Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

China rejects Turkey criticism on Uighurs

February 11, 2019

China hit back on Monday at Turkish criticism over its treatment of Uighurs and denied Ankara’s claim that a renowned poet from the Muslim minority had died in custody, calling it an “absurd lie”.

Turkey’s foreign ministry had released a statement on Saturday severely criticising China’s mass detentions of its Turkic-speaking Uighurs, and claiming that poet Abdurehim Heyit had died serving an eight-year Chinese prison sentence imposed as punishment over “one of his songs”.

But China on Sunday released a video showing a man who identified himself as Heyit and saying that he was alive and well.

“China has made solemn representations toward Turkey. We hope the relevant Turkish persons can distinguish between right and wrong and correct their mistakes,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a daily press briefing.

She called the Turkish statement “vile” and urged Ankara to withdraw its “false accusations”.

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Hua Chunying

“I saw his (Heyit’s) video online yesterday, showing that he is not only alive but also very healthy,” she said.

A UN panel of experts has said that nearly one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking minorities had been herded into “re-education camps” in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, where most of the country’s more than 10 million Uighurs live.

Turkey had said China’s treatment of Uighurs was “a great embarrassment for humanity” — perhaps the strongest condemnation yet from a Muslim country.

The Muslim world has been conspicuously quiet on the Uighur issue, possibly to avoid Chinese diplomatic or economic retaliation.

The plight of China’s Uighurs is closely followed in Turkey due to shared linguistic, cultural and religious links and the presence of tens of thousands of ethnic Uighurs there.

– ‘No abuse’ –

In its statement on Saturday, Turkey did not say how it had learned that Heyit died, but said the “tragedy has further reinforced the reaction of the Turkish public opinion towards (the) serious human rights violations” in Xinjiang.

But state-controlled China Radio International (CRI) released a 26-second video on its Turkish service on Sunday.

“My name is Abdurehim Heyit. Today is February 10, 2019,” the man in the video says, according to the English subtitles.

“I’m in the process of being investigated for allegedly violating the national laws,” he added, in what appeared to be the Uighur language.

Wearing a black and white sweater over a collared shirt, he said he was in “good health” and has “never been abused”, according to the subtitles.

AFP was unable to immediately verify the authenticity of the video or when it was shot.

CRI said it was released to state media by Xinjiang’s regional government.

Xinjiang has come under intensifying police surveillance in recent years following repeated riots, bombings and attacks on Chinese security forces and civilians.

Beijing at first denied any Xinjiang detention camps existed, but later admitted people were being sent to what it calls “vocational education centres”.

But critics say Uighurs are being pressured in the camps to assimilate with Chinese society and abandon religious and cultural practices that Beijing sees as potential sources of resistance.

The Turkish foreign ministry statement said Uighurs were being “subjected to torture and political brainwashing in concentration centres and prisons”.

Hua, however, appeared to leave the door open to patching up the row, saying the two sides should endeavour to maintain “mutual trust and cooperation”.

AFP

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Turkey urges China to close Uighur camps — ‘Shame for humanity’

February 10, 2019

Turkey calls China’s treatment of its Muslim ethnic Uighur minority ‘a great cause of shame for humanity’.

Last month, China passed a law to 'Sinicize' Islam and make it 'compatible with socialism' [Wang HE/Getty Images]
Last month, China passed a law to ‘Sinicize’ Islam and make it ‘compatible with socialism’ [Wang HE/Getty Images]

Turkey has condemned China’s treatment of its Muslim ethnic Uighur people as “a great cause of shame for humanity” and asked it to close the “concentration camps”.

In a statement on Saturday, Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said that Chinahas arbitrarily detained more than a million Uighurs.

He said the Turkic Muslim population faced pressure and “systematic assimilation” in western China.

REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK

Exposed: China’s surveillance of Muslim Uighurs

Steve Chao
by Steve Chao

“It is no longer a secret that more than one million Uighur Turks, who are exposed to arbitrary arrests, are subjected to torture and political brainwashing in concentration centres and prisons,” Aksoy said.

“We invite Chinese authorities to respect fundamental human rights of the Uighur Turks and shut down concentration camps,” he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had once accused China of “genocide” but has since established closer diplomatic and economic relations with Beijing.

China’s Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused Chinese authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.

Practising Islam is forbidden in some parts of China, with individuals caught praying, fasting, growing a beard or wearing a hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who feel it is part of their religion, facing the threat of arrest.

China’s crackdown on Uighur people has made headlines around the world.

In August last year, a United Nations panel of experts said it had received credible reports that over a million Uighurs and other Turkic language-speaking minorities were being held in so-called “re-education camps” where they are made to renounce Islam.

WATCH

Uighurs: Nowhere To Call Home

Beijing denies Uighurs are being held against their will and says these are “voluntary” vocational training facilities, designed to provide job training and to stamp out “extremist” tendencies.

China has intensified a security crackdown on Uighurs that was put in place after a bloody 2009 riot. Droves of Uighurs have fled, many travelling to Turkey.

Last month, China passed a law to “Sinicize” Islam and make it “compatible with socialism” within the next five years.

But most Muslim-majority countries have not been vocal on the issue, not criticising the government in China which is an important trading partner.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/humanity-turkey-urges-china-close-uighur-camps-190209202215688.html

Escape From China’s Xinjiang Internment Camps Called “Impossible”

February 7, 2019

Sayragul Sauytbay, the only person to have worked inside an internment camp in Xinjiang and spoken publicly about it, now faces an uncertain future in Kazakhstan.

Speaking to a packed courthouse in eastern Kazakhstan in August 2018, Sayragul Sauytbay—an ethnic Kazakh Chinese national—provided some of the earliest testimony about Beijing’s vast internment camp system for Muslim minorities in its western Xinjiang region. As a former instructor at a camp, Sauytbay had crossed the border illegally into Kazakhstan four months earlier, as she feared internment herself, and now stood on trial with prosecutors in the Central Asian country vying for her deportation back to China.

Practicing Islam is forbidden in parts of China, with individuals caught praying, fasting, growing a beard or wearing a hijab facing arrest [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

Practicing Islam is forbidden in parts of China, with individuals caught praying, fasting, growing a beard or wearing a hijab facing arrest [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

Sauytbay’s lawyers argued that she would be arrested or even killed for having shared knowledge of the camps, where between 800,000 and 2 million members of traditionally Muslim ethnic groups have been detained since 2017, according to U.S. State Department estimates. Despite Kazakhstan’s strong ties to Beijing, the court declined to send Sauytbay back to China. The ruling was seen as a rebuke of Kazakhstan’s powerful neighbor, and as Sauytbay was ushered out of the courtroom, she was greeted by a mob of supporters, who chanted, “Long live Kazakhstan!”

Then the previously outspoken Sauytbay went silent, engaging in a media blackout shortly after her trial. Now, six months later, the summer celebrations atop the courtroom steps look premature, with her future in Kazakhstan uncertain and pressure from China for her extradition growing.

Sayragul Sauytbay sits inside a defendants' cage during a hearing at a court in Zharkent, Kazakhstan, on July 13, 2018. (Ruslan Pryanikov/AFP/Getty Images)

Sayragul Sauytbay sits inside a defendants’ cage during a hearing at a court in Zharkent, Kazakhstan, on July 13, 2018. (Ruslan Pryanikov/AFP/Getty Images)

In an interview with Foreign Policy, Sauytbay, 42, said she fears that she may be sent back to China and that despite the August court ruling, her status in the country remains in limbo. Facing a growing set of obstacles—from attempts to ensure her silence to absent legal representation to having been repeatedly denied asylum status by the government—she said her time in Kazakhstan, where her husband and two children are both citizens, could be coming to an end.

“I am an inconvenient witness. I saw everything [in the camps],” Sauytbay said in a late January interview. “I can’t say that [China is] afraid of me, but they want me to keep silent.”

As the only person to have worked inside an internment camp in Xinjiang and spoken publicly about it, Sauytbay remains a particular liability for Beijing as it seeks to curb the mounting international criticism around its mass internment system.

A photo posted to the WeChat account of the Xinjiang Judicial Administration shows Uyghur detainees listening to a 'de-radicalization' speech at a re-education camp in Hotan prefecture's Lop county, April 2017.

A photo posted to the WeChat account of the Xinjiang Judicial Administration shows Uyghur detainees listening to a ‘de-radicalization’ speech at a re-education camp in Hotan prefecture’s Lop county, China

“I’d love nothing more than to get asylum in Kazakhstan and be a happy mom with my children,” Sauytbay said. “But I don’t know if that is possible anymore. I can’t exclude pressure from the Chinese side on the government of Kazakhstan.”

Sauytbay said she remains conflicted about what to do. She is still committed to finding a way to have her status formalized in Kazakhstan, but she also feels a sense of duty to keep speaking out about the abuses she witnessed. Sauytbay reiterated claims she made during her hearing in August that she was granted access to classified documents that offered new insights about the inner workings of the network of camps in Xinjiang but refused to disclose any details.

“I don’t want to talk about that until I have some kind of protection,” she said. “I’d prefer that protection to come from Kazakhstan, but I might need help from other countries.”

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Re-education of Uighurs in Xinjiang

Beijing made efforts to ensure Sauytbay’s silence. As first reported by the Globe and Mail, she received news that members of her family still in Xinjiang had been arrested and possibly sent to a camp by Chinese authorities during her trial in Kazakhstan. Sauytbay said she believes the arrests were in retaliation for her releasing information about the internment system in China and that a few months after her post-trial silence, she received word from contacts in Xinjiang that her family had been released and were now back home.

Sauytbay also said a small group of people, unknown to her, came to her house after the trial and told her to keep silent. The small group of Kazakh-speaking men spoke in vague terms about the Chinese government’s policies in Xinjiang and said there would be consequences for her and her family if she spoke out again.

“I don’t know who they were, but they showed up and said that they know all about me and my family and that if I don’t stay silent, I will be taken to [a camp],” Sauytbay said.

At her public hearing in August, Sauytbay provided new details about the camps, describing the high walls and barbed wire that she believed held around 2,500 ethnic Kazakhs for indoctrination. Sauytbay worked as an instructor at the camp, teaching detainees Mandarin and Communist Party propaganda. She also said she witnessed grave abuses in the camps and inhumane conditions for the detainees, saying that many were malnourished and psychologically abused. Chinese officials have denied such charges, arguing that the measures are necessary to fight Islamist extremism among its Muslim population and that they are guiding “Islam to be compatible with socialism.”

Kazakhstan’s government is still walking a tightrope between acquiescing to Beijing’s demands and keeping public opinion on its side.

Her case has put the Kazakh government in a difficult bind. Kazakhstan remains highly dependent on Chinese investment and has positioned itself as a launching pad for Beijing’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. But Sauytbay is one of thousands of ethnic Kazakh Chinese nationals with family ties to Kazakhstan who have become caught up in Xinjiang’s crackdown, and grassroots activists have begun calling on the government to do more. Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently played a more activediplomatic role in securing the release of Kazakhs from detention in China, but the government is still walking a tightrope between acquiescing to Beijing’s demands and keeping public opinion on its side.

Despite the threats against her family in China, Sauytbay said she has received less pressure from the Kazakh authorities since her summer trial and went out of her way to praise President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s longtime autocrat, for his benevolence in letting her stay in the country.

Uali Islam, Sauytbay’s husband, said Kazakh officials have encouraged them to stay out of the public eye as Sauytbay applies for asylum in the country but have not threatened them over speaking out.

This strategy of silence during the asylum process was backed by her lawyer, Abzal Quspan. Sauytbay admitted during her trial that she entered Kazakhstan illegally and was willing to serve a prison sentence as long as she wasn’t sent back to China. The judge gave her a six-month suspended sentence that could be served at home with her family. However, she has since faced a series of roadblocks that have left her questioning her future in Kazakhstan and the legal strategy recommended by Quspan.

According to Islam and Sauytbay, Quspan has grown distant since last summer’s trial and became unreachable during legal deadlines over the last two months.

According to Islam and Sauytbay, Quspan has grown distant since last summer’s trial and became unreachable during legal deadlines over the last two months.

Part of this, they said, is because Quspan was dealing with his sick daughter, who died in January. Quspan told FP that he had been absent and even unreachable during his daughter’s illness and that he asked Saule Abedinova, a Kazakh journalist who has worked closely with him and Sauytbay, to work as a liaison while he grappled with his family tragedy. Quspan said he will continue to represent Sauytbay and that the possibility of her asylum status being denied and her being sent back to China is real.“The risk is there, definitely,” Quspan said.

Islam and Sauytbay recently accused Abedinova of blocking access to Quspan, spreading rumors about them on social media, and trying to keep Sauytbay silent. Abedinova did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication, but she has denied the accusations on her active Facebook page. Abedinova had been involved in Sauytbay’s case since the August trial and worked as an unofficial spokesperson for the family, telling local media that Sauytbay would remain inaccessible during the asylum process.

In late January, Abedinova signed an open letter, along with a group of prominent Kazakh academics and writers, to the Kazakh government asking for the closure of Atajurt Eriktileri, a local grassroots organization that has been actively documenting cases of ethnic Kazakhs and Kazakh citizens caught up in the crackdown in Xinjiang and which rallied public supporters around Sauytbay during her trial. The letter said Atajurt’s work has provoked discord in Kazakh society, jeopardized good relations between Beijing and Astana, and that the issue of ethnic Kazakhs in China is an internal Chinese issue that should be addressed at the official level by both governments. Similar complaints dealing with politically sensitive subjects have often been a precursor to government action in Kazakhstan, such as when the Kazakh version of Forbes and the news site Ratel.kz faced swift backlash after letters were published about their reporting on the business interests of a former finance minister last year.

Sauytbay still has other legal avenues to pursue that would technically keep her in Kazakhstan for at least a year, but after having her asylum request denied twice, the prospect of Kazakhstan prioritizing its relations with Beijing over its international commitments on refugees is more real than ever.

“There are no guarantees about Sayragul’s future,” Islam said. “I don’t think that keeping quiet was a good strategy for us.”

Reid Standish is a journalist based in Helsinki, Finland. He was formerly an associate editor at Foreign Policy. @reidstan
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Pakistan: Islamabad on high-alert as Court Hears Asia Bibi’s Case — Christian woman who spent eight years on death row in a blasphemy case

January 29, 2019

Freedom of Religion, Rule of Law Questioned

The Supreme Court of Pakistan today will take up a petition moved to seek review of its October 31, 2018 verdict of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who spent eight years on death row in a blasphemy case a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row in a blasphemy case.

The review petition will be taken up by a three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.

A day earlier on Monday, the capital administration made stringent security arrangements, including the deployment of paramilitary troops in Islamabad’s sensitive areas.

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In a letter written to the capital chief commissioner’s office, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the Islamabad district magistrate sought the deployment of Pakistan Rangers personnel in the city “to avoid any untoward incident” during the hearing of a “sensitive case” on January 29.

The magistrate suggested that the Rangers authorities be approached with the request to deploy quick response forces (QRFs) of the paramilitary force in aid of the civil administration to bolster the capital’s security.

The review petition filed by Qari Muhammad Salaam pleads the apex court to maintain the capital punishment awarded by the trial court to Asia Bibi.

Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, has been on death row since 2010. — File
Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, has been on death row since 2010. — File

Qari Salaam is a prayer leader of a mosque who lives in a village in Nankana Sahib tehsil and had lodged the FIR about the alleged blasphemy incident.

On Oct 31 last year, a three-judge SC bench had reversed the judgements of the Lahore High Court (LHC) and the trial court thus setting aside the conviction and death sentence awarded to Aasia Bibi, who had been accused of committing blasphemy during an argument with a Muslim woman in Sheikhupura in June 2009.

“Keeping in mind the evidence produced by the prosecution against the alleged blasphemy committed by the appellant, the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt,” the then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar had written in the detailed judgment.

Editorial: A grave injustice avoided

Justice Khosa, in his note, had said: “Blasphemy is a serious offence but the insult of the appellant’s religion and religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixing truth with falsehood in the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was also not short of being blasphemous.”

After her release from Multan’s women prison on November 7, Asia Bibi was flown to Islamabad onboard a special aircraft. She was then taken to an undisclosed place amid tight security. Authorities have remained tight-lipped about her movement and whereabouts for security reasons.

Her lawyer, Saiful Malook, who had received death threats and fled the country after Bibi’s acquittal, returned to Islamabad to attend Tuesday’s hearing.

The petitioners “have no case against my client, I am sure of that”, Malook told The Associated Press on Monday. He said he has asked authorities to provide him with personal security.

TLP threatens protests

Meanwhile, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which had led three-day-long mass protests against Bibi’s acquittal in November, rejected the SC bench formed to hear the review petition and threatened a protest movement if Bibi is given “judicial relief”.

Most of the top TLP leadership, including its chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, is presently imprisoned in the wake of a massive crackdown launched by law enforcement agencies against the religiopolitical group.

Read: What you need to know about Aasia Bibi’s trial

In a video message, TLP’s central acting emir Shafiq Amini claimed that the government had promised them that a larger bench including Sharia court judges would be formed to hear the review petition against Bibi’s acquittal. He demanded that a larger bench be formed after dissolving the current bench.

A Pakistani supporter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a hardline religious party, holds an image of Christian woman Asia Bibi during a protest rally following the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Bibi of blasphemy in Islamabad.  Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Asking TLP workers to “be prepared”, Amini said: “No one should expect a compromise from our end”.

The TLP had called off its protests last year after reaching an agreement with the government — the foremost condition of which was the placement of Bibi’s name on the Exit Control List. The government, however, had only agreed to “initiate the legal process” to place her name on the list, while also agreeing that it would not oppose any review petitions being filed against the SC judgement.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1460376/islamabad-on-high-alert-as-sc-set-to-hear-petition-against-aasia-bibis-acquittal

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TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi was taken under 'protective custody' last month. — File photo

TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi was taken under ‘protective custody’ last month. — File photo

 

Philippines: Islamic State suspected after IED explosion near a karaoke bar by the municipal police station

January 27, 2019

An explosion ripped through Barangay Poblacion 4 in Midsayap town in this province six hours after a bomb blast hit General Santos City on Sunday.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde ordered the relief of Chief Inspector Patrick Elma, General Santos Police Station 2 commander, and Superintendent Samuel Cadungog, Midsayap town police chief, to allow an impartial probe into the incidents.

Elma was replaced by Senior Inspector Davis Dulawan. Superintendent Joan Maganto replaced Cadungog.

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Superintendent Aldrin Gonzalez, Soccsksargen police spokesman, said the improvised explosive device (IED) went off near a karaoke bar only a few meters away from the municipal police station.

“No one was hurt, but the explosion caused panic among residents,” Gonzalez said.

Bomb experts have yet to determine the type of IED used.

Probers said they have yet to establish if the bombing was linked to previous explosions, but Albayalde believes militant groups with ties to the Islamic State were behind the attacks.

Seven people, including a three-year-old girl, were wounded when a bomb exploded in Barangay Apopong in General Santos City.

Five persons were killed in bomb attacks in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat on Aug. 28 and Sept. 3.

On Saturday, an ordnance team deactivated a bomb found along the Cotabato-Isulan Highway in Barangay Matagabong in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. The IED was rigged with a blasting contraption attached to a mobile phone.

Military officials said members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters could have planted the bombs.

Albayalde said the police in entire Mindanao is on highest alert since the Sultan Kudarat bombing on Sept. 3.

“We reminded our regional directors in Mindanao to strengthen their target hardening measures…. Intelligence gathering is also very important,” he said.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/nation/2018/09/18/1852326/cop-chiefs-sacked-over-general-santos-midsayap-bombings#flO6AIPfcTbX2pDM.99

Microsoft says Bing search engine blocked in China (Plus Some of the Stories The Chinese People Are Unable To See Due to Government Censorship)

January 24, 2019

Microsoft Corp’s Bing search engine has been blocked in China, the company said on Jan 23, making it the latest foreign technology service to be shut down behind the country’s Great Firewall.

“We’ve confirmed that Bing is currently inaccessible in China and are engaged to determine next steps,” the company said in a statement.

t is the US technology giant’s second setback in China since November 2017 when its Skype Internet phone call and messaging service was pulled from Apple and Android app stores.

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A search performed on Bing’s China website – cn.bing.com – from within mainland China directs the user to a page that says the server cannot be reached.

The Financial Times, citing a source, reported on Wednesday that China Unicom, a major state-owned telecommunication company, had confirmed the government order to block the search engine.

Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), a government watchdog, did not respond to faxed questions about Bing’s blocked website.

Bing was the only major foreign search engine accessible from within China’s so-called Great Firewall. Microsoft censored search results on sensitive topics, in accordance with government policy.

Microsoft also has a partnership with Chinese datacentre provider 21Vianet to offer its products Azure and Office 365 to clients in the country.

Alphabet’s Google search platform has been blocked in China since 2010. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in December it has “no plans” to relaunch a search engine in China though it is continuing to study the idea amid increased scrutiny of big tech firms.


Google CEO Sundar Pichai appears before the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 11. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

President Xi Jinping has accelerated control of the internet in China since 2016, as the ruling Communist Party seeks to crack down on dissent in the social media landscape.

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Nobody has worked harder for a successful business relationship with China than Apple’s Tim Cook

In a statement on Jan 23, CAC said it had deleted more than 7 million pieces of online information and 9,382 mobile apps. It also criticised technology company Tencent’s news app for spreading “vulgar information”.

Reuters

Stories the average reader and China is unable to read due to censorship:

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Ti-Anna Wang

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg is seen at the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in Dalian, China, in this photograph made available on Jan. 14, 2019.Source: Dalian Intermediate People’s Court

Meng Hongwei (picture-alliance/dpa/W. Maye-E)

Men Hongwei was as elected as Interpol’s chief in November 2016, becoming the first Chinese head of the agency. He is now one of “The Disappeared” in China….

Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig (composite image)
Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig are being accused of harming national security. AFP photos
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China’s most successful film star Fan Bingbing has fallen foul of the authorities.

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 (China blames Trump Tweets for Chinese economic downturn)

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U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk the grounds at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, June 2013 Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk the grounds at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, June 2013 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
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The two images were published side by side this week on the Twitter-like Chinese social media site Weibo.

The two images were published side by side this week on the Twitter-like Chinese social media site Weibo. Photo: REUTERS (These images are banned in China)
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A Chinese coast guard vessel guards a China oil rig in the South China Sea near Vietnam in 2014. Reuters photo
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Re-education of Uighurs in Xinjiang
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Christians in China — China Photos/Getty

A faded photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen near a Christian poster with the word “Grace” outside a house church near Nanyang in central China’s Henan province. Experts and activists say that as he consolidates his power, Xi is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982. Photo: AP
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Chinese police in Xinjiang

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Plainclothes security officers take away a supporter of Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang near the Secondary Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin in northeastern China’s Tianjin municipality, on Dec. 26. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

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Jeff Widener was in Beijing working for the Associated Press on June 4, 1989. His image of “Tank Man” shocked the world. Photo: Jeff Widener & Associated Press

Pakistan’s top court to decide on Christian Woman Asia Bibi appeal Jan 29: lawyer

January 24, 2019

Pakistan, like Indonesia, says it does not persecute Christians

Pakistan’s Supreme Court will decide on January 29 whether or not to allow an appeal against its acquittal of a Christian woman at the centre of a blasphemy row, a lawyer involved in the case said Thursday.

If the court refuses to allow the appeal, it will remove the last legal hurdle facing Asia Bibi, who is a prime target in conservative Muslim-majority Pakistan and remains in protective custody.

Asia Bibi was on death row for eight years before her death sentence was overturned

Asia Bibi was on death row for eight years before her death sentence was overturned. AFP/File

Bibi was on death row for eight years for blasphemy, a hugely sensitive charge.

The Supreme Court’s decision in October last year to overturn her conviction ignited days of violent demonstrations, with enraged Islamists calling for her beheading, mutiny within the powerful military and the assassination of the country’s top judges.

The government has since launched a crackdown on the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party — the Islamist group driving the violent protests — charging its leaders with sedition and terrorism.

But authorities also struck a deal with the protesters to end the violence, forming an agreement which included allowing a final review of the Supreme Court’s judgement.

On January 29, “the court will determine if our appeal against her acquittal is admitted”, Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, the lawyer who filed the petition seeking an appeal, told AFP.

“Usually the court decides on the same day if the appeal is admitted or not,” he added.

Blasphemy continues to be a massively inflammatory issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven accusations of insulting Islam can spark lynchings.

Many cases see Muslims accusing Muslims. But rights activists have warned that minorities — particularly Christians — are often caught in the crossfire, with blasphemy charges used to settle personal scores.

Speculation has been rife since Bibi’s acquittal that an asylum deal with a European or North American country may be in the works.

AFP

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Pakistan Lahore Proteste nach Blasphemie Urteil (Getty Images/AFP/A. Ali)

Asia Bibi’s blasphemy verdict: Islamists protest across Pakistan

https://www.dw.com/en/asia-bibis-blasphemy-verdict-islamists-protest-across-pakistan/a-46101210

A Pakistani supporter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a hardline religious party, holds an image of Christian woman Asia Bibi during a protest rally following the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Bibi of blasphemy in Islamabad.  Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Protests broke out in Pakistan when the court acquitted Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman charged with blasphemy. (AP)
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A supporter of a radical Islamic group stands guard as protesters block a highway.

Asia Bibi: A supporter of a radical Islamic group stands guard as protesters block a highway in Pakistan. Photograph: Muhammad Sajjad/AP

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Indonesia frees Christian politician jailed for blasphemy

January 24, 2019

Freedoms of expression and religion in Indonesia are tenuous

Indonesia on Thursday released the popular former governor of Jakarta from jail, after serving a reduced two-year sentence for blasphemy against Islam, a case that exposed deep religious divides in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

An ethnic Chinese Christian, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, 52, lost a 2017 bid to be re-elected governor over charges of insulting the Koran that brought hundreds of thousands of Muslim protesters to the streets, led by hardline Islamist groups.

“My dad’s a free man! Thank you everyone for the support,” his son, Nicholas Sean, said on social media app Instagram, alongside a selfie with his father.

Months of protests and a polarizing election preceded Purnama’s jailing in May 2017, raising concerns over the erosion of Indonesia’s long-held reputation for pluralism and tolerance, and the creeping influence of Islam in politics.

Jakarta's Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama -- seen here at his trial in 2017 -- won praise for his efforts to clean up Jakarta before his fall from grace

Jakarta’s Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — seen here at his trial in 2017 — won praise for his efforts to clean up Jakarta before his fall from grace.  POOL/AFP

“(Purnama’s) prosecution showed non-Muslims and many Muslims that the freedoms of expression and religion in Indonesia are tenuous,” New York-based Human Rights Watch said.

Purnama’s troubles started with comments that political rivals were deceiving people by using a verse in the Koran to say Muslims should not be led by a non-Muslim.

Later, an incorrectly subtitled video of the comments went viral, eventually leading to his defeat at the polls and his imprisonment on charges of blasphemy.

Indonesian Muslims gather during a rally against Jakarta's minority Christian Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama who is being prosecuted for blasphemy, a...

Indonesian Muslims gather during a rally against Jakarta’s minority Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama who is being prosecuted for blasphemy, at the National Monument in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Tens of thousands of conservative Muslims rallied in the Indonesian capital on Friday in the second major protest in a month against its minority Christian governor. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

As a figure with a no-nonsense reputation for cutting through red tape while in office, he remains popular with progressive Indonesians.

Thousands of Muslims gather during a protest against Jakarta's minority Christian Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama who is being prosecuted for blasphemy, at the National Monument in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Tens of thousands of conservative Muslims rallied in the Indonesian capital on Friday in the second major protest in a month against its minority Christian governor. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Thousands of Muslims gather during a protest against Jakarta’s minority Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama — Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Tens of thousands of conservative Muslims rallied in the Indonesian capital on Friday in the second major protest in a month against its minority Christian governor. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)  (The Associated Press)

“We support him, not because of his religion or beliefs, but because of his good work,” said one of this Muslim supporters, Siti Afifah, who had waited outside the prison for his release.

But Ahok, as he is popularly known in Indonesia, is unlikely to re-enter politics any time soon, media say.

His representatives say he is considering launching a talk show and running his family’s oil trading business.

Last week, in a letter from behind bars, Purnama said he now wanted to be known by his initials “BTP”, and apologized to those hurt by his remarks when in office.

He also urged supporters to exercise their right to vote in April’s presidential election, which many fear may also be tainted by the religious and racial tension that marred the Jakarta governor race two years ago.

President Joko Widodo – once a steadfast ally of Purnama’s – is running for re-election against retired general Prabowo Subianto. Prabowo endorsed the massive protests against Purnama two years ago and backed the winning ticket in that election.

Reporting by Ebrahim Harris in Depok, Ed Davies and Kanupriya Kapoor in Jakarta; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Related:

A Pakistani supporter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a hardline religious party, holds an image of Christian woman Asia Bibi during a protest rally following the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Bibi of blasphemy in Islamabad.  Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Protests broke out in Pakistan when the court acquitted Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman charged with blasphemy. (AP)

German Police Raid Family Crime Syndicates of Arabic Background

January 13, 2019

More than 1,300 police officers were deployed in coordinated raids against family crime syndicates across northwestern Germany. The raids are focused on shisha bars, cafes and gambling venues.

    
Police at the scene of a shisha bar raid in Bochum (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Thissen)

German police launched simultaneous raids in six cities across the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on Saturday evening, with some 1,300 officers sweeping shisha bars and other venues in Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg, Bochum, Recklinghausen and Gelsenkirchen.

Authorities said they were targeting family crime clans of Arabic background in the northwestern state. According to the mass-circulation Bild daily, police are focusing on the Arabic crime syndicates, especially those with Lebanese background.

Police spokesman Oliver Peiler told reporters that the coordinated raids started at 9 p.m. local time (2000 UTC).

“As we do quite often, tonight we are checking numerous shisha-bars (…) because the shisha bars act as sanctuaries for members of these family clans,” he said.

Clans also use shisha bars, cafes, and gambling venues for money laundering and other illegal business activities, according to media reports. Police in Essen tweeted that a man has been detained carrying €9,000 ($10,322) in cash.

Polizei NRW E

@Polizei_NRW_E

Eine Person vorläufig festgenommen. Er hatte 9000 € Bargeld & einige EC-Karten bei sich. Die rechtmäßige Herkunft muss er den Behörden nun nachweisen.

15 people are talking about this

“He will now need to prove to the authorities that the money has been obtained legally,” they said.

Read moreItalian Mafia, bikers, Berlin clans: Europe’s crime gangs

Thousands of members

While dozens of people have been searched and mutiple properties swept, police are only expected to release official results of the crackdown on Sunday.

Firefighters, customs officers, members of the tax collection service and communal police officers were deployed alongside police squads. Police forces in the affected cities also shared images of the raids on social media under the hashtag “#NullToleranz,” or zero tolerance.

Polizei NRW RE

@polizei_nrw_re

Im Kreis und in der Stadt verteilt finden aktuell Maßnahmen zur Bekämpfung der statt. Wir arbeiten eng mit den Finanzbehörden, dem Hauptzollamt und den Städten zusammen.

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There are about 50 criminal clans active in NRW, with their collective membership topping 10,000, according to police information cited by the Rhenische Post newspaper.

The clans are often involved in prostitution, which is legal in Germany, but also commit acts of violence and vandalism, as well as welfare fraud and other non-violent crimes.

The police are currently investigating the clans’ possible offenses in the real estate market, state criminal police representative Thomas Jungbluth told the newspaper.

‘No tolerance for lawlessness’

The police force in the city of Essen said that some clan members show “little respect towards police or emergency services.”

“We won’t stand for it,” they tweeted.

Polizei NRW E

@Polizei_NRW_E

Einzelne Mitglieder, die in diesen kriminellen Clanstrukturen leben, zeichnen sich durch ein hohes Maß an Abschottung und besonders konspirativem Verhalten aus. Sie zeigen wenig Respekt gegenüber der Polizei oder Rettungsdiensten. Das dulden wir nicht!

See Polizei NRW E’s other Tweets

State Interior Minister Herbert Reul, who observed the raid in Bochum, said it was paramount that state authorities respond to clan criminality.

“We need to show that we are here and that we have no tolerance for lawlessness,” he said. “We must not allow that criminal structures decide what the law is in Germany.”

https://www.dw.com/en/police-in-western-germany-launch-massive-raids-against-criminal-clans/a-47062084

India’s lower house passes citizenship bill excluding Muslims

January 9, 2019

India’s lower house passed on Tuesday legislation that will grant citizenship to members of certain religious minorities but not Muslims, sparking protests in the country’s northeast.

The bill covers select groups – including Hindus, Christians and Sikhs – who moved from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and who have lived in India for at least six years.

Muslims are excluded, in what critics say is a transparent pitch by Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi to voters as India gears up for elections due by May.

The legislation, which still needs approval in the upper house, sparked a second day of protests on Tuesday in the northeastern state of Assam, where millions have settled in recent decades after fleeing neighboring countries.

Activists of Students' Federation of India (SFI) burn the effigies of India's Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Assam in Guwahati on Tuesday after India's lower house passed today legislation that will grant citizenship to members of certain religious minorities but not Muslims. — AFP
Activists of Students’ Federation of India (SFI) burn the effigies of India’s Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Assam in Guwahati on Tuesday after India’s lower house passed today legislation that will grant citizenship to members of certain religious minorities but not Muslims. — AFP

Demonstrators in the state are angry about the bill not because it excludes Muslims but because it grants citizenship to settlers from elsewhere, accusing the migrants of taking away jobs from indigenous groups.

The hilly state of 33 million people known for its tea plantations has been plagued for decades by tensions between tribal and ethnic indigenous groups and settlers from outside the region.

Last year the Assam government published a draft citizens’ register that left off 4 million people unable to prove they were living there before 1971, when millions fled Bangladesh’s war of independence.

A deadline to provide documents to be included in the registry passed on Dec. 31, and the final list is due to be published on June 30.

In Tuesday’s protests in Assam, the All Assam Students Union vandalized offices of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and set banners and posters on fire.

Samujjal Bhattacharyya, a leader in the union, said that people in the region would not “accept the political injustice perpetrated by the BJP.”

Bhattacharya said the legislation would confer citizenship on the basis of religion, violating India’s secular constitution. He also said that providing residency and citizenship rights to migrants from Bangladesh, with which Assam state shares a long open border, would threaten indigenous communities.

Police said that protesters threw stones at officers.

“We have identified the stone pelters by seeing video footage and they will be booked soon,” Assam police official Surjeet Singh Panesar said.

The issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh has spurred periodic public uprisings in Assam since the Indian government granted rights to Bangladeshis who entered the country after winning independence from Pakistan in a 1971 war.

The bill is unlikely to pass the upper house of Parliament, which isn’t controlled by the ruling party. However, if it isn’t passed, the government could pass an ordinance that wouldn’t require lawmakers’ approval.

BJP’s alliance partner in Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad or Assam People’s Party, quit the coalition government on Tuesday to protest the bill.

“We have always opposed the entry and presence of illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Our party was formed in 1985 with this promise of freeing Assam from illegal migrants from Bangladesh. We therefore cannot remain an ally of the BJP after this move by the Modi government,” AGP president Atul Bora said.

From AFP, AP and Reuters

https://www.dailysabah.com/asia/2019/01/09/indias-lower-house-passes-citizenship-bill-excluding-muslims