US has ‘deep concerns’ about UN official’s trip to China

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A Chinese police officer takes his position by the road near what is officially called a vocational education centre in Yining in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 4, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Workers walk by the perimeter fence of what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 4, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 June 2019
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US has ‘deep concerns’ about UN official’s trip to China

BEIJING: The US government expressed deep concerns to the UN about a reported trip by the UN counterterrorism chief to the restive Xinjiang region in China’s far west.
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, in a phone call Friday with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, called the visit “highly inappropriate in view of the unprecedented repression campaign underway in Xinjiang against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims.”
The Chinese foreign ministry confirmed that Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov, the undersecretary-general of the UN counterterrorism office, is in China at the country’s invitation, but didn’t provide any details.
“More specific information will be released in time,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing.
China has faced international criticism over internment camps in Xinjiang that hold an estimated 1 million members of the Uighur and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups.
Chinese officials describe the camps as vocational training centers and say they are necessary to curb religious extremism.
Sullivan told Guterres that “Beijing continues to paint its repressive campaign against Uighurs and other Muslims as legitimate counterterrorism efforts when it is not,” and that Voronkov’s trip puts the UN’s reputation and credibility at risk.
Geng has previously said the US accusations are “fabricated lies” and that the United States should not interfere in China’s internal affairs.
Human Rights Watch criticized the United Nations for sending a counterterrorism official instead of a human rights expert, saying it risks deflecting attention from what it called “a massive government rights violation against the Turkic Muslim population.”
Chen Xu, China’s new ambassador in Geneva, told reporters Thursday that China had invited UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to visit the camps in Xinjiang “to see for herself.”
UN spokeswoman Marta Hurtado confirmed Bachelet had met Chen and that her office is continuing to negotiate “full access” for any trip to China.
Geng said China would welcome a visit but added, “we will never allow people with political purposes to interfere in China’s internal affairs and damage China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity with their visit to Xinjiang.”


Voting closing in race to become UK’s new prime minister

Updated 22 July 2019
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Voting closing in race to become UK’s new prime minister

  • Members of the governing Conservative Party had until 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) to return postal ballots in the contest between Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to lead the party

LONDON: Voting was closing Monday in the race to become Britain’s next prime minister, as critics of likely winner Boris Johnson condemned his vow to take Britain out of the European Union with or without a divorce deal.
Members of the governing Conservative Party had until 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) to return postal ballots in the contest between Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to lead the party.
The winner will be announced Tuesday, and will take over as the nation’s leader from Prime Minister Theresa May the following day.
Johnson, a populist former mayor of London, is the strong favorite.
Several members of May’s government have said they will resign before they can be fired by Johnson over their opposition to his threat to go through with a no-deal Brexit if he can’t secure a renegotiated settlement with the EU.
Most economists say quitting the 28-nation bloc without a deal would cause Britain economic turmoil. The UK’s official economic watchdog has forecast that a no-deal Brexit would trigger a recession, with the pound plummeting in value, borrowing soaring by 30 billion pounds ($37 billion) and the economy shrinking 2% in a year.
Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday that a no-deal Brexit would be “an act of economic self-harm that runs wholly counter to the national interest.”
EU leaders insist they won’t reopen the 585-page withdrawal agreement they made with May’s government, which has been repeatedly rejected by Britain’s Parliament.
Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan quit Monday, lamenting in his resignation letter that “we have had to spend every day working beneath the dark cloud of Brexit.”
Other government ministers, including Treasury chief Philip Hammond, are set to resign on Wednesday.
The new prime minister will preside over a House of Commons in which most members oppose leaving the EU without a deal, and where the Conservative Party lacks an overall majority.
Opposition parties are preparing for an early election which could be triggered if the government loses a no-confidence vote in the coming months.
The centrist Liberal Democrats, who have seen a surge in support thanks to their strongly anti-Brexit stance, were set to declare the winner of their own leadership contest on Monday.