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Category: Asia (page 1 of 245)

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Hong Kong Protesters Remain Defiant in Standoff with Pro-Beijing Government

In Hong Kong, protests that erupted nearly four months ago to oppose a controversial extradition law have developed into a disruptive pro-democracy movement, led to increasingly violent clashes between protesters and police, and poses a serious challenge to China’s rule over this former British colony. VOA’s Brian Padden reports on how Hong Kong got to this point. 


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NBA Postpones Nets-Lakers Media Sessions in Shanghai

The NBA called off scheduled media sessions Wednesday for the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers in Shanghai, and it remains unclear if the teams will play in China this week as scheduled.The teams were practicing in Shanghai, where at least two other NBA events in advance of the start of the China games were canceled as part of the ongoing rift that started after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted a tweet last week that showed support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.“Given the fluidity of the situation, today’s media availability has been postponed,” the league said. By nightfall Wednesday in China, which is 12 hours ahead of Eastern time in the U.S., the availabilities had not been rescheduled — though having them on Thursday remains possible.An NBA Cares event in Shanghai that was to benefit Special Olympics was called off, as was a “fan night” celebration that was to be highlighted by the league announcing plans to refurbish some outdoor courts in that city. And workers in multiple spots around Shanghai were tearing down large outdoor promotional advertisements for Thursday’s Lakers-Nets game.The teams are also supposed to play Saturday in Shenzhen. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver met with players from both the Nets and Lakers on Wednesday in Shanghai, telling them that the league’s intention remains to play the games as scheduled.Chinese smartphone maker Vivo has joined the list of companies that have suspended — for now, at least — ties with the NBA, and that only adds to the uncertainty over whether the China games will be played. Vivo was a presenting sponsor of the Lakers-Nets games, and on Wednesday there was no reference to the game in Shanghai on the list of upcoming events scheduled at Mercedes-Benz Arena. Other firms such as apparel company Li-Ning announced similar moves earlier this week, as the rift was just beginning.Silver said Tuesday in Tokyo that he supports Morey’s right to free speech. Several Chinese companies have suspended their partnership with the NBA in recent days, and Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said it will not broadcast the Lakers-Nets games.“I’m sympathetic to our interests here and to our partners who are upset,” Silver said. “I don’t think it’s inconsistent on one hand to be sympathetic to them and at the same time stand by our principles.”All around China, stores that sell NBA merchandise were removing Rockets-related apparel from shelves and many murals featuring the Rockets — even ones with Yao Ming, the Chinese great who played for Houston during his NBA career — were being painted over.San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich spoke out Tuesday in Miami in support of how Silver is handling the situation.“And it wasn’t easy for him to say,” Popovich said. “He said that in an environment fraught with possible economic peril. But he sided with the principles that we all hold dearly, or most of us did until the last three years. So I’m thrilled with what he said.”Other NBA coaches have not been so willing to discuss the situation. Philadelphia’s Brett Brown said he did not wish to get into specifics of the China-NBA rift, though he said he has been to that country many times and is always blown away by how popular the game is there.“Just massive amounts of basketball courts and you’re looking out and there’s no available court,” Brown said. “It’s just people playing on a court. I took a (lower-level) Australian team to China and the story comes there was 400 million viewers watching not the true national team. You’re just reminded of the popularity of the sport.”Brown’s 76ers played a Chinese team — the Guangzhou Loong Lions — on Tuesday night, and two fans said they were removed by arena security for holding signs and chanting in support of Hong Kong. The signs read “Free Hong Kong” and “Free HK.”The sentiment was not different from Morey’s since-deleted tweet last week of an image that read, “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.”The NBA is not the first major corporation to deal with criticism from China over political differences. Mercedes-Benz, Delta Air Lines, hotel operator Marriott, fashion brand Zara and others also have found themselves in conflicts with China in recent years.After Morey’s tweet was deleted, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said Morey does not speak for the organization. Joe Tsai, who recently completed his purchase of the Nets and is a co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has said the damage to the NBA’s relationship with China “will take a long time to repair.”


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Philippine Officials Consider Extending Martial Law in Mindanao

The Philippine government imposed martial law on its giant southern island of Mindanao in early 2017 to help fight a war against Muslim rebels who had seized the center of the lakeside university town Marawi. Two years after the war ended, martial law remains and officials are talking about an extension into 2020.Martial law is not new to the Philippines. Former President Ferdinand Marco ruled as dictator under martial law from 1972 until 1981.But this time some people in Mindanao are pushing back. Martial law, they argue, keeps the island safer. But it may also keep business away.Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in July he would consider extending martial law into 2020 if local officials want it, domestic media outlet Philstar.com reported. He said the island and outlying seas were still at risk.“Ideally, it is obviously good to see Mindanao freed from security challenges by the end of 2019 and therefore martial law may not be expected to be implemented anymore,” said Henelito Sevilla, assistant international relations professor at University of the Philippines.“However, Mindanao is Mindanao, and the region should not be compared to other parts of the Philippines where security challenges are less diverse in terms of nature, area and extent as compared to Mindanao islands,” Sevilla said. “The islands of Mindanao are very diverse in terms of tribal affinity, political cleavages and even armed groupings.”National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. had said in mid-2019 via Philippine media that he would propose another year of martial law.Violent elements remainTroops declared victory against the Muslim rebels in Marawi in October 2017 after fighting killed more than 1,100. In early 2019, Marawi and surrounding areas formally became the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It was to be administered at least in part by a rebel group that had signed a peace deal with the government in 2014.However, an armed splinter of that group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, occasionally stages deadly ambushes including an August attack that killed three military informants. Abu Sayyaf, a separate rebel group known for kidnapping and slaying foreign tourists, remains intact on islands off Mindanao’s west coast. The armed communist New People’s Army has its own camps in Mindanao.Muslim rebels believe the Philippine Catholic majority controls an unfair share of resources in Mindanao despite five centuries of Muslim settlement. Violence there has killed about 120,000 people in Mindanao and adjacent Sulu Sea since the 1960s.Light impactMartial law lets troops and police work together without normal legal checks and balances. Authorities can also enforce curfews and randomly search vehicles.But in much of Mindanao, martial law is hardly noticeable. Around the port city Cagayan de Oro, for example, cars stop only between the domestic airport and downtown for routine checks. Police do not enforce curfews in the downtown mega-malls, upscale restaurants and major high-rise hotel.Road checkpoints turn up more often on highways around the Bangsamoro region, home to some 3.8 million mostly Muslim Filipinos.In Davao, the Philippine archipelago’s second largest city after Manila, people broadly support the extension of martial law, said a scholar who just visited. Davao is on Mindanao’s east coast, removed from most rebel attacks.“I asked people, they like the army because they feel considerably safe, and it’s actually not hindering the daily life of the people,” said the visitor Enrico Cau, Southeast Asia-specialized associate researcher at the Taiwan Strategy Research Association.“Just the idea that martial law hinders investment, deters people from going, stops tourists — even not so much,” he said. “Because when I got to Davao on August 17 and when I left in September, for example, hotels didn’t have one single room.”Is Mindanao safe enough already?Davao’s mayor and city council expressed formal opposition to continued martial law after ambassadors visited the city in mid-2019 and said the law raises costs of doing business, domestic media say. Much of Mindanao’s 25 million population lives in poverty, largely for lack of investment.Protest from the mayor may roll back martial law next year to cover only parts of Mindanao where rebels are likely to strike, Cau said. The mayor is also Duterte’s daughter.Renato Reyes, secretary general of the Manila-based Bagong Alyansang Makabaya alliance of leftist causes, saidPhilippine officials should drop martial law to focus instead on a peace process that address poverty and inequality in Mindanao.The government should use martial law to “expedite the development of new growth centers” in Mindanao to meet economic needs, said Aaron Rabena, a research fellow at Asia-Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, a Manila research organization.“We cannot live in a world where martial law is the norm,” Reyes said. “It should always be the last resort for government. When all civilian agencies or institutions are unable to discharge their functions, that’s when the military will come in.” 


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Study Finds High Incidences of Abuse of Mothers During Childbirth

More than one-third of new mothers in four poor countries are abused during childbirth, a study published Wednesday in the medical journal The Lancet.The study, carried out in Ghana, Guinea, Myanmar and Nigeria by the World Health Organization, found that 42% of the women experienced physical or verbal abuse or some form of stigma or discrimination at maternity health facilities.The study also found a high number of caesarean sections, vaginal exams and other procedures being performed without the patient’s consent.Of the 2,016 women observed for the study, 14% said they were either hit, slapped or punched during childbirth. Some 38% of the women said they were subjected to verbal abuse, most often by being shouted at, mocked or scolded.An alarming 75% had episiotomies performed without consent. The procedure involves surgically enlarging the opening of the vagina.The authors of the study urged officials to hold those who mistreat women during childbirth accountable. They also urged the governments to put into place clear policies and sufficient resources to ensure that women have a safe place to give birth.Among the specific steps proposed by the study are: making sure all medical procedures are performed only after getting an informed consent; allowing the patient to have a companion of their choice in the delivery room; redesigning maternity wards to offer the maximum privacy; and making sure no health facility tolerates instances of physical or verbal abuse.


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Thai Officials Try to Retrieve Bodies of 11 Elephants from Waterfall

Officials are working urgently to retrieve the bodies of 11 elephants that died after trying to save each other from a waterfall in a national park in central Thailand.Park rangers had initially thought six adult elephants had died Saturday while trying to save a three-year-old calf that had slipped down the falls.But Monday, a drone found the bodies of five more elephants in the waters below the fall in Khao Yai National Park.Authorities have strung a net downstream to catch the bodies as they float down the fast-moving waters. There is concern that the rotting bodies will contaminate the water.Officers expect the bodies to reach the net in a few days. The elephants will be buried and the area sealed with hydrated lime to prevent contamination, the Bangkok Post reported.This is not the first such incident at the waterfall, known as Haew Narok (Hell’s Fall). In 1998, eight elephants died at the same site.Park officials put up fencing to keep the wild animals away from the area, but that has not worked.The park is home to about 300 of Thailand’s approximately 3,000 wild animals.


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US Puts Visa Restrictions on Chinese Officials Over Treatment of Muslims

The United States is imposing visa restrictions on the Chinese government and Communist Party officials who are believed to be responsible for the detention or abuse of the Uighurs — Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, China.  
 
“Family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Tuesday.
 
In a tweet, Pompeo said those officials are also believed to be complicit in the abuse of Kazakhs.
 Today, I am announcing visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention or abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, or other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 8, 2019 
While no specific names of Chinese officials are mentioned in the statement, U.S. officials and Congressional members had said the Trump administration was considering sanctions against officials linked to China’s human rights abuses on Muslims, including Xinjiang Party Secretary ChenQuanguo.
 
A State Department official told VOA on Tuesday that visa records are “confidential” under U.S. law, therefore, the State Department “will not discuss or disclose” individual applications of this visa policy.  
 
“These visa restrictions are a direct response to Beijing’s highly repressive campaign against Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang,” the official added.State Department’s visa restrictions are said to “complement” Commerce Department’s actions on Monday, where 28 Chinese companies and agencies were blacklisted in the so-called “entity list.”
 
Groups on the list are forbidden from buying various high-tech parts and components from U.S. companies without U.S. government permission.
 
Beijing said the move by the Trump administration interferes with China’s internal affairs.FILE – In a still image from video, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang speaks during a media briefing in which he commented on investigations into Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun in Beijing, July 17, 2019.“I must point out that Xinjiang affairs are purely China’s internal affairs that allow no foreign interference,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a news briefing earlier Tuesday.
 
“China deplores and firmly opposes” the U.S. actions, Geng added.  The U.S. Commerce Department said all those on the list, including the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region security bureau, have been accused of being part of the Chinese government’s campaign of repression, arbitrary mass arrests, and spying against Muslim minorities.”The U.S. government and Department of Commerce cannot and will not tolerate the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities within China,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said. “This action will ensure that our technologies, fostered in an environment of individual liberty and free enterprise, are not used to suppress defenseless minority populations.”China denies any deliberate campaign to oppress Muslim minorities, saying it is targeting those it calls religious extremists.It also dismisses reports of brutal prison camps for Uighurs, calling them education camps and training centers where there is no mistreatment.


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Experts: Prospects for Future US, North Korea Talks Grow Dim

North Korea’s insincerity toward denuclearization and its demand for greater U.S. concessions are making the possibility of serious working-level talks with Washington dim, experts say.“I don’t think there is much prospect for real progress in dismantling (North Korea’s) nukes,” said Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. “It’s possible Kim Jong Un will order (his negotiating team) back to the table, have several more sessions, so there’s an appearance of sincerity.”The long-stalled working-level talks between Washington and Pyongyang resumed Saturday in Stockholm and ended unsuccessfully without making any progress toward denuclearization.FILE – People watch a TV showing a file image of North Korea’s missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Oct. 2, 2019.Evans Revere, a former State Department official who had negotiated with North Korea extensively, thinks the talks broke down because Pyongyang intended to reject a U.S. offer and demand greater concessions.“North Korea came to the Stockholm talks planning to listen to the U.S. proposal, reject them as inadequate and then leave for home with a demand that the U.S. make a fundamental shift in its position if it hopes for talks to resume,” he said.Exploiting WashingtonPyongyang’s goal, according to Revere, is to pressure the U.S. to make more concessions by exploiting Washington’s desire to hold denuclearization talks more than it does.While it is uncertain what specific offers Washington made and concessions Pyongyang demanded at their Stockholm meeting, the U.S. said in a statement released shortly after the abrupt end of the talks that it brought “creative ideas” and presented “a number of new initiatives.”In a statement issued through its official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Sunday, Pyongyang said, “At the negotiations, the U.S. side maintained its former stand, seemingly showing that it has brought no new package.”Ken Gause, director of the Adversary Analytics Program at CNA research center, thinks Pyongyang will not reopen negotiations unless the U.S. makes substantial concessions.  “The U.S. did not put anything on the table,” said Gause. “Without upfront concessions, North Korea has nothing to negotiate over. It will not make the first concessions.”FILE – U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un meet during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi, Feb. 28, 2019.The Stockholm talks were held after months of an impasse between the two sides since the failed Hanoi Summit in February. In Hanoi, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un conveyed that he wanted sanctions relief, and offered to dismantle a part of North Korea’s nuclear facilities.U.S. President Donald Trump denied Kim’s offer and asked for full denuclearization in return for sanctions relief.  Working-level talks had been stalled since the Hanoi summit, until the countries met in Stockholm as Kim promised that North Korea would resume talks when he met with Trump at the inter-Korean border of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in June.Manning thinks North Korea met with the U.S. in Stockholm to show that it held up to its promise but never intended to make any serious negotiations on denuclearization.“I think this was about Kim having to keep his DMZ pledge to allow working-level talks,” said Manning. “So, the talks (are a way) to check the box.”To gain concessionsDennis Wilder, the National Security Council’s senior director for East Asian Affairs during the George W. Bush administration, believes Pyongyang walked away from the talks believing it could gain more concessions from Trump.  Wilder said Pyongyang thinks Trump will likely grant more concessions because it believes he is in a vulnerable position domestically, being under an impeachment probe while campaigning for reelection.FILE – This photo taken Feb. 8, 2018, and released on Feb. 9, 2018, by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows Hwasong-15 ballistic missile during the military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea.“The U.S. side apparently placed a new proposal on the table, and the North may believe that by rejecting it out of hand and making new threats, it can strong-arm President Trump,” said Wilder. “The North may be overestimating the Trump administration’s vulnerability at this time and could make a serious miscalculation.”Washington and Pyongyang gave two different views of their meeting and future talks hosted by the Swedish government. The U.S., in its statement, said it had “good discussions” with North Korea. The U.S. said it has accepted the Swedish government’s invitation to return to Stockholm to meet with Pyongyang in two weeks.By contrast, North Korea, in its statement, threatened it will not meet with Washington until it took “a substantial step” toward its “withdrawal of hostile policy” that “threatens the security of the country.”  Pyongyang refused the Swedish invitation for another round of working-level talks. Referring to the talks as “sickening,” Pyongyang said Washington was “misleading the public opinion” by calling the talks productive.Revere said the difference highlights Pyongyang’s unwillingness to denuclearize.“This difference, in my view, is driven by the fact that North Korea has no intention of agreeing to Washington’s definition of denuclearization, because it has no intention to denuclearize,” said Revere.Differing denuclearization definitionsWashington’s definition of denuclearization has been the complete dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and program, which is different from North Korea’s definition of removing the U.S. nuclear umbrella from the Korean peninsula.Bruce Klingner, former CIA deputy division chief of Korea and current senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said, “While some will dismiss North Korea’s comments as diplomatic maneuvering, they are consistent with repeated missives this year, and indeed, decades of resistance to abandoning its nuclear arsenal.”North Korea said several times this year it will give the U.S. until the end of the year to change its position that it can accept.


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Lam Wants Hong Kong to Resolve Protests on its Own, Won’t Rule Out Mainland Help

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday she would not rule out getting help from mainland China to deal with pro-democracy protests, but that she feels strongly Hong Kong “should find the solution ourselves.””That is also the position of the central government that Hong Kong should tackle the problem on her own, but if the situation becomes so bad, then no options could be ruled out if we want Hong Kong to at least have another chance,” she said at a news conference.Lam said she would carefully assess whether to institute more measures under a colonial-era emergency law she invoked last week to criminalize wearing face masks in Hong Kong.  So far, two people have been charged for wearing the masks, and Lam said it is too early to say whether the law is effective.Masked protesters hold umbrellas during an anti-government rally in central Hong Kong, Oct. 6, 2019.The decision served to fuel more anger among protesters, with tens of thousands of people turning out for fresh demonstrations in defiance of the face mask ban.Face masks have become common during protests in Hong Kong, even at peaceful marches, as people fear retribution from government officials or that their identities could be shared with mainland China.  Many Hong Kong residents also wear face masks to protect against pollution or infection, such as the outbreak of the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that struck the city in 2003.For the last four months, the city has been engulfed in unrest as democracy advocates engaged in increasingly confrontational tactics to fight against what they see as China’s efforts to restrict Hong Kong’s autonomy and civil liberties.


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