South China Sea: Can’t Talk About This Topic — “You Can’t Handle The Truth”

July 26, 2016


Photo: U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, left, and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi. July 25, 2016. AP Photo

By Emily Rauhala July 25 at 10:31 AM
The Washington Post

BEIJING — National security adviser Susan E. Rice was in Beijing on Monday to talk about the South China Sea, the scene of a deepening territorial dispute that pits China against some of Washington’s most important Southeast Asian allies.

But Rice did not talk about the South China Sea — at least not publicly.

The diplomatic sidestep was a clear sign of just how sensitive the standoff has become. For Beijing’s leaders, control of the South China Sea is a critical show of resolve. For the United States and its Asian allies, it marks a test of how much they can push back against China’s growing military and regional ambitions.

In the highest-level U.S. visit since an international tribunal issued a ruling this month invalidating China’s expansive maritime claims, Rice met with President Xi Jinping, State Councilor Yang Jiechi and other senior officials. She alluded to “issues and challenges” but avoided actual references to the long-simmering conflict.

In opening remarks before her talk with Xi, Rice played up interdependence and called the U.S.-China relationship “the most consequential in the world today.” Xi told Rice that China remains “strongly committed” to building good relations based upon the ideas of “no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.”

China asserts historic sovereignty over most of the South China Sea — including numerous islands, reefs and shoals — and vows to ignore international rulings backing counterclaims by the Philippines, Vietnam and other nations. Meanwhile, the United States and its allies have become increasingly alarmed over Chinese land reclamation and construction on reefs and rocks, which they fear could become footholds for military bases and disrupt shipping lanes.

The most pointed — if indirect — reference to the dispute came in an earlier meeting between Rice and Fan Changlong, a top Chinese general.

“We should be honest with ourselves that deep down in this relationship we’re still faced with obstacles and challenges,” Fan told Rice.

“If we do not properly handle these factors, it will very likely disturb and undermine this steady momentum of our military-to-military relationship.”

The meetings in Beijing co­incided with Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s trip to Laos, where he met with Southeast Asian leaders and China’s foreign minister to begin delicate discussions about how to move forward after the divisive ruling.

In another display of the high stakes at play, the host of the talks, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, issued a statement that carefully avoided the July 12 court ruling against Beijing.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, found there was no legal or historical basis for China’s claims to a vast swath of one of the world’s most important waterways.


Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague; hearing on the South China Sea. At the podium speaking to the court is then Foreign Minister of the Philippines, Albert del Rosario. China refused to participate.

The tribunal also ruled that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights by constructing artificial islands and had caused “permanent irreparable harm to the coral reef ecosystem.”

China dismissed the ruling as “trash paper” and denounced the process as a “farce.” It has vowed to ignore the ruling altogether.

The United States now must find a way to support its Southeast Asian allies, particularly the Philippines, without completely alienating Beijing.

“The U.S. is trying to calm things down while at the same time encouraging support for the arbitration ruling,” said Jay L. Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

“They know China is super-sensitive right now, so they are trying to handle it delicately.”

Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, said Washington is “waiting for the dust to settle.”

“They want to see how the Philippines responds and what next steps China might take,” he said.

The Chinese response so far has been a mix of scathing rhetoric and mostly symbolic moves, such as sending civilian aircraft to new airports in the South China Sea.

On the sidelines of a recent summit, China reportedly told the Philippines that Beijing was ready to negotiate if Manila ignored the ruling — an offer that the Philippines foreign minister roundly rejected.

On Monday, the Philippines’ new president, Rodrigo Duterte, vowed to use the ruling as part of “ongoing efforts to pursue a peaceful resolution and management of our disputes.”

Members of the 10-country ASEAN group met over the weekend in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, for their most significant conclave since the tribunal decision was announced.

Over the weekend, Liu Zhenmin, China’s vice minister of foreign affairs, indirectly accused the United States of interfering in Southeast Asian affairs.

ASEAN “should in particular guard against the intervention in regional cooperation by big powers outside the region,” he said, without citing a specific country.

Xu Yangjingjing contributed to this report from Beijing.

Emily Rauhala is a China Correspondent for the Post. She was previously a Beijing-based correspondent for TIME, and an editor at the magazine’s Hong Kong office. Follow @emilyrauhala

Peace and Freedom Note: China has been continuously violating international law in the South China Sea for several years. U.S. allies in the region have been hoping for some leadership from the Obama administration. Now many of them have given up. Philippines President Duterte has hinted that he may make a deal for the South China Sea with China in exchange for some investments from China like high speed rail projects.  Let’s hope Mr. Duterte, not man man who has high regard for law, doesn’t make matters worse for everyone in the South China Sea. Filipinos want the fish, natural resources, oil and gas they own in the sea according to international law.   Japan has been making itself ready for whatever comes next in the South China Sea because Japan also has a dispute in the East China Sea with China. Without freedom of navigation through these international waters, Japan’s economy will halt. China has already talked about closing the South China Sea to air and or sea traffic. Even India has a role in this — as an ally and oil exploration partner with Vietnam. Plus, if China can take the South China Sea, they could well take the Indian Ocean as they move west while further securing the “new Silk Road.”


Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, center, and Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., prepare for a photo, during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Vientiane, Laos, Monday, July 25, 2016. AP/Sakchai Lalit

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, looks delighted that nobody has objected to China’s illegal action in the South China Sea as he talks to Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, center, and Philippine Foreign Secreatary Perfecto Yasay, during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) –China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Vientiane, Laos, Monday, July 25, 2016. A highly anticipated meeting between Southeast Asian foreign ministers and their Chinese counterpart Wang Yi has begun in what is expected to be tense discussions on China’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) (The Associated Press)

China’s presence in the South China Sea has been an environmental disaster.

China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the sea, through which passes about $5 trillion of trade a year

Countries competing to cement their rival claims have encouraged a growing civilian presence on disputed islands in the South China Sea. The first cruises from China to the Paracel Islands were launched by Hainan Strait Shipping Co in 2013.


Pollution from commercial jets harms environment: US

July 25, 2016


© Getty/AFP | US aircraft are “the single-largest greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting transportation source not yet subject to GHG standards in the US,” said the EPA

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Greenhouse gases emitted by commercial airplanes contribute to global warming and endanger public health and the environment, US officials concluded Monday, opening the path for regulation of passenger planes.

The final assessment by the US Environmental Protection Agency supports the goals of President Barack Obama’s plan to reduce emissions from large sources of carbon pollution.

US aircraft are “the single-largest greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting transportation source not yet subject to GHG standards in the US,” said the EPA.

Aircraft are responsible for about three percent of total US GHG emissions.

And US airplanes make up 29 percent of these emissions from all aircraft globally, said the EPA.

“Addressing pollution from aircraft is an important element of US efforts to address climate change,” said Janet McCabe, EPA’s acting assistant administrator for air and radiation.

“Aircraft are the third-largest contributor to GHG emissions in the US transportation sector, and these emissions are expected to increase in the future,” she added.

“EPA has already set effective GHG standards for cars and trucks and any future aircraft engine standards will also provide important climate and public health benefits.”

It was necessary for the EPA to make a final determination that risks are posed to the environment in order to begin the regulatory process.

However, Monday’s announcement neither proposes nor finalizes any such regulations.

The EPA said the emissions of concern are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

The regulations would exclude small tourist aircraft and military airplanes.

Germans Question Wisdom of Angela Merkel’s Refugee Policy After A Week of Attacks in Germany

July 25, 2016

German Refugee Policy Under Fire After a Week of Bloodshed

Police investigators work at the site of a suicide bombing in Ansbach, southern Germany.
Police investigators work at the site of a suicide bombing in Ansbach, southern Germany. PHOTO: DANIEL KARMANN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The Associated Press

Julay 25, 2015

BERLIN — Four attacks in a week — three of them carried out by asylum seekers — have left Germany on edge and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policies of welcoming refugees under renewed criticism.

Anxiety over Germany’s ability to cope with last year’s flood of more than 1 million registered asylum seekers first surged following a series of sexual assaults and robberies in Cologne during New Year celebrations.

But in the last seven days, the violence has become even more deadly.

The unprecedented bloodshed began July 18, when a 17-year-old from Afghanistan wielding an ax attacked people on a train near Wuerzburg, wounding five people before he was shot to death by police. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

On Sunday, a 21-year-old Syrian used a machete to kill a 45-year-old Polish woman in the southern city of Reutlingen. Authorities said assailant and victim knew each other from working in the same restaurant, and the incident was not related to terrorism.

Also Sunday, a 27-year-old Syrian who was denied asylum detonated a backpack of explosives and shrapnel at the entrance to an outdoor music festival in Ansbach, killing himself and wounding 15 people. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility, and German security officials said a video on the attacker’s phone shows him pledging allegiance to the extremists.

The deadliest attack came Friday night in Munich. The German-born, 18-year-old son of Iranian asylum seekers went on a shooting spree and killed nine people. The youth had obsessively researched mass shootings, and authorities said the attack does not appear to be linked to Islamic extremists.

© dpa/AFP / by Pauline Curtet with Deborah Cole in Berlin | Special police forces block the street near a refugee shelter where a Syrian migrant who set off an explosive device near an open-air music festival had stayed, on July 25, 2016 in Ansba

The violence followed an attack in the French Riviera by a Tunisian truck driver who plowed his vehicle into a Bastille Day crowd, killing 84 people in Nice.

Experts say the attacks are likely to inflame anti-foreigner sentiment in Germany, creating a challenge for Merkel’s government.

Merkel could now face increased calls for tighter border security and greater vetting of arrivals, even though the flow of migrants and asylum seekers has slowed drastically, said Florian Otto, an analyst with the risk consultants Verisk Maplecrof. The influx diminished after the European Union and Turkey agreed on a deal aimed at stopping people from reaching the continent by sea.

Although it’s too soon to say whether these attacks would threaten Merkel’s chances of staying in power after federal elections next year, “she will face more pressure and scrutiny for her immigration policies,” Otto said.

“The motives of the … attacks differ widely; they were not linked. But to some extent, that won’t matter in the public debate, which will be focused on the outcomes,” he said.

The sexual assaults in Cologne, which prosecutors said were committed largely by foreigners, fueled anti-immigrant sentiment and helped bolster support for the populist, anti-Islam AfD party in three regional elections.

Concern had lessened as border controls were re-established after being abolished for a time last fall to handle the biggest influx and warnings of a spike in crime weren’t realized. But with regional elections coming in the fall, this month’s attacks could give AfD fresh support.

On Monday, the AfD criticized Merkel’s administration, saying that under “the current ideology of a dangerous ‘multiculturalism,’ the country’s domestic security and the order of Germany keeps getting destroyed.”

Social media criticism of Merkel was especially harsh, with some people condemning her for accepting hundreds of thousands of migrants last year.

Merkel tried to calm the mood over the weekend by saying the security services will “do everything possible to protect the security and freedom of all people in Germany.”

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said most asylum seekers had come to Germany to escape persecution, and it was important to remember that only a tiny minority had links to terrorism. It would be wrong, he told the Funke newspaper group, to put all of them under “general suspicion, even if there are investigations in individual cases.”

“We are currently talking about 59 investigations for possible links to terrorist structures, and that’s with many hundreds of thousands of newly arrived people,” he was quoted as saying. In the overwhelming number of cases, reports turn out to be false.

De Maiziere called for Germany’s borders to be better protected without preventing people from coming in by legal and safe means “in reasonable numbers.”

In the Munich shooting, he noted there was no indication the gunman, born in Germany to Iranian parents, had failed to integrate in German society.

Nonetheless, “people in Germany are scared,” said Rainer Wendt, the head of the police union DPolG.

“Last year, we gave up control of our borders and instructed police not to check everything that should have been checked,” Wendt said in an interview on German broadcaster n-tv. “There was also this welcome culture, which stopped us clearly seeing that some people have come here who are up to no good, or who are so psychologically unstable that they pose a considerable threat.”

Armin Nassehi, a sociologist at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, said that among the 1 million asylum seekers who were registered in Germany last year, “there’s a big number of traumatized people who know nothing but violence — that’s a fact one cannot ignore.”

He pointed out that “most people who commit Islamist acts of terror are also psychologically unstable.”

Asked why there were so many attacks in such a short time, Nassehi suggested some of the attackers may be copycats, saying that “images of violence produce further violence.”

Asked how similar attacks could best be prevented, de Maiziere said it was important to ensure that new arrivals be well-integrated quickly into German society.

“Good integration policy is always preventive security policy as well,” he said.


Gera reported from Warsaw, Poland. Frank Jordans contributed from Berlin.




Bernie Sanders Says ‘Elect Hillary,’ Gets Heavily Booed

July 25, 2016

Sanders’ ‘Elect Hillary’ Gets Boos From Supporters|


PHILADELPHIA—In a remarkable display of resistance, Sen. Bernie Sanders was vigorously booed by his own supporters Monday as he urged them to rally around Hillary Clinton and defeat Donald Trump for president.

After laying out the goals of the political revolution that propelled his longshot campaign, Mr. Sanders said the imperative was the fall presidential race.

“Immediately, right now, we have got to defeat Donald Trump, and we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and [running mate] Tim Kaine,” he said.

That was greeted with a hailstorm of boos from the crowd of his delegates and supporters.

He replied: “Brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters, this is this is the real world that we live in.”

The reception may be a preview to Monday night, when he is to be the final speaker on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention. The Vermont senator has already endorsed Mrs. Clinton and she is counting on him to help bring his faithful to her side.

Protesters rally in support of Bernie Sanders at City Hall on Monday.
Protesters rally in support of Bernie Sanders at City Hall on Monday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Addressing his backers Monday afternoon, Mr. Sanders went on to lay out the case against Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee, calling him a “bully and a demagogue” who has “made bigotry and hatred the cornerstone of his campaign.”

The boos continued to come, even as he laid out the many groups that Mr. Trump has offended.

“We want Bernie! We want Bernie!” they chanted.

When he said, “Trump does not respect the constitution of the United States or civil liberties,” someone yelled back, “Neither does Clinton!”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, lost her job as chair of the Democratic National Committee

Mr. Sanders soldiered on with his speech, and made clear he was committed to electing his onetime opponent.

“Trump is a danger for the future of our country and must be defeated, and I intend to do everything I can to see that he is defeated,” he said.

Mr. Sanders also talked about the future of the political movement he led, saying he hoped to back at least 100 like-minded candidates across the country, and urged his supporters to do the hard work of knocking on doors and handing out leaflets to advance their cause. “Real politics is not necessarily sexy,” he said.

“You have heard me say a million times that this campaign is not just about electing a president, as important as that is,” he said. “It is building a movement to transform this country. Election Days come and go but the fight for social, economic, racial and environmental justice continues.”

Monday Preview: What Will Bernie Sanders Say in Philadelphia?

Sanders Supporters Chant ‘Lock Her Up’ in Philadelphia Protest

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Heckled by Democratic Delegates

Democratic Dilemma: Knock Trump, or Boost Clinton?

Turkey detains 42 journalists in crackdown — EU and Human Rights Groups Express Outrage — FM Mevlut Cavusoglu Says “Europe cannot threaten Turkey regarding the death penalty”

July 25, 2016
Mon Jul 25, 2016 12:34pm EDT

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reviews a guard of honour as he arrives to the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, Turkey, July 22, 2016.

Turkey ordered the detention of 42 journalists on Monday, broadcaster NTV reported, under a crackdown following a failed coup that has targeted more than 60,000 people, drawing fire from the European Union.

The arrests or suspensions of soldiers, police, judges and civil servants in response to the July 15-16 putsch have raised concerns among rights groups and Western countries, who fear President Tayyip Erdogan is capitalizing on it to tighten his grip on power.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker questioned Ankara’s long-standing aspiration to join the EU.

“I believe that Turkey, in its current state, is not in a position to become a member any time soon and not even over a longer period,” Juncker said on French television France 2.

Juncker also said that if Turkey reintroduces the death penalty – something the government has said it must consider, responding to calls from supporters at public rallies for the coup leaders to be executed – it would stop the EU accession process immediately.

Turkey abolished capital punishment in 2004, allowing it to open EU accession talks the following year, but the negotiations have made scant progress since then.

Responding to Juncker’s comments, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Haberturk TV that Europe cannot threaten Turkey regarding the death penalty.

Erdogan has declared a state of emergency, which allows him to sign new laws without prior parliamentary approval and limit rights as he deems necessary. The government has said these steps are needed to root out supporters of the coup and won’t infringe on the rights of ordinary Turks.

NTV reported that among the 42 journalists subject to arrest warrants was well-known commentator and former parliamentarian Nazli Ilicak.

State-run Turkish Airlines said it had fired 211 employees, citing their links to a religious movement Erdogan has blamed for the attempted putsch.

Seven soldiers from a group which attacked a hotel in the coastal town of Marmaris where Erdogan had been staying, in an apparent attempt to capture or kill him during the coup bid, were detained at a police checkpoint on Monday.


Erdogan accuses U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has many followers in Turkey, of masterminding the coup plot. In his first decree since the state of emergency was declared, Erdogan ordered the closure of thousands of private schools, charities and foundations with suspected links to Gulen, who denies involvement in the coup.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, says the coup may have been orchestrated by Erdogan himself.

Turkey wants the United States to extradite the cleric. Washington has said it will do so only if there is clear evidence.

Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said that ties with Washington will be affected if it fails to extradite Gulen. He said he would hold meetings with political and judiciary officials during a coming visit to the United States.

Erdogan has accused Gulen, his former ally, of attempting to build a “parallel network” of supporters within the military, police, judiciary, civil service, education and media with the aim of toppling the state.

“They are traitors,” Erdogan told Reuters in an interview last week. He described Gulen’s network as “like a cancer” and said he would treat them like a “separatist terrorist organization” and root them out, wherever they may be.

Gulen denies the allegations.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday that authorities had taken around 13,000 people into custody over the coup attempt, including 8,831 soldiers. He promised they would have a fair trial.

The officers accused of staging the coup will stand trial in an Ankara district laden with symbolism for Turkey’s recent history – the scene of an army show of strength before a “post-modern coup” ousted its first Islamist-led government in 1997.

Rights group Amnesty International said it had received credible evidence of detainees being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, since the coup attempt.

Erdogan has extended the maximum period of detention for suspects from four days to 30, a move Amnesty said increased the risk of torture or other maltreatment of detainees.

Photographs on social media have shown some of the detainees bruised and bandaged.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Twitter that Amnesty’s allegations were false, describing them as Gulenist “slander”. “Absolutely none of those detained were subject to torture or bad treatment during or after their detention,” he said.


Ankara is increasingly expressing frustration over what it says in the lack of solidarity from Western partners in the aftermath of the coup.

Western countries pledged support for democracy in Turkey, but have also expressed concern over the scale of subsequent purges of state institutions.

Last week, the minister for EU affairs chided Western countries for not sending any representatives to demonstrate their solidarity with Turkey since the failed coup.

On Sunday, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin took to the opinion pages of the New York Times to defend Turkey’s actions.

“Several thousand military officers and their accomplices in law enforcement and the judiciary have been suspended or arrested for having links to the coup. Their removal from public posts makes the Turkish government stronger and more transparent,” he wrote, adding that at least 1,200 rank-and-file soldiers have been released so far.

He also dismissed claims that Erdogan had orchestrated the coup in order to launch a crackdown.

“The claim that this was a fake coup is no more credible than the laughable claim that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by the United States.”

(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Istanbul; Ece Toksabay in Ankara and Geert De Clercq in Paris; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Michael Georgy, David Stamp and Anna Willard)

Israel, U.S. in Deal For Increased U.S. Military Assistance to Israel

July 25, 2016

The Associated Press
July 25, 2016

JERUSALEM — A senior Israeli official will travel to Washington next week in the hopes of signing a long-anticipated agreement that could result in increased U.S. military assistance to Israel, the Israeli prime minister’s office said Monday.

The premier’s office said in a statement that Brig. Gen. (Res.) Jacob Nagel, acting head of Israel’s National Security Council, will meet White House officials to sign an agreement “as soon as possible.”

The U.S. gives Israel $3.1 billion annually in an agreement expiring before the 2018 fiscal year. The Obama administration has offered Israel an enhanced decade-long military aid package to ease Israel’s concerns over the U.S.-led Iranian nuclear deal.

Since the Iran deal was signed, the U.S. and Israel have haggled over how much Israel would receive. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once reportedly suggested Israel might get a better deal from the next U.S. administration.

White House officials declined to comment on Israel’s announcement of Nagel’s visit, but said U.S. and Israeli officials are in regular contact to try to finalize the deal.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said Israel does not seek an increase in the already agreed upon $3.1 billion for the 2017 fiscal year.

“Israel places great value on the predictability and certainty of the military assistance it receives from the United States and on honoring bilateral agreements,” the prime minister’s office said.

Hong Kong Book Publishers Worry About The Future Amid Mainland Crackdown

July 25, 2016


© Anthony Wallace, AFP | Despite possibly angering Beijing, a trove of documents belonging to purged Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang were displayed at the Hong Kong Book Fair, on July 20, 2016

Text by Louise NORDSTROM

Latest update : 2016-07-25

China’s recent detention of five Hong Kong booksellers has left many involved in the city’s popular distribution of Beijing-banned works wracked with fear. While some refuse to buckle under pressure, others say they face a censorship “steamroller”.

One by one, the booksellers linked to the Hong Kong publishing firm Mighty Current went missing as of last October. And it would take months before it was revealed that they were being held in China for “illegal book trading”, accused of having sold “unauthorised” works on the mainland via an online platform, as well as evading custom inspections.

The publisher is known for carrying titles touching on sensitive Chinese topics, including scurrilous, gossipy works on the private lives of elite politicians, which are banned on the mainland. In Hong Kong, however, which was exempted from adopting China’s social policies for a period of 50 years upon its 1997 return to Beijing, it has been a booming business for years, in particular attracting Chinese tourists visiting from the mainland.

Although only one of the men still remains in detention, another — Lam Wing-kee — last month spoke out about how he was blindfolded upon his arrest and then kept under constant surveillance in an 18-square room for five months, denied the right to contact either his family or his lawyer.

Lam, who skipped bail during a temporarily granted return to Hong Kong, now lives under police protection after alleging he was being tailed by strangers, according to the South China Morning Post.

Pressure growing on Hong Kong booksellers

Many publishers and China experts alike say the arrests were orchestrated by Beijing in a bid to clamp down on Hong Kong’s freedom of expression, and that pressure on the city’s booksellers to self-censor access to Beijing-related works is escalating.

At the annual week-long Hong Kong Book Fair, which closes Tuesday, several participants spoke of the fear rippling through the industry and how some mainstream bookshops have chosen to remove titles that risk angering mainland authorities.

Jimmy Pang, the head of the small independent publisher Subculture, called it “white terror”.

“If a book is suddenly banned, say after some mainland officials say it is, the whole line of production can get into trouble, from its writer, publisher, to the distributor and even readers. It can happen two or three years after the book is printed,” Pang was quoted as telling AFP on the sidelines of the event.

His observations were echoed by Lam Hong-chin, a political author writing for Subculture.

“People are worried. Some writers don’t even write any more. Some publishers don’t even dare to print,” he told AFP, adding he now fears for his own safety.

‘Very gloomy’ future for industry

Bao Pu, a publisher and editor of New Century Press, spoke of dwindling sales and described the future of the industry as “very gloomy”.

“It was thriving for a while until they [Chinese authorities] clamped down, until they made sure that everybody knows it’s dangerous to buy these books. So when they do that it has tremendous effects,” he told the Associated Press.

But a string of Hong Kong publishers, including Subculture’s Pang, remain determined to defy the pressure from the mainland.

“As a publishing house, I personally think I should not worry… You lose if you start to worry,” he said.

At the Hong Kong Book Fair, the sense of defiance among Hong Kong publishers was evident: a number of booths still chose to put steamy sagas involving Chinese politicians on sale.

Trend expanding beyond China

Johan Lagerkvist, a senior research fellow in the East Asia Program at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, told FRANCE 24 that last year’s detention of the five Hong Kong booksellers was likely the start of a worrying trend.

“The kidnapping and jailing of the booksellers is remarkable,” he said, adding there is cause for fear among those working within Hong Kong’s Beijing-offending publishing industry.

“Absolutely. This is an open offensive [by mainland authorities]. Up until now, the self-censorship pressure has been subtle, but this open pressure is very visible repression,” he said.

“It’s like there’s a huge [censorship] steamroller rolling in,” adding that Hong Kong’s freedoms under the “one country, two systems” deal with China “are becoming more and more nominal, they exist on paper” but not in reality.

Lagerkvist said that Beijing’s increased intolerance towards Hong Kong’s freedoms is linked to the Communist Party’s worries about the future.

“The Communist Party is trying to act pre-emptively, extending its powers because there are concerns related to the country’s economic growth,” he said, pointing to the possibility of higher unemployment numbers and the advantages of nipping potentially critical movements in the bud.

“And the trend is now expanding beyond just mainland China,” Lagerkvist added.


Israel Plans More Homes in West Bank — Condemnation of settlements from UN and Palestinian officials

July 25, 2016


© AFP/File | Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank are viewed as illegal under international law

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli authorities have advanced plans for 770 new settlement homes in annexed east Jerusalem, officials and rights groups said Monday, drawing condemnation from Palestinian leaders and the United Nations.

The homes would expand the Gilo settlement on the southern perimeter of east Jerusalem. They are part of a larger plan for around 1,200 units approved some three years ago, said United Nations an NGO that monitors Israeli settlement activity.

The land where they are to be built requires technical approval known as “reparcelisation” by Jerusalem’s local planning and building committee in order for the process to advance, according to Ir Amim.

The committee has now deposited the plans for public objections ahead of possible approval.

“The plans in question are not new, and were approved three years ago,” a statement from Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s office said.

“Recent deliberations in the municipal planning committee concerned technical details of plot distribution within the previously approved project.”

The move to further advance the plans drew condemnation both from UN and Palestinian officials.

Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank are viewed as illegal under international law.

They are also considered major stumbling blocks to peace efforts as they are built on land Palestinians view as part of their future state.

A recent report by the diplomatic Quartet — the United States, European Union, Russia and the UN — said settlement expansion was eroding the possibility of a two-state solution to the conflict.

“I strongly condemn the recent decision by Israeli authorities to advance plans to build some 770 housing units in the settlement of Gilo, built on the lands of occupied Palestinian towns and villages between Bethlehem and east Jerusalem,” Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said in a statement.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the decision “further reflects the failure of the international community to stop Israel’s settlement expansion”.

Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem, which Palestinians view as their future capital.

The status of Jerusalem has been among the most contentious issues in peace negotiations, which have been at a standstill since April 2014.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Booed and Jeeres By Her Home State Delegation — “You rigged the election!”

July 25, 2016

Chaos Erupts At The Florida DNC Delegation Breakfast While Debbie Wasserman Schultz Is Speaking

PHILADELPHIA — Jul 25, 2016, 9:26 AM ET

Outgoing Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was booed and jeered at a pre-convention delegation breakfast this morning in Philadelphia, a day after she announced she would resign from the post after the leak of embarrassing party emails.

Amid ugly scenes, an event organizer repeatedly tried to quiet the crowd, but the boos continued as Wasserman Schultz began speaking.

“Shame on you!” screamed some.

“You rigged the election!” was another repeated refrain.

Many of the vocal protesters were seen wearing shirts supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Wasserman Schultz began her morning address by bringing up last night’s deadly shooting in Fort Myers, Florida, but the jeering continued until she eventually acknowledged her resignation.

“I can see there’s a little bit of interest in my being here, and I can appreciate that interest,” she said.

Later today, Wasserman Schultz is slated to bring the convention to session here in Philadelphia even though her role has been dramatically reduced after WikiLeaks released emails last week that allegedly showed DNC staffers conspiring against Sanders’ presidential bid.

She said she spoke with President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton yesterday.

“I thank President Obama for the honor of serving as the chair of the Democratic National Committee and being able to watch his back and bring him across the finish line in 2012,” Wasserman Schultz said.

She added, “I also had the privilege of speaking to Hillary Clinton, and she thanked me for my service. We had a wonderful conversation. She asked me, and I committed to her that I would serve as a surrogate throughout this campaign.”

While her role at the convention this week may be diminished, she made it clear that she does not intend to shy away from the campaign trail, saying that the public “will see me every day” between now and the election.

Includes video

Wave of Violence Shakes Germany’s Calm

July 25, 2016

Renewed debate over country’s open door to more than one million migrants in the past 20 months

Police investigators work at the site of a suicide bombing in Ansbach, southern Germany.
Police investigators work at the site of a suicide bombing in Ansbach, southern Germany. PHOTO: DANIEL KARMANN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Updated July 25, 2016 11:22 a.m. ET

BERLIN—Four acts of violence in seven days have shattered Germany’s calm and revived an emotional debate over the security implications of taking in more than one million migrants and refugees in the past 20 months.

Police identified asylum applicants as suspects in three apparently unconnected high-profile attacks in the past week, from an ax attack on a train last week to a knife killingand a suicide blast late Sunday.

The bombing and ax rampage, in which a teenager registered as an Afghan refugee wounded five people, have been identified as Islamist terrorism. But all four incidents—including a German-Iranian teenager’s shooting spree in Munich on Friday that killed nine—have put the European Union’s most populous country on edge.

“I thought Germany was safe—no shooting, no terror,” said Faruk Sazil, a 30-year-old of Turkish origin, who owns and runs a Munich kebab stand next to the McDonald’s where the shooting spree began Friday. “Now I don’t know. Who can know?”

Authorities say the Munich shooter had been treated for depression and was obsessed by mass killings.

Sunday evening’s attack by a Syrian man in the town of Ansbach, which wounded 15 people, is the first suicide bombing motivated by Islamic extremism in Germany in years. German authorities said Monday the bomber had pledged allegiance to the leader of Islamic State. Unlike neighbors Belgium and France, Germany has recently escaped suicide bombings and other significant terror attacks.

“Until now, terror had circumvented Germany. Now the reality has taken hold that anyone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time can be a victim. That provokes enormous uncertainty,” said Burkhard Lischka, a lawmaker focused on domestic affairs with the center-left Social Democratic Party. Politicians “now must do everything to guarantee maximum safety.”
A spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was on vacation Monday in the countryside outside Berlin, said the government was shocked by the weekend’s events. But it remained too early to predict consequences for the government’s refugee policy, she said at a news conference. Studies have shown that refugees were no more or less likely to commit terrorist acts, she said.

Nevertheless, conservative and populist politicians have seized on the attacks to slam Ms. Merkel’s promise that Germany would manage the enormous task of welcoming and integrating the influx of migrants and refugees who have arrived in the country since the start of 2015.

“’We can do this’ supposedly came true. Germany is paying a high price for that,” Frauke Petry, head of Germany’s populist party Alternative for Germany said on Twitter Monday. She was referring to the slogan “We can do this,” which Ms. Merkel has used to reassure Germans since the peak of the migrant crisis last summer.

Some Germans also voiced anger at Ms. Merkel. On Twitter, a hashtag #Merkelsommer, or Merkel Summer, was trending early Monday with users slamming the chancellor’s open-arms refugee policy and writing xenophobic comments against migrants.


Crime scene tape Monday lies in the courtyard in Ansbach, Germany, where a man set off a blast that killed him and wounded 15 people.
Crime scene tape Monday lies in the courtyard in Ansbach, Germany, where a man set off a blast that killed him and wounded 15 people.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

“They flee war and instead of being happy that they’ve found shelter here, they do the same here. I don’t understand that.,” said Ursula Altreuther, a 69-year-old resident of Ansbach, a town in the southern state of Bavaria, where the suicide bomber struck late Sunday. “It does start to scare me.”

Bavaria, the main entry point for migrants crossing into Germany overland last year, was the site of three of last week’s attacks—the ax assault in Würzburg, the shooting spree in Munich and the bombing.

“Bavaria is living through days of horror,” Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer said Monday. “The safety of our citizens has top priority.”

The string of attacks over the weekend sparked proposals from politicians for how Germany should boost its domestic security, including increasing police staff, tightening gun laws, reinforcing border controls, enhancing background screenings of migrants and quickly deporting refugees who commit crimes.

Mr. Seehofer’s Christian Social Union party were planning to discuss Tuesday concrete measures to boost security.

— Ellen Emmerentze Jervell in Munich and Todd Buell in Ansbach, Germany, contributed to this article

Write to Ruth Bender at and Anton Troianovski at





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