RFA in the News (February 2012)

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Feb. 29 “Deadly clashes erupt in western China”

An outburst of violence in a remote desert region of western China has underscored the tensions over Chinese rule in ethnic-minority areas just days before an important national policy meeting here in Beijing. Reports from the region said about 20 people were killed on Tuesday night in clashes in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in China’s far west. … Radio Free Asia, whose journalists talk regularly to Uighurs in the region, reported that a group of Uighurs had killed 3 Han, and that security officers then killed 12 Uighur youths.


Feb. 28 “A dozen killed in latest Chinese riots”

Rioters armed with knives attacked victims outside the city of Yecheng, also known as Karghilik, in the early evening, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. … According to Radio Free Asia, at least 200 places of worship have been closed down in a security operation ahead of the National People’s Congress meetings next Monday. Some 129 Uighurs have also allegedly been detained.


Feb. 27 “S. Korean gov't to address N. Korean defector issue at UNHRC”

South Korea, for the first time, will officially address the issue of North Korean defectors at a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Monday. … Meanwhile, Radio Free Asia reported on Sunday that China is actually holding about 40 North Korean defectors, which is more than the earlier reports of 33, of whom nine are believed to have already been sent back to the North.


Feb. 27 “Why Violence in Tibet Is Getting Worse”

Earlier this week a Tibetan monk became at least the 22nd person in the past year to commit self-immolation in protest at the Chinese government's rule in Tibet. Robert Barnett, Director of the Modern Tibet Studies Program at Columbia University, says this is a new type of political protest for Tibetans, one that looks like it may become an ongoing form of dissent if the Chinese government does not change some of its policies in the region.

… People inside Tibet, especially in rural areas, are sometimes able to get radio news in Tibetan from outside sources such as Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, but probably know little if anything about the Tunisian self-immolation last year, let alone the Vietnamese self-immolations 50 years ago.


Feb. 27 “Speed drug use growing in Vang Vieng”

A popular backpacker tourist stop in Laos, Vang Vieng, is experiencing an upsurge in drug use, particularly methamphetamines, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA). Drugs are moreeasily available even after a crackdown by authorities on establishments such as bars, restaurants and other entertainment outlets, tourists told RFA, according to a an article on its website published on Friday.


Feb. 26 “Popular Tibetan comedian held in Lithang, whereabouts unknown”

A popular Tibetan comedian has been arrested in early Feb 2012 from a traditional Tibetan area that is now part of China’s Sichuan Province. Athar, 33, who runs a general store and who otherwise gives satirical stage performances in Lithang county of Karze (Chinese: Ganzi) prefecture, was taken away at night by a special Chinese police team acting on orders from Beijing, reported RFA.org (Radio Free Asia, Washington) Feb 24. He was a planning to release a video that criticized Chinese rule in Tibetan-populated regions.


Feb. 24 “WFP to end emergency food aid to N. Korea next month”

The World Food Programme plans to end its emergency aid mission to North Korea in March as originally scheduled. Citing officials from the WFP, Radio Free Asia reported Thursday that its emergency operation for the most vulnerable groups, including children, pregnant women and the elderly, will end next month.


Feb. 23 “EDITORIAL: The 'Party Mood' in Tibet”

Tibet's Lunar New Year celebration got off to an unusually somber start yesterday. … Radio Free Asia quotes a member of Tibet's exile parliament as saying that "Chinese authorities have made the New Year a political issue, giving cash rewards to those who celebrate, while punishing those who don't by cutting off the financial subsidies they should regularly receive." As Tibetans pray for their dead, Chinese media report that "the country's Tibetan-populated regions are in a party mood."


Feb. 22 “Maestro Chung Myung-whun invites N.Korean orchestra to France”

Renowned conductor Chung Myung-whun has invited North Korea's Unhasu Orchestra for a joint concert with the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra in Paris on March 14. … According to Radio Free Asia, the Unhasu Orchestra was formed in 2009 and consists of around 100 singers and musicians.


Feb. 21 “Democracy activist Qin Yongmin warned over website”

Pro-democracy activist Qin Yongmin, who was freed from prison in November 2010 after serving a 12-year term for subversion, was recently taken in by state security over his plans to launch a "peaceful transition" website. His story as told to Radio Free Asia: "A policeman called Wang Hui said I had been posting articles overseas and giving interviews to journalists, and that this was against Article 82 of the national security law, and that they were going to punish me for that[.]"


Feb. 19 “As a protest, monk sets himself on fire”

Another Tibetan Buddhist monk set himself on fire in western China amid a wave of such protests against China's handling of the vast Tibetan areas it rules, overseas groups said yesterday. Tamchoe Sangpo set himself alight Friday during a prayer ceremony at Bongtak monastery in a remote region of Qinghai province, the advocacy group Free Tibet said. It gave no details about his current condition, although U.S.-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia said Sangpo had died.


Feb. 18 “Real-name ticket system hinders NK defectors` travel in China”

The U.S.-based Radio Free Asia reported Friday that the real-name train ticket purchase system meant to keep ticket scalpers in check is making it difficult to rescue North Korean defectors in China.

The Chinese government since last year has implemented the system, which requires passengers to submit ID to buy train tickets to prevent ticket scalping nationwide. A source around the North Korea-China border told Radio Free Asia, "It`s become impossible for people to buy ordinary train tickets, not to mention those for high-speed train, without possessing legitimate IDs."


Feb. 17 “China detains Tibetans after trip to India, rights group says”

The Chinese government has detained several hundred Tibetans who returned from India after attending teaching sessions overseen by the Dalai Lama, and is forcing them to undergo political re-education, a human rights group said Friday. … Also Friday, a Tibetan monk burned himself to death in China’s western Qinghai Province, the 22nd confirmed self-immolation by Tibetans protesting Chinese rule since February 2009, Radio Free Asia reported.


Feb. 16 “Radio keeps Tibetans tuned in”

No road leads to Motuo County. There is no post office or newspaper. But, for the 10,000 residents of one of the planet’s remotest corners, a local radio station serves as the vital link to the outside world. … In 2008, an ethnic Uyghur woman, Mehbube Ablesh, 29, was removed from her post at Xinjiang People’s Radio Station and detained for apparently criticising the local government. According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), which is supported by the United States government and broadcasts news to nine Asian countries with restricted media, Mehbube has not been heard of since.

… "(Tibetans do not) get news stories of events happening in other parts of Tibet that they simply didn’t know about, until they hear from us," Dan Southerland, executive editor at RFA, tells IPS over phone from the U.S. RFA broadcasts in three Tibetan dialects, Uke, Amdo and Kham, and while they cannot be sure how many listeners they have within the TAR, Southerland says the number is "significant", with most listeners picking up broadcasts via satellite, despite the government’s efforts to block signals.


Feb. 16 “China expels Tibetan monks for refusing its flag”

The Chinese authorities had expelled four monks of Rawu Shulten monastery in Pashoe (Chinese: Basu) county of Chamdo (Chinese: Changdu) Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, because they refused a Feb 7 order to fly the Chinese national flag and display pictures of top Chinese leaders in the monastery, reported RFA.org (Radio Free Asia, Washington) Feb 14. The order and the expulsion followed a visit to the monastery that day be Chinese officials from the county government.


Feb. 14 “Another Tibetan monk sets himself on fire in China”

A Tibetan monk set himself on fire in western China and was beaten by security forces as they put out the flames, a rights group said, marking the latest in a series of dramatic protests against China's handling of its vast Tibetan areas. … U.S.-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia said Tuesday that a 21-year-old Tibetan, Tashi Palden, was detained in Sichuan's Ganzi prefecture on Saturday after a poster appeared on the wall of a local police station warning that three Tibetans were preparing to self-immolate. It didn't say if Palden was suspected of putting up the poster. RFA said he was detained while shouting slogans in the town center calling for Tibetan independence.


Feb. 12 “Tibetan nun dies after self-immolation in China”

An 18-year-old nun set herself on fire in China's restive southwest and later died, rights groups said Sunday, the latest in a spate of such incidents among ethnic Tibetans protesting Beijing's rule. … Security forces on Thursday shot dead two Tibetan brothers who were on the run after protesting against Chinese rule, according to US-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia.


Feb. 11 “U.S. shipments to N. Korea up sharply in 2011”

U.S. shipments of goods to North Korea jumped nearly five-fold in 2011 from the previous year, mainly due to a rise in relief supplies, a media report showed Saturday. Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) said the United States shipped US$9.4 million worth of goods to North Korea last year, up from just $1.9 million the year before. The figures are based on data provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce.


Feb. 9 “Report: 2 Tibetans killed by security forces”

Two Tibetan brothers on the run since taking part in anti-government protests two weeks ago have been shot dead in southwest China's Sichuan province, a U.S.-funded broadcaster reported Friday.

Radio Free Asia said the two were shot and killed after being surrounded in Luhuo county on Thursday.


Feb. 9 “China: Exile groups report another self-immolation in Tibet”

Reports have surfaced of another self-immolation in Tibet on Wednesday, bringing to at least 20 the number of Tibetans who have taken their lives to protest Chinese rule since March 2009. Citing Tibetan exile groups, Radio Free Asia reported that a man who appeared to be a Buddhist monk chanted slogans before setting himself on fire in the seat of Aba County, or Ngaba in Tibetan.


Feb. 6 “Unwanted babies ‘sold to Australians’”

Laos is investigating a retired justice ministry official for allegedly selling adopted babies to Australians, Americans and Canadians for thousands of dollars each. The official is accused of seeking out unwanted babies in poor rural areas, obtaining adoption papers and selling the infants to foreigners for up to $5,000 each, according to a Radio Free Asia report on Monday.


Feb. 5 “China says Tibet facing ‘urgent’ task to maintain stability”

China's mountainous region of Tibet is facing an urgent task to maintain stability and all government workers must be on their highest guard ahead of the Tibetan New Year and the fourth anniversary of riots, a newspaper said on Monday. … Three Tibetans in southwestern China had set themselves ablaze in protest against Chinese rule, Radio Free Asia reported on Saturday, the latest in a series of self-immolations over the past year.


Feb. 2 “Village in southern China chooses election committee by popular vote”

About 7,000 people in a village in southern China's Guangdong Province voted Wednesday in a symbolic election endorsed by the provincial government which bowed to public pressure calling for a cleanup of corrupt officials, according to media reports. … About 40 candidates, including 27 laypeople and former officials, ran for the 11 seats, U.S.-based Radio Free Asia said.


Feb. 2 “Monks and nuns leaving monasteries due to Chinese repression”

Unable to endure tight restriction and intrusions, monks and nuns at monasteries and nunneries in Driru County of Nagchu Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region have been forced to leave their religious centres in rising numbers, reported RFA.org (Radio Free Asia, Washington) Jan 31.


Feb. 1 “Dead Tibetan monk leaves taped message”

A taped audio message made by a Tibetan monk who then set himself on fire has emerged, along with graphic photographs of his blackened body. … A tape found in his robes was sent to Radio Free Asia and Voice of Tibet.

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