RFA in the News (January 2012)

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Jan. 30 “Uncertainty over Uighurs

The United States is attempting to confirm recent media reports that as many as four of the 20 ethnic Uighur asylum seekers deported from Cambodia to China in 2009 have been sentenced to life in prison.

… On Thursday, a Radio Free Asia report, which cited “family sources” and authorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in northwestern China, stated that two asylum seekers had been sentenced to life imprisonment, and a third had received a 17-year jail sentence. The following day, an RFA report stated that a further two asylum seekers had received life sentences and another 12 had received various jail sentences, attributing the information to family sources and lawyers.


Jan. 27 “Burma’s censorship dep’t to be abolished?”

The director of the Burmese Press Scrutiny and Registration Department (PSRD) repeated claims this week that the department would be abolished in coming months. “The new press law, which is still in the process of being enacted, will guarantee freedom of expression in Burma,” Tint Swe told Radio Free Asia (RFA) in an interview on Wednesday.


Jan. 27 “Two Uighurs deported from Cambodia to China get life”

China has jailed two Muslim Uighurs deported from Cambodia for life, Radio Free Asia reported on Friday, showing no sign of loosening its grip on far-western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region which holds rich deposits of oil and gas. The sentences -- and deadly clashes this week between police in Sichuan and ethnic Tibetans -- come at a sensitive time for China for whom ensuring stability ahead of a leadership transition later this year is a top priority.


Jan. 27 “Activists call for Want Want boycott”

One of the top student leaders during the protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989 has called for a boycott of the China Times after the wealthy Taiwanese entrepreneur who owns the publication denied the crackdown by the Chinese military constituted a massacre.

… Several netizens have also vowed to boycott food products from Tsai’s business chains, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Tuesday. At press time last night, a “Resist the Want Want Group” page created on Facebook on Tuesday — whose boycott will continue until April 24 — had attracted 405 followers.


Jan. 27 “Burma’s parliament back in session, budget is top priority”

Burma’s third session of Parliament opened on Thursday in Naypyidaw with the budget for the 2012/2013 fiscal year and a potential new media law as the primary points of focus.

… However, Tint Swe, the director of Burma’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, told Radio Free Asia on Wednesday that a new “Press Law” will also be introduced to Parliament this session.

“The new Press Law, which is still in the process of being enacted, will guarantee freedom of expression in Burma,” said Tint Swe.


Jan. 25 “Deadly confrontation spreads in Tibetan region of China”

Deadly showdowns between Chinese security forces and Tibetans in a restive region of western China spread to a second town on Tuesday, outside advocacy groups reported. … Citing a Tibetan monk in India, Radio Free Asia said that thousands of Tibetans had participated in the protest on Monday and that they had destroyed “Chinese shops and other Chinese facilities in the area.”


Jan. 24 “U.S. shipped $38 mln of goods to N. Korea in FY 2011: Commerce Dept.”

The United States shipped US$38.3 million worth of goods to North Korea in the fiscal year 2011 ending in September last year, nearly 10 times more than a year earlier, U.S. government statistics show. The figure compares with $3.1 million shipped to the North during the fiscal year 2010, the Commerce Department figures said, according to Radio Free Asia.


Jan. 23 “An unhappy Chinese New Year: Chinese forces shoot Tibetan protesters, with at least one dead”

Chinese New Year is a raucous time, with celebrants detonating firecrackers late into the night to scare off evil spirits. But in the remote Tibetan-dominated reaches of Sichuan province, in China’s far west, the crackles erupting on the afternoon of Jan. 23, the first day of the new Year of the Dragon, were not just a symbolic cacophony. They were deadly.

… Witnesses of the Jan. 23 mayhem said one of the protesters had indeed tried to self-immolate, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA), citing sources who maintain contact with Tibetans in Kardze (also rendered in Tibetan as Kandze) despite efforts by the Chinese government to limit foreign journalists’ exposure to locals.


Jan. 23 “Burma’s censors tighten grip ahead of by-election”

PSRD director Tint Swe warned the editors of some of Burma's leading news journals last week that “action will be taken” against publications that don't abide by the board's guidelines, which include a ban on reporting subjects deemed sensitive to the stability of the state. … In October, former army major Tint Swe made international headlines when he told the Burmese-language service of the Washington-based Radio Free Asia that censorship in Burma, long considered one of the world's worst enemies of the press, could soon be a thing of the past.


Jan. 20 “RFA airs satellite TV news program in Burma”

Radio Free Asia’s Burmese service broadcast the first episode of a nightly television news program in Burma on Thursday. Hosted by two co-anchors, the half-hour program aired via television satellite at 8:30 p.m. local time, and featured news about Nobel Peace Prize laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s registration to participate in the country’s upcoming elections and interviews with recently released Burmese political prisoners.


Jan. 17 “Why are Tibetan monks setting themselves on fire?”

"Whenever they thought I was not telling the truth, the interrogator displayed a handcuff, an electric baton, and a handgun on the desk," Namgyal, a 37-year-old Tibetan monk, recalled to human rights workers.

… This weekend, after a monk identified as Nyage Sonamdrugyu set himself on fire, around 500 angry protesters forced police to relinquish his body, which they then carried through the streets of Gyumai, a town in Tibet. China's state-run Xinhua News Agency said that an investigation found Nyage burned himself after his "secret love affair with a local woman was discovered by the woman's husband." Radio Free Asia said security in the area has been tightened.


Jan. 16 “Human rights situation has worsened in North Korea after Kim's death: rights activist”

"These refugees are citizens of Korea and if they're sent back to North Korea, they are going to be tortured and executed," Park told The Korea Herald on the phone. He declined to meet in person, as he was extremely uncomfortable meeting the press after the torture and abuse he suffered during his stay in North Korea.

… US-based Radio Free Asia reported last week that three North Korean defectors were shot dead by North Korean soldiers while crossing the Amnok River into China from Hyesan in the North's Ryanggang Province on December 31.


Jan. 13 “Chinese dissident goes into exile in U.S., says was tortured”

One of China's most prominent Christian dissidents, Yu Jie, has gone into exile to the United States after he said he was tortured in a crackdown on dissent, he told Reuters on Friday. … "For the past year, for long periods I had no freedom and was under house arrest," Yu told Radio Free Asia, in an interview published on its website (www.rfa.org) late on Thursday. "Without any freedom to express myself through writing and my freedom of religious belief, I've chosen to live elsewhere."


Jan. 13 “Protests after Tibetan killed in China police raid”

A Tibetan man in China suspected of stealing tents from the construction site of a remote airport was shot dead in a police raid, sparking a violent protest, state media and a rights group said.

Citing local sources, Radio Free Asia said Tibetans ransacked the town’s police station. Security forces were called in and they used tear gas to contain the protests, with many injured and detained.


Jan. 12 “Seoul should protect North Korea defectors in China by law: activist”

Robert Park, a Korean-American human rights activist and missionary imprisoned by Pyongyang from late 2009 to early 2010, said the South Korean government should provide diplomatic protection to North Korean refugees who have defected to China.

… U.S.-based Radio Free Asia reported last week that three North Korean defectors were shot dead by North Korean soldiers while crossing the Amnok River into China from Hyesan in the North’s Ryanggang Province on Dec. 31.


Jan. 11 “It's winter again for Chinese dissidents

Earlier this evening eight police raided the home of prominent Chinese dissident Hu Jia, confiscated two computers, and told him to report to a police station for further questioning on Thursday, in a move that potentially presages a further crackdown towards rights activists in China. A skinny firebrand, Hu made his name fighting for better treatment of AIDS patients. Like the better known international artist and provocateur Ai Weiwei, Hu made a point of using the law to fight the system, even if his adversaries didn't always operate legally. In a 2006 interview with Radio Free Asia, after describing being detained for 41 days, accused of nebulous crimes and warned that "more misfortune would come upon me if I continued to take part in those activities[.]"


Jan. 11 “A North Korean holiday”

Driving through the almost-deserted streets of downtown Pyongyang, a Chinese tourist yells out to the North Korean guide at the front of the bus, "Why are there so few cars – it's peak hour!"

… A recent report by Radio Free Asia, citing a diplomatic source in Beijing says however that various restrictions are responsible for a recent decline in the number of Chinese travelers.


Jan. 11 “N. Korean imports of mobile phones jumped 6 times from 2009-2010: RFA”

North Korea imported six times more mobile phones in 2010 than in 2009, a media report said Wednesday, indicating growing mobile penetration in the reclusive country. North Korea bought 430,000 mobile phones from China in 2010, up from 68,000 phones the previous year, according to Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA).


Jan. 102012 has started much as 2011 ended – with new wave of strikes and workers’ demonstrations

The first week of 2012 witnessed a fresh wave of strikes across at least six provinces – Sichuan, Hebei, Jiangsu, Liaoning, Guangdong and Guangxi. China’s ‘sweatshop revolt’ – predicted by chinaworker.info – is continuing and deepening as bosses’ try to force through wage cuts or relocate factories to cheaper production centres at home and abroad.

… “The workers of Pangang Steel copied them, and also called for a raise,” this source told Radio Free Asia (5 January, 2012).


Jan. 9 “Tibetan monk dies in self-immolation, sparking protest - reports”

A Tibetan monk in western China died after setting himself ablaze in protest against the government, marking the 15th self-immolation in the country's restive mountainous region since March, an exiled Tibetan spokesman said on Monday. … Radio Free Asia said in an earlier report the monk, aged in his 40s, drank kerosene, doused his body in the fuel, and then set himself on fire while calling for the return of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.


Jan. 5 “2011: Uyghur human rights year in review”

Calls for independent and international investigations into Chinese claims of Uyghur terrorism receive very short shrift from Beijing. It therefore follows that whenever a serious incident occurs in East Turkestan (Xinjiang), which Chinese officials blame on a coordinated Uyghur terror threat, skeptics are never far away. … According to local sources contacted by Radio Free Asia, the group, which included women and children, was fired on as they were fleeing China to seek refuge overseas from China's repressive religious policies.


Jan. 4 “Biden to oversee PRC file: report”
US Vice President Joseph Biden will reportedly “take the lead” in the next phase of US policy toward China, which will almost certainly give Biden a major say in future US-Taiwan relations.

… “He [Biden] was instrumental in the creation of Radio Free Asia. Friends say he has demonstrated amply that he understands the awful truth of the regime in Beijing,” Fisher said.


Jan. 3 “A lawyer has been charged with aiding the escape of his client who is an opposition party activist”

On 29 December 2011, Mr Choung Chou-Ngy was charged under Article 565 of the 2009 Criminal Code of the Kingdom of Cambodia (the "Penal Code") -- "Provision of Means for Escape". This charge has been brought in response to the release of Mr Choung Chou-Ngy's client, Mr Meas Peng, deputy chief of Banteay Dek commune in Kandal province's Kien Svay district, from prison on 23 September 2011.

… However, on 26 December 2011, Radio Free Asia reported that the Kandal provincial court sent a letter in response stating that it was not able to comply with the request because the alleged charges were not a violation of the code of ethics for lawyers but a criminal case.

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