At Least 78 Dead after Friday’s Earthquake in Indonesia

Indonesian rescue teams have pulled more bodies from the rubble of residential and commercial buildings toppled by a strong earthquake that hit Sulawesi island last week, killing at least 78 people, authorities said on Sunday.More than 800 people have been injured. Thousands of others were left homeless.The 6.2 earthquake, with an epicenter 36 kilometers south of West Sulawesi province’s Mamuju district and at a depth of 18 kilometers, struck after 2  a.m. on Friday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.Indonesia earthquake locator map, Jan. 15, 2021 (Credit: USGS)Rescue teams, aided by heavy equipment, have worked around the clock searching for survivors in the hardest-hit city of Mamuju and the neighboring district of Majene.Power supplies and telephone service have improved since Friday, aiding rescue operations.On Thursday, a 5.9-magnitude undersea quake struck the same region, damaging several homes but causing no casualties.Earthquakes, volcanos and tsunamis are common in Indonesia due to its location on the “Ring of Fire,” which is one of the world’s most seismically active areas.In 2018, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami that followed in Palu on Sulawesi killed more than 4,000 people.In December 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra in Indian Ocean and triggered a tsunami that killed about 230,000 people in the region, most of them in Indonesia. 

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At Least 60 Dead after Friday’s Earthquake in Indonesia

Indonesian rescue teams have pulled more bodies from the rubble of residential and commercial buildings toppled by a strong earthquake that hit Sulawesi island last week, killing at least 60 people, authorities said on Sunday.More than 800 people have been injured. Thousands of others were left homeless.The 6.2 earthquake, with an epicenter 36 kilometers south of West Sulawesi province’s Mamuju district and at a depth of 18 kilometers, struck after 2  a.m. on Friday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.Indonesia earthquake locator map (Credit: USGS)Rescue teams, aided by heavy equipment, have worked around the clock searching for survivors in the hardest-hit city of Mamuju and the neighboring district of Majene.Power supplies and telephone service have improved since Friday, aiding rescue operations.On Thursday, a 5.9-magnitude undersea quake struck the same region, damaging several homes but causing no casualties.Earthquakes, volcanos and tsunamis are common in Indonesia due to its location on the “Ring of Fire,” which is one of the world’s most seismically active areas.In 2018, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami that followed in Palu on Sulawesi killed more than 4,000 people.In December 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra in Indian Ocean and triggered a tsunami that killed about 230,000 people in the region, most of them in Indonesia. 

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China Using ‘Cognitive Warfare’ Against Taiwan, Observers Say

A Taipei think tank and observers in Taiwan say China is trying to influence residents with “cognitive warfare,” hoping to reverse opposition to Beijing’s desired takeover of Taiwan so it can be accomplished without having to go to war.Taiwanese attitudes have been drifting away from the mainland, especially among the younger generation, whose members see themselves “born independent” with no ties to China.China’s effort, these analysts say, includes tactics ranging from military intimidation and propaganda to misinformation spread by its army of online trolls in a bid to manipulate public opinion. They say the complexity and frequency of the effort puts Taiwan on a constant defensive.“Its ultimate goal is to control what’s between the ears. That is, your brain or how you think, which [Beijing] hopes leads to a change of behavior,” Tzeng Yi-suo, director of the cybersecurity division at the government-funded Institute of National Defense and Security Research in Taipei, told VOA.Campaign intensifies amid COVIDCognitive warfare is a fairly new term, but the concept has been around for decades. China has never stopped trying to deter the island’s separatists, according to Tzeng, who wrote about the Chinese efforts last month in the institute’s annual report on China’s political and military development.Liberal democracies such as Taiwan, that ensure the free flow of information, are vulnerable to cognitive attacks by China, while China’s tightly controlled media and internet environment makes it difficult for democracies to counterattack, according to Tzeng.China’s campaign has intensified since the outbreak of COVID-19, using official means such as flying military jets over Taiwan, and unofficial channels such as news outlets, social media and hackers to spread misinformation. The effort is aimed at dissuading Taiwan from pursuing actions contrary to Beijing’s interests, the report said.China has used these tactics to attack Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration, undermine support for democracy and fuel Taiwan’s social tensions and political divide, it said.The South China Situation Probing Initiative, for example, a project run by Najing University in China, has disseminated information about Chinese military activities in the region through its Twitter account, but some of the posts have been found to be false, apparently aimed at intimidating Taiwan’s public and weakening Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party government’s resolve, according to the report.Tzeng said China’s efforts didn’t work in Taiwan’s presidential election last January, when Tsai won a landslide victory. The island’s growing anti-China sentiments – seem further strengthened by disapproval of China’s brutal suppression of pro-democracy Hong Kong protests.China “set out to [actively] promote the island’s reunification with the mainland, its identity as ethnic Chinese or favorable views toward the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]. But now all it can hope for is to curb Taiwan’s [growing] pro-independence sentiments” – a trend Beijing has found it difficult to contain, he said.Tzeng added that he believes China is biding its time and experimenting with new tactics, which it hopes will succeed in influencing the island’s future elections.For example, the report said that China’s Communist Party is believed to have played a role in hacking Tsai’s office in May to discredit her. Reporters covering her office at the time claimed to have received minutes of internal meetings from an anonymous email account, which accused the president of corruption. Tsai’s administration responded by saying that the documents had been doctored and contained fabricated content.Taiwan should, Tzeng said, stay alert and establish a comprehensive fact-checking system to prevent fake news and misinformation from subverting public opinion.Taiwan should also “work with regional and global liberal democracies to establish a common defense mechanism” as China’s influencing attacks have a global outreach and aren’t limited to Taiwan. They constitute the most serious challenge facing democratic societies today, Tung Li-wen, former head of the ruling DPP’s China affairs department, wrote in a 2019 essay.Chinese citizen journalist and blogger Zhou Shuguang, who now lives in Taiwan, said many Chinese have taken to the internet to spread China’s narrative. Two groups of such online promoters of China’s narrative are known as “Little Pink” and “50 Cent Party,” The groups, he said, have formed China’s sizable army of online trolls to spread fake news, for example, rumors about Tsai’s academic background. Despite repeated clarifications, many kept circling rumors that the president’s 1984 doctorate degree from the London School of Economics was fake.A 2016 study, led by Harvard University data scientist Gary King, found that 50 Cent Party produced 488 million “fake” social media posts a year to distract other internet users from news and online discussions painting the Communist Party in a negative light.Global propaganda campaignChina has also been aggressive in expanding its global propaganda campaign to “tell China’s story well” and disrupt democracy, said Huang Jaw-nian, an assistant professor of National Chengchi University in Taipei, who specializes in media politics.“[China] is running its global propaganda campaign by expanding its state media abroad and deploying a strategy called ‘borrowing a boat out to sea,’ that is, buying up foreign news outlets [with better credibility]… The media buyouts are, in some cases, made by pro-Beijing businesspeople,” who will likely spin coverage to curry favor with China, Huang told VOA.However, Li Zhenguang, deputy director of Beijing Union University’s Institute of Taiwan Studies, flatly denied that China has launched any efforts against Taiwan or Tsai’s administration.“She [Tsai] is putting a feather in her own cap. She is a nobody to China. I find the accusations nonsense. Why on earth does China want to attack her?” he told VOA over the phone, refusing to elaborate.      

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China Builds Hospital After Surge in ‘Harder to Handle’ Virus Cases

China on Saturday finished building a 1,500-room hospital for COVID-19 patients to fight a surge in infections the government said are harder to contain and that it blamed on infected people or goods from abroad.The hospital is one of six with a total of 6,500 rooms being built in Nangong, south of Beijing in Hebei province, the official Xinhua News Agency said.About 650 people are being treated in Nangong and the Hebei provincial capital, Shijiazhuang, Xinhua said. A 3,000-room hospital is under construction in Shijiazhuang.Virus clusters also have been found in Beijing and the provinces of Heilongjiang and Liaoning in the northeast and Sichuan in the southwest.The latest infections spread unusually fast, the National Health Commission said.”It is harder to handle,” a commission statement said. “Community transmission already has happened when the epidemic is found, so it is difficult to prevent.”The commission blamed the latest cases on people or goods arriving from abroad. It blamed “abnormal management” and “inadequate protection of workers” involved in imports but gave no details.”They are all imported from abroad. It was caused by entry personnel or contaminated cold chain imported goods,” said the statement.The Chinese government has suggested the disease might have originated abroad and publicized what it says is the discovery of the virus on imported food, mostly frozen fish, though foreign scientists are skeptical.Also Saturday, the city government of Beijing said travelers arriving in the Chinese capital from abroad would be required to undergo an additional week of “medical monitoring” after a 14-day quarantine but gave no details.Nationwide, the Health Commission reported 130 new confirmed cases in the 24 hours through midnight Friday. It said 90 of those were in Hebei.On Saturday, the Hebei government reported 32 additional cases since midnight, the Shanghai news outlet The Paper reported.In Shijiazhuang, authorities have finished construction of 1,000 rooms of the planned hospital, state TV said Saturday. Xinhua said all the facilities are to be completed within a week.A similar program of rapid hospital construction was launched by the ruling Communist Party at the start of the outbreak last year in the central China city of Wuhan.More than 10 million people in Shijiazhuang underwent virus tests by late Friday, Xinhua said, citing a deputy mayor, Meng Xianghong. It said 247 locally transmitted cases were found.Meanwhile, researchers sent by the World Health Organization were in Wuhan preparing to investigate the origins of the virus. The team, which arrived Thursday, was under a two-week quarantine but was scheduled to talk with Chinese experts by video link.The team’s arrival was held up for months by diplomatic wrangling that prompted a rare public complaint by the head of the WHO.That delay, and the secretive ruling party’s orders to scientists not to talk publicly about the disease, have raised questions about whether Beijing might try to block discoveries that would hurt its self-proclaimed status as a leader in the anti-virus battle.

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Scuffles Break Out as Thai Protesters Flout Virus Rules to Protest

Several pro-democracy activists in Thailand were arrested as protests Saturday unexpectedly returned to Bangkok’s streets, defying an emergency law imposed during a fresh COVID-19 outbreak to rally against a royal defamation law being wielded against their movement. 
The main groups maaking up the Rasadorn (the people) movement have formally declared a hiatus to the major street rallies that rocked the kingdom, demanding sweeping reforms of Thai politics and the once-untouchable monarchy.
 
But pockets of protesters have switched from major scale rallies to smaller flash mobs and publicity stunts targeting the royal defamation law, section 112 of the Thai penal code.
 
The law carries a penalty of between three and 15 years per charge for “insulting, defaming or threatening” the monarchy and is loathed by Thailand’s pro-democracy movement, which views it as a political weapon. More than 40 protesters so far have been charged under the law.  
 New Year, New Charges as Thai Protesters Slapped with Royal Defamation ChargesAuthorities made their 38th arrest of a pro-democracy activist in recent weeks under tough lèse majesté law as authorities crack down on unprecedented protest movementThe new guerrilla tactics have included draping banners mocking the lèse-majesté law in shopping malls and from bridges, swapping national flags with the “112” insignia, and taking a live goat covered by a “112” blanket to a police station.  
 
Authorities have been left red-faced by actions that normally bounce across social media before any arrests can be made.
 
But Saturday morning, Police Chief Suwat Changyodsuk warned of tougher action to stamp out the new tactics.
 
“Police will use force if necessary,” he said. “What happens, happens.”
 
A few hours later, dozens of police moved in as activists attempted to unfurl a roll of paper 112 meters long at the busy Victory Monument roundabout so passersby could write their objections to the draconian law.
 
One of the messages said “112 meters of the government’s shame,” though it was quickly torn up as police officers poured into the area.
 
A young protester was filmed as he was held in an arm lock and dragged into a police van by several officers. Another was detained at the scene also for breaking the emergency decree imposed to control the COVID-19 situation, lawyers said.
 
Shortly afterwards, anti-riot police canvased an area several kilometers away, where a protest faction called the Liberating Guards had gathered to challenge the arrests.
 
Scuffles with police ensued and video showed a minor explosion from a so-called ping pong bomb, which apparently was thrown toward a group of advancing riot police.
 
Five more protesters were arrested, according to advocacy group iLaw.
 
Until this latest round of skirmishes, the protests had been largely peaceful. There are fears of increasing violence, though, unless there is de-escalation by the government in a country where stalemates on the street often end in bloodshed.
 
“There has not been any sign of compromise from the Thai state whatsoever,” said Sasinan Thamnithinan of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), which represents many of the detained protesters.
 
“People will not stop taking to the streets. Everything that the state is doing or not doing is forcing people to take to the streets because they don’t listen.”
 Next act
 
Thailand is a deeply divided country.
 
Many citizens are royalists, fiercely loyal to the monarchy and hurt by the protesters’ actions, who they blame for unjustly bringing the palace—Thailand’s apex institution—into the country’s messy politics.
 
Premier Prayuth Chan-O-Cha, an ex-army chief who seized power in a 2014 coup, warned in November he would bring “all laws” against anyone who attacked the monarchy.   
 
At least 42 key activists have been charged since for alleged crimes, from mocking the king’s fashion choices to questioning his preferred residency in Germany.
 
The protesters, a youth-focused reform movement galvanized through social media, emerged as a force early last year.
 
They have posed an unprecedented challenge to Thailand’s conservative royalist establishment with their articulate and non-violent opposition to the ruling class.  
 
They want the government of Prayuth Chan-O-Cha to resign, a new constitution to be written to reduce the military’s political power, and for the monarchy, led by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, to be contained firmly under the constitution.
 
Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932, but 13 coups by the palace-aligned army have given the monarchy an outsized role in politics.
 
The royal defamation law had for decades smothered debate about the monarchy, but the protesters have crashed through that taboo, publicly raising issues around the king’s power and financial and personal probity.  
 
None of the protesters’ demands have yet been met, seeding speculation their movement may be running out of momentum after months on the streets.
 
But late Saturday, the Rasadorn issued a rallying cry on Facebook: “Our movement is not dying down as many would have you believe.
 
“Prayuth and his clan haven’t gone anywhere, the constitution is still not written by the people, and the monarchy is still above the constitution. Get ready for a big show.”

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India Begins COVID-19 Inoculation Campaign

India began its COVID-19 vaccine campaign Saturday.   Frontline workers are slated to receive the first inoculations.  The campaign began after Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a nationally televised speech. “We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said. COVID-19 deaths worldwide exceeded 2 million Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University, a year after the coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China. “Behind this terrible number are names and faces, the smile that will now only be a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters Friday. Worldwide COVID-19 Deaths Top 2 MillionUN secretary-general says death toll worsened by lack of global coordination   Guterres also said the death toll “has been made worse by the absence of a global coordinated effort,” and added that, “science has succeeded, but solidarity has failed.”  The United States remains at the top of the COVID case list with the most cases and deaths. Johns Hopkins reports more than 23 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with a death toll rapidly approaching 400,000.  Some states, having vaccinated their front-line workers, have opened vaccinations to older people but have been overrun with requests. Medical facilities are on the verge of running out of vaccines. In many instances, the technology used to take the requests has crashed.   President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a plan Friday to speed up the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine rollout, including increased federal funding, setting up thousands of vaccination centers, and invoking the Defense Production Act to expand the production of vaccination supplies.Biden Will Seek to Increase Federal Support to Speed Up Vaccine Rollout President-elect says he will invoke Defense Production Act The wide-ranging plan is part of Biden’s effort to achieve his goal for 100 million Americans to be vaccinated within 100 days. “You have my word: We will manage the hell out of this operation,” he told reporters near his home in Wilmington, Delaware. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that a newly detected and highly contagious variant of the coronavirus may become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March.  The variant, first detected in Britain, threatens to exacerbate the coronavirus crisis in the U.S., where daily infection and hospitalization records are commonplace. Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 9 MB480p | 12 MB540p | 16 MB720p | 29 MB1080p | 59 MBOriginal | 75 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioCampaign Aims to Convince Americans COVID Vaccine SafeThe CDC said the variant apparently does not cause more severe illness but is more contagious than the current dominant strain. Later Friday, the Oregon Health Authority reported that an individual with “no known travel history” had tested positive for the British variant.   “As we learn more about this case and the individual who tested positive for this strain, OHA continues to promote effective public health measures, including wearing masks, maintaining six feet of physical distance, staying home, washing your hands, and avoiding gatherings and travel,” the agency said in a statement.  Also Friday, some U.S. governors accused the Trump administration of deceiving states about the amount of COVID-19 vaccine they can expect to receive. Government officials say states were misguided in their expectations of vaccine amounts. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told NBC News on Friday that the U.S. does not have a reserve stockpile of COVID vaccines as many had believed. However, he said he is confident that there will enough vaccine produced to provide a second dose for people.Biden Announces $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Relief PackageTransition team describes plan as ‘ambitious but achievable’The two COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the U.S. — made by Pfizer and Moderna – are designed to be given in two doses several weeks apart.Pfizer said in a statement Friday that has been holding onto supplies of second doses for each of its COVID-19 vaccinations shipped so far, and anticipates no problems supplying them to Americans.  As of Friday, the U.S. government said it had distributed over 31 million doses of the vaccine. The CDC said about 12.3 million doses had been administered.Earlier on Friday, Pfizer announced there would be a temporary impact on shipments of its vaccine to European countries in late January to early February caused by changes to its manufacturing processes in an effort boost output.The health ministers of six EU countries — Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – said the Pfizer situation is “unacceptable.””Not only does it impact the planned vaccination schedules, it also decreases the credibility of the vaccination process,” they said in a letter to the EU Commission about the vaccine delays.In Brazil, the country’s air force flew emergency oxygen supplies Friday to the jungle state of Amazonas, which is facing a growing surge in the virus. Health authorities in the state said oxygen supplies had run out at some hospitals because of the high numbers of patients. Brazil’s Health Ministry reported 1,151 deaths from COVID-19 Thursday, the fourth consecutive day with more than 1,000 fatalities. China reported its first COVID-19 death in eight months Thursday amid a surge in the country’s northeast as a World Health Organization team arrived in Wuhan to investigate the beginning of the pandemic. China’s death toll is 4,796, a relatively low number resulting from the country’s stringent containment and tracing measures.  China has imposed various lockdown measures on more than 20 million people in Beijing, Hebei and other areas to contain the spread of infections before the Lunar New Year holiday in February. The relatively low number of COVID-related deaths in China has raised questions about China’s tight control of information about the outbreak.  The WHO investigative team arrived Thursday after nearly a year of talks with the WHO and diplomatic disagreements between China and other countries that demanded that China allow a thorough independent investigation.   Two members of the 10-member team were stopped in Singapore after tests revealed antibodies to the virus in their blood, while the rest of the team immediately entered a 14-day quarantine period in Wuhan before launching their investigation.  The coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019 and quickly spread throughout the world.   Officials said Thursday that infections in the northeastern Heilongjiang province have surged to their highest levels in 10 months, nearly tripling during that period.   Elsewhere in Asia, Japanese authorities have expanded a state of emergency to stop a surge in coronavirus cases.   Coronavirus infections and related deaths have roughly doubled in Japan over the past month to more than 317,000 cases and more than 4,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.  The emergency was initially declared a week ago and was expanded to cover seven new regions. The restrictions are not binding, and many people have ignored requests to avoid nonessential travel, prompting the governor to voice concern about the lack of commitment to the guidelines.  Indonesia reported 12,818 new infections Friday, its largest daily tally.  

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‘Criminal State’ China Intensifying Human Rights Abuses, Say British MPs

The Chinese Communist party has intensified an assault on all human rights throughout China, and those interacting with the regime should do so in the knowledge they are interacting with ‘a criminal state’, says a new report from the human rights commission of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party.From the incarceration of millions of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang province, to the brutal crackdown on protests and democracy in Hong Kong, there has been a massive deterioration in the human rights situation in China the past five years, according to the author of the report, Benedict Rogers, co-founder of the commission.Relatives of Missing Uighurs Learn Their Fate Years Later VOA recently talked to five of those diaspora Uighurs whose family members vanished years ago in internment camps in the Xinjiang region “The regime has developed in recent years new tools of repression, in particular, endemic slave labor, the development of surveillance technologies to create essentially an Orwellian surveillance state, the use of televised forced confessions, the implementation of new laws that allow within the so-called legal system for arbitrary detentions and disappearances, and the continued widespread use of torture and forced organ harvesting,” Rogers told a virtual press conference Wednesday.The report, titled ‘The Darkness Deepens: The Crackdown on Human Rights in China 2016-2020’, has been endorsed by several Conservative lawmakers, including the chair of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee Tom Tugendhat, two former foreign secretaries and the last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten.It calls for the Britain-China relationship to be “reviewed, recalibrated and reset.”Leaked Data Shows China’s Uighurs Detained Due to Religion A newly revealed database exposes in extraordinary detail the main reasons for the detentions of Emer, his three sons, and hundreds of others in Karakax County: their religion and their family tiesThe British Conservative Party report also accuses Beijing of increasing repression in Tibet, and grave violations of the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1997 upon the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese control through the imposition of a National Security Law in 2020.The report describes endemic, systematic, widespread torture; the use of forced televised confessions; forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience; slave labor on a huge scale, which helps to supply 83 global brands; the creation of a surveillance state; and increasing influence at the United Nations and other multilateral institutions aimed at silencing criticism.Chinese DenialsBeijing has denied accusations of gross human rights abuses and has repeatedly called for Britain and other Western countries to avoid interfering in its internal affairs.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 12 MB480p | 17 MB540p | 22 MB720p | 45 MB1080p | 90 MBOriginal | 685 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioAt a news conference January 11 in Beijing, officials denied the country is conducting forced sterilizations or has imprisoned millions of Uighurs. “In the process of carrying out the family planning programme in Xinjiang according to the law, it is forbidden to carry out illegal activities such as late term induced labor, forced birth control and forced pregnancy examination,” said Xu Guixiang, the deputy director-general of the Communist Party Publicity Department of Xinjiang.  “Whether or not people of all ethnic groups take contraceptive measures and what kind of contraceptive measures they take are all decided by individuals at their own will, and no organization or individual can interfere. There is no problem of compulsory sterilisation.”Elijan Anayat, a spokesperson of the regional Xinjiang government, denied Uighurs were being held in re-education camps. “All the students who participated in learning of the national common language, legal knowledge, vocational skills and de-radicalisation education have graduated. With the help of the government, they have achieved stable employment, improved the quality of life and lived a normal life. At present, there is no education and training centre in Xinjiang,” Anayat said.*/

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Embed” />CopyListenChinese Persecution of Uighurs‘Knock on the door brings fright’Among those contributing to the British report was Rahima Mahmut, a Uighur from Xinjiang province. After witnessing the massacre of dozens of protesters in 1997 in her home city of Ghulja, known as Yining in Mandarin, she fled to Britain. Mahmut told VOA she last spoke to her family in 2017, when her brother finally answered the phone after several attempts.“When I asked him why no one is answering the phone, he said, ‘They did the right thing.’ And then he said, ‘We leave you in God’s hands. And please leave us in God’s hands, too.’”Mahmut says people in Xinjiang are living under constant terror.“A knock on the door brings fright to anyone. Because you just think that, ‘have they come to me? Are they here to take me away?’ I don’t know how to describe my feelings, you know, each time when I read these articles, the details of what is happening to the people: mass rape, sterilization, tearing apart families.”It’s been just five years since Chinese President Xi Jinping was given a full state visit to Britain, including a banquet at Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Elizabeth. Then British Prime Minister David Cameron hailed a ‘golden era’ of relations with Beijing.However, the relationship has soured rapidly in recent years following concerns over China’s military expansion in the South China Sea, its crackdown on political freedoms in Hong Kong, concerns over unfair trade practices, Britain’s ban on the use of Huawei equipment in the rollout of 5G technology, and the deteriorating human rights situation within China.Britain has proposed the formation of a ‘D10’ grouping of leading democracies to counter authoritarian regimes such as China, a suggestion welcomed by fomrer Hong Kong legislator Nathan Law, who was jailed for leading pro-democracy protests and now lives in exile in London.“The world should prioritise human rights over trade and we should act before it is too late. Democracies have to act in an orchestrated and coordinated way in order to preserve our values,” Law told the press conference on the launch of the report.At UN: 39 Countries Condemn China’s Abuses of Uighurs  At meeting of UN committee on human rights, Western nations call on Beijing to respect human rights, particularly those of religious, ethnic minorities Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab this week announced new restrictions on trade with companies based in Xinjiang province.“Our aim, put simply, is that no company that profits from forced labour in Xinjiang can do business in the UK and no UK business is involved in their supply chains,” Raab told lawmakers Tuesday.“We must take action to make sure that UK businesses are not part of the supply chains that lead to the gates of the internment camps in Xinjiang, and to make sure that the products of the human rights violations that take place in those camps don’t end up on the shelves of supermarkets that we shop in here at home week in, week out.”The British move follows the United States’ recent ban on cotton and tomato imports from Xinjiang over concerns of slave labor. Report: Coerced Uighur Labor Could be China’s New StrategyAustralian group’s report contends as many as 80,000 Uighurs have been ‘forcefully’ sent from their homeland region of Xinjiang to work in factories in other parts of ChinaUighur exile Rahima Mahmut wants the West to go further and declare the persecution of the Uighurs as genocide. “[Britain says] that genocide has to be decided in court, not by politicians. But then we know very clearly, we cannot pursue the U.N. route because China has a veto power,” Mahmut told VOA.

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Thai Royalists Say ‘Faith’ in Monarchy Winning as Protests Quiet

As unprecedented verbal attacks rain down on the Thai monarchy, Warisanun Sribawontanakit, a supporter of that monarchy, says protecting the palace from its critics is a battle of “faith” that has set her on a crusade to patrol the internet for instances of royal defamation by pro-democracy protesters.   Thailand is a kingdom divided. A mainly young, social media-driven pro-democracy movement is mounting an unprecedented challenge to the wealth and influence of Thailand’s once-untouchable monarchy, calling for King Maha Vajiralonkorn’s power to be constrained clearly within the constitution.That call has shocked and outraged royalists, who are older, conservative and now determined to use a lull in the rowdy street rallies to use the draconian lèse-majesté law — which carries penalties of up to 15 years in jail per charge — to arrest those leading the criticism of the monarchy.So far 40 protesters, the youngest aged 16, have been charged under the law, many following complaints generated from protests, comments and videos on Thai social media.  Pro-democracy movement protest leaders from left, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Shinawat Chankrajang address supporters after answering charges at a police station in Northaburi, Thailand, Dec. 8, 2020.Royalists say the king has reconnected with his kingdom and that has led the protesters into a dead end of ugly social media criticism by a small minority of misguided youth.“Eighty to 90% of Thais are still loyal to the monarchy, they may have gone through a small hiccup. Now they’re back stronger,” Somchai Sawangkarn, one of Thailand’s 250 army-appointed senators told VOA.  “People need to give him [the king] a break, his father reigned for over 70 years, so they should give him time to prove himself which I think he is doing right now and doing really well too,” Somchai said.Like many in the establishment, he believes the protesters have overplayed their hand and should have focused on the perceived shortcomings of the government of Prayuth, a former army chief who took power in a 2014 coup, and amending the constitution, two of their three core demands.  “As for the reform of the monarchy, they can fight to the death and will still never win,” he added.Analysts say the protest movement may now be running out of road as the royalist reflexes stir across the country.“Thais may have thought about the unthinkable [criticism of the monarchy] before, but never dared to speak out,” Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, told VOA. “But the protesters have reached the limit, they have exposed everything there is to know about the monarchy, but that hasn’t shaken the power of faith among the royalists,” he said.Thai royalists say Thailand’s limited democracy – army-influenced, with a king involved in political patronage from backstage – works for the kingdom’s unique conditions.The protest movement says the system favors only the palace, billionaires, courtiers and the legion of generals who steward one of Asia’s most unequal societies. They describe royalists as “dinosaurs” holding back the country from reforms that will help the majority with better education and better work and break a culture which values hierarchy over critical thinking. Warisanun, preparing to take a new set of complaints to the police, called the “dinosaur” tag meaningless.“Why would I care? If I did, then I’ll be no different from these kids who are clueless and immature,” she said, adding that the country is in “a war of faith and belief.” “The monarchy is the core pillar of our country. We’ve survived every crisis because of the monarchy,“ she said.

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