Daily Archives: August 1, 2018

Chinese Police Remove Professor During Broadcast of VOA Program

Chinese police broke into the home of a retired Shandong University professor who is critical of China’s human rights record as he was expressing via a telephone interview his opinions on the Voice of America (VOA) Mandarin television show, Issues and Opinions.

VOA Mandarin has attempted to reach professorWenguang Sun by cellphone and WeChat, a popular social media platform, since he was removed from his home during the Wednesday night broadcast. The professor, who lives in Jinan, the capital of eastern China’s Shandong province, has not responded.

“I am entitled to express my opinion. This is my freedom of speech,” were the professor’s last words heard on the show via telephone.

YibingFeng, VOA’s correspondent in Beijing, called the Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China for comment, but the mobile phone open to the public was turned off, and the landline was not answered. Feng also contacted the Public Security Department of Shandong University and the Shanda Road Police Station of Jinan’s Public Security Bureau. Neither would comment.

“While details about this incident are still not confirmed, VOA is monitoring the situation closely and will provide an update to program viewers once more information becomes available,” VOA spokeswoman Bridget Serchak said in a statement.

“As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” Serchak said.

‘Regularly speaks publicly’

The professor “regularly speaks publicly about Chinese human rights and domestic and foreign policy issues in China,” she added.

Sun was invited to appear on the hourlong show by VOA’s Bo Xu, who with Yu-Wen Cheng hosts the Monday-through-Thursday program on alternating evenings. Xu, who had interviewed Sun for a news program two years ago, said this was Sun’s first appearance on the opinion show. The topic of discussion on Wednesday was China’s “throw-money diplomacy.”

While “professor Sun was on a live telephone interview from his home, he reported to the VOA anchor that local police had forcibly entered his residence and demanded he end the interview,” Serchak said in the statement. “When professor Sun refused, the phone line went dead on live television. Subsequent efforts by VOA to re-engage with him for this interview have been unsuccessful.”

Sun appeared on the show, which is broadcast from Washington, D.C., with two other guests.

VOA host Xu was interested in interviewing Sun because he had written an open letter critical of Xi Jinping, China’s president, on the eve of his trip last month to Africa and the Middle East.

In the letter, Sun urged Xi to stop spending money overseas on aid, loans and investments, saying the money would be better spent in China. Sun also criticized Xi’s autocratic rule. Xer at the National People’s Congress in March.

Sun’s letter created an uproar on WeChat and in the overseas Chinese media for its implicit criticism of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative that aims to build a transport network connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

‘Make nice with African countries’

On the show, Sun said, Xi “wants to make nice with African countries, and that’s not what we are against. But there are so many other things for him to take into account. China has got a huge population, and there are still so many people living in destitution. You need to consider your own economic capability when providing for others. If you don’t actually have the scale of capability to match up with the scale of things you are trying to do, just don’t do it.”

Sun also said on air, “There are so many people living in poverty in China. Some too poor to see a doctor, some too poor to have pensions after retirement, and some too poor to go to school. Under such circumstances, [if] you still choose to throw money at other countries, domestic backlash is almost guaranteed.”

According to a transcript of the show, as Sun continued, he informed the audience that six policemen were coming at him. He could be heard yelling at them, “What? Did I say something wrong? Did you hear I say anything wrong? So many Chinese are still poor and we shouldn’t throw our money in Africa.”

Then Sun told the audience that two more policemen had appeared and continued his interview, saying “Throwing money around is not benefiting our country and society. …”

Police interrupted him at this point, and Sun could be heard saying to the VOA host, “Because I planned to be on your panel discussion, [Xi] just assigned six policemen to break my door and force me not to do the interview with you. I grabbed my knife and was just ready to fight such intimidation myself at whatever cost.

“At this moment, they are standing right at my door,” he said. “I am entitled to express my opinion. This is my freedom of speech!”

Source: Voice of America

Djibouti Slams Call for End to Eritrea Sanctions

Djibouti, an increasingly strategic nation in the Horn of Africa, has condemned last week’s call by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed for the lifting of U.N. sanctions against Eritrea.

During his three-day visit to Eritrea’s capital last week, the Somali president urged an end to the economic sanctions and arms embargo that the U.N. Security Council imposed on Eritrea in 2009 for its alleged support of Islamist militant forces in Somalia.

Mohamed said lifting the sanctions would promote the economic integration of the Horn of Africa region.

Mohamed’s statement angered Djibouti, which says Eritrea is occupying the disputed Doumeira islands and is holding more than 10 Djiboutian prisoners.

In an interview with VOA’s Somali service, Djibouti’s ambassador to Somalia, Aden Hassan Aden, described the Somali president’s statement as deeply shocking.

As a sovereign state, there is no doubt that Somalia has the right to establish diplomatic relations with the countries in the region. However, it is unacceptable to see our brotherly Somalia supporting Eritrea, which is occupying part of our territory and still denying having Djiboutian prisoners, Aden said.

Djibouti hosts military bases for five countries: the United States, France, China, Japan and Italy.

The tiny nation is also one of five African countries with troops in AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia. The mission has protected Somali governments from attempted takeovers by Islamist militant forces for more than a decade.

Our boys in uniform who sacrifice their blood and life for peace in Somalia, whose brothers are held prisoners in Asmara, would not be happy to hear such a miscalculated statement from a Somali president, Aden said.

As part of a flurry of reforms and peacemaking efforts, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Eritrea last month to end a 20-year state of war between the countries.

Last week, Somalia’s president became the second head of state in the region to visit Eritrea.

Aden, the Djiboutian ambassador, said his country welcomed the diplomatic movements and talks in the Horn of Africa. But he emphasized that Djibouti’s conflict with Eritrea was unresolved.

Our president has no plans to visit Asmara unless Eritrea releases the Djiboutians it detains and withdraws from the territory it occupied, Aden said.

Source: Voice of America

South African White Lobby Group Calls ANC Land Plan ‘Catastrophic’

South Africa’s white farmers on Wednesday criticized the ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) decision to endorse constitutional changes to allow the state to seize land without compensation, saying the move would be catastrophic.

On Tuesday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the decision by the ANC’s top decision-making organ to push ahead with plans to amend the constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

More than two decades after the end of apartheid, whites still own most of South Africa’s land and ownership remains a highly emotive subject.

Investors said Ramaphosa’s speech was aimed at winning political points ahead of an election in mid-2019.

AfriForum, an organization that mostly represents white South Africans on issues like affirmative action, said in a statement land expropriation without compensation would have catastrophic results … like in Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

History teaches us that international investors, regardless of what AfriForum or anyone else says, are unwilling to invest in a country where property rights are not protected, AfriForum’s Chief Executive KallieKriel said.

Analysts at investment giant Old Mutual said the president was aiming to control the narrative around land reform, which has so far been dominated by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, before the election.

It could be a very clever chess move, Old Mutual Investment Group’s managing director KhayaGobodo said at a media briefing, adding that Ramaphosa was trying to reduce the possibility of negative outcome from the land expropriation exercise by clearly staking out ANC’s plan on the matter.

Markets fret

Market reaction to the speech was initially negative, with rand falling as much as 2 percent, but recovered almost half of those losses on Wednesday.

The 2044 bond chalked up the steepest losses, falling nearly 1.4 cents to its lowest level in nearly four weeks, according to Tradeweb data. The cost of insuring exposure to South Africa’s sovereign debt also rose with five year credit default swaps climbing as high as 188 basis points, an 8 bps jump from Tuesday’s close and a near-three week high, according to data provider IHS Markit.

South Africa’s parliament in February passed a motion brought by the radical left party, the EFF, to carry out land expropriation without compensation.

A team of lawmakers was then given the task of canvassing public opinion on whether section 25 of the Constitution needs amending to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation. The process is still ongoing, and analysts said Ramaphosa’s speech had pre-empted the lawmakers’ work.

Some analysts said it was not all doom and gloom and that eventually Ramaphosa will propose relatively limited amendments.

Land will not be nationalized, there will be no Zimbabwe-style land seizures and the constitution will only allow expropriation without compensation in a narrow set of circumstances, Ben Payton, Head of Africa at VeriskMaplecroft, said.

Source: Voice of America

Africa’s Great Lakes Region Leaders Bid for Peace at Conference

As the Global Peace Conference opens in Uganda, heads of state, especially in the East African region, are trying to focus more on unity instead of fragmentation that has plunged the area into conflict.

East African leaders say they need to find new models for sustainable peace and development in a bid to effectively deal with crime, conflict and poverty.

With instability taking root, leaders in the Great Lakes region are being urged to promote value-driven and innovative leadership that will provide meaning to citizens. This includes security, job growth, running water, electricity, and good roads. They agree this must be accompanied by more investment and trade, rather than aid and political federation.

Ambassador Fred NgogaGateretse, who leads the Conflict Prevention and Early Warning division of the African Union Commission, notes that terrorist organizations, such as Somali militant group al-Shabab, are more organized than some governments.

African countries simply do not make sense in fragmentation. We make sense in unity. Did you know how long it takes to recruit a suicide bomber, on average? It takes about five to six or seven months. And did you know how long it takes to recruit a civil servant from the U.N. or AU? About 19 months at best. So, what does that tell us? It tells us that our criminals are more efficient than we are, said Gateretse.

Delegates at the conference also are calling on leaders to improve their respective education systems to create a common goal and interest in the community. Uganda, in particular, has been working with neighbors, such as South Sudan and Somalia, to end conflict.

Ugandan Prime Minister RuhakanaRugunda notes that the conference is an occasion for leaders not only to celebrate achievements, but to find ways to overcome conflict and its daunting challenges.

As you are aware, amidst great development potential, the Great Lakes region has for many decades been characterized by identity-based conflicts, violent extremism and refugee crises, said Rugunda.

The conference has bought together stakeholders from all walks of life, including business entrepreneurs. Julian Omalla is a Ugandan businesswoman who ventured into northern Uganda. The area faced the brunt of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion, a conflict that left thousands dead and more than 2 million in internally displaced camps.

When there is no money in somebody’s pocket, peace cannot be there. And when there is no economic activity in the area, the peace and the unity cannot be there, she said.

According to the African Union, the continent currently faces 20 crisis situations that need to be resolved.

It is now up to the heads of states to show if their interests are aligned with those of their countrymen and women in the region.

Source: Voice of America

Deadly Ebola Outbreak Confirmed in Eastern DRC

Four cases of the Ebola virus have been confirmed in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, officials confirmed Wednesday.

JulienPaluku, governor of North Kivu province, announced the outbreak on Twitter, just a week after Congolese and U.N. health officials announced the end of a separate outbreak that killed 33 people in the country’s northwest. There is no evidence yet suggesting the two outbreaks in the Congo are linked.

Although we did not expect to face a tenth epidemic so early, the detection of the virus is an indicator of the proper functioning of the surveillance system, said the country’s health minister, OlyIlungaKalenga, in a statement.

Ebola was first identified in the Congo in 1976. A highly infective virus, it can be spread via contact with animals or the bodily fluids of the infected � including the dead.

The health ministry said there were 26 cases of hemorrhagic fever in the North Kivu province, including 20 deaths. Six samples from these patients were tested, and four tested positive for Ebola, the ministry said.

Officials have said they now feel better prepared for Ebola outbreaks, in sharp contrast to the 2014 epidemic of the virus, which killed more than 11,000 people, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

To contain the most recent outbreak, health workers distributed an experimental but effective vaccine to anyone who had come into contact with those infected.

“We had a vaccine � and that I think is going to be extremely important for the future of Ebola control,” Peter Salama, deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response at the World Health Organization, told CNN of the July outbreak.

Experts from the health ministry will arrive in the region on Thursday to coordinate a response to the virus, the ministry said.

Source: Voice of America