RFA Reports (June 2008)

(Washington, DC—July 1, 2008) Radio Free Asia broadcast the following stories, and more, in June:

RFA Reports on detention of suspected rioters in China

June 29 – RFA Mandarin and Cantonese aired story [text in English /Mandarin /Cantonese] on the armed police presence and the detention of hundreds of suspected rioters in southwestern China after massive protests over the alleged mishandling of a teenage girl’s death. The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said police had detained some 300 protesters suspected of rioting, setting fires, and overturning vehicles after thousands gathered in Wengan on June 28.

RFA Reports on Chinese police detaining quake teacher
June 28 – RFA Cantonese aired story [text in English /Cantonese] on police in Sichuan province detaining a middle school teacher who openly criticized the construction of school buildings that collapsed during the May 12 earthquake. Liu Shaokun, a middle school teacher from Deyang, had been doing relief aid work since the quake and was taken into custody late on June 25. An officer on duty at the Deyang police station said, “We are not aware of this,” and declined further comment.

RFA Reports on a Tibetan monk demanding a police probe
June 26 – RFA Mandarin and Tibetan aired story [text in English /Mandarin/Tibetan] on a Tibetan monk in China’s remote Qinghai province demanding an investigation into an alleged case of police graft after a large sum of money went missing from his monastery quarters. He believes that police who searched his room may be responsible. Choyang Gyatso wrote in a petition that 23,000 yuan vanished from his quarters at Rongwo Monastery between April 17 and 19. He blames 20 police who searched the premises after they detained him and threatened to sue the government unless authorities investigate.

RFA Reports on Hubei residents clashing with police over boy’s death
June 26 – RFA Mandarin aired story [text in Mandarin] on hundreds of supporters and relatives who clashed with police over the body of a boy who was beaten to death in Hubei province. Witnesses said several people, including the boy’s grandmother, were injured during clashes sparked by the arrival of 200 police officers at the gates of Yuanlin Third Middle School in Qianjiang city, where relatives of the boy, Liu Yang, marched to demonstrate in front of municipal government buildings.

RFA Reports on Xinjiang AIDS activist
June 26 – RFA Mandarin and Uyghur aired story [text in English /Uyghur] on a former student who set up a civil organization in China’s northwestern city of Urumqi to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS. Chang Kun, a former student in the legal studies department of Xinjiang Normal University, described how the ruling Chinese Communist Party destroyed his grassroots group that tried to address the burgeoning epidemic in the region. Chang was kicked out of the university after his Snow Lotus HIV/AIDS Education Institute applied for and won a grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

RFA Reports on tight security for torch relay in western China
June 24 – RFA Mandarin and Cantonese aired story [text in English /Mandarin /Cantonese] on tightening security surrounding the Olympic torch’s procession through China’s restive western region. Sources in the Tibetan county of Kardze in Sichuan province said security was intense following a number of protests in recent days, with armed police descending quickly on sporadic demonstrators and detaining them. Meanwhile, an employee at a Xining travel agency said the Olympic flame was originally supposed to pass through Ta’er Temple but “that part was cancelled,” he said.

RFA Reports on the demolition of a Uyghur mosque
June 23 – RFA Mandarin aired story [text in English/Mandarin] on reports by a Uyghur exile group and local officials that authorities in restive Xinjiang province have demolished a mosque amid mounting tension over security ahead of the Beijing Olympics. A Uyghur government official called the mosque illegal, but refused to give details regarding “classified” information. That the mosque was illegal was confirmed by a village elder, who added that youths had been gathering there in secret for Friday prayer, which angered local officials. According to the World Uyghur Congress, the mosque was destroyed because it resisted pressure to publicize the Beijing Olympics.

RFA Reports on clashes over Chongqing chemical plant

June 18 – RFA Mandarin and Cantonese aired story [text in English /Mandarin /Cantonese] on villagers near the southwestern city of Chongqing who say that four people are in custody after they tried to block the construction of a chemical plant near their homes. Clashes have flared twice in recent weeks after police tried to set up an electricity pylon to supply the factory, run by the Chongqing Balong Chemical Co. The plant will use a benzene compound known as toluene as an industrial solvent in the production of synthetic rubber and industrial adhesives at the proposed plant. Benzene is a known carcinogen.

RFA Reports on inflation in Vietnam

June 18 – RFA Vietnamese aired story [text in English /Vietnamese] on Vietnam’s surging 25 percent inflation. While the country says rates should ease in 2009, the pain of high prices remains acute, and the poor are suffering most. Vietnamese Finance Minister Vu Nan Ninh told an economic forum in Malaysia on June 15 that the government was determined to control surging price pressures. He also said the country would likely post double-digit inflation this year. Resulting problems are widespread, including strikes, a plunging stock market, and a devalued currency.

RFA Reports on the detention of a Burmese journalist for aid efforts
June 16 – RFA Burmese aired story [text in English /Burmese] on Burmese authorities detaining a noted journalist who was working to provide aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis, the journalist’s wife said. The detention comes less than two weeks after authorities detained a well-known comedian with whom the journalist was working to help cyclone survivors. Ma Khine Cho said authorities took Zaw Thet Htwe into custody late June 15 while he was visiting his sick mother in the central town of Minbu. Burmese authorities said only that the man’s aid work was not the reason for his arrest, but did not elaborate further.

RFA Reports on more protests in Tibet

June 12 – RFA Mandarin and Tibetan aired story [text in English /Mandarin /Tibetan] on small groups of Tibetans in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan staging more protests against Chinese rule despite security crackdowns following rioting by protesters earlier this year. Tibetan sources confirmed that five individuals protested at the main intersection of Kardze town and said that all five were beaten and detained by police. Following the protests, local police raided one man’s home and confiscated photos of the Dalai Lama. Such incidents are the latest in small but persistent protests following a clampdown throughout Tibetan-populated areas of China. More than 100 Tibetans have been detained for staging protests in Kardze since March 18.

RFA Reports on closing of a Uyghur man’s website

June 12 – RFA Uyghur aired story [text in English /Uyghur] on Chinese authorities closing a website aimed at promoting understanding between Uyghur and Han Chinese following allegations the site was linked to foreign “extremists,” the site’s owner said. Surprisingly, the man said that it was fellow Uyghur’s who told Chinese authorities that the two-year-old website had links to Uyghur “extremists” abroad. No comment was available from the Beijing PSB, and it is unclear why ethnic Uyghur’s would complain about the Uyghur Online website.

RFA Reports on large protest by Tibetan nuns

June 10 – RFA Tibetan aired story [text in English /Tibetan] on the brief detention of 300 Tibetan nuns after they marched on county offices to demand the release of a fellow protestor, sources said. More than 300 nuns from Samten Ling nunnery marched to the county government offices in support of Tsering Tsomo around 5 PM. According to sources, all were detained and many were beaten. Chinese authorities have made numerous arrests and launched a “patriotic education” campaign aimed at Tibetans in the wake of rioting that began in Lhasa in mid-March and then spread to other Tibetan areas.

RFA Reports on media restrictions at quake school site

June 6 – RFA Mandarin and Cantonese aired story [text in English /Mandarin /Cantonese] on authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan preventing journalists from gaining access to a school that collapsed during the May 12 earthquake, amid widespread calls for investigations into the quality of school buildings. Police have cordoned off the site of Juyuan Middle School and escorted two foreign journalists away from the school, grieving parents said. Local parents say they had hoped to find a lawyer and sue the government for negligence, but that so far no lawyer has been willing to take the case.

RFA Reports on Burmese officials diverting aid

June 6 – RFA Burmese aired story [text in English] on Burmese authorities continuing to prevent crucial relief supplies from getting to victims of Tropical Cyclone Nargis. Local doctors and nurses are angry because officials have removed medicine from local and international donors. International aid agencies and rights groups say that many people in stricken areas still haven’t received any aid, and that the military regime continues to impose constraints on international rescue efforts.

RFA Reports on the detention of a noted Burmese comedian

June 5 – RFA Burmese aired story [text in English /Burmese] on Burmese authorities detaining the country’s best-known comedian, a frequent critic of the junta and recently a major player in private efforts to aid victims of Cyclone Nargis, his family said. Maung Thura, whose stage name is Zargana, was taken away late Wednesday after he returned from the devastated Irrawaddy delta region, where he was trying to bring relief aid to survivors of the May cyclone. Zargana is known throughout Burma as an irreverent comedian, but he also works as a producer, director, writer, and actor. Zargana was arrested for the first time in 1988 for his political activities.

RFA Reports on mental trauma suffered by Burmese cyclone victims

June 4 – RFA Burmese aired story [text in English] on a voluntary group, financed by several Burmese celebrities, that says it is turning its attention to providing psychological help to some of the millions of survivors of Cyclone Nargis. Former political prisoner and sports journalist Zaw Thet Htwe said his group, which includes comedian Zargana and movie actor Kyaw Thu, was now training young people in the worst-hit Irrawaddy Delta area to provide emotional support to cyclone victims struggling to rebuild their lives.

RFA Reports on repatriation of Lao Hmong migrants

June 4 – RFA Lao aired story [text in English /Lao] on Thai authorities repatriating 56 more Hmong migrants from its huge Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp to neighboring Laos. It is the fifth group to be sent home since repatriations began. Up to 8,000 Hmong have lived in the camp since 2004. The Hmong in this group said they volunteered to go, although others remain on hunger strike to protest the repatriations amid calls for a United Nations-administered refugee screening and resettlement program.

RFA Reports on restrictions on mourning for Tiananmen dead

June 4 – RFA Mandarin aired story [text in English /Mandarin] on a Chinese lawyer who was prevented by police from paying respects to the victims of the June 4, 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square. Meanwhile, dissidents and relatives of those killed called for public events to remember the dead, amid a background of national mourning for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake on May 12. Chinese rights activists estimate that eight Beijing residents remain jailed solely because of their involvement in the Tiananmen protests 19 years ago. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, are believed to have been killed on June 4 and in the days of martial law that followed, but no official toll has ever been issued.

RFA Reports on the meaning of rice cookers to North Korean families

June 3 – RFA Korean aired story [text in English/Korean] on a new way for North Korea’s elite to flaunt its clout: with South Korean name-brand rice cookers, smuggled into the country, presumably through China. North Korea’s legitimate economic activity has plunged since its main patron, the Soviet Union, collapsed in the early 1990’s, but experts cite a thriving trade in counterfeit currency, weapons, and other international contraband whose proceeds never appear in any published statistics – and a whole micro economy based on corruption. North Korea watchers see this as further evidence of a growing wealth gap in the nominally communist country.

RFA Reports on a Chinese company in Kampot province, Cambodia

June 2 – RFA Khmer aired story [text in Khmer] on a Chinese hydroelectric company performing daily blasting operations in the mountains of Kampot province in Cambodia. Because of rocks and debris projected from the blast site, 30 local families have been living in fear and have seen serious damage to their property. They can no longer plant rice and have been forced to remain indoors in order to avoid the flying rocks that are a result of the explosions. Following RFA’s report on the operation, the Chinese company was asked to suspend its blasting while it produced a schedule to inform local residents of the timing of the explosions.

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