China targeted Taipei’s allies while US hosted democracy summit — Taiwan foreign minister

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 15 December 2021

China targeted Taipei’s allies while US hosted democracy summit — Taiwan foreign minister

  • Nicaragua broke its longstanding diplomatic ties with Taiwan last week, switching allegiance to Beijing in a recognition of the Chinese Communist Party's One China policy

TAIPEI: Nicaragua's decision last week to cut ties with Taiwan was part of a deliberate move by China to target the island's diplomatic allies after it was excluded from a democracy summit hosted by Washington, Taiwan's foreign minister said on Tuesday.
Nicaragua broke its longstanding diplomatic ties with Taiwan last week, switching allegiance to Beijing in a recognition of the Chinese Communist Party's One China policy and reducing Taipei's dwindling pool of international allies.
"When democratic countries were holding a democratic summit, China was excluded, China was a target, so China chose this opportunity to set about targeting our diplomatic allies," said Foreign Minister Joseph Wu on the sidelines of a forum on regional security.
Digital Minister Audrey Tang and Taiwan's de facto ambassador in Washington Hsiao Bi-khim represented the island at the Biden administration's "Summit for Democracy" last week. China was not on the US State Department's invited participants list.
"Losing a diplomatic ally is a very painful thing for us," Wu told reporters.
China's foreign ministry said in a statement to Reuters the comments were an attempt to "cover up the failures of separatist activities".
Beijing has increased military and political pressure on Taiwan to accept its sovereignty claims, drawing anger from the democratically ruled island, which has repeatedly said it would not be bullied and has the right to international participation.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the island would not bend to pressure or change its determination to uphold democracy and freedom.
"The more successful Taiwan's democracy is, the stronger the international support, and the greater the pressure from the authoritarian camp," she said in Taipei.
China and Nicaragua's move to re-establish diplomatic ties will likely boost Beijing's influence in a part of the world long considered the United States' backyard, angering Washington.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega first cut ties with Taiwan in 1985, but they were re-established with the island in 1990 under then-Nicaraguan President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.
Wu said all of his colleagues in the foreign ministry "put forth their greatest efforts to maintain these diplomatic ties."
Nicaragua's move to cut ties with Taiwan leaves the island with just 14 formal diplomatic allies, most of them in Latin America and the Caribbean, plus a handful of small states.


Religious tensions high in India as two Muslim men brutally kill Hindu tailor

Updated 29 June 2022

Religious tensions high in India as two Muslim men brutally kill Hindu tailor

  • Kanhaiya Lal, was stabbed multiple times Tuesday inside his tailoring shop by two cleaver-wielding men
  • Hindu nationalists have increasingly launched attacks on Muslims, targeting them over food, clothing

NEW DELHI: Tensions were high in India’s western Udaipur city Wednesday, a day after police arrested two Muslim men accused of slitting a Hindu tailor’s throat in a brutal attack that highlights a dramatic escalation of communal violence in a country riven by deep religious polarization.

The Hindu man, Kanhaiya Lal, was stabbed multiple times Tuesday inside his tailoring shop by two cleaver-wielding men who also filmed the attack and posted it online, police said, warning that the incident could inflame religious tensions and lead to violence. The video showed the tailor taking measurements of one assailant before he attacks Lal from behind and stabs at his throat with a cleaver.

TV reports aired video of Lal lying on the ground with his throat slit. The two men later claimed responsibility for the killing in another video and accused Lal of blasphemy. They also threatened to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the same manner, brandishing the blood-stained weapons they used to attack Lal.

Local media reported the victim had purportedly shared a social media post supporting a suspended spokesperson for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party who made controversial remarks on the Prophet Muhammad last month.

Police said both accused were arrested within hours of Lal’s death, but in a bid to calm frayed nerves in parts of the city, authorities suspended Internet services in Rajasthan state and banned large gatherings. Authorities also rushed additional police into the city to counter any religious unrest.

India’s home ministry has dispatched a team of its anti-terror agency to Rajasthan to investigate whether the killing had any links to terrorist groups. So far, the state police have not charged the two arrested men with terrorism.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot ensured a speedy investigation into Lal’s killing. He said the criminals will be punished and urged people not to share the video on social media because of its highly inflammatory content.

“I again appeal to all to maintain peace,” Gehlot said Tuesday in a tweet.

The latest killing comes after months of rising tensions between Hindus and Muslims, as well as a spate of attacks by Hindu nationalists on minority groups — especially Muslims — who have been targeted for everything from their food and clothing style to interfaith marriages. More recently, Muslim homes have also been demolished using bulldozers in some Indian states, in what critics call a growing pattern of “bulldozer justice” against the minority group.

These tensions escalated in May when two spokespeople from Modi’s party made speculative remarks that were seen as insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and his wife Aisha. Both were later suspended by Modi’s party after it led to severe diplomatic backlash for India from many Muslim-dominated countries. The controversy also led to protests in India that turned violent in some places after demonstrators pelted stones at police. At least two people were killed.

Experts worry that the latest incident could worsen India’s religious fault lines that critics say have deepened since Modi came to power in 2014.

“This gruesome incident could lead to escalated religious tensions across India, especially with the ruling party espousing a very strident Hindu majoritarian cause,” said Sushant Singh, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research, a public policy think tank.

“It is unlikely that this government or leadership would go out of its way to tell supporters to not get provoked, to urge for calm and peace,” he said.

In May, a Hindu man in the southern city of Hyderabad was stabbed to death in public by his Muslim wife’s relatives. Last year, a Muslim man was beheaded by members of a vigilante group on orders of his girlfriend’s Hindu family because they didn’t approve of their interfaith marriage. In Rajasthan state in 2017, a Hindu man brutally killed a Muslim laborer and shared a video of the victim being hacked to death and then set on fire.


Joe Biden announces US military air, sea, land reinforcements in Europe

Updated 29 June 2022

Joe Biden announces US military air, sea, land reinforcements in Europe

  • NATO will be ‘strengthened in all directions across every domain — land, air and sea’

MADRID: President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced US reinforcements of NATO forces in Europe, saying the alliance is needed more today “than it ever has been.”
NATO will be “strengthened in all directions across every domain — land, air and sea,” he said at a summit of the transatlantic alliance being held in Madrid.


Taiwan rebuffs Philippines complaint about South China Sea live fire drills

Updated 29 June 2022

Taiwan rebuffs Philippines complaint about South China Sea live fire drills

  • Itu Aba is the biggest feature in the Spratly Islands, a grouping of islets and other features

TAIPEI: Taiwan on Wednesday rebuffed a complaint from the Philippines about live fire drills around a Taiwan-controlled island deep in the South China Sea, saying it had the right to do so and always gives issues a warning of its exercises.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, in a message on Twitter late on Tuesday, lodged a “strong objection over the unlawful live fire drills” to be carried out by Taiwan this week around the island, known internationally as Itu Aba.
Taiwan calls the island Taiping and the Philippines calls it Ligaw Island.
The department said the island belonged to the Philippines.
“This illegal activity raises tensions and complicates the situation in the South China Sea,” it said.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement the island was part of the territory of the Republic of China — Taiwan’s formal name — and that it enjoyed all relevant rights accorded by international law.
“Our country has the right to conduct routine exercises on Taiping Island and related maritime areas. In order to ensure the safety of maritime traffic and fishing boats operating in adjacent maritime areas, we notify the relevant regional countries in advance before each live-fire drill,” it said.
Itu Aba is the biggest feature in the Spratly Islands, a grouping of islets and other features also claimed, entirely or in part, by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
The Philippines normally complains most vociferously about China’s activities in the South China Sea, including what Manila says is illegal fishing.
The Philippines, like most counties, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but there are close cultural and economic links and Taiwan is home to about 160,000 Filipinos, most of them migrant workers.
The maps China bases its South China Sea claims on date to when Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China government ruled China before it fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communists.
Taiwan also controls the Pratas Islands at the very northern end of the South China Sea.


Widespread relief for Shanghai’s restaurant sector as dine-in resumes

Updated 29 June 2022

Widespread relief for Shanghai’s restaurant sector as dine-in resumes

  • Many restaurants in Shanghai were forced to suspend dine-in services as early as mid-March when the number of COVID-19 cases began rising

SHANGHAI: Restaurants and eateries in China’s largest city Shanghai begun reopening their doors to diners on Wednesday, bringing widespread relief to an industry that was badly hit by the city’s two month COVID-19 lockdown.
Large chains such as hot pot brand Haidilao, fine dining establishments and family owned eateries had started scrubbing tableware and getting uniforms laundered since Saturday when authorities announced the curbs were lifting, a month after the city’s lockdown eased on June 1.
“It’s a very good feeling,” said Oli Liu, co-owner of tapas restaurant chain Brownstone as he prepared to open his five outlets for indoor dining on Wednesday.
“With indoor dining we can make money...Until now we could do takeaway and delivery but the commissions we have to pay (to delivery platforms) means we can’t make money from that.”
Many restaurants in the city of 25 million were forced to suspend dine-in services as early as mid-March when the number of COVID-19 cases in Shanghai began rising. While some were able to resume food deliveries in the midst of the lockdown, others remained shut throughout.
The reopening, however, is far from straightforward. Some owners said they had not yet received the green light from their districts and are required to cap customer numbers at 50 percent as well as a limit each session to 90 minutes.
All restaurant staff will also be required to undergo daily COVID-19 testing, while diners have to show proof of a PCR test taken within three days to enter.
Local media reports have also suggested dining parties should nominate a “leader” who will be responsible for their table, though it’s unclear what might happen if guests later test positive.
Complying with such onerous rules will not be easy, and many eateries already have or are expected to call it quits, said Stefan Stiller, chef-owner of fine dining restaurant Taian Table, who added that he expects restrictions to be in place in some form for the rest of the year.
For his three-star Michelin restaurant that only seats 30 at capacity and specializes in 10 to 12 course tasting menus that typically take several hours to complete, meeting the criteria is “not so easy ... but we will manage somehow,” he said.
But many diners are eager to get back into restaurants after months of mostly eating at home.
One of the first customers through the door at Brownstone’s Lujiazui location at lunchtime on Wednesday was a Shanghai resident surnamed He.
“Normally at home I don’t cook... I have especially missed eating out,” he said. “For so long I missed eating many things — crayfish, barbecue, drinking beer.”


Northern California wildfire threatens 500 buildings

Updated 29 June 2022

Northern California wildfire threatens 500 buildings

  • The Rices Fire erupted at around 2 p.m. near the Yuba River in Nevada County and had spread to more than 202 hectares by nightfall

BRIDGEPORT, California: A wildfire that erupted in Northern California forced evacuations as it threatened about 500 homes and other buildings Tuesday, authorities said.
The Rices Fire erupted at around 2 p.m. near the Yuba River in Nevada County and had spread to more than 202 hectares by nightfall, said Unit Chief Brian Estes of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The flames also threatened power lines, water delivery systems and a state park, Estes said.
The rural area is in the Sierra Nevada, northeast of Sacramento and about halfway between the state Capitol and the Nevada border.
Authorities earlier said the fire began with a burning building and the flames spread to nearby dry vegetation.
At an evening news conference, however, Estes said he couldn’t confirm reports that some buildings had been destroyed.
About 350 buildings homes and other buildings were under evacuation orders, county Sheriff Shannan Moon said.
Firefighters fought the blaze on the ground and in the air, with aircraft making dozens of drops of water and fire retardant.
The fire was one of several in Northern California that flared Tuesday as the state sweltered under summer heat, with temperatures in the Rices Fire area hitting as high as 98 F (36.6 C) with low humidity.
A blaze that erupted Tuesday morning in San Luis Obispo County burned through grass and brush. It threatened about 50 buildings but no damage or injuries were reported and the blaze was 25 percent contained, fire officials said.
In Glenn County, a fire that charred more than 121 hectares was 65 percent contained.
Another fire near Davis, west of Sacramento, was contained without building damage or injuries after burning 202 hectares, authorities said.