Microsoft cofounder and billionaire American philanthropist Bill Gates denied offering Nigerian lawmakers a $10 million bribe to pass an infectious disease bill, Nigeria’s Premium Timesreported on Monday.
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Nigeria’s opposition party, citing a “human intelligence report,” alleged that Gates offered Nigerian lawmakers $10 million for the “speedy passage” of the bill, which aims to curb the spread of infectious diseases in the country.
A Nigerian House of Representatives committee investigating the alleged bribery listened to a statement from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation denying the allegations on Monday.
“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has recently been made aware of an allegation circulating in certain elements of the Nigerian media that the Foundation was involved in a payment purportedly made to the Nigeria House of Representatives. Any such allegations are entirely false and without merit,” the Gates Foundation’s Nigeria representative, Paulin Basinga, said.
“To be clear, the Foundation has not offered any financial incentives to any member of Nigeria’s legislative branch for the passage of legislation nor has it offered any grants to organizations in Nigeria in connection with the same,” Basinga added.
The proposed legislation has caused controversy in Nigeria, as citizens fear the bill allows Nigerian authorities excessive power to enforce measures meant to curb the spread of infectious diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and dengue fever. The bill also calls for “compulsory vaccination.”
On May 11, the Premium Timesreported on the bill’s most controversial sections:
Sections 46 and 47 of the Bill provide for compulsory vaccination of children and adults with some specified vaccines. Section 15 of the Bill empowers the DG [Director General of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control] to issue a notice to take over a citizen’s property and declare it an isolation center without the consent and permission of the owner. Section 24 empowers an Enforcement Officer to get an order from a Court [magistrate] to destroy a building where infectious disease occurred.
In 2018, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to pay off Nigeria’s $76 million polio debt, which the country had acquired to combat its national polio epidemic. The Foundation approved the debt write-off after Nigeria met certain conditions, including the guarantee of “more than 80 percent vaccination coverage in at least one round [of government-mandated vaccination] each year in very high-risk areas” for polio.
India “rushed troops” to its border with China in the Ladakh Valley hours after Beijing boasted that it had “bolstered” its military presence along the border on Monday, the Economic Times of Indiareported.
On Monday, Chinese state media reported that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had increased its presence on the border it shares with India in the Galwan Valley. Hours later, the Times reported that India had responded to what it viewed as China’s “aggressive deployment,” rushing in “additional troops” and constructing “defensive positions” along the Galwan River in Ladakh.
According to China’s report, published by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) newspaper Global Times, PLA border troops strengthened China’s “on-the-spot response” in the valley. The report warned that “if India escalates the friction, the Indian military force could pay a heavy price.”
According to the Times, Indian military sources say “several hundred soldiers from each side” have been deployed to the area. The Indian sources cited reports claiming that the Chinese have set up “over 80 tents” to construct “temporary defensive positions,” adding that “fast response reinforcements” have also been sent to the Galwan River.
The Galwan River flows from the disputed Aksai Chin region, which China claims to administer as part of its Xinjiang and Tibet autonomous regions. India also claims the Aksai Chin region as part of its Ladakh Valley territory; Ladakh is part of the larger region of Kashmir, also claimed by both sides. India and China have faced off along this border since 1962 when the two states fought a war over the disputed territory near the Himalayan mountain range.
China claimed to have increased its military presence on Monday in response to India’s “recent, illegal construction of defense facilities across the border into Chinese territory in the Galwan Valley region.” Indian military sources explained to the Times that India has not been building illegal defensive military fortifications. Rather, it has been constructing a road “to carry out patrols in the area” and for use by the local population.
According to the report, the PLA’s attempt to halt India’s construction of the road has led to the current tension along the border. The military sources add that “an extensive road network has already been established by China on the other side of the border.”
This is the latest development in an ongoing standoff along the boundary between the two nations in the Ladakh region. On May 12, the Indian Air Force (IAF) deployed fighter jets to carry out regular patrols of the Ladakh area after Chinese helicopters flew aggressively close to Indian airspace along the border. This followed shortly after a skirmish on the ground between 150 Indian and Chinese troops on May 9.
Authorities in Wuhan locked down certain districts of the city on Thursday, restricting access into and out of residential communities amid a resurgence of Wuhan coronavirus cases in the city where the virus first emerged late last year, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.
On Monday, Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s coronavirus outbreak in December 2019, reported six new cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in what government officials claimed was the first cluster of new cases since Wuhan’s lockdown was lifted one month ago, Caixin Global – a Bejing-based news outlet owned by a state-run press group – reported on Tuesday.
All cases confirmed Monday were reportedly recorded within the previous 24 hours, and all were documented within the same residential compound. The announcement prompted the local government to raise the coronavirus risk level from low to medium in the city district surrounding the compound. The report added that a local government official had been fired amid news of the coronavirus resurgence in Wuhan.
News of the resurgence followed weeks of government authorities alleging that Wuhan and other parts of Hubei province were “free” of coronavirus, assuring the public that the region was ready to open again following an extended lockdown.
According to RFA’s report on Thursday, this residential compound, Sanmin, houses about 5,000 people. A local citizen journalist named Zhang told RFA that Sanmin was inaccessible from the outside.
“I went there to find out more about the situation, but it has been placed under quarantine. There are police outside on the street now guarding the place, and no vehicles are being allowed through,” Zhang said. “I asked a nearby resident how many people were taken away in ambulances, and he told me that 180 people were taken away for isolation.”
Residents of Sanmin who were outside of the compound at the time it was sealed have not been allowed to return to their homes.
Zhang told RFA that Wuhan authorities have started to close off other housing compounds as well, including the city’s Sanyanqiao residential compound.
“The barriers have been put back and the place is under lockdown. There is also an online announcement saying that delivery drivers aren’t being allowed to enter certain compounds,” Zhang said.
At least eight Wuhan city districts – including Dongxihu, Wuchang, Jiangxia, Jiang’an, and Hongshan – have suspended their courier services from May 12, according to RFA, indicating that these districts have also been locked down by authorities.
The new coronavirus cases were reported on Monday shortly after Wuhan announced that it planned to carry out city-wide coronavirus testing on all of its 11 million residents. A man who lives in Wuhan surnamed Sun told RFA on Thursday that Wuhan has informed all residents that they will be tested “district by district.”
“The city government is implementing the testing order from the epidemic prevention center, and each administrative region will notify the neighborhood committees in the residential compounds when they need to organize nucleic acid testing,” Sun said.
A resident of Wuhan’s Qiaokou district surnamed Ma confirmed to RFA that the Wuhan government was tracking down residents for mass coronavirus testing.
“Every district and neighborhood committee has to register [residents’] IDs for blanket nucleic acid testing,” Ma said. “This is just to show the international community that China really has got the epidemic under control like it said it had.”
“It is being carried out as a top priority political task,” added Sun.
On May 13, authorities in China’s northeastern Jilin province announced a lockdown of the capital, Jilin City, after the community documented several new coronavirus cases in recent days. Jilin City’s outbreak was directly linked to another coronavirus outbreak in the nearby city of Shulan which forced the city to lock down on May 10. There, authorities declared “wartime control mode” and raised the coronavirus risk level to the highest level. Local reports indicate that the number of coronavirus cases in Jilin province is much higher than what the government has reported so far.
The lockdowns in Jilin province, which borders North Korea, follow a surge in new Wuhan coronavirus cases across northeastern China in recent weeks, including in the neighboring province of Heilongjiang, which borders Russia.
Authorities in central China’s Hunan province are investigating a store for selling fake baby formula, state-run Shanghai news outlet Sixth Tone reported.
At least five infants were diagnosed with rickets after drinking a protein drink “passed off” as baby formula by the store, parents allege.
In Chenzhou’s Yongxing county, government officials have launched an investigation into the alleged sale of a protein drink known as “Bei An Min,” falsely advertised as milk formula by staff at a store called Love Baby’s Workshop, according to local parents, who say their babies developed swollen heads after drinking the protein beverage. All five babies have been diagnosed with rickets, a children’s disease caused by Vitamin D deficiency that leads to bone deformations.
The parents of the five babies filed a complaint with Yongxing county’s market supervision authorities, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Wednesday.
“When we heard the truth, I almost collapsed. The whole time we thought it was milk formula like the shop assistant said,” one of the parents, a mother named Zhu, told Sixth Tone. “But it turned out to be just a powdered beverage — meaning my daughter was drinking [this instead of infant formula] for two years!”
According to the report, the five babies were diagnosed as allergic to dairy by their doctors at a local hospital. The doctors then recommended the babies’ parents purchase an “amino acid-based formula” instead of traditional dairy milk formula. All parents of the five babies went to the same baby products store to buy the special formula — a local branch of the national chain Love Baby’s Workshop — where “Bei An Min” was recommended to them by staff.
Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper, spoke to Yongxing County’s market regulation bureau on Wednesday, who said that the investigation into the case was still pending and that, so far, no foul play on the part of local doctors or hospitals has been found.
In December 2019, several parents accused doctors at a local Chenzhou hospital of conspiring with a pharmacy located within the hospital to promote a non-dairy “amino acid-based formula” sold there, in an almost identical case. The hospital suspended two doctors for providing the parents with misleading advice after the beverage was recalled by manufacturers and found to be harmful to the babies who drank it. At the time, Chenzhou authorities promised to conduct a full investigation of local hospitals and pharmacies over the matter.
On Thursday, the Hunan provincial government said that the local Love Baby’s Workshop was under investigation for fraud and false advertising, adding that the “the law will strictly punish” anyone found guilty of misleading parents, Beijing News reports.
China suffered its first major baby formula scandal in 2008 when six babies died and about 300,000 were made sick after drinking Chinese-made formula laced with melamine, a toxic chemical used to make plastics. Melamine had been added to the formula to artificially boost protein levels, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief bodyguard told Filipinos on Wednesday to stop “threatening” the president after two people were arrested in the past 24 hours for offering cash bounties to anyone willing to kill the polarizing leader, Philippine news outlet Coconuts Manila reported.
Ronnel Mas, a public high school teacher from Zambales, on the main island of Luzon, was arrested on Tuesday by Philippine authorities after he offered a $993,900 bounty to anyone willing to kill Duterte. According to the suspect, he announced the challenge via his Twitter account because he “wanted to gain more clout” on social media.
Later the same day, Ronald Quiboyen, a 40-year-old construction worker from the western island of Boracay, seemed to have been inspired by the school teacher’s post, as he announced through his Facebook page that he would reward twice the amount the teacher offered, $1.9 million, to anyone willing to kill the president.
“To anyone who can kill Duterte, I will double the PHP50 million [$993,900], and make it PHP100 million [$1.9 million]. You can find me in Boracay,” the 40-year-old suspect wrote in his Facebook post.
Quiboyen’s post was shared on social media by several island residents and soon caught the attention of Boracay police, who arrested the man at his residence hours after his challenge was published. Authorities told Coconuts Manila that the suspect will be charged for “inciting sedition.”
The arrests prompted the head of the Philippines’ Presidential Security Group (PSG) to issue a statement on Wednesday, warning citizens not to threaten the president’s safety.
“I would just like to convey to the people not to be involved in any way of threatening the President or anybody especially with the use of social media,” PSG Commander Col. Jesus Durante III said in a statement.
“Anybody could be held liable if he threatens to harm or kill a person, what more if the one that is threatened is the president of the republic,” Durante added.
According to his statement, the PSG chief plans to coordinate with Philippine law enforcement agencies to “monitor and apprehend those who are responsible for such acts.”
Duterte has faced criticism from Filipinos for cracking down on ordinary citizens with excessive force, as in his “war on drugs” that has seen extrajudicial killings of alleged drug criminals. Critics accuse Duterte of failing to exercise the same level of scrutiny with alleged corrupt officials in his own administration.
Recently, this double standard was demonstrated in the context of the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic. In March, a Philippine senator, who had just tested positive for the coronavirus, entered a maternity ward with his pregnant wife, brazenly defying coronavirus security measures prohibiting him from both leaving his home and entering a wing of the hospital highly vulnerable to infection at the time. This happened hours before hundreds of ordinary Filipinos were arrested on the island of Luzon for violating strict quarantine mandates, such as breaking curfew hours.
In light of Tuesday’s swift arrests, Coconuts Manila reports that on Wednesday, Filipino observers commented on the perceived hypocrisy online.
“[The] law is only applicable for the poor and the marginalized. Our justice system cannot even lay a finger [on] the rich and powerful. They can blatantly lie and get away with ease,” wrote one critic.
Vietnam approved a birth rate adjustment program encouraging people to marry by the age of 30 and for women to give birth to their second child by the age of 35, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Tuesday.
Last week, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúcis approved the initiative, which aims to boost Vietnam’s declining fertility rate by ten percent by the year 2030, state-run newspaper Việt Nam News (VNS) reported. The government hopes the measure will also prevent social and economic problems associated with aging populations.
Since the 1980s, Vietnam’s birth rate has decreased steadily, falling from four children per woman in 1986 to 2.09 in 2020. To maintain a steady population, countries need a birth rate of at least 2.1, otherwise, they must resort to immigration to replenish the population according to the SCMP, citing World Bank data. Vietnam has a population of 96 million.
A previous Vietnamese government policy from the 1960s encouraging couples to have “no more than two” children contributed to the falling birth rates in subsequent years the newspaper says, citing U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) data.
Vietnam’s birth rate varies widely between urban centers and rural areas, SCMP reports. In cities, the rate is 1.83 children per woman; in the countryside, the rate increases to 2.26. Vietnam’s largest metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City, has the lowest birth rate in the country at just 1.39.
According to Vietnam’s 2019 Population and Housing Census, women with a university degree have an average of 1.85 children each, whereas women without a formal education have an average of 2.59 children each, suggesting education levels factor into the decision to have children.
Developing countries with stable population growth are typically considered more desirable when courting foreign direct investment (FDI) necessary for sustained economic growth, according to the UNFPA representative in Vietnam, Naomi Kitahara, who explained to SCMP why Vietnam would want to rebalance its population. The UNFPA has supported Vietnam’s birth rate adjustment program since it was proposed last year as a way to bolster its economy.
Vietnam is a developing country and financial experts categorize its economy as a “frontier market,” meaning the country’s economy remains in its initial stages of development, analysts from Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) explained to SCMP. Vietnam’s drive to increase its birth rate would, in turn, produce a viable domestic labor force needed to continue economic growth in the years to come.
Last month, the U.N. Development Program on Vietnam surveyed over 14,000 men and women in all 63 of Vietnam’s provinces and municipalities. The report found that 82 percent of women “agreed they needed to have children to feel fulfilled” along with 72 percent of men who expressed the same sentiment, according to the SCMP.
“Getting married early allows young people to accumulate skills to build a family, become more disciplined and family-oriented, and from there become more responsible with themselves,” a 26-year-old woman in Hanoi told the SCMP when asked about the new government initiative. She has a seven-month-old baby with her husband of one year and would benefit from the birth rate adjustment program.
To incentivize participation, the national government has asked local governments to implement new programs that support young families, VNS reports. Young couples with two children will enjoy reduced income tax. They will receive financial assistance when buying or renting homes and when paying their children’s tuition fees. In addition, the couples “will have priority” when seeking admittance for their children at public schools.
To jumpstart the process, Prime Minister Nguyen has asked local governments to organize “dating clubs” to encourage young people to meet young and marry early VNS reports.
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities detained a Chinese constitutional scholar after he wrote an open letter to the Chinese government criticizing its handling of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak and demanding free speech, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Monday.
Zhang Xuezhong, a constitutional professor and defense lawyer for Chinese human rights activists, has long been a vocal critic of the CCP’s political and legal systems. On Sunday, security forces abducted him from his Shanghai home, according to the report.
“He was taken away on Sunday night. Three police cars came to his house,” Wen Kejian, a political analyst and friend of Zhang told the SCMP.
Another friend of Zhang’s, who preferred to remain anonymous, confirmed that Zhang had been “taken” by authorities.
“He is mentally prepared after his open letter,” the friend added.
On Saturday, Zhang posted his letter on WeChat, a Chinese messaging and social media app. He addressed the letter to deputies of the National People’s Congress (NPC), representatives of China’s legislature. The timing of the post was significant, as Zhang’s letter circulated widely online just as the national legislature prepares to convene for its “most important” parliamentary sessions in the coming weeks.
In his WeChat post, Zhang attached his open letter and included an accompanying message in support of freedom of speech.
“The best way to fight for freedom of expression is for everyone to speak as if we already have freedom of speech,” he wrote.
In his letter, Zhang called China’s system of governance “backward” for lacking a modern constitution.
“[T]he outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 [Wuhan coronavirus] epidemic is a good illustration of the problem,” he argued.
The Wuhan coronavirus originated in Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei province, in late 2019. Since then, the virus has spread out of China to other countries, resulting in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, responsible for at least 289,932 deaths worldwide. The CCP’s cover-up of China’s initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan has been widely criticized by global health authorities, who blame the Communist Party’s lack of transparency for allowing the virus to mushroom from an isolated outbreak to a global pandemic.
Zhang’s letter addressed the absence of scrutiny inherent in China’s political system as a key contributor to the disastrous viral outbreak, according to the report.
There were few independent professional media to investigate and report on the outbreak, nor did medical professionals provide independent advice to the public … It only shows that the government’s long-term tight control of society and people has almost completely destroyed the organization and self-help capabilities of Chinese society.
The human rights lawyer also called for freedom of speech.
“Twenty-two days before the [lockdown to contain the outbreak] in the city, Wuhan was still investigating and punishing citizens who had disclosed the epidemic, including Dr. Li Wenliang … showing how tight and arbitrary the government’s suppression of society is,” Zhang wrote.
Dr. Li has become somewhat of a martyr for free speech in China since he died from coronavirus in February. Just before his death, Li had tried to warn the public about the danger of the coronavirus during its initial outbreak in Wuhan, for which he was arrested and reprimanded by CCP authorities, who accused him of “spreading rumors.” Li’s arrest and death have since sparked calls for freedom of speech within China, as in Zhang’s letter.
Afghanistan’s government has freed 933 Taliban prisoners since the terrorists agreed to a peace deal with the U.S. in February, Pakistani newspaper Dawnreported on Friday.
The jihadis were released as part of an ongoing prisoner-exchange program that came about after the United States and the Taliban signed a peace deal on February 29. The agreement stipulates that the U.S. will gradually withdraw from Afghanistan if the jihadis provide certain security assurances, but requires communication from both sides in the form of peace talks. An exchange of prisoners was devised as a way to build trust between the two sides — the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the Taliban — in the hope of starting the peace talks.
The U.S. participated in the deal because the Taliban does not recognize the official government of Afghanistan as legitimate. Instead, it considers itself the only true government ruling Afghanistan.
“So far, 933 Taliban detainees have been released from Afghan jails,” Javed Faisal, spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Security Council, said on Thursday, Dawn reports.
“In return, the Taliban have released 132 Kabul [government] administration prisoners,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
Under the conditions of the prisoner swap, the Afghan government will eventually release 5,000 Taliban jihadis and the terrorists will free 1,000 members of Afghanistan’s security forces, according to the report.
A March 10 date was originally proposed as the deadline for the prisoner exchange, but the jihadis have repeatedly refused to cooperate with the peace deal, demanding extra concessions and stalling progress.
According to the Afghan government, the Taliban have asked for 15 of their “top commanders” to be freed, which was not part of the deal, as Dawn reports. The Taliban has also pressured the government to release jihadis early claiming they are worried the prisoners may contract the coronavirus in Afghan prisons, according to the report.
So far, Afghan government officials claim they have only released “low-risk” Taliban prisoners who have “vowed to abstain from fighting,” Dawn reports.
According to the report, the U.S. has encouraged both sides to complete the prisoner swap as soon as possible so that peace talks may begin. The talks are necessary to facilitate America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Afghan officials have reported a “surge in violence” from jihadis across the country recently, hindering efforts to start peace talks between the two sides, according to the newspaper. The February peace pact called for the terrorists not to target members of the U.S.-led coalition, but Afghan soldiers were not given a promise of protection.
On April 8, Afghanistan released 100 Taliban jihadis as a gesture of goodwill and to jumpstart peace talks, after the Taliban halted planned peace talks days earlier.
Afghan farmers claim to have “no other choice” but to illegally grow poppies – a lucrative opium crop that fuels the country’s Taliban terror group – amid the economic downturn caused by the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on Friday.
Farmers in Afghanistan growing poppies, a flower cultivated for the illicit opium trade, are blaming their illegal activities on the current coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a disruption in global supply and demand chains resulting in economic hardship for many countries. They argue that they have no profitable alternative to poppy cultivation.
In the country’s southern Kandahar Province, which borders Pakistan, farmers from Zhari district explained to RFE/RL why they grow the flower.
“We are growing poppies out of poverty. If we didn’t have to, we wouldn’t,” a farmer named Bahauddin told the news site.
“We grow them because there are no factories, the drought has hurt us, the [Chinese] coronavirus has hit the economy. We have no other choice but to grow poppies,” farmer Noor Agha said.
Afghanistan is the world’s top producer of opium, which in turn is used to make heroin. In 2018, the country produced 82 percent of the world’s opium supply, according to a 2019 U.N. drug report.
The recent drought referred to by farmer Agha has affected Afghanistan’s economy, according to the report, but not in the way he suggests. In 2018, a drought caused a decline in the cultivation and production of opium in Afghanistan, meaning the drought would not have forced Agha into poppy farming, but away from it. According to the U.N. data, opium prices in Afghanistan decreased between 2016 and 2018, likely due to overproduction in previous years, “making the crop less lucrative for farmers.”
The report insisted that despite the drought, “the area under [poppy] cultivation today [649,887 acres] is more than 60 percent larger than it was a decade ago and the estimated cultivation area in Afghanistan in 2018 [was] the second-largest estimate ever.”
The Taliban profits tremendously from Afghanistan’s illegal opium trade, worth up to $6.6 billion in 2017 according to the U.N. The terror group encourages farmers to plant poppies illegally, offering them protection from government authorities who try, in vain, to halt the practice. The militants then charge farmers taxes on the crop and use the funds to finance their operations.
The farmers interviewed by RFE/RL grew their poppies in Kandahar Province, technically controlled by Afghanistan’s government. However, as the report points out, the opium trade has fueled corruption within the government, with authorities either unwilling or unable to stop poppy farming while it is still controlled by the Taliban.
Afghanistan’s farmers have been encouraged by the U.S.-backed government to grow alternative food crops like wheat, fruit, and saffron in an attempt to move them away from poppy production.
“Kandahar’s provincial government, together with the Agriculture Ministry, has worked on policies to convince the farmers to find less dangerous, more long-term income sources,” Bahir Ahmad, spokesman for Kandahar Province’s governor, told RFE/RL.
These efforts have largely failed, however, because the opium trade, propped up the Taliban, is much more lucrative.
A Chinese journalist residing in the U.S. blamed President Donald Trump for a recent “wave of hate” against Asians amid a global backlash against China for its role in spreading the Wuhan coronavirus. The op-ed was published in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) newspaper Global Times on Thursday.
Some outlets have reported an increase in alleged hate crimes against Asians in the U.S. and other countries since the world learned that China covered up its initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan at the end of last year, greatly contributing to the rise of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
The Global Times blamed Trump’s use of the term “Chinese virus” for the crimes:
The wave of hate was encouraged by President Donald Trump’s description of COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.” According to the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, which has been tracking hate crimes against Asians … incidents surged to 650 in the week when the president insisted on using the term in mid-March. Trump has dropped his use of the description now, but in recent weeks he has stepped up his anti-China attacks.
“[T]he average [American] racist hater out there on the street? They normally do not have the intelligence to differentiate between people by anything other than their skin color,” the New York-based author tells her readers, most of whom reside in China.
The op-ed, entitled “Love and hope amidst ignorant racism,” comes as reports this week revealed that the CCP has resumed a forced labor program for ethnic Uyghur Muslims in China’s western Xinjiang region. The program has been criticized as a form of slave labor; its unwilling participants are detainees of concentration camps, which the CCP calls “re-education camps,” targeted for their ethnic Muslim heritage.
The Muslim Uyghurs, a Turkic people, and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang are the victims of a decades-long campaign of ethnic cleansing executed by the majority Han Chinese, who want absolute control and cultural assimilation of the region bordering Central Asia.
The CCP has implemented a standardized program of oppression including security surveillance and concentration camps, where they arbitrarily detain Muslim Uyghurs for offenses including outward displays of their cultural heritage. Uyghurs can be charged and jailed for these signs of religious “extremism,” as the CCP calls them.
Examples include altering the “color of their hair” – Muslim men who complete an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, dye their beards red to mark the accomplishment – and “women who wear religious clothes to work” during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which is currently underway and officially banned by the CCP in Xinjiang.
Uyghurs, who speak a Turkic language, are also forced to learn and speak Mandarin Chinese as part of political and ideological indoctrination programs run in the “re-education camps.”
The government of the Philippines ordered ABS-CBN, the nation’s largest television network, to cease operations on Tuesday after the Philippine Congress refused to renew the station’s license, Philippine news outlet Rappler reported.
The Philippines’ National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a “cease and desist” order to ABS-CBN on Tuesday afternoon, ordering the network to halt its operations after its license expired on Monday, May 4. ABS-CBN went off the air soon after.
Critics accuse Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte of influencing his lawmaker allies to vote against the license renewal. Duterte’s personal vendetta against ABS-CBN dates back to 2016 when he was elected president. He accuses the network of refusing to air his campaign advertisements during the 2016 election, according to Rappler.
Since then, the president has repeatedly threatened to shut down ABS-CBN. According to Duterte, the network has demonstrated bias against his administration, and its coverage negatively portrays his government and policies, including his controversial “war on drugs,” which has killed thousands of people.
ABS-CBN is the largest entertainment and media conglomerate in the Philippines. It is owned by the Lopez family, one of the richest families in the country, who Duterte refers to as “oligarchs,” according to Rappler’s report.
In December 2019, Duterte foreshadowed this week’s developments, suggesting that the Lopez family might be wise to “sell” the network. “ABS-CBN, your contract will expire. You want to renew, but I don’t know if that will happen. If I were you, I’d sell it,” the president said at a press conference on December 30.
The Philippines’ House of Representatives, full of Duterte’s political allies, is responsible for issuing and renewing licenses. A number of bills for ABS-CBN’s license renewal have been pending since 2019, but critics accuse Congress of prioritizing other legislation, allowing the license to expire, Rappler reports.
ABS-CBN has ten days from May 5, when it received the “cease and desist” order, to respond “and explain why the frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled” Rappler reports. After ABS-CBN files a response, a hearing should be scheduled. The hearing cannot take place until after the current lockdown of Manila and the island of Luzon is lifted. Duterte recently extended the lockdown until May 15, meant to curb the spread of coronavirus.
On Wednesday, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba appeared before the Philippine congress and told legislators that the commission could issue a “provisional authority” allowing ABS-CBN to remain on-air, pending the recommendation of Congress, ABS-CBN’s online news site reported on Wednesday.
Duterte has also targeted other news organizations, like Rappler, for what he considers biased coverage of his administration. Rappler’s founder, Maria Ressa, has been arrested at the urging of Duterte, accused of allegedly operating a company owned by non-Philippine citizens, considered a crime in the Philippines. Ressa denies the charges against her and claims that the president’s actions amount to an attack on freedom of the press.
Somalia has kept its mosques open during Ramadan despite the coronavirus pandemic, attracting a flood of faithful Kenyans from across the countries’ shared border, Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nationreported on Monday.
Kenya has closed its mosques as part of lockdown measures meant to curb the spread of the Chinese coronavirus. Muslims are currently observing Ramadan, the holiest month on the Islamic calendar, during which they normally visit mosques to pray communally.
Devout Kenyans from the northeastern border city of Mandera have been sneaking into Somalia to perform taraweeh, or nightly prayers, at open mosques there, according to the newspaper. This has prompted Kenyan government officials to remain alert to similar border crossings in other areas, fearing a rise in imported coronavirus cases.
In the border county of Wajir, health authorities confirmed that at least two coronavirus cases were imported from Somalia due to this type of border crossing, according to the Daily Nation. Kenya shares a long border with Somalia, making it difficult to track movement between the nations.
In Mandera, Governor Ali Roba ordered a total lockdown of the county, banning the entry and exit of people and vehicles. Mandera County Commissioner Onesmus Kyatha said that anyone found sneaking out of Kenya to Somalia to pray would be placed under forced quarantine at their own expense and later prosecuted, the Daily Nation reports.
“We have information that several residents of Mandera have been crossing into Somalia to perform prayers in mosques there. We have activated our security operation, and anybody found [crossing the border] will be arrested and prosecuted after completing a 14-day quarantine,” Kyatha said.
Kyatha urged local Islamic religious leaders like imams and sheiks to enforce government directives prohibiting movement across borders during the coronavirus lockdown, which Kenya implemented last month.
A recent surge in coronavirus cases in Somalia places Kenyan border counties including Wajir, Mandera, and Garissa at high risk of importing the virus, according to the Daily Nation.
In Wajir, where imported coronavirus cases have been confirmed, county governor Mohamed Abdi organized a team of health workers to visit Diff, Dadajabula, and other towns to screen residents for coronavirus and disinfect public spaces. On Sunday, the governor ordered a two-week lockdown of Diff. The Wajir county administration also ordered the closure of livestock markets, the Daily Nation reports.
“The closure is informed by the risk level of the market since traders are known to move across the border to Somalia to get stock,” health executive Ahmednadir Omar Sheikh said.
On April 6, Kenya’s president placed sections of the country on lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of the Chinese coronavirus. Nairobi banned entry and exit in four regions of the city most affected by the coronavirus. Mombasa, a port city, and the counties of Kilifi and Kwale were also locked down. On March 27, Kenya enacted a dusk-to-dawn curfew to limit people’s movements.
At press time on Tuesday, Somalia had recorded 835 infections and 38 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus, while Kenya had reported 535 infections and 24 deaths from the virus.
The Chinese government has resumed a job placement plan for tens of thousands of Uyghur Muslim “graduates” of compulsory “re-education” camps in China’s western region of Xinjiang, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Saturday, quoting sources with knowledge of the project.
The plan was finalized last year, but disrupted by the outbreak of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. It includes a quota for the numbers of Uyghur Muslims provinces must take.
The “re-education” camps function as concentration camps, part of standardized measures designed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to extinguish the cultural identity of Muslim Uyghurs, a Turkic people, and other minorities in Xinjiang, a far western province bordering Central Asia. Xinjiang, or East Turkestan, is China’s largest province and has struggled with Beijing-ordered “assimilation” of local cultures for decades.
Critics of the CCP argue that the “students” and “graduates” of the re-education camps have been unwilling participants in the indoctrination programs, better described as detainees, who have endured torture, medical experimentation, and other human rights abuses. The U.S. government has estimated that between one to three million ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities have been detained in the camps; there are roughly 10 million ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Beijing rejects these criticisms. It argues that the camps are meant to provide Muslim Uyghurs the training they need to find better jobs and avoid the influence of Islamic separatists in Xinjiang who promote terrorism, according to China, the SCMP reports. Many camp victims already had successful careers and ample education before Chinese officials imprisoned them, however, weakening this argument.
Now claiming to have its coronavirus outbreak under control, the Chinese government has resumed the job placement deal for provinces to absorb Xinjiang laborers, sources told the SCMP. There is no evidence the laborers have any control over or say in where they work.
“Excellent graduates were to be taken on as laborers by various inland governments, in particular, 19 provinces and municipalities,” said the source, without specifying what constituted an “excellent” graduate.
Some sources earlier told SCMP that the program may be scaled back in light of the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended the world economy, but its latest report indicates that this is not the case.
“The unemployment problem in Xinjiang must be resolved at all costs, despite the outbreak,” the Beijing source insisted.
According to the report, at least 19 provinces and cities have been assigned quotas to hire Muslim minorities, mostly Uyghurs, who have “graduated” from re-education camps.
As early as February, when the CCP claimed that the daily number of new infections had started to decrease outside Hubei province, China began to send Uyghur workers to their new job assignments, the SCMP reported.
By the end of February, Xinjiang alone had created “jobs” for over 60,000 Uyghur “graduates” from the camps.
The southern city of Shenzhen was given a target last year to eventually resettle 50,000 Uyghurs; the city plans to do this in several stages, with 15,000 to 20,000 planned for the first batch, sources told the SCMP. The CCP commonly uses the word “batch” to describe a group of Uyghur workers, seeming to lend authenticity to the sources’ claim.
“For every batch [of workers] that is trained, a batch of employment will be arranged and a batch will be transferred. Those employed need to receive thorough ideological education and remain in their jobs,” the CCP said in a Chinese government work report from 2019.
On March 1, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) published a study on forced Uyghur labor citing this work report as an example of Uyghur labor transfers set up by the Xinjiang provincial government. The Xinjiang government pays a price per head to other local governments and private brokers to organize the work transfer of Uyghurs from detention camps to labor assignments.
The ASPI report, “Uyghurs for Sale,” found that more than 80,000 Uyghur workers were transferred out of Xinjiang and into forced labor between 2017 and 2019, in a program labeled “Xinjiang Aid” by the CCP. The report notes that this type of systematic forced labor and transfer of Uyghurs out of Xinjiang has been in existence since the early 2000s.
The city of Shaoguan was also asked to take on another 30,000 to 50,000 Uyghur workers, the SCMP claimed. Shaoguan, in the southern Guangdong province, was the site of a deadly factory riot between Uyghurs and Han Chinese in 2009. This incident was believed to have sparked a relentless campaign by the majority Han Chinese against the Uyghurs that has lasted for years and included the concentration camps as well as the installation of mass surveillance technology in Xinjiang and human rights abuses such as the use of Uyghurs for organ harvesting and forcing Uyghur women to sleep with Han Chinese “relatives” in the same bed while their husbands were trapped in the camps.
In Fujian province, a government source also told the SCMP they had been told to hire “tens of thousands” of workers from Xinjiang.
“I heard the first batch … would arrive soon [in Fujian]. We have already received official directives asking us to handle their settlement with care,” the source said.
He added that the preparation work includes providing halal food to the Muslim workers as well as setting up stronger security measures to “minimize the risks of mass incidents.”
In March, Anhui Daily, Anhui province’s official newspaper, reported that the eastern province had received 1,560 “organized laborers from Xinjiang,” says the SCMP. One company headquartered in Anhui, the Haoyuanpeng Clothing Manufacturing Co. Ltd (HYP), participates in “Xinjiang Aid” by exporting Uyghur workers from Xinjiang to Anhui province, according to the ASPI report. HYP advertises strategic partnerships with Nike, Fila, Adidas, and Puma on its corporate website.
In February 2018, HYP transferred 63 workers from Xinjiang to its Anhui factory, with plans to eventually transfer 500 in total, the ASPI report said. The transferred workers were described as “graduates” of a detainment camp known officially as the Jiashi County Secondary Vocational School, according to a government report seen by the ASPI.
The ASPI analyzed satellite imagery and official documents suggesting that the Jiashi “vocational school” had operated as a re-education camp since 2017. The Jiashi compound increased in size, adding new dormitories and factory warehouses. In addition, significant security features were added to the structure indicating a secure “military-style management” of the compound, the ASPI reports.
Last month, reports surfaced that Uyghurs had been forced out of Xinjiang as early as March to work in factories in other provinces. The labor push was reportedly a similar effort by China to fill gaps in its economy caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Uyghurs were shipped out of Xinjiang by the thousands in this instance.