US sanctions Chinese officials over repression of minorities

In this file photo US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC on June 24, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 09 July 2020

US sanctions Chinese officials over repression of minorities

WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on three senior officials of the Chinese Communist Party for alleged human rights abuses targeting ethnic and religious minorities China has detained in the western part of the country.
The decision to bar these senior officials from entering the US is the latest of a series of actions the Trump administration has taken against China as relations deteriorate over the coronavirus pandemic and trade.
“The United States will not stand idly by as the Chinese Communist Party carries out human rights abuses targeting Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, and attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
Pompeo said additional visa restrictions are being placed on other Chinese Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the unjust detention or abuse of Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and members of other minority groups.
In recent years, the Chinese government has detained an estimated 1 million or more ethnic Turkic minorities. The ethnic minorities are held in internment camps and prisons where they are subjected to ideological discipline, forced to denounce their religion and language and physically abused. China has long suspected the Uighurs, who are mostly Muslim, of harboring separatist tendencies because of their distinct culture, language and religion.
China’s officially atheist Communist government at first denied the existence of the internment camps in Xinjiang, but now says they are vocational training facilities aimed at countering Muslim radicalism and separatist tendencies.
China says Xinjiang has long been its territory and claims it is bringing prosperity and development to the vast, resource-rich region. Many among Xinjiang’s native ethnic groups say they are being denied economic options in favor of migrants from elsewhere in China and that their Muslim faith and unique culture and language are being gradually eradicated.
Last December, Xinjiang authorities announced that the camps had closed and all the detainees had “graduated,” a claim difficult to corroborate independently given tight surveillance and restrictions on reporting in the region. Some Uighurs and Kazakhs have told the AP that their relatives have been released, but many others say their loved ones remain in detention, were sentenced to prison or transferred to forced labor in factories.


South Korea bans year-end parties as coronavirus case spike again

Updated 29 November 2020

South Korea bans year-end parties as coronavirus case spike again

  • South Korea has been one of the world’s coronavirus mitigation success stories
  • But spikes in infections have reappeared relentlessly, triggering alarm in Asia’s fourth-largest economy

SEOUL: South Korean authorities announced a ban on year-end parties and some music lessons on Sunday and said public saunas and some cafes must also close after coronavirus infections surged at their fastest pace since the early days of the pandemic.
South Korea has been one of the world’s coronavirus mitigation success stories but spikes in infections have reappeared relentlessly, triggering alarm in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
Authorities reported 450 new infections on Sunday after more than 500 cases were recorded for three days in a row, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.
What authorities are calling a third wave of infections is spreading at the fastest rate in nearly nine months, driven by outbreaks at military facilities, a sauna, a high school and churches.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said restrictions would be tightened on gatherings and activities seen as prone to virus transmission, especially in the capital Seoul and surrounding urban areas.
“Year-end events and parties hosted by hotels, party rooms, guest houses and other accommodation facilities will be banned outright,” Chung told a briefing after meeting health officials.
Saunas and steam-bath rooms with a high risk of mass infection would also be banned as would the teaching of wind musical instruments and singing, he said.
For the rest of the country, social distancing rules would also be tightened from Tuesday, he said.
Chung said the government was talking to parliament about the possibility of new relief funds for households and businesses, the third this year as the economy struggles.
“Our assessment is that we need the third crisis support fund ... The government will come up with a conclusion on this after discussing with both the ruling and opposition parties,” he said.
President Moon Jae-in toured a Seoul high school on Sunday that was being prepared as a test center to accommodate students in quarantine on Dec 3., when almost 500,000 students sit for the annual college entrance exam.
Moon toured classrooms where desks were equipped with partitions and hand sanitizers to host five test takers in quarantine.