RFA in the News (July 2011)

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July 29 “Torrential rains cause floods in southwestern N. Korea, spreads water-borne diseases”

North Korea’s state media report that the recent rain flooded around 350 square kilometers of farmland. …According to Radio Free Asia, a group of United Nations inspectors found that 20 percent more children have suffered from diarrhea and 40 percent more from skin diseases in the flood-hit region since earlier this week.


July 28 “China’s Uighur problem: One man's ordeal echoes the plight of a people”

Who is Ershidin Israil? An Islamic terrorist? A brave journalist? Or a Chinese spy?… Radio Free Asia believes he is being punished for his journalistic contributions to the Washington-based nonprofit media group, particularly for his reports on the brutal crackdown that followed the 2009 strife.


July 28 “Cu Huy Ha Vu’s appeal trial to be opened Aug 2”

The appeal hearing for Cu Huy Ha Vu, 54, who has been given a 7-year jail term for writing many articles against the Vietnamese State and Government, will be opened on August 2, said the Supreme People’s Court.

Vu answered interviews from the Voice of America and the Radio Free Asia, in which he distorted and maligned Party and State guidelines and policies, defamed the administration and State institutions, and blackened the Vietnamese people’s resistance wars.


July 27 “Police probe vendor's death in China: reports”

The government is investigating the death of a disabled fruit vendor who was reportedly beaten to death by city management officers in central China's Guizhou Province, mainland and Hong Kong media reported Wednesday. State-run Xinhua News Agency said hundreds of protesters gathered in Anshun City on Tuesday, accusing city management officers of beating the vendor, Deng Qiguo, 52.

… Hong Kong's Cable TV quoted Radio Free Asia as saying Deng failed to flee from the officers who were dispersing hawkers outside a market, and quoted witnesses as saying Deng was choked by the city management officers during the scuffle.


July 25 “North Korea to discuss new talks on weapons”

A senior North Korean diplomat believed to be an important strategist in his government's nuclear negotiations with the United States will visit New York this week to discuss restarting talks seeking to end the North's nuclear weapons program, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday.

… The South Korean news agency Yonhap said Mr. Kim would probably meet with American diplomats like Stephen W. Bosworth, the special representative for North Korea policy. The two men met in Pyongyang, North Korea, in 2009. Radio Free Asia, based in Washington, said Mr. Kim might also talk with Robert R. King, the special envoy for North Korean human rights issues.


July 22 “Cambodian prime minister blasts critical broadcasts by US-funded radio stations as inaccurate”

Hun Sen said that reports broadcast in the Cambodian language by Voice of America and Radio Free Asia were groundless. The stations carry news and analysis sometimes critical of the government on subjects such as human rights and corruption.

Shortwave radio stations are a major source of unfettered news for people in Asian countries with authoritarian regimes, such as Cambodia and Myanmar. Satellite TV broadcasts are also popular where media is controlled or heavily censored by the government.

``VOA and Radio Free Asia are very inferior. They distort the situation,'' Hun Sen said during a news conference, calling their news and analysis programs groundless and charging they contained ``zero'' information.


July 20 “Why China is growing tenser by the day”

For the last four weeks the Chinese authorities have considerably stepped up security in Xinjiang and Tibet to prevent any mass protests. July is a sensitive month for both regions -- for Xinjiang because it marks the first anniversary of the violent incidents of last year and for Tibet because it marks the 60th anniversary of the occupation of Tibet by the PLA. The reluctance of the Uighurs and the Tibetans to join in the celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the CPC has been an added cause for tension.

… Secondly, of equal concern to the Chinese was the reported visit of His Holiness to the Washington headquarters of the US State Department funded Radio Free Asia, which was started under the Bill Clinton administration to make broadcasts, inter alia, to the people of Tibet and Xinjiang.

… Radio Free Asia has been allegedly broadcasting to the people of Xinjiang and Tibet not only the latest news about developments in their region to which they are denied access by the Chinese censors, but also instructions on how to circumvent the various curbs imposed by the Chinese authorities on microblogging and other social media networks to prevent a copy-cat emulation of the Jasmine Revolution of Tunisia and Egypt by the people of not only Xinjiang and Tibet, but also other parts of China.


July 20 “UNICEF ready to send inspectors to flooded N.Korea”

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says it is prepared to dispatch a team of inspectors to flood-damaged regions if North Korea asks for help.

UNICEF told the U.S.-run Radio Free Asia (RFA) that since North Korea has not yet asked for aid following its flooding, UNICEF has not inspected the region and not allocated emergency aid. However, the international organization said if North Korean requests aid, immediate support is possible.

The UNICEF has, in preparation for flood damage in North Korea, been accumulating emergency aid supplies including vitamin supplements, groundsheets for tents, tents, and water purifiers for some 100-thousand residents to use. RFA said that the inspection team, when it is dispatched, will comprise of the UNICEF’s international agents in its Pyongyang office.


July 20 “The flood photo that isn’t”

The Associated Press has withdrawn a photo depicting flooding in North Korea, released recently by the reclusive communist country’s news service, claiming that signs of digital manipulation were detected.

… According to Radio Free Asia, AP spokesman Paul Colford said Monday that the photo in question made it onto the AP wire because of human error at AP. “The AP did not intend for the photo to go on its wire,” Colford was quoted as saying by RFA. “It did go on the wire by mistake.”


July 19 “Burma: Journalists warned on exile contacts”

Burmese journalists have been told by a senior government minister not to pass information to exiled media outlets whom he claims are tarnishing perceptions among the public of the Thein Sein administration.

… A number of exile Burmese media groups exist, including The Irrawaddy Magazine, Mizzima and Shan Herald Agency for News, mainly operating out of Thailand but feeding information back into Burma. The BBC, Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) also broadcast daily news into Burma via satellite television and shortwave radio.


July 18 “5,000 kyat denomination counterfeit notes found in Rangoon bank”

5,000 kyat denomination counterfeit notes were found early in July in Myanmar Citizens Bank (MCB) in Kyautada Township in Rangoon Region, Rangoon media has reported.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) Burmese service reported that a policeman was arrested for using a 5,000 denomination counterfeit note in Bago Myoma market in January 2010.


July 18 “Heavy rain feared to deepen N. Korea food shortages”

North Korea reported deaths and damage to farmland and homes from heavy rain, sparking concerns as the communist state is already struggling to overcome chronic food shortages that were deepened by floods last year.

… Hit by earlier-than-expected seasonal downpours, North Korean farmers are deeply concerned about their corn and bean crops, and the Pyongyang regime is making desperate efforts to produce fertilizer by mixing humus and human excrement, Radio Free Asia reported, quoting sources in Pyongyang.


July 17 “Beijing in damage control over arrest, Ai claims”

Ai Weiwei says charges of tax evasion levelled against him, as well as his release on bail, are excuses used by the mainland authorities to get out of the embarrassment created by arresting him in the first place. The artist-activist told Radio Free Asia on Friday that he had never pleaded guilty to evading taxes, saying all the charges were unfounded.

He criticised the authorities for not allowing public access to a hearing held last week over the alleged offence and outstanding tax bill of 12 million yuan (HK$14.5 million). When reached yesterday, Ai said he was barred from accepting formal media interviews, but he confirmed his interview on Radio Free Asia, a Washington-based network.


July 16 “Will Coca-Cola and KFC enter North Korea”

South Korean media outlets reported Thursday that Coca-Cola company and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) had agreed to enter the North Korean market.

A group of 10 executives from the two brands visited Pyongyang from July 5-9 at the invitation of the North's state run investment group, according to Seoul-based YTN. The media also said their branches will likely open in September or October.

… However, according to an unnamed expert in Radio Free Asia, if Coca-Cola had struck a deal with the North, it is unlikely that either side would make the news official, considering the current tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.


July 15 “China jails three Buddhist nuns over ‘Free Tibet’ protest”

Three Tibetan Buddhist nuns were sentenced to three years in prison by a court in south-western China's Sichuan province after they called for freedom and the return of the exiled Dalai Lama, a human rights group said Friday.

… The court in Sichuan's restive Kardze county sentenced the three women after they shouted slogans, including 'free Tibet' and 'let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet,' the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reported on its website.

Police in Sichuan had increased surveillance and detained more protesters in Kardze and the nearby Tibetan-majority areas of Ngaba and Dege in the last three weeks, the US-based Radio Free Asia reported on Thursday, quoting local residents.


July 15 “6 monks held for urging boycott of cultural festival”

Chinese police in Nangchen County of Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province, had on July 12 detained eight monks of Zurmang Monastery for carrying out a campaign, urging Tibetans to boycott a cultural event being organized by the local Chinese government.

... “On the suspicion of the monks’ involvement, a group of police entered Zurmang monastery on the night of July 12 and detained the eight,” Radio Free Asia online (RFA, Washington) July 13 quoted an unnamed exile Tibetan with apparent contact in Nangchen as saying.


July 14 “Second Burmese diplomat applies for asylum in the US”

A Burmese diplomat in the United States has applied for political asylum for fear of political persecution, nine days after the second ranking official at the country’s Washington Embassy also defected.

Soe Aung, a 32-year old First Secretary, wrote to the US State Department yesterday asking for asylum after coming under suspicion following the defection of Kyaw Win, 59, the deputy chief of mission at the embassy, according to a leading Burmese activist in exile.

Aung Din, executive director of the US Campaign for Burma, said that Mr Soe feared for his own safety and that of his family after the launch of an inquiry into the defection of Mr Kyaw.

… “Soe Aung will be interrogated [if] he returns and action may be taken by the regime,” Mr Aung told Radio Free Asia, after speaking to Mr Soe. … The earlier defector, Mr Kyaw, sent a letter to the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, saying that he had come under suspicion because he supported improved relations with Washington, according to RFA.


July 11 “Dalai Lama says Tibetans support 'Middle Way'”

The Dalai Lama voiced confidence Monday that Tibetans supported his “Middle Way” of seeking greater rights but staying under China's rule, despite criticism from some young exiles.

… “The younger generation criticizes our way of approach. That is understandable,” the 76-year-old monk told Radio Free Asia on a visit to the broadcaster's Washington headquarters.


July 9 “The Long Goodbye: The Future North Korea”

Over the last 50 years, Northeast Asia has been transformed from a remote backwater devastated by war into the crossroads of the 21st century, economically, politically, and militarily. One vestige of the old days remains: North Korea.

… The country faces severe challenges at the same time that North Koreans have gained more access to the wider world. Mobile phones have become popular, Korean-language broadcasts of Voice of America and Radio Free Asia are available 24/7, and there is a black market in pornography and South Korean soap opera DVDs.


July 8 “Shanghai human rights lawyer Li Tiantian expelled from the city for the third time”

You may remember Shanghai human rights lawyer Li Tiantian (李天天), who was given a horrifyingly humiliating interrogation of her sex life shortly after being released from three months of "disappearance" for tweeting about the Arab Spring and the Jasmine protests.

… This is the third time that she's been expelled from Shanghai. Radio Free Asia reports:

Earlier on Wednesday, Li traveled to the train station in Shenzhen with six of her supporters, including Xiao, who would escort her to Shanghai. “The police expelled me three times from Shanghai in the past. I tried twice to return but failed,” Li said in an interview with RFA after boarding the train.


July 8 “North Korea starves while buying Rolexes”

It has been learned that even as North Korea demands food aid from the international community it is importing Rolex watches made in Switzerland.

From January through May, North Korea imported 229 Swiss-made watches worth $45,000 (48.43 million won) and 9 watch components, the American network Radio Free Asia reported on the 8th.

Among the Swiss watches imported by North Korea were 174 spring-wound watches and 55 battery-operated watches, worth an average of $198 each.


July 7 “EU to Send 50 Korean-speaking Monitoring Agents to N. Korea”

The European Union will send 50 Korean-speaking agents to North Korea to monitor the distribution of its food aid. Citing the European Commission, Radio Free Asia says the agents will make sure the recently pledged food is not diverted for other purposes, but delivered to women, children and the elderly in the North's Hamgyeong, Yanggang and Gangwon provinces.


July 6 “Tibetan magazine editor given four-year jail term”

The closed-door sentencing of a Tibetan magazine editor jailed without charge for over a year is another disturbing indicator of the lack of due process allowed to ethnic minority journalists in China.
A court in Aba prefecture, a predominantly Tibetan area of Sichuan province, sentenced Tashi Rabten, writer and editor of banned Tibetan-language magazine Shar Dungri (Eastern Snow Mountain), to four years in prison on June 2, according to Radio Free Asia and the U.K.-based International Campaign for Tibet. The editor has been held without charge since April 2010, according to CPJ research.
… RFA, citing a local source, said Tashi Rabten's parents had been notified of his trial on separatism charges by letter after it took place.


July 4 “Authorities grow bolder in Uighur crackdown”

Two years on from riots and mass arrests in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Amnesty International has warned that the Chinese authorities continue to silence those speaking out on abuses during and after the unrest.

… Uighur asylum seeker Ershidin Israil was recently forcibly returned from Kazakhstan to China amid reported pressure from the Chinese authorities. He had been recently interviewed by Radio Free Asia about the alleged torture and death in custody of a young Uighur man in the aftermath of the protests.


July 4 “Aung San Suu Kyi makes first trip since her release”

Aung San Suu Kyi is making the trip to Bagan, an ancient temple city, with one of her sons, Kim Aris, who has described the visit as a holiday.

… Separately, in Washington, the second highest-ranking diplomat in the Burmese embassy, Kyaw Win, has defected. “Senior military officials are consolidating their grip on power and seeking to stamp out the voices of those seeking democracy,” he told Radio Free Asia. He added that the threats against Ms Suu Kyi “must be taken seriously.”


July 3 “Myanmar diplomat defects in Washington - report

The deputy chief of mission at Myanmar's embassy in Washington is seeking political asylum in the United States, Radio Free Asia reported on Sunday.

Career diplomat Kyaw Win, 59, had been posted in Washington since 2008 and defected because Myanmar's leaders were unwilling to relax their grip on power, the news agency said. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said it does not comment on asylum cases.

“Senior military officials are consolidating their grip on power and seeking to stamp out the voices of democracy,” Win was quoted saying by Radio Free Asia. He said threats against opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi “must be taken seriously.”


July 1 “Vietnam dissident, freed to US, meets lawmaker”

Vietnamese dissident author Tran Khai Thanh Thuy met Friday with a US congressman active on human rights, days after she was released from prison in a rare move by the Hanoi government.

Representative Ed Royce, whose district in California's Orange County has a large Vietnamese American community, met there with Thuy and said they discussed strategies for advancing rights in the communist country.

… After arriving in San Francisco, Thuy told Radio Free Asia that she felt as if “I just came from Hell to Heaven.”

“My passion is writing; I'm a straightforward person. I think honesty is necessary for a society to develop,” Thuy told the US-based broadcaster.

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