RFA in the News (June 2011)

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June 30 “Women's World Cup - North Korea blame lightning for loss”

The USA won the match 2-0 thanks to goals from Lauren Cheney and Rachel Buehler but the Koreans' coach Kim Kwang Min said they lost because several of his players were struck by lightning almost a month ago.

… One could hardly blame coach Kim for looking for an excuse for his team's defeat after what reportedly happened to the men's North Korean team after their disappointing performance at last summer's World Cup in South Africa. Back then, Radio Free Asia and South Korean media claimed the team's coach and players were forced onto a stage at the People's Palace of Culture in front of 400 government officials, students and journalists.


June 30 “China: The environmental and cultural harm to Inner Mongolia's grasslands

Temperatures and tensions are rising as miners - and tourists - move in to one of China's most remote and ecologically fragile regions. Chinese riot police were reportedly dragging off protesting herders while I was blithely listening to karaoke on the Inner Mongolian grasslands this week.

… Earlier this week, Radio Free Asia reported that a protest song has been written by a Mongolian rapper. Downloadable here, the lyrics make a direct connection between environmental abuse and social unrest:

“We have grazed animals here thousands of years...How many people are coming here to open mines and plunder our resources...Our home is being devastated..The green grasslands are turning yellow.”


June 28 “Asia-Pacific broadcasting members win a host of awards at New York Festival”

Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union members won a significant number of radio awards at the New York Festival on June 20.

Radio Free Asia’s Korean service scored a gold award while its Mandarin service earned two finalist spots.


June 28 “Vietnam dissident vows democracy advocating after deported to U.S.”

Vietnamese famous dissident Tran Khai Thanh Thuy has vowed to continue her campaign for human rights in Vietnam after she was released from prison and deported to the U.S. on June 23.

… Last year, Thuy was convicted of assaulting two people in a traffic dispute outside her Hanoi home and sentenced to 3 years and a half in prison. In an interview by the Radio Free Asia Friday, she accused the authorities of fabricating the charges to punish her for her political activities.


June 27 “North Korean city to host 1st int`l product exhibition

North Korea is known to be planning to hold its first international product exhibition in its special economic zone of Rason City, said the U.S.-based Radio Free Asia Saturday.

Sponsored by the Rason People's Council, the North's Rason Economy Cooperation Company will hold the first Rason International Goods Exhibition Aug. 22-25, the report said. The event is apparently intended to encourage foreign investment in Rason.


June 24 “China detains dozens of Tibetans after protests, activists say”

Police have detained dozens of monks and lay Tibetans after several protests in the restive Kardze area of south-western China's Sichuan province, Tibetan activists and the government-in-exile said Friday.

'According to our initial figures, more than 60 people have been detained,' exiled Tibetan rights activist Jampel Monlam told US-based Radio Free Asia.


June 23 “PRESS RELEASE: Amid jail releases, Chinese journalist's sentence extended”

Authorities in Shandong should overturn a second prison sentence handed down to freelance journalist Qi Chonghuai just days before the end of his term, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Two of three Chinese journalists scheduled for release this month are out of jail.

…Less than three weeks before the completion of his four-year prison term, a court in Shandong province sentenced Qi to a further eight years in jail, according to New York-based advocacy group Human Rights in China and Radio Free Asia. Qi's wife, Jiao Xia, told Radio Free Asia the charges were still in retaliation for Qi's reporting prior to his 2007 arrest, which exposed local corruption.


June 22 “Police arrests Shouwang Church members, talks theology with them”

Police arrested 15 more Christians from the Shouwang House Church (16 other sources say) who tried to gather last Sunday in Beijing’s Zhongguancun Square to pray together.

… "I hope the government can see that the Shouwang incident is not an isolated case; rather, many churches in China want the same thing," Wang Wenfeng of the Wenzhou China Theology Forum told Radio Free Asia.
"The most basic request is, 'Let us meet in public, and let us register. We Christians have nothing to hide. At the same time, our faith itself requires us to be open with non-Christians, society and the state,” he explained.


June 22 “Chinese Independent Candidates Lawful, Central Party School Newspaper Says”

A recent surge of independent candidates looking to be elected to “People's Congresses” across China has seen Communist Party mouthpieces dismissing them as "illegitimate." But it seems that not all within the Party are in agreement.

… Hu Ping, the editor-in-chief of Beijing Spring, a pro-democracy magazine based in New York, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) on June 14 that "from the Study Times article we can see there are two opposing forces in the upper echelons of the Chinese government."


June 22 “Radio Free Asia’s Reporter John Hyun Ki Lee wins the Gold Prize of the New York Festival”

Korean Broadcaster John Hyun Ki Lee of Radio Free Asia in Washington, DC, garnered the Gold Prize in the “Radio Human Relations” category of the New York Festivals, with his special program. His lunar new year special covered 10 overseas Korean families who long for their hometowns in North Korea and their family members and relatives separated during the Korean conflict in the 1950s.


June 21 “Young people surfing the Korean wave”

The ‘Korean Wave’ has been big in Asia for some years, and has recently made inroads as far away as Europe, too. Naturally, North Korea is not free of this influence. Since the early 2000s, this cultural movement has extended to every corner of the nation bar the remotest rural communities and the minds of senior citizens.

… Meanwhile, with the South Korean media growing increasingly widespread, the means of access has changed, too.… Some get access to South Korean materials through satellite TV or the short wave radio from South Korea, too. According to Kim Sun Hwa, “I listened to Radio Free Asia in North Korea once.” Kim Eun Hye also said, “You can get 36 radio channels on a small South Korean radio with a satellite antenna.”


June 20 “South China Sea serves as location for U.S. Navy and ASEAN training”

On the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy has begun with its annual Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training SEACAT exercise.

The 2011 operation, which began Wednesday and runs through next Friday, is the 10th in the series of annual multilateral maritime operations. The Navy is operating in conjunction with ASEAN members the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, Radio Free Asia reported.


June 20 “How 84 dishes helped 14 schools”

“Cooking the Cambodian Way,” a project begun by the author nearly 20 years ago, debuted in Washington this month, offering 84 different national dishes to would-be chefs.

Kem Sos, an adviser for Radio Free Asia, said that while restaurant-goers often opt for Vietnamese or Thai food, Cambodian food can be appealing to people who would stay home and eat healthily.

“We can see that Cambodian food has a lot of vegetables, which is good for our health,” he said.


June 20 “Tibetan truckers deprived of promised jobs on Chinese railway”

As the Chinese are building a railway between Shigatse and Lhasa, Tibetan truck drivers from the region are being turned down for work in favour of 24 companies from mainland China. According to Radio Free Asia, the Tibetan drivers had been promised work as the railway construction began and so about 60 trucks were purchased with borrowed money.

A source inside Tibet by the name of Dondrub told RFA: "When construction began on the rail line, the local Tibetans were given the task of moving materials," he said and added "The Tibetan truckers were gradually given fewer assignments, and the other trucks were given more loads. Soon the Tibetan truckers were without jobs."


June 18 “More protests in eastern Tibet, many Tibetans detained”

Many Tibetans have been detained in Kardze in eastern Tibet's Kham Province as their protests against the Chinese government's repression continue to escalate, Radio Free Asia reported.
“Nine Tibetans, consisting of a monk of Dhargyal Monastery, four nuns, two lay women, and two youths, staged protests on Saga Dawa, a major Buddhist festival observed on 15 June,” RFA quoted a Tibetan resident of Kardze as saying.


June 17 “China: Taizhou protests over land seizures, police surround entire village”

The inhabitants of the village of Rishanfen, near Taizhou (Zhejiang), took to the streets in protest and blocked the railroad over their failure to be compensated for their expropriated lands. In response the authorities sent thousands of police who clashed with demonstrators and arrested the village chief.

… Local sources suspect that the compensation for expropriated lands was pocketed by the former village chief of Rishanfen, who is now secretary of the local Communist Party, a position of great importance. The authorities deny everything: Xu Guanbao, secretary of the Rishanfen Communist Party, speaking to Radio Free Asia denied any "incident," and moreover refused to give any further explanation.


June 17 “China’s official church members admonish Shouwang group”

Police last weekend detained a further 16 members of Beijing’s Shouwang house church and placed several more under house arrest, while members of China’s government-approved churches have gone to police stations to “admonish” detained house church members, according to a statement issued yesterday by church leaders.

… In a recent program dedicated to Shouwang, Radio Free Asia (RFA) interviewed several of the petitioners, including Wang Wenfeng of the Wenzhou China Theology Forum.

“I hope the government can see that the Shouwang incident is not an isolated case; rather, many churches in China want the same thing,” Wang told RFA. “The most basic request is, ‘Let us meet in public, and let us register.’

“We Christians have nothing to hide,” he continued. “At the same time, our faith itself requires us to be open with non-Christians, society and the state.”


June 16 “Bomb attacks target state buildings in China”

A string of recent bomb explosions targeting government buildings throughout China, including five incidents in Fuzhou of Jiangxi Province and, most recently, one in the northern municipality of Tianjin, continue to stun Chinese officials.

… On the same day, at around noon, another explosion occurred in southern China’s Hunan Province, at the Zhuhai Police Station in Huangshi Township, razing a four-story building to the ground. … Radio Free Asia reported on June 10 that there was no official report of the incident in China.


June 16 “U.N. slams North Korea’s immigration policy on HIV carriers”

A United Nations health body recently criticized North Korea's immigration policy that banishes HIV carriers from the country as being discriminatory, a media report said.

In a June 14 interview with U.S.-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia (RFA), Jason Sigurdson, a researcher at the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), said the deportation policy of HIV patients was a discriminatory policy which the U.N. clearly objects to.

North Korea from 1998 to 2008 reportedly deported 28 foreign nationals who were HIV positive. In a 2010 report, UNAIDS pointed out that North Korea continued to discriminate or limit entry of HIV positive foreign nationals.


June 15 “China exerts some muscle in South China Sea”

The quest for petroleum has spurred the Chinese to build their first deepwater drill rig in May.(Ref: Radio Free Asia) This will ramp up the tensions in the South China Sea around the disputed islands known as the Spratly Islands by many, but named Nansha Islands by China. China claims the area based on a historical relationship. Since WW2 five more countries claim all or part sovereignty over them. The big prize – oil. The smaller prize – fish and ocean products.


June 15 “EDITORIAL: A new 'civilian' government revives an old civil war”

It's been a long time coming, but it seems like the vaunted “peace” that Burma's former military rulers brought to much of the country over the past two decades has finally reverted to war.

… On Monday, Kachin military commander Gwan Maw told Radio Free Asia that the conflict could turn into a full-blown civil war unless the government negotiates with the KIA's political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization.


June 14 “Myanmar gov't battles ethnic rebels in country's north, where China is building power plants”

Government troops in Myanmar have attacked one of the country's powerful northern militias with artillery trying to force rebel fighters from a strategic region where China is building major hydropower plants.

…Kachin military commander Gwan Maw told U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia on Monday that the fighting in northern Myanmar's Momauk region, near the Chinese border, could spread and possibly escalate into civil war if the government refused to negotiate an end to it with the Kachin Independence Organization.


June 14 “China confirms extradited Uighur facing terror charges”

China on Tuesday confirmed that an ethnic Uighur schoolteacher faces terror charges after being extradited from Kazakhstan where he had won refugee status. Human rights advocates criticised Kazakhstan's decision to deport Ershidin Israil, saying he could suffer harsh treatment and even torture in China, which says its far west Xinjiang region faces threats from militants seeking independence for the heavily Muslim Uighur minority.

… The exiled World Uighur Congress said Israil fled Xinjiang in 2009 after providing information to Radio Free Asia about the death of another Uighur man.


June 13 “OBITUARY – JAEHOON AHN: Journalist founded Korean news service”

Jaehoon Ahn, a Washington Post researcher for more than 25 years who became founding director of Radio Free Asia's Korean-language service, died June 1 at a hospital in Virginia Beach of complications from a bleeding ulcer. He was 70.

Mr. Ahn was a native of North Korea whose family fled the country after the Communist Party took control at the end of World War II. Before moving to the Washington area in the late 1960s, he was a reporter for one of South Korea's largest newspapers.

He was an assistant librarian in The Post's research department from 1969 to 1996. In retirement, he worked briefly as a consultant to a Seoul daily newspaper, where he was charged with helping to restructure the newsroom and create a style section. He left that job in 1997 to help congressionally funded Radio Free Asia start a Korean-language service.


June 13 “China wants foreigner free Tibet for July”

Chinese authorities have banned foreign tourists from entering Tibet until late July, after the anniversaries of both the Chinese Communist Party and Beijing's forceful annexation of Tibet.

Radio Free Asia is reporting that the Chinese government has planned a large (and politically sensitive) celebration to honor both anniversaries. The Dalai Lama, whose July 6 birthday brings added foreign scrutiny on the Chinese treatment of Tibetan dissidents, is probably not waiting by his mailbox in Dharamsala for his invitation.


June 12 “U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors”

The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy ''shadow'' Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.

… In May 2009, a North Korean defector named Kim met with officials at the American Consulate in Shenyang, a Chinese city about 120 miles from North Korea, according to a diplomatic cable. Officials wanted to know how Mr. Kim, who was active in smuggling others out of the country, communicated across the border. ''Kim would not go into much detail,'' the cable says, but did mention the burying of Chinese cellphones ''on hillsides for people to dig up at night.'' Mr. Kim said Dandong, China, and the surrounding Jilin Province ''were natural gathering points for cross-border cellphone communication and for meeting sources.'' The cellphones are able to pick up signals from towers in China, said Libby Liu, head of Radio Free Asia, the United States-financed broadcaster, who confirmed their existence and said her organization uses the calls to collect information for broadcasts as well.


June 8 “A democracy stalwart struggles to be heard; Voice of America works to spread its message in the age of the Internet”

When Voice of America quietly announced in February that it would shut down its shortwave radio broadcasts to China and shift the money spent on that program to the Internet, cellphones and other forms of digital media, it seemed like a sensible updating of a Cold War-era propaganda playbook.

…. Radio Free Asia, a so-called surrogate service that focuses on delivering news about China rather than the United States, will take over some of Voice of America’s better shortwave frequencies.

That is important, officials said, because some imprisoned political dissidents do get news from the service on transistor radios.

Yet ‘‘China has moved dramatically from radio to Internet,’’ said Libby Liu, the president of Radio Free Asia. Ms. Liu said she spent most of her time trying to figure out how to get around Chinese government firewalls that make it difficult for young people to get Radio Free Asia’s broadcasts on the Internet or on their cellphones.

‘‘We have to put circumvention technology on mobile phones,’’ she said. ‘‘The key to reaching people electronically is breaching the firewall.’’


June 8 “US Envoy Discussed Family Reunions with N.Korea”

Radio Free Asia reported that U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Robert King discussed family reunions of North Korean residents and Korean Americans among other issues on his visit to North Korea.

According to RFA, a senior official at the U.S. State Department said that King urged North Korean officials, including North Korea’s chief nuclear envoy Kim Kye-kwan, to improve their human rights, which included separated families.


June 7 “Kazakhstan deports Uighur to China, rights groups cry foul”

Kazakhstan has extradited an ethnic Uighur schoolteacher who had been granted UN refugee status to face charges of terrorism in China, a diplomat said on Tuesday, drawing condemnation from rights groups who said the case was politically motivated.

Activists have criticised Kazakhstan's decision to deport Ershidin Israil, saying he could suffer harsh treatment and even torture in China.

… The exiled World Uyghur Congress said Israil had fled Xinjiang in 2009 after providing information to Radio Free Asia about the death of another Uighur man.


June 4 “Ngaba Tibetan writer jailed for splittism”

A Tibetan writer named Tashi Rabten, known by his penname of Theurang, was given a four-year jail term by the prefectural court of Ngaba in Sichuan province on Jun 2 for his literary work, reported Radio Free Asia online Jun 4. The editor of the banned literary magazine 'Shar Dungri' (Eastern Snow Mountain) was held guilty of “inciting activities to split the nation”.


June 3 “Call For Democracy Rises Again 22 Years After Tiananmen”

When the so-called Arab Spring swept the Middle East and North Africa, the reverberations also shuddered through Chinese civil society – first as a new wave of online activism, and then as crushing oppression from the Chinese state.

… According to a recent article published by Radio Free Asia, the approach of the 22nd anniversary saw a greater environment of surveillance and fear than ever before, with plain-clothes policemen spilling past the borders of the square into the suburbs surrounding Beijing. Furthermore, even those Chinese citizens who sought to express themselves through state sanctioned channels, such as traveling to Beijing to formally lodge complaints, ran the risk of detention.


June 3 “Gere talks Tibet on Capitol Hill”

Known for his roles in classic movies like "American Gigolo," "Pretty Woman," and "An Officer and a Gentleman," actor Richard Gere is also famous for his steadfast support of Tibet. So it comes as no surprise that he was tapped as an expert by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as members of the panel discussed religious freedom, democracy and human rights in Tibet, Burma and North Korea.

… Among his suggestions, Gere recommended that Congress continue to fund broadcasts such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, which pipe news into Tibet.


June 3 “North Korea Kim Jong Il's secret appetite for luxury goods and Joy Squad revealed”

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il and his loyalists can't seem to have enough of luxury goods and sex slaves a.k.a. Joy Squad to indulge themselves even as the rest of the country suffers in abject poverty. For instance, last year Kim Jong Il showered some 160 luxury cars on the directors of provincial committees of the Party and municipal committee secretaries, according to Radio Free Asia, a non-profit corporation broadcasting news and information.


June 2 “Plan for China’s Water Crisis Spurs Concern”

A chronic drought is ravaging farmland. The Gobi Desert is inching south. The Yellow River, the so-called birthplace of Chinese civilization, is so polluted it can no longer supply drinking water. The rapid growth of megacities — 22 million people in Beijing and 12 million in Tianjin alone — has drained underground aquifers that took millenniums to fill.

… For three days last November, thousands of residents of a resettlement area in Qianjiang city blocked roads to protest poorly built homes and lack of promised compensation, according to a report by Radio Free Asia. Officials ordered the police to break up the rally, resulting in clashes, injuries and arrests.


June 1 “‘Burma’s Got Talent’ event to mark Suu Kyi’s birthday”

Several socially engaged members of Burma's arts and entertainment community will take part in a 10-day music contest to promote emerging young talent and mark the birthday of National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to party sources.

… Suu Kyi recently told Washington-based Radio Free Asia that the NLD planned to hold a music competition at its Rangoon headquarters to celebrate her first birthday since her release from house arrest late last year.


June 1 “Uyghur in Chinese Custody?”

Kazakhstan is believed to have handed over to Chinese custody an ethnic Uyghur fighting deportation to Beijing after he spoke up about torture and death in Chinese jails. Ershidin Israil, 38, was taken away from a detention center in Kazakhstan's largest city Almaty by Kazakh security officials and two Chinese police officers late on Monday, according to his lawyer, Yuri Sergeivich Stukanov.

… After meeting with the UNHCR office in Almaty, Israil was granted refugee status in March 2010 and accepted for resettlement in Sweden that April, according to Radio Free Asia.


June 1 “More N.Koreans hope unification initiated by South Korea: report”

As the economic gap between North and South Korea widens, more North Koreans think that unification led by South Korea would make their lives better, Radio Free Asia reported. North Koreans are also well aware of the economic prosperity the South has established and as they suffer from economic hardship, they begin to question the consequences of unification led by communist North Korea.

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