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‘Crimes against humanity’ detailed in China’s Xinjiang: Amnesty | Uighur News

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Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang autonomous region face systematic and state-organised “mass internment and torture amounting to crimes against humanity”, Amnesty International said, citing dozens of eyewitness accounts from former detainees, as the group stepped up calls for the camps to be closed.

In a report published on Thursday, Amnesty said the minority groups had been forced to abandon their religious traditions, language and culture, and subjected to mass surveillance, supporting previous allegations of genocide and ethnic cleansing committed within a network of hundreds of detention centres.

More than 50 former camp detainees shared new testimony with Amnesty, providing a detailed inside account of the conditions and treatment of Uighurs and other groups in the internment camps sanctioned by Chinese authorities since 2017, Amnesty said.

“The Chinese authorities have created a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary-general and a former UN investigator on human rights.

“Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities face crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations that threaten to erase their religious and cultural identities.

“It should shock the conscience of humanity that massive numbers of people have been subjected to brainwashing, torture and other degrading treatment in internment camps, while millions more live in fear amid a vast surveillance apparatus.”

Torture and other ill-treatment are systematic in the camps and every aspect of daily life is regimented in an effort to forcibly instil secular, homogeneous Chinese nation and Communist party ideals, the 160-page report said.

In recent days, China has also been accused of rolling out birth-control policies targeting the same minority groups, aiming to cut between 2.6 to 4.5 million births within 20 years.

Aside from the Uighurs and Kazakhs, the Hui, Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Tajik minorities in Xinjiang have also been swept up in the campaign.

China has previously rejected the genocide and ethnic cleansing charges, saying the internment camps are vocational training centres aimed at countering the threat of “extremism”.

On Wednesday, Beijing also presented family members and former neighbours to refute the testimonies of witnesses who have appeared at a UK special tribunal investigating allegations of genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. However, a human rights advocate warned that Beijing’s witnesses may have been speaking “under duress”.

‘Tiger chair’ interrogation

Since early 2017, huge numbers of Uighur men and women as well as other Muslim ethnic minorities have been arbitrarily detained or imprisoned, the report said.

They include hundreds of thousands who have been sent to prisons in addition to the one million the UN estimates to have been sent to the internment camps. Al Jazeera has published similar witness accounts detailing the experience of Uighurs inside the detention centres.

All of the more than 50 former detainees told Amnesty they were detained for what appeared to be entirely lawful conduct, such as possessing a religiously themed picture or communicating with someone abroad

The witnesses said that many of them underwent intense interrogation at police stations, and the process included beatings and sleep deprivation.

They were also made to sit up to 24 hours in so-called “tiger chairs”, with affixed leg irons and handcuffs that restrain the body in painful positions.

Since early 2017, huge numbers of Uighurs as well as other Muslim ethnic minorities have been arbitrarily detained or imprisoned in a network of facilities spread across Xinjiang [File: Greg Baker/AFP]

One woman, detained for having the WhatsApp messaging platform on her phone, said life under detention was heavily regimented, from an early morning flag-raising ceremony to a series of classroom sessions and late-night duties to monitor other cellmates.

“There was not a minute left for yourself. You are exhausted,” the woman was quoted as saying by Amnesty.

Systematic torture

Every former detainee interviewed suffered torture or other ill-treatment, including electric shocks, water and sleep deprivation and exposure to extreme cold among others, the report said.

An older woman who was punished for defending her cellmate said she was taken to a small, dark, cold and windowless room where she had her hands and feet cuffed and was forced to sit on an iron chair for three days straight.

Two former detainees said they had been forced to wear heavy shackles – in one case for an entire year. Others described being shocked with electric batons or sprayed with pepper spray.

Some detainees reported being tortured multiple times, while others said they were forced to watch their cellmates being tortured.

Amnesty International learned of one case where a detainee is believed to have died as a result of being restrained in a tiger chair, in front of his cellmates, for 72 hours, during which time he urinated and defecated on himself.

“China must immediately dismantle the internment camps, release the people arbitrarily detained in them and in prisons, and end the systematic attacks against Muslims in Xinjiang,” said Callamard.

“The international community must speak out and act in unison to end this abomination, once and for all.”

In February, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi defended Beijing’s policy towards Uighurs and other groups, telling the UN Human Rights Council that “there has never been so-called genocide, forced labour or religious oppression in Xinjiang”.

He had also invited the UN human rights commissioner to visit the closed-off region but gave no time frame.

Amnesty said it would be stepping up its campaign to secure the release of more than 60 people from Muslim minorities who are missing and believed to be detained in Xinjiang.

Meanwhile, Beijing faces more pressure as lawyers have submitted new evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) that China is forcibly returning thousands of Xinjiang people from Tajikistan to China.

Beijing denies the allegations of abuse and is not a signatory to the ICC statute. Tajikistan is a member, and lawyers hope its membership could be a way to bring the allegations of Chinese mistreatment of Uighurs before the court.

“Based on this new dossier of evidence presented to the ICC prosecutor, showing the actions of Chinese authorities directly in Tajikistan – an ICC State Party – it is clear that the ICC does have jurisdiction to open an investigation,” Rodney Dixon, a lawyer representing Uighur groups, said in a statement.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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The scrappy Hong Kong tabloid that refused to bow to Beijing | Freedom of the Press News

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Hong Kong, China – The last edition of the Apple Daily, the small scrappy Hong Kong tabloid that emerged as a champion of democracy and outspoken critic of China, has rolled off the presses, four days after the newspaper celebrated its 26th anniversary.

The paper had been raided by police twice during the past 10 months on suspicion of violating the National Security Law that was imposed by Beijing almost a year ago. Since the first raid last August, founder Jimmy Lai, 73, has been in jail awaiting trial under the law.

Last week’s raid saw five top executives, including its chief editor, arrested for alleged security offences as 500 police officers swooped in on Apple’s headquarters, with another staffer – the head editorial writer – apprehended on Wednesday morning.

The final nail in the coffin, however, was Hong Kong authorities’ freeze on the bank accounts of the media group that owns the paper. The move made it impossible for the paper to pay its staff and vendors, even as readers snapped up copies to show their support.

The decision was based on “employee safety and manpower considerations”, Apple Daily said as it announced its closure on Wednesday.
“Here we say goodbye. Take care of yourselves.”

Staff members of Apple Daily and its publisher Next Digital clap out the final edition of a paper that began publishing in 1995 and became a thorn in Beijing’s side [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” framework meant to guarantee rights and liberties absent in the mainland. For most of the past 20 years, the territory has remained a bastion of press freedom in a country where media is muzzled.

“The demise of Apple Daily negates ‘one country, two systems’ and sets the stage for ‘one country, one system,’” said Willy Lam, a longtime commentator on Chinese politics and a veteran newspaper editor.

Bold, brash

Founded just two years before the handover, Apple Daily was at once a gamble and a leap of faith.

“The paper wanted to have some impact not just on Hong Kong but also to support the liberalisation of China,” Lam told Al Jazeera. “But as China has become less open to Western values, the paper has focused on defending Hong Kong values and holding Beijing to account.”

In its inaugural editorial, Apple Daily said it aimed to be a paper for the Hong Kong people.

Lai, its founder and funder, a devout Catholic who had made a fortune in the fashion business, named the paper after the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament. Its rhyming couplet jingle – “An Apple a day, no liars can hold sway” – caught the attention of Hong Kong readers used to more staid offerings.

It was loud. It was bold, It was flashy.

The paper grabbed attention when it splashed a surreptitiously shot photo of Deng Xiaoping – China’s then-paramount leader died in February at the age of 92 – on his deathbed on the front page.

Brashness was its selling point.

Its reporters frequently skewered public officials and needled the comfortable.

“It speaks truth to power and finds a way to do profitably,” said Lokman Tsui, assistant professor of journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Jimmy Lai, standing by one of the printing presses in 2009, created a hugely popular paper that supported democracy, was unafraid to speak truth to power and critical of the Communist Party in Beijing [File: Alex Hofford/EPA]
Apple Daily’s founder and funder, Jimmy Lai, was arrested in August under the national security law and the paper’s headquarters raided. He has now been jailed [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

The paper catered to high brow and low. Colourful spreads of scantily-clad female models appeared in the same section of the paper as erudite columns featuring quotes in Latin and Classical Chinese. With a couple of exceptions, its ranks of columnists were the who’s who of the territory’s pro-democracy circle.

Giving people what they want

Launched at the dawn of the internet age, the daily was quick to adapt to the digital world. Its website pioneered animated news – a mix of stills, short clips and clever graphics with narration dripping with sour sarcasm. Its lifestyle channel on YouTube built a fervent following.

A decade in, the paper’s circulation peaked at 500,000 in a city of approximately six million people with a dozen dailies.

Apple Daily’s brand of advocacy journalism would soon make the paper a thorn in the side of the Chinese Communist Party. But to Lai, a rags-to-riches maverick millionaire now named Public Enemy No. 1 by Beijing, it was all about giving his customers what they would buy, even down to protest poster inserts.

In the summer of 2019, amid popular opposition to legislation that would send Hong Kong residents for trial in mainland China, the paper shorthanded “extradition to China” into the homophonic colloquial Cantonese expression of seeing someone to the grave. The expression immediately caught on and became a rallying cry in the protest movement.

“At times, we might have gone overboard but everything we did fell within the bounds of the law,” said Robert Chan, 45, who has covered mainland China for the paper for the past three years.

That is until the passage of the security law, which punishes what the authorities deem subversion, sedition, collusion with foreign forces and secession with possible life sentences.

Prosecutors have used Lai’s frequent meetings with US officials in recent years, from the then-vice president on down, as “evidence” of his alleged “collusion with foreign powers”.

Staff from Apple Daily and its publisher Next Digital work on the final edition of their newspaper on June 23. In its first-ever editorial, the paper said it wanted to be a publication of the Hong Kong people. It printed a million copies of its final edition [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Early last month, rumours started to circulate that Beijing wanted to see the paper be shuttered in time for the Communist Party’s centenary celebrations on July 1.

Technology reporter for a decade, Alex Tang, 37, said like most of his colleagues he had become conditioned to taking unsubstantiated gossip with a grain of salt – until the second raid and the company asset freeze.

During the past few days, some of the 800 reporters at the paper were frustrated by the lack of a definitive answer on the last publishing date and severance.

“Management said they’d hang on till the bitter end, and they’ve kept their word,” said Tang. “The company has done its best.”

Apple Daily will live on as a website on the self-governing island of Taiwan, where it ceased paper publication last month.

But in Hong Kong, China news reporter Chan said he will mourn the loss of far more than his livelihood.

“With the paper gone, so would the values it represents: pursuit of freedom and democracy,” he said.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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‘Real and present danger’: Sydney imposes new COVID curbs | Coronavirus pandemic News

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Restrictions cover an estimated five million people after Delta variant-linked cases, as neighbouring New Zealand raises alert level.

People in Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, have been ordered not to leave the metropolitan area, as authorities scramble to contain a number of new coronavirus cases of the Delta variant – a development that has prompted neighbouring New Zealand to raise its alert level following possible exposure from a tourist from Australia.

New South Wales (NSW) State Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the stricter curbs – affecting about five million people who live and work in the city – on Wednesday.

“Clearly this is an evolving situation,” Berejiklian said at a news conference.

The new rules took effect at 4pm Sydney time (06:00 GMT) and will remain in force for a week.

“Given what has occurred the NSW government will be taking action today to limit the spread of what is a very contagious variant of COVID.”

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard described the situation as “a very real and present danger” for the city as a cluster first identified in the beach surburb of Bondi grew to 21 cases with eight confirmed on Wednesday morning.

Most of the newly confirmed cases were traced to a single event, where a mass gathering was held on Tuesday.

“This is a new and more dangerous version of the virus,” Hazzard said during the news conference.

The new restrictions include a limit on household visitors to five people, including children, Berejiklian said.

Mask wearing, which had already been reinstated on Friday, will be extended with people required to wear masks in all indoor settings outside the home and at organised outdoor events. The measures also include capacity limits on public transport and in gym classes, while singing at indoor venues, including places of worship, will not be allowed.

Authorities are also urging people to come forward for testing.

“If we adhere to the health orders today, we will have a good chance on getting on top of this outbreak,” Berejiklian told reporters.

New Zealand on alert

 

As of Wednesday, Australia had recorded more than 30,300 cases and 910 deaths.

The country has been among the world’s most successful in containing the pandemic, allowing it to reopen its border to New Zealand.

But the new cases are testing the travel bubble between the neighbours.

On Wednesday, New Zealand raised its pandemic alert level in Wellington to level two, which is one level short of a lockdown.

Earlier, an Australian tourist who visited the capital city over the weekend tested positive for COVID when they returned to Sydney.

“These are precautionary measures which will remain in place while we contact trace and test all of those we need to,” New Zealand’s COVID response minister Chris Hipkins said.

Under the elevated alert level, offices, schools and businesses are still allowed to open, but people are required to follow social distancing rules.

Gatherings of more than 100 people are banned, including weddings and other parties.

New Zealand has a population of five million people, and has recorded a total of 2,720 cases and 26 deaths. The country has posted a 98.2 percent recovery rate.

In Australia itself, Queensland and Victoria have both closed their borders to people from many parts of Sydney as a result of the new cases.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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River Nile dam: Egypt new African allies

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Recent years have seen a dramatic re-engagement with Africa, especially the Nile Basin countries.



Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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