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G20: US tells China to avoid ‘competitive devaluation’

September 4, 2015



ANKARA (AFP) – US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Friday told his Chinese counterpart at a G20 meeting in Ankara to avoid competitive devaluation and improve communication of economic policy.

“China should… refrain from competitive devaluation,” a US Treasury spokesperson quoted Lew as telling Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei in a meeting on the sidelines of the G20, adding Lew also “underscored the importance of China carefully communicating its policy intentions and actions to financial markets”.

The Chinese central bank on August 11 devalued the yuan by nearly two percent, surprising markets and raising concerns about the effects of China’s economic slowdown.

Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei


Lebanon: Christian Leader Michel Aoun Calls For democratic Vote To End Crisis

September 4, 2015


Supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) carry flags during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon, September 4, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters rallied in Beirut on Friday to support Christian faction leader Michel Aoun’s call for Lebanon to elect its president by popular vote to address a crisis that has paralyzed government and parliament.

Aoun’s supporters waved the orange banners of his Free Patriotic Movement, and listened to a brief televised address by him. Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, another leader of the movement, told the gathering: “We Lebanese want to choose our president.”

The president, who the sectarian power-sharing system stipulates must be a Christian, is chosen by parliament. But MPs have failed in at least 26 sessions to elect one since Michel Suleiman’s term expired last year.

Aoun would like the post, but cannot muster the cross-party consensus required, and there is no sign of a credible alternative.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government, which groups parties at opposite ends of the political spectrum, has been largely crippled since it took office with the blessing of Iran and Saudi Arabia, which back rival Lebanese factions.

Opponents have accused Salam of usurping powers reserved for the president, and Salam has threatened to resign in frustration with the failings of his cabinet.

Meanwhile thousands have protested in Beirut in recent weeks at the government’s failure to dispose of mounds of uncollected garbage festering on Beirut’s streets.

(Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Hong Kong Democracy Leaders Invited To Address Freedom House Forum in the U.S. — Beijing newspapers and lawmakers call the idea “inappropriate and unwise”

September 4, 2015

By Tony Cheung
South China Morning Post

Democracy activists Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Martin Lee Chu-ming and Benny Tai Yiu-ting confirmed they will visit the United States later this month to address a forum on democracy in Hong Kong.

Tai, who co-founded the Occupy Central campaign, said they had been invited to speak at a reception to mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Freedom House, a US-based social concern group that studies human rights and democratic governance around the world.

Benny Tai

The event will take place in Washington on September 24 – four days before the first anniversary of the start of the Occupy protests in Hong Kong last year.

Referring to the 79-day civil disobedience movement, Scholarism convenor Wong said: “I will go there to talk about the umbrella movement and how the Hong Kong democratic movement should move on … But my itinerary and the dates are not confirmed yet.”

Student protesters Joshua Wong, left, and Nathan Law talk to the media outside the Wanchai police station in Hong Kong on Aug. 27, 2015. The students reported to police for investigation into their participation in a pro-democracy movement. (Philippe Lopez / AFP/Getty Images)

Tai said he was working on his speech for the occasion. Lee, founding chairman of the Democratic Party, said he was also preparing his speech, which would touch on the “umbrella movement”. Freedom House could not be reached for comment.

It was unclear whether the trio would meet any members of the US Congress.

READ MORE: Case against Occupy protesters including Joshua Wong ‘shouldn’t have taken a year to get to court’

Freedom House, which has offices in the US capital and New York, is regularly cited for its annual “Freedom in the World” report.

Martin Lee, founder of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party. (Photo by Todd Darling for Newscom)

In its April report, it said increased violence against journalists and cyberattacks on news websites had led to a further decline in Hong Kong’s press freedom rating. It ranked the city 83rd in press freedom among countries and territories worldwide, down from last year’s 74th place and 71st in 2013.

Dialogue between Hong Kong activists and politicians and their foreign counterparts has been described by pro-Beijing newspapers and lawmakers as “inappropriate and unwise”.

In May, Civic Party chairwoman Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and Wong addressed a Canadian parliamentary panel via teleconferencing about democratic development in the city. Executive Council member Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun said the pair were “unwise” because foreign powers had no role to play in Hong Kong’s affairs.

Weeks later, Wong missed four seminars in Malaysia after he was denied entry to the country, with Malaysia’s police chief saying they did not want him to jeopardise their ties with China.

Joshua Wong by Johannes Eisele AFP

2,200 Austrian drivers join campaign to pick up refugees in Budapest

September 4, 2015


Hundreds of migrants stranded in Budapest walking after leaving the transit zone of the Budapest main train station, on September 4, 2015 intent on walking to the Austrian border

VIENNA (AFP) – Some 2,200 people had joined a social media campaign in Austria by Friday afternoon to organise a convoy of private cars and vans on Sunday to help pick up hundreds of migrants stranded in Hungary.”The Austrian government and the EU stand by idly and watch as people on the streets of Budapest — without any appropriate supplies — have to endure appalling conditions,” organisers of the citizen initiative wrote on the Facebook page.

“That’s why we are intervening and starting a convoy of buses and cars to bring the refugees to safety.”

Campaigners have called on private drivers of cars and vans to meet in Vienna on Sunday morning and to head to Hungary in order to bring as many migrants and refugees as possible to Austria or Germany.

The organisers said they were reacting to the decision by Hungarian authorities to suspend rail links to western Europe as thousands of migrants have crowded its trains stations.

Four Austrian activists were arrested Friday in Budapest after allegedly planning to drive migrants to Austria, which is a crime in Hungary that carries up to five years in prison.

Hungary’s foreign affairs minister Peter Szijjarto said the activists would be promptly released.

“We find ourselves in a very difficult circumstance. We don’t need people coming here and inflaming the situation,” he added.

Austrian authorities affirmed on Thursday that aiding illegal immigration is against the law and carries an up to 5,000-euro ($5,500)fine.

The activists, citing the precedent of a train hired by Austria’s national rail company to carry migrants, noted that they had arranged for “legal assistance” for participants.

Hungary has in recent months joined Italy and Greece as a “frontline” state in Europe’s migrant crisis, with 50,000 people trekking up the western Balkans and entering the country in August alone.

A record 3,300 migrants crossed into Hungary on Thursday, according to the latest figures from the UN refugee agency.

The right-wing government headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban has responded to the influx by erecting a controversial razor-wire barrier along its 175-kilometre (110-mile) border with Serbia.







South China Sea: Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou Deserves The Nobel Peace Prize For “Facing China With The Facts,” Philippine Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio Says

September 4, 2015

Taipei Times

A supreme court justice of the Philippines holds President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in such high esteem that he said he would nominate him for a Nobel peace prize if his East and South China Sea peace initiatives produces good results for regional peace and stability.

Philippine media outlet Interaksyon, on Wednesday reported that Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines Antonio Carpio made the remarks during a speech to students and faculty at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila last week.

President Ma Ying-jeou, right, presents special commemoration medals to a group of veterans during a ceremony at the Ministry of National Defense building in Taipei yesterday to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War.Sep 03, 2015
Photo: CNA

The media quoted Carpio as telling his audience that it was only his personal view, which might not necessarily be in line with the Philippine government position.

Carpio reportedly quoted Ma as saying that the government of the Republic of China (ROC) announced the geographic locations of its islands in the South China Sea in 1947, when most other nations only had the concept of territorial waters, but not of other sea territories.

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L) in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) from the coast of Vietnam June 13, 2014. REUTERS/Nguyen Minh

In September last year, during a visit to Academia Historica in Taipei, Ma said that when the ROC sent Navy ships to take over the islands in the South China Sea that had been occupied by Japan during World War II, no countries lodged a protest.

Besides elaborating on the legitimacy of Taiwan’s claims of sovereignty over the islands, Ma put forth a proposal that basically extended his call for peace in the East China Sea by urging all parties concerned to peacefully resolve their disputes over the South China Sea islands.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has relied on the ROC government’s “nine-dash line” map to claim that the PRC has “indisputable territory” over the South China Sea, including over islands, reefs, shoals and waters claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan and their ASEAN neighbors, according to the Interaksyon report.

Carpio has found a new diplomatic weapon in Ma that could help the Philippines in its lopsided battle against China and its overarching ambition to convert the entire South China Sea into its private garrison, it said.

It said that Carpio supports Ma’s position that the ROC’s “nine-dash line” map of 1947 is limited to the islands and their adjacent territorial waters within the South China Sea, and that the ROC government, according to Ma, had made “no other so-called claims to sea regions.”

“President Ma’s interpretation of the ‘9-dash lines’ drastically reduces the area of dispute from nearly the entire South China Sea to only the Spratly Islands [Nansha Islands, 南沙群島] and their surrounding territorial seas, comprising less than 5 percent of the waters of the South China Sea,” Carpio said.

The media outlet said Carpio was enthusiastic in his admiration for Ma because of his lawyer background, like Carpio himself, and his Harvard doctoral degree with specialization in the law of the sea and his academic articles on the subject.


 (Deputy US Secretary of State Antony Blinken)


 (Defense News article by Wendell Minnick)

Refugees In Budapest, Hungary Give Up Waiting For Governments To Help Them; They Decide to Walk To Germany, 300 Miles Away

September 4, 2015


A large group of asylum-seekers walk out of Budapest, Hungary. Over 150,000 people seeking to enter Europe have reached Hungary this year, most coming through the southern border with Serbia, and many apply for asylum but quickly try to leave for richer EU countries.FRANK AUGSTEIN , THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hundreds of migrants and refugees gave up trying to catch a train Friday and began a desperate 300-mile walk towards Germany as European leaders faced up to a “defining moment” in the continent-wide crisis.

Thousands have been camped at Budapest’s Keleti station, where authorities on Thursday halted all international departures in a bid to to stem migration towards Austria and Germany.

Refugees crammed on one train were taken to a refugee camp at Biscke, on the outskirts of the city, where they refused to get off and spent the night on board.

Fed up of waiting for an end to the impasse, some of those at Keleti station announced they were going to walk the 100 miles to Austria and then on to Germany — a further 200 miles.

“We decided to walk,” said 20-year-old Mousaf from Syria, who like most refugees only wanted to give his first name. “We know exactly where we’re going…it’s about 100 miles…we will then go on to Germany.”

The walk began at around 12:45 p.m. local time (6:45 a.m. ET). Mousaf told NBC News that the journey would be “no problem for us because we will stop every two or three hours. We are used to this as we have already crossed six countries — so we can cross another one,” he said.

At Biskce, refugees were locked in a stand-off with police for a second day. Chants of “Germany, Germany!” and “No camp, No camp!” were heard from the train early Friday. Some held up signs saying: “Please, we want to go to Germany.”

Amid the chaotic and desperate scenes, European leaders have been accused of not doing enough to ease the crisis.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday that the U.K. had a “moral responsibility to help refugees” and announced it would be accepting 4,000 more from Syria.

But the head of the U.N. refugee agency said the European Union needed to accept 200,000 refugees.

“This is a defining moment for the European Union, and it now has no other choice but to mobilize full force around this crisis,” Antonio Guterres said, adding that migration was “the biggest challenge facing countries across Europe today.”

It came as Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler whose drowning on a Turkish beach made headlines around the world, was buried along with his mother young brother.

Earlier on Friday at Budapest’s Keleti station, thousands of people were camped out in an underpass outside the main building. Volunteers who brought food and clothes were mobbed by the crowds.

One group held up signs that read “open the borders,” and “where are you, H.R.W., U.N.?,” referring to the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.

A Syrian, who only gave his first name as Mejd, told NBC News he was trying to avoid going to the camp at Bicske.

“It would be like prison for us,” he said. He had fled the Syrian city of Idlib because of the civil war and threat from ISIS and was trying to reach family and friends in Germany. “Hungary is only a passing point,” he said.

On a nearby wall, a chalk drawing showed a helicopter dropping bombs. Underneath it read: “Syria. I will not stay here. I want to go to Germany (please).”

France and Germany, the latter of which accepts the majority of Europe’s incomers, had already called on European countries to accept their share of refugees. French President Francois Hollande accused some countries of failing to “assume their moral burdens,” Reuters reported.

Symbolizing those calling for tighter controls, Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban criticized Germany’s more relaxed stance and told a radio show Friday that “many tens of millions of people could come to Europe,” according to Reuters.

See also:

Frustrated refugees begin walking to Austria from Budapest


Europe’s Refugee Crisis: Stand-off continues at Bicske station between Hungarian authorities and refugees. Follow latest developments here


This page will automatically update every 90 secondsOn Off

• 300 refugees and migrants broke out of camp near Serbia
• Refugees walk from Budapest station and say they will go to Austria
Europeans risk becoming a minority in Europe, says Hungary PM
Cameron confirms Britain will accept thousands of refugees
Father of drowned child takes his family to Kobane
• EU migrant crisis: as it happened September 3


Faisal Alazem who leads the Syrian Canadian council has told the Telegraph Syrians around the world are “emotionally devastated” at what happened to Aylan Kurdi and his family, and also to the plight for Syrians around the world, US Editor Ruth Sherlock and former Middle East correspondent.

QuoteThere are more than 2000 Syrians who have died in the same way as Aylan. Whenever people escape Syria they think that they are safe. They have fled Isis [Isil], Assad, the bombs. But no, they are still very vulnerable. They are unable to work and they know the war will take a long time. So they are looking for long term solutions.

“The problem is there is no legal process by which they can leave. The embassies don’t accept applications and in so doing, we are encouraging them to make this dangerous journey by sea.”

Mr Alazem said that for the past four years he has received “at least 10 messages per day” from Syrians asking for help in getting asylum status or financial support so they can smuggle themselves out.


Eastern Europe rejects quotas

The prime ministers of Hungary, Poland and the Czech and Slovak republics have rejected the proposal of migrant quotas, branding the idea as “unacceptable” in a further blow to the chances of finding a European consensus on the migration crisis.

The rejection came following a meeting of the four countries – known collectively as the Visegrad Group – in Prague on Friday. In a joint statement, the leaders said:

QuotePreserving the voluntary nature of EU solidarity measures – so that each member state may build on its experience, best practices and available resources; principles agreed at the highest political level, including in European Council conclusions must be respected. Any proposal leading to introduction of mandatory and permanent quota for solidarity measures would be unacceptable.”

In a swipe at Germany the four also called for all member states to abide to their legal obligations and return migrants to the country where they first registered for asylum.

Refugees hoping to leave Hungary for Western Europe at Budapest train station

Refugees hoping to leave Hungary for Western Europe at Budapest train station   Photo: Warren Allott/The Telegraph


A series of tweets, which come from a Twitter account believed to be that of Austin Mitchell, former Labour MP, have raised the eyebrows of many sympathetic to the refugee crisis, writes Helena Horton.

He tweeted: “Idea. Why no[sic] welcome refugees and expell[sic] an equivalent number of Eastern E£uropeans[sic] to make space?

“Isn’t bringing Syrian refugees from camps outside the EU favouring the least enterprising who’d not had the initiative to escape?”

Mr Mitchell was the MP for Grimsby from 1977 to May 2015 and has previously been embroiled in a Twitter controversy with ex-Conservative MP Louise Mensch, tweeting: “A good wife doesn’t disagree with her master in public and a good little girl doesn’t lie about why she quit politics.”

A Labour press officer told the Telegraph: “I don’t know why we would give you a quote about a former MP.”


German customs have seized packages of Syrian passports being sent in the post, the finance ministry said on Friday, writes Justin Huggler in Berlin.

It is suspected they may be used by economic migrants to pose as refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. Both genuine and fake Syrian passports are believed to have been found in the packages that were intercepted.

A spokesman for the ministry told reporters police were currently investigating the documents, but would not comment on how many were found.

There is believed to be a market for Syrian documents as European countries tighten the rules to make sure only those in genuine need are admitted as asylum-seekers.

Germany has unilaterally suspended EU rules for Syrian refugees, and said it will process their asylum claims regardless of where they entered the EU.

But Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is trying to change the country’s asylum system to deter economic migrants from safe countries like the Balkans, by making it easier for them to be deported.

“A lot of people enter Turkey with fake Syrian papers, because they know that they’ll get asylum in the EU more easily,” Fabrice Leggeri, the head of Frontex, the EU’s border agency, told French radio.

Pregnant migrant rescued from water shortly before giving birth

A heavily pregnant Nigerian woman pulled to safety from a dinghy along with 104 other migrants gave birth on board the Italian coast guard ship that had rescued her before taken to hospital on the Italian island of Lampedusa, writes Chiara Palazzo.

He’s the second former politician to cause a stir on Twitter because of ill-advised tweets. Yesterday, Peter Bucklitsch, who stood as a candidate in general elections for both Ukip and the Lib Dems, and campaigned for the Conservatives, tweeted: “The little Syrian boy was well clothed and fed. He died because his parents were greedy for the good life in Europe. Queue jumping costs.”Both the Lib Dems and Ukip distanced themselves from Mr Bucklitsch after viewing the tweet.


Migrants marched along the highway for the border with Austria, out of Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 4, 2015. The country passed new anti-migration laws Friday. Reuters/Laszlo Balogh

Migrants Fleeing Hungary Start a Long March Toward Germany

LONDON — Haggard and defiant, a large number of migrants marched from the Keleti train station in Budapest toward Germany on Friday, pledging to walk 300 miles rather than remain in a country where they are not welcome.

“This is going to go down in history,” said Rami Hassoun, an Egyptian migrant from Alexandria who was helping corral the crowds on a six-lane highway, where the migrants were being watched by the police.

The police put the number of migrants who were walking at 500, but photographs from the scene and eyewitness accounts suggested the figure was at least twice that.

Read the rest:







Migrants Break Out of Hungary Camp, Escape Train as Crackdown Crumbles — Where Are Europe’s “Christian Values”?

September 4, 2015


Migrants protest against being taken to a refugee camp from a train that has been held at Bicske station on September 3, 2015 in Bicske, near Budapest, Hungary


ROSZKE, Hungary — Hundreds of migrants broke out of a Hungarian border camp and escaped from a stranded train on Friday as authorities appeared to lose control, despite taking a hard line in a country that has become a flashpoint of Europe’s migrant crisis.

Hundreds more pushed past police barricades in the capital Budapest to set off for the western border on foot, even as Hungary tightened laws that the government said would effectively seal the southern border to migrants as of Sept. 15.

Hungary has emerged as the main entry point for migrants reaching the EU by land across the Balkan peninsula, nearly all of them seeking to press on to richer and more generous countries further north and west, especially Germany.

The government in Budapest says it is implementing EU rules by forcing all of the migrants to register in the first EU country they reach. Right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of Europe’s most outspoken critics of mass immigration, took to the airwaves to issue caustic warnings on Friday that Europeans could become a minority on their own continent.

But his government’s plans for a crackdown appeared to be breaking down in the face of such large numbers headed for Germany, which has said Syrian refugees can register there regardless of where they enter the EU, suspending EU rules.

More than 140,000 migrants have been recorded entering Hungary so far this year through the EU’s external border with Serbia, where Orban’s government is building a 3.5 metre high wall. Countless others may have entered without registering.

On the border, police gave chase and halted traffic on a nearby motorway after some 300 migrants fled a crowded reception centre in Roszke near Serbia.

They were eventually caught, police said, but hundreds of officers in full riot gear and clutching shields continued to guard the camp. Some migrants were directed to buses to take them to other camps in an apparent attempt to prevent over-crowding.

In Budapest, about 500 migrants led by a Syrian refugee with one leg set out on foot from a sprawling campsite outside the Keleti railway station, where all trains to western Europe have been halted for days to prevent migrants from travelling. They broke through a police barricade on the main road west to Vienna shouting “Germany, Germany”.

In Bicske, west of Budapest, some 500 migrants spent the night stranded on a train at the local railway station, refusing the demands of riot police that they disembark and go to a nearby migrant reception centre.


“No camp. No Hungary. Freedom train,” someone had written with shaving foam on the side of the train. Hungary’s MTI news agency later reported that some 300 had fled.

On Friday, lawmakers adopted some of a raft of measures creating “transit zones” on the border, where asylum seekers would be held until their requests are processed and deported if denied.

The measures introduce jail terms for those who cross the border without permission or damage the fence, and may eventually provide for the use of the army. Serbia appealed for EU funds to address a potential bottleneck of migrants.

Orban says he is trying to take control of Europe’s migration crisis, the worst on the continent since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. But Budapest’s hard line has produced scenes of chaos and desperation this week.

“We don’t know what’s going on,” said Ahmed Mahmoud, a 60-year-old Iraqi who said he was trying to reach his daughter in Belgium but had been stopped at the Bicske railway station.

“The police told us, get fingerprinted or face jail time. So we gave our fingerprints and they told us we can go. But we can’t go to the west. I just want to see my child in Belgium.”

The European Union normally allows free movement between the 26 countries of its Schengen border-free zone, but its rules require asylum seekers to register in the first country where they arrive and remain until they are processed.

Over 1,000 had been camped outside Budapest’s Keleti railway station after Hungary cancelled trains to western Europe.

Orban took to the airwaves, saying Budapest was defending Europe’s Schengen zone from a huge influx.

Hungary has hit out at Germany, which expects to receive 800,000 asylum seekers this year, for accepting requests from Syrians regardless of where they enter the EU. Orban’s government says this is spurring the flight, which he says poses a threat to Europe’s “Christian values”.

“Now we talk about hundreds of thousands but next year we will talk about millions and there is no end to this,” Orban told public radio in a regular Friday interview. “All of a sudden we will see that we are in a minority in our own continent.”

(Additional reporting by Marton Dunai and Balazs Koranyi; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Peter Graff)


David Cameron: UK to accept ‘thousands’ more Syrian refugees

BBC News

The UK is to provide resettlement to “thousands” more Syrian refugees in response to the worsening humanitarian crisis, David Cameron has announced.

No figure has been decided but the prime minister said the extra refugees would come from camps bordering Syria, not from among those already in Europe.

Britain, he said, would act with “head and heart” to help those most in need.

He also announced a further £100m in humanitarian aid for those in camps in Syria, Turkey, Jordan and the Lebanon.

Earlier this week, Mr Cameron said accepting more people was not the simple answer to the situation, described by some as the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two.

But speaking in Lisbon after talks with his Portuguese counterpart, Mr Cameron said the UK had a “moral responsibility” to help those displaced by the four-year conflict in Syria and more details would follow next week following discussions with organisations working in the region.

Meanwhile, a large group of migrants stuck at Budapest railway station for days have set off on foot, saying they intend to walk to Austria, as the Hungarian authorities try to contain thousands trying to reach western Europe.

‘Deeply moved’

Calls for the UK to take in more refugees have intensified after the publication of a picture of the body of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, washed up a Turkish beach.

Speaking to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, the boy’s aunt, Tima Kurdi, said his and his brother’s death should be “a wake-up call for the whole world”.

The government’s approach to the crisis has continued to come under pressure from public and political figures, including:

Analysis By deputy political editor James Landale

The prime minister isn’t changing his argument.

He still thinks opening up Europe’s borders and agreeing quotas will not solve the refugee crisis. In fact, he thinks it would make it worse by increasing pull factors and encouraging people traffickers.

But, as the crisis gets worse and the public and political pressure grows, the prime minister does now accept that Britain has a moral duty to do more.

No targets have been agreed but his talk of taking thousands more is unlikely to satisfy his many critics who want Britain to take in tens of thousands of refugees and who have been outraged by his reluctance to act.

Nearly 5,000 Syrians have been granted asylum in the last four years and the UK has accepted 216 Syrian refugees under a scheme to relocate the most vulnerable begun in early 2014.

Mr Cameron said “careful consideration” would be given to the numbers allowed into the UK, with the emphasis on those who had “lost hope and were genuinely fleeing persecution”.

“This provides them with a more direct and safe route to the United Kingdom rather than risking the hazardous journey which has tragically cost so many of their lives,” he said.

But Mr Cameron said this was only one response to the crisis and the UK’s latest aid pledge – taking total humanitarian support to more than £1bn – was equally important.

How will plan work?

Mr Cameron’s plan suggests he may expand the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme – though the Home Office said details were not yet available.

Under VPR, 216 Syrians have been brought to the UK since March 2014. People arriving in the UK in need of protection usually have to apply for asylum – and if this is granted they get “refugee” status.

But people brought to Britain under VPR have not gone through this process. Instead, they have been granted Humanitarian Protection, a status normally used for people who “don’t qualify for asylum” but would be at “real risk of suffering serious harm” in their home country.

Like people granted refugee status, those given Humanitarian Protection can stay for five years, after which they can apply to settle in the UK.

People in both categories have the right to work and access public funds.

Pressed for more details about how many people would be helped, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said there would be “no quotas”, since such an approach could fuel people smuggling.

“It’s much smarter and safer to help them directly relocate from refugee camps,” she told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme.

As the UN said EU countries should accept up to 200,000 refugees, the Archbishop of Canterbury warned their plight was “one of the most appalling and enormous crises the world has seen”.

“There has to be a short term response of compassion,” Justin Welby said. “There has to be a long term strategy of tackling conflict. It is an absolute moral duty.”

uk archbishop, archbishop welby, uk archbishop italy, isalmic state christian beheadings, Islamic State, Egypt, Islamic state beheadings, World News
UK Archbishop Justin Welby. (REUTERS)

Speaking to the World at One, Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth said the UK should take in 10,000 refugees from the Middle East region, as well as 3,000 unaccompanied children that have already reached Europe’s borders.

But UKIP leader Nigel Farage warned that giving “incentives” risked a “stampede” of people trying to get to Europe. “I’m sorry to say that I think the shocking image that we saw of that young boy and the deaths in those lorries actually become more likely,” he said.






Migrant Chaos Grows in Hungary

September 4, 2015


Refugees and Migrants: Hundreds begin walking along highway heading for Austria as one person dies in standoff at suburban train station

Police attempt to stop migrants as they march along the highway near Budapest heading to the Austrian border on Friday.
Police attempt to stop migrants as they march along the highway near Budapest heading to the Austrian border on Friday. Photo: Reuters

BUDAPEST—Hundreds of fed-up migrants began walking along a highway toward Austria and a migrant died amid a standoff at a suburban train station near a refugee camp, as Hungary appeared increasingly overwhelmed in its efforts to keep a firm grip on thousands hoping to reach Western Europe.

The country has seen daily chaos since police began preventing migrants from boarding trains heading farther into the European Union, many hoping to reach Germany, but the scene appeared increasingly dramatic on Friday, with flare-ups of frustration by migrants in several spots.

Some 500 people who have been camping out for several days at Budapest’s international train station packed up and started the 220 kilometer, or 137 miles, journey from Budapest to Austria on foot. Hungarian police said they were partially closing roads in the area.

A man at the front of the march waved a large EU flag and one man on crutches wore a poster of German Chancellor Angela Merkel around his neck.

That came as a standoff between a group of around 500 migrants and police continued at a train station in the town of Bicske near Budapest. Police said one migrant died there and a probe into the death was under way, but offered few other immediate details.

Elsewhere, police said they used tear gas to protect themselves from migrants throwing stones in the town of Roszke, close to the Serbian border, after some 300 people broke through the fence at a camp there. They were later returned by police. People who remained in the camp chanted “freedom” as they faced a line of policemen, television images showed.

Hungary has come under fire for its stringent stance, but officials say it is rigorously applying EU asylum rules that require it to register and house all migrants arriving in the country, even though most of them want to settle elsewhere.

“We have to enforce the EU’s rules and protect our borders. There’s an endless supply of people to come,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on state radio Friday morning. “We’ll realize once, suddenly, that we have become a minority.”

Hundreds of migrants leave the transit zone of the Budapest main train station.
Hundreds of migrants leave the transit zone of the Budapest main train station. Photo: ferenc isza/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Hungary’s parliament on Friday passed bills to further curb the influx of migrants.

The bills pass allow the government to order a state of emergency because of mass migration and enable authorities to punish migrants who damage the recently-completed razor-wire fence on its border with non-EU member neighbor Serbia with several years in prison. Another bill allows the government to confine migrants to refugee camps near the Serbian border, with no entry further into the country but only back to Serbia.

Human rights organization the Council of Europe had called on the Hungarian Parliament to reject the proposals.

“The Hungarian government’s stance on refugees is deeply regrettable,” said Nils Muizniek, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. The planned legal measures “are a bad move which would have further deleterious effects on asylum-seekers,” Mr. Muizniek added.

The migrants at Roszke felt that it was taking too long to register them, state TV reported. Refugees at such camps are required to register with police to confirm their identities and to have fingerprints taken. They are then taken to migration offices to formally register for asylum.

In Bicske, many had rushed onto the train in Budapest on Thursday in the mistaken belief that it was heading farther into the EU. It remains stuck there, where most on board were refusing to cooperate with police trying to perform identity checks.

Migrants march along the highway for the border with Austria, out of Budapest on Friday.
Migrants march along the highway for the border with Austria, out of Budapest on Friday. Photo: Reuters

The migrants in Bicske will be transferred to the nearby refugee camp, the head of the police’s border control unit Col. Laszlo Balazs said at a news conference Friday. Activists have criticized living conditions at the already overcrowded camp. Police offered the migrants water and food, which many refused, Mr. Balazs said.

Also Friday, there was a fight between migrants and ultra-nationalists at the Keleti central railway station before a Hungary-Romania soccer match. Police were now keeping them apart.

Hungary detained a record daily number of 3,313 migrants Thursday, pushing this year’s total to 162,980 versus 44,709 in the whole of last year, police said.

Hungary is part of the EU’s Schengen passport-free travel zone which allows travelers to easily cross borders. Officials have warned that the crisis puts the policy at risk.

Write to Margit Feher at





Vietnam Wants more U.S. Help With Military Modernization

September 4, 2015


Want China Times

The US defense minister, Ashton Carter, and his Vietnamese counterpart Phung Quang Thanh on Carter’s visit to Hanoi, June 1. (Internet photo)

Vietnam is seeking support from the United States to modernize its military for a potential conflict with China over the disputed South China Sea, Wendell Minnick writes in an article for Defense News on Aug. 31.

Richard Bitzinger, an expert from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told Minnick that Vietnam has a huge military but still mostly uses weaponry from the 1970s and 1980s. After the collapse of the US-backed South Vietnam in 1975, Hanoi relied completely on weapons imported from the Soviet Union and later Russia. Now facing an escalation of its maritime territorial disputes with China, Vietnam wants a total overhaul of its military, according to Bitzinger.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the availability of affordable Russian weapons declined as did their quality. Over the same period, China has carried out a successful military modernization program to strengthen the capability of the People’s Liberation Army to engage the enemy in open waters. The United States has now become Vietnam’s next choice for procuring weapons. However, Minnick pointed out that US arms export restrictions are still in place for Vietnam due to the country’s human rights violations and one-party system.

Above: One of Vietnam’s Russian made Kilo Class submarines

President Barack Obama relaxed the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations on the sales of lethal weapons to Vietnam and the US government has announced that it will provide US$18 million for the Vietnam Coast Guard to buy patrol boats. Nonetheless, the restrictions still prohibit Vietnam from buying weapons directly from the United States. Furthermore, Vietnam’s acquisition of weapons and sensors from Western sources will be challenging in terms of integration, training and logistical support, the article said.




 (Defense News article by Wendell Minnick)

Chinese human rights lawyer could face spying charges

September 4, 2015

By Tom Phillips
The Guardian

Beijing-based attorney Zhang Kai was seized by security officials after offering legal support to churches battling a controversial church cross demolition

A cross atop the Lower Dafei Catholic church topples after being cut down by a Chinese government worker in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province in July. Photograph: Didi Tang/AP

A Chinese human rights lawyer who disappeared into police custody last month after joining the fight against a government drive to take down church crosses could face spying charges.

Zhang Kai, a Beijing-based attorney, was seized by security officials on 25 August in Wenzhou, a city in the eastern province of Zhejiang sometimes referred to as China’s Jerusalem because of its large Christian population.

Zhang had been in Wenzhou offering legal support to churches battling a controversial Communist party demolition drive that has targeted Christian places of worship since late 2013.

Writing on Weibo, China’s Twitter, two weeks before his detention, Zhang said: “I have thought it through: at worst they can put me in jail. But if I keep silent, I will regret it for the rest of my life.”

Christian activists claim the removal of more than 1,200 crosses – and the complete demolition of some churches – in Zhejiang is a deliberate attempt to slow the growth of their faith. There are now estimated to be as many as 100 million Christians in China, a reality the 85 million-member Communist party appears to find increasingly concerning.

A notice from Wenzhou public security officials that was published on social media said Zhang – whose whereabouts are not known – was being held on suspicion of two crimes.

The first is “gathering and disturbing social order”, while the second, and potentially more serious, charge is “stealing, spying, buying and illegally providing state secrets and intelligence to entities outside of China”.

Joshua Rosenzweig, an expert in human rights and criminal justice in China, said the maximum penalty for the latter charge was death, “but only under the most serious conditions which I have to presume do not apply here”.

Rosenzweig said charges related to “endangering state security” enabled the police to hold a suspect in a place of their choosing for up to six months without having to notify anyone of that location. It also allowed police to deny their suspect access to legal counsel.

“This raises the possibility of tactical use of state security charges that can be later dropped,” Rosenzweig said.

In 2003, Zheng Enchong, a Shanghai-based rights lawyer, was jailed for three years for allegedly providing state secrets to entities outside of China. He was accused of sending a copy of a Chinese report about forced demolitions to a human rights group in New York.

Yang Xingquan, who works at the same Beijing practice as Zhang, said it was not clear why authorities had levelled the same charge at his colleague but insisted he was innocent. “I have faith in Zhang Kai. I don’t think he would gather people and disturb social order. Nor do I think he would steal state secrets.”

Zhang, who like many of China’s human rights lawyers is Christian, had been an outspoken critic of the cross removals.

In March he posted an online essay denouncing the Communist party’s treatment of Chinese churchgoers. “I believe it is God’s calling and a compelling and historic mission for today’s Christian lawyers to seek justice and promote reconciliation and the rule of law,” he wrote.

“People always ask me, what is the political environment going to be like this year? Will there be more oppression against churches? I want to answer with words from the Bible. ‘Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.’ We should thank God for having been born in China in this era.”

Zhang had reportedly been due to meet with David Saperstein, the United States’ ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, around the time he was detained.

Saperstein visited China in late August and travelled to Zhejiang province where he called for “an end to the ongoing campaign of cross removals and church demolitions … and an end to harassment of members of unregistered religious groups”.

Yang Xingquan said Zhang Kai’s faith would help him cope with his detention. “He is a Christian and he can bear the stress and stay strong,” he said.

Speaking on Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner called for Zhang’s release and said the lawyer’s detention was “indicative of an ongoing pattern that we’ve seen” in China.

More than 20 people remain in custody following an unprecedented crackdownon human rights lawyers that began in July.

They include Wang Yu, a 44-year-old Beijing lawyer who has not been seen since she was taken from her home in the early hours of 9 July.

“Nobody is safe under a dictatorship,” Wang told a visitor to her home earlier this year.

Additional reporting by Luna Lin


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