed to overcrowding in prisons, producing breeding grounds for coronavirus outbreaks. Eventual outbreaks in some of the Philippines’ jails forced the country to release nearly 10,000 inmates in early May.  Philippines Frees Nearly 10,000 Inmates as Coronavirus Hits JailsCountry, which nationwide has reported 9,000 infections and 603 deaths, races to halt spread of virus in its overcrowded jails


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Australian Police End Probe of Journalist, Suspected Whistleblower 

Australian police said Wednesday they were dropping an investigation of a prominent journalist who obtained classified documents for a 2018 story on national security. The article by Annika Smethurst, which ran in the Australian-based News Corp newspapers, alleged the federal government was preparing to give intelligence agencies new powers that would allow it to spy on Australian citizens.  Police raided Smethurst’s Canberra home last June as part of an investigation into who may have leaked the documents that provided the basis for her story.  A day later, police raided the Sydney headquarters of Australian Broadcasting Corporation looking for evidence of the whistleblower who provided documents behind a 2017 report that Australian troops had committed war crimes in Afghanistan. Ian McCartney, the deputy commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, said no charges will be brought against Smethurst or the whistleblower who leaked the documents.  But McCartney said Dan Oakes and Sam Clarke, the two ABC journalists who reported the Afghanistan story, were still under investigation. The police decision not to charge Smethurst comes just weeks after Australia’s High Court invalidated the search warrant used to search her home on a technicality. The separate raids angered Australia’s media organizations, who set aside their fierce competitive rivalry to issue a joint demand for greater press freedoms and legal protections for public-interest journalism.       


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South Korea Sees Biggest COVID-19 Spike in Weeks

South Korean health officials Wednesday reported the nation’s highest number of new coronavirus infections in seven weeks as the nation is easing its restrictions.In his daily briefing in Seoul, South Korean Vice Health Minister Kim Kang-lip said that 37 of the 40 new cases are related to the recent outbreak from nightclubs in Itaewon, Seoul’s multicultural district. Kim said the remaining three are infections from abroad.All but four of the new cases were in densely populated areas in Seoul where officials are scrambling to stop transmissions linked to nightclubs, karaoke rooms and an e-commerce warehouse.Kim said authorities are keeping an eye on the warehouse, owned by local e-commerce company Coupang, after discovering dozens of coronavirus infections linked to workers there. Kim says they suspect the company was not enforcing basic workplace COVID-19 regulations, and they are testing the company’s 3,600 employees.South Korea has reported 269 deaths and 11,265 cases, after managing to contain a severe outbreak earlier.The spike comes as some two million students returned to school Wednesday.  


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Hong Kong Police Disperse Protesters Opposing National Security, Anthem Laws

Riot police in Hong Kong Wednesday fired pepper balls to disperse tens of thousands of demonstrators protesting adoption of a controversial national security law that is poised to pass in Beijing on Thursday and a proposed law criminalizing the disrespect of the national anthem tabled in the city’s legislature.   
 
Thousands of riot police officers guarded several districts in Hong Kong, firing pepper balls and using pepper spray to disperse protesters.  Police stopped and searched mostly young people outside subway stations and on the streets throughout the day.  
 
Crowds of people who gathered in Admiralty, the area where the legislative council and government quarters are located, were dispersed by police who threatened them with pepper spray if they did not comply.  There were police officers guarding every street corner in the area to prevent people from getting near the government buildings. Walkways leading to the government buildings were cordoned off.   Police quickly closed in on small groups of activists who gathered to chant slogans and give speeches expressing their opposition to the national anthem bill. At one point, police ordered people in nearby restaurants to leave.  WATCH: Street view of Hong Kong protesters Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline. Embed” />CopyAt lunch time, hundreds of office workers turned out on the streets in Central, the heart of Hong Kong’s business district, at a rally.  Crowds chanted slogans, including “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong,”  “Hong Kong independence, the only way” alternately and shouted obscenities at the police.  “Be a Hong Konger!” someone shouted towards the police, implying they were working for the interests of China, and not their own city.  About half an hour into the rally, police fired pepper balls and people ran into nearby buildings.
 
“Not just this national security law, we see China continuously encroaching on our freedoms and we see police being whitewashed (in a report clearing them of wrongdoing),” said a lawyer who declined to give his name.  “If we keep quiet, they can get away with it.”Hong Kong riot police on patrol during protest against National Anthem law, May 27, 2020. (Photo: Hong Kong Police Facebook)A police statement said protesters blocked roads with bins and traffic cones and threw objects at officers. It said police had “no other choice but to employ minimal force” by firing pepper balls to stop the “violent behavior.”   The interruption was however brief as traffic continued to move slowly.   
 
Hundreds of people also defied the heavy police presence to gather on the streets of Causeway and Mongkok, both busy shopping districts.  Many young people were stopped and searched by riot police.  Young people, including some in high school uniforms, were made to line up against the wall outside a shopping center in Mongkok.  Police accused protesters of blocking traffic and placing obstacles on the streets.
 
As of mid-afternoon, police said more than 290 people have been arrested for illegal assembly.
 
Protesters said they were fueled by anger at what they perceive as China’s intensifying encroachments into the semi-autonomous city, including foisting patriotism upon Hong Kongers through a law that forbids mockery of the national anthem.  They also expressed helplessness as China’s National People’s Congress prepared to pass national security laws, bypassing Hong Kong’s legislature on Thursday. 
“I know we have no power to fight against China, but I must come out to show my opposition to it.  I’m not afraid even if they jail me,” said a 71-year-old man surnamed Chow, who used to be a staunch supporter of the Communist party until the crackdown on the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement.
Inside the chamber of the Legislative Council, lawmakers made speeches to express their stance on the national anthem bill, which is expected to pass on June 4, the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.  Pro-Democracy lawmakers expressed their exasperation over a bill that is poised to pass because the legislature is dominated by pro-Beijing lawmakers – only half the seats are popularly elected by ordinary voters while the rest are chosen by largely pro-Beijing “functional constituencies.”
Lawmaker Dr. Kwok Ka-Ki told the legislature that rulers should follow the teaching of ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius, who said rulers should “love their people as if they were his children.” 
“There is no need to use rubber bullets and tear gas to suppress people and to make people become subservient to your rule… and when they are already feeling emotional you suppress them with the security law to subjugate them under truncheons and guns,” Kwok said.
China last week revealed its plan to bypass Hong Kong’s legislature to impose a national security law on Hong Kong to prevent and punish acts of  “secession, subversion or terrorism activities” that threaten national security.
The move, which would also allow Chinese national security organs to set up agencies in Hong Kong, has received wide international criticism, with the United States threatening consequences for China.
 


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Political Turmoil in Hong Kong Rattles Asian Markets

Asian markets were mixed Wednesday as concerns over China’s proposed national security law for Hong Kong overshadowed optimism for a post-pandemic recovery. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 0.8% by late afternoon, while Shanghai was down 0.3%. The S&P/ASX in Sydney lost five points for the day but was essentially unchanged percentage wise. Japan’s Nikkei index ended its trading day 0.7% higher, Taiwan’s TSEC closed out 0.1% higher, and Seoul’s KOSPI gained 1.4 points but was also flat percentage wise. The United States and other Western nations have denounced the proposed national security law, which would prevent and punish acts of “secession, subversion or terrorism activities.” Business groups have expressed concern the law could weaken Hong Kong’s status as a global financial hub.   U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to take action against Beijing if the law is approved, adding to increasing tensions between the world’s two biggest economies. Oil markets are also trending downward Wednesday, with U.S. crude selling at $33.74 per barrel, down 1.7%, while Brent crude, the international benchmark, is also down 1.7%, selling at $35.53 per barrel. Meanwhile, European indexes in London, Paris and Frankfurt all began their trading sessions in positive territory, while all three major U.S. indexes are higher in futures trading. 


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Japanese Police Formally Arrest Suspect in Deadly 2019 Arson Attack

Nearly a year after 36 people were killed in a raging fire at an animation studio, Japanese police have formally arrested the man suspected of setting the fire. Kyoto police carried 42-year-old Shinji Aoba on a stretcher from a hospital Wednesday and transferred to a police station for further questioning on arson and murder charges. Aoba had been hospitalized since the attack, suffering deep scars on his face and hands. Witnesses told police Aoba broke into the entrance of Kyoto Animation studio, poured flammable liquid on the floor and set it on fire while shouting “Die!”  He reportedly set the fire because he believed the studio had plagiarized his novel. The attack was the deadliest violent crime in Japan in decades, and shocked animation fans all over the world.  Kyoto Animation has produced several anime films and television shows that have gained huge audiences both in Japan and internationally. 


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HRW: 200 Homes Burned in Rakhine, Myanmar

Around 200 homes and other buildings were destroyed by fire in Myanmar’s conflict-torn Rakhine state, Human Rights Watch reported Tuesday. The rights group says satellite images recorded the destruction on May 16.Northern Rakhine state has been riddled by conflict between the Myanmar military, also referred to as the Tatmadaw, and the Arakan Army (AA), a militant group of Rakhine Buddhists seeking self-governance. No one has claimed responsibility for the May 16 destruction.The most recent account of mass burning in Rakhine was in August 2017, when the Myanmar military and militant civilians destroyed at least 392 Rohingya villages.The Rohingya Muslims, densely populated in Rakhine, are an ethnic minority in the Buddhist-majority country. Since 1982, the government has refused to recognize the Rohingya as its citizens, viewing them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.The 2017 violence involved massacres, extrajudicial killings, mass gang rapes and villages burned by the Tatmadaw — events a fact-finding mission established by the United Nations Human Rights Council described as rising to the level of “both war crimes and crimes against humanity” and in “genocidal intent.”The current conflict between the Tatmadaw and AA has pushed more Rohingya to flee, leading hundreds to the sea to find safety in neighboring countries.Citing concerns about COVID-19 earlier this year, Malaysia denied entry to nearly 400 Rohingya Muslim refugees, leaving them stranded at sea for two months until Bangladesh took them in. The coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease.


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