West Bengal protests: Politicians hounded to return bribe money

Supporters of Indian social activist Anna Hazare, including members of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), pose with fake rupee notes signifying corruption during a rally in Hyderabad on August 17, 2011.Image copyright AFP
Image caption Residents have been raiding politician’s homes asking for their bribe money back

People in India’s West Bengal state are up in arms against politicians for an unusual reason – they are demanding their representatives repay bribes.

The state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, has told ministers to return bribe money they were paid by citizens seeking access to government schemes.

The home of a local leader of her party was “raided” by residents on Monday who wanted their money back, police said.

Now similar incidents are being reported across the state.

“The money they have taken… they will have to return it to the victims. We will teach these leaders a lesson,” a protester told the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).

Bribery is fairly common in Indian politics, but this scenario is unexpected, says BBC Bengali’s Amitabha Bhattasali.

Mamata BanerjeeImage copyright GETTY IMAGES

Reports of protests organised across the state are coming in every day, our correspondent adds.

Ms Banerjee, a hugely popular and fiery leader, first came to power in 2011.

But there is some indication that her popularity has been waning in recent months, which correspondents say has left her rattled.

It could be that this latest statement is an attempt to regain some of the ground she lost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the recently concluded general election.

Her party won only 22 of West Bengal’s 42 seats – a big drop from the 32 she won in 2014 – in an election marred by violence which saw a number of political activists in the state killed.

Source: The BBC


Police arrest newspaper publisher in midnight raid in Indian Kashmir

SRINAGAR (Reuters) – Police arrested the publisher of one of the most widely read newspapers in Indian-controlled Kashmir in a midnight raid over a decades-old case, the police and his brother said on Tuesday, highlighting the difficulties facing media in the region.

Tension has run high in the Himalayan region since more than 40 Indian police were killed in a February suicide car bomb attack by a militant group based in Pakistan.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is at the heart of more than seven decades of hostility between nuclear archrivals India and Pakistan. Each claims it in full but rules only a part.

Ghulam Jeelani Qadri, 62, a journalist and the publisher of the Urdu-language newspaper Daily Afaaq, was arrested at his home in the region’s main city of Srinagar, half an hour before midnight on Monday.

“It is harassment,” his brother, Mohammad Morifat Qadri, told Reuters. “Why is a 1993 arrest warrant executed today? And why against him only?”

Qadri was released on bail after a court appearance on Tuesday.

The case dates from 1990, when Qadri was one of nine journalists to publish a statement by a militant group fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir. An arrest warrant for Qadri was issued in 1993, but it was never served.

Qadri had visited the police station involved in the arrest multiple times since the warrant was issued, most recently in 2017 to apply for a passport, his brother added.

Asked why Qadri was arrested at night, Srinagar police chief Haseeb Mughal told Reuters, “Police were busy during the day.”

The Kashmir Union of Working Journalists condemned the arrest, saying it seemed to be aimed at muzzling the press.

“Qadri was attending the office on a daily basis and there was absolutely no need for carrying out a midnight raid at his residence,” it said in a statement.

Journalists in Kashmir find themselves caught in the crossfire between the Indian government and militant groups battling for independence.
Both sides are stepping up efforts to control the flow of information, with the situation at its worst in decades, dozens of journalists have told Reuters.
India is one of the world’s worst places to be a journalist, ranked 138th among 180 countries on the press freedom index of international monitor Reporters Without Borders, with conditions in Kashmir cited as a key reason.
Source: Reuters

China Focus: China’s plateau province sets new record of surviving solely on clean energy

XINING, June 24 (Xinhua) — Northwest China’s Qinghai Province completed a 15-day all clean energy power supply trial, setting a new record following a successful nine-day trial last year, the State Grid Qinghai Electric Power Company announced on Monday.

Nearly 6 million people in the province, which borders Tibet Autonomous Region, only used electricity generated from wind, solar and hydro power stations, from June 6 to 23.

During the 15 days, Qinghai achieved zero carbon emission in power use.

This is the third province-wide clean energy trial in Qinghai. It relied solely on renewable energy for nine and seven consecutive days in 2018 and 2017.

Qinghai is the source of China’s three major rivers, the Yellow, Yangtze and Lancang, and has strong hydro and solar-power facilities.

During the trial, the whole province consumed a total 2.84 billion kwh, with the maximum load hitting 8.47 million kw, said Fang Baoming from the company.

The province’s cumulative capacity during the period reached nearly 4 billion kwh, with new energy taking a large share of 34.7 percent.

Power generated by thermal power plants only accounted for 1.8 percent of the gross generation in Qinghai during the period, and was all transmitted out of the province on demand of the market.

“The 15-day all clean energy power supply reduced coal burning of up to 1.29 million tonnes, and carbon dioxide emission of 2.32 million tonnes,” Fang said.

Qi Taiyuan, general manager of the company, said Qinghai’s electric grid has been expanded this year, with an installed capacity of 2.4 million kilowatts, up 50 percent from last year’s trial.

Qinghai’s installed capacity of new energy has reached 13.9 million kw, accounting for 46.7 percent, surpassing hydropower as the province’s largest power source.

According to the provincial 13th five-year plan, Qinghai will expand its solar and wind capacity to 35 million kilowatts by 2020 and supply 110 billion kilowatt hours of clean electricity every year to central and eastern parts of China, preventing the burning of 50 million tonnes of coal.

China’s enthusiasm for clean energy is pushing the world to transition toward a low-carbon future, with plans to invest 2.5 trillion yuan (370 billion U.S. dollars) in renewable energy by 2020, creating more than 13 million jobs, according to the National Energy Administration.

Source: Xinhua


Commemorative envelope issued to mark 55th anniversary of China-French diplomatic ties

BEIJING, June 24 (Xinhua) — A commemorative envelope was issued Monday by the China National Philatelic Corp. to mark the 55th anniversary of China-French diplomatic ties.

The envelope uses a painting, featuring two doves flying over the Great Wall, created jointly by prominent Chinese painter Han Meilin and France-based artist JonOne, said a press release from the company.

An ink painting of a panda by Han and a graffiti artwork inspired by the French national flag by JonOne are printed as the stamps on the envelope.

The envelope was part of a project launched by the China Foundation for Peace and Development (CFPD), in which leading foreign artists are invited to design commemorative envelopes together with Chinese artists to mark the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

The project aims to showcase different cultures across the world and improve understanding between China and other countries, said Xu Jianguo, secretary-general of the CFPD.

\Source: Xinhua


China launches new BeiDou satellite

BEIJING, June 25 (Xinhua) — China sent a new satellite of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) into space from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province at 2:09 a.m. Tuesday.

Launched on a Long March-3B carrier rocket, the satellite was sent to the inclined geosynchronous earth orbit. It is the 46th satellite of the BDS satellite family and the 21st satellite of the BDS-3 system.

The design of the BDS constellation is unique, including medium earth orbit (MEO), geostationary earth orbit (GEO) and inclined geosynchronous earth orbit (IGEO) satellites.

So far, there are already 18 MEO BDS-3 satellites, one GEO BDS-3 satellite, and two IGEO BDS-3 satellites sent into space.

After in-orbit tests, the new satellite will work with those BDS satellites already in orbits to improve the coverage and positioning accuracy of the system.

The new satellite and the carrier rocket were developed by the China Academy of Space Technology and the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

The launch was the 307th mission for the Long March series of carrier rockets.

Source: Xinhua


China, African countries vow to enhance cooperation


Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) meets with South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor in Beijing, capital of China, June 24, 2019. Naledi Pandor was here to attend the Coordinators’ Meeting on the Implementation of the Follow-up Actions of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on the China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan)

BEIJING, June 24 (Xinhua) — Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held respective meetings with foreign ministers from nine African countries on Monday, and they pledged efforts to strengthen cooperation and uphold multilateralism.

The foreign ministers are Naledi Pandor from South Africa, Palamagamba Kabudi from Tanzania, Ezechiel Nibigira from Burundi, Aurelien Agbenonci from Benin, Nhial Deng Nhial from South Sudan, Mamadou Tangara from Gambia, Joseph Malanji from Zambia, Luis Filipe Tavares from Cape Verde, and Gbehzohngar Findley from Liberia.

The African foreign ministers are in Beijing to attend the Coordinators’ Meeting on the Implementation of the Follow-up Actions of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on the China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), with the aim of better implementing the outcomes of Beijing Summit in 2018.

While holding talks with Pandor, Wang hailed the solid mutual trust and deep-rooted traditional friendship between China and South Africa.

Wang said China and South Africa, both as major representatives of emerging markets and developing countries, should jointly safeguard the missions and principles of the United Nations Charter, champion multilateralism, uphold basic norms governing international relations, and oppose any form of unilateralism and bullying, to promote world peace, development and prosperity.

Pandor said South Africa and the whole African continent, as China’s partners for jointly resisting unilateralism and bullying practice, would stand together with China in safeguarding multilateralism and an open, inclusive global trade system.

In the meeting with Kabudi, Wang expressed China’s readiness to work with Tanzania to keep high-level exchanges, and avail the opportunity of jointly building the Belt and Road and the Coordinators’ Meeting to ensure better outcomes in bilateral cooperation.

Calling the Beijing Summit of the FOCAC a milestone, Kabudi said Tanzania is willing to facilitate cooperation in infrastructure construction, industrial capacity, and in cultural, educational sectors and other areas.

In respective meetings with Nibigira, Agbenonci, Nhial and Tangara, Wang said the current international situation is complex but China’s determination to strengthen its solidarity and friendship with African countries remains unchanged.

Nibigira said Burundi agreed with the Belt and Road Initiative and would continue to support China on issues concerning China’s core interests and major concerns.

Agbenonci said multilateralism was now the only correct choice. Only through multilateralism can the voice of small and medium-sized countries, especially African nations, be heard, he said.

Nhial said South Sudan thanked China for its help in various fields, especially its support and contributions to the peace process in South Sudan.

Tangara said since the resumption of diplomatic relations between China and Gambia, bilateral cooperation in various fields had developed fast, and Gambia can be trusted as a sincere partner of China.

When holding separate meetings with Malanji, Tavares and Findley, Wang said China would continue to uphold justice and pursue the shared principles of sincerity, results, affinity and good faith.

China’s cooperation with Africa is sincere and selfless, and has no geopolitical purposes, said Wang, adding that China had always followed the principle of non-interference, provided aid as Africa needed, carried out South-South cooperation, and helped achieve common development.

He said China-Africa cooperation was conducive to Africa’s infrastructure construction, economic and social benefits, and self-development.

“Africa offers a grand stage of cooperation between different countries, not an arena of major powers’ game,” said Wang, adding that “African friends will get a right conclusion on who truly attaches importance to, respect, and support Africa.”

Malanji said claims that Zambia-China cooperation had led to Zambia’s debt problem were inconsistent with the facts and China’s loans were used on the infrastructure that Zambia needs most, to promote Zambia’s economic development and bring social welfare.

Tavares said Cape Verde cherished relations with China and upheld the one-China principle. He said Cape Verde stood ready to fully implement consensus reached by leaders of the two countries, enhance strategic dialogue, and deepen cooperation, particularly marine economy cooperation, to push bilateral relations into a new era.

Findley said China is Liberia’s true friend which has helped fight Ebola alongside Liberia and played an important role in post-epidemic reconstruction. He said Liberia is ready to enhance mutually beneficial cooperation with China.

Also on Monday, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, met with all delegation heads here to attend the coordinators’ meeting.

The meeting will formally open Tuesday morning.

Source: Xinhua


Jharkhand: Arrests over lynching of India Muslim man

Tabrez AnsariImage copyright BBC HINDI
Image caption A video showing Ansari pleading for his life has been widely circulated on social media

Indian police have arrested five people after a Muslim man was beaten to death by a mob.

Tabrez Ansari, 24, died days after being attacked by people who accused him of stealing a motorcycle in the eastern state of Jharkhand.

A video showing Ansari pleading for his life, and being forced to say chants praising Hindu gods has been widely circulated on social media.

His family alleges that police denied him treatment despite his injuries.

His wife Shahista Parveen told the BBC that Ansari had been tied to an electricity pole overnight and only handed to police the next day who then arrested him for theft.

He was transferred to a hospital four days later. She says he was beaten only after refusing to repeat the chants praising the Hindu gods.

State police have denied wrongdoing.

There have been several incidents of lynching reported in the state in recent years.

Source: The BBC


Kashmir separatists ready for talks, Indian government says

SRINAGAR (Reuters) – The leader of disputed Kashmir’s largest separatist group said it was ready for talks with India’s government on Monday, after the state governor said he was optimistic about dialogue.

The Muslim-majority Kashmir valley is at the heart of more than seven decades of hostility between nuclear arch-rivals India and Pakistan. Both claim it in full but rule it in part.

Rhetoric from both sides, as well as Kashmiri separatists, some of whom want to join Pakistan, has been highly charged since a February suicide car bomb attack by a Pakistan-based militant group killed more than 40 Indian police in the part of the region it controls.

Any talks to resolve the conflict would be hugely difficult.

But on Saturday, Satya Pal Malik, the governor of Jammu and Kashmir state where Indian-controlled Kashmir lies, told a news conference he had seen a softening in approach from separatist leaders, including the influential Hurriyat Conference.

“I feel happy that the temperature in the valley has gone down as compared to what it was during my arrival in Kashmir,” he told a news conference.

Malik has governed the state since August 2018, shortly after India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) withdrew from a coalition with a local party, imposing direct rule from New Delhi.

“Today Hurriyat, who once closed their doors… are ready for the talks with the Government of India,” Malik added.

In response, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chairman of Hurriyat, a political movement that wants independence from India, told Reuters on Monday he would welcome talks.

“Hurriyat Conference has always been in favour of talks as the means of resolution,” he said.

“Kashmiris, being the most affected party for the past 72 years, naturally want its resolution.”

Kashmir, whose fate was left unresolved during partition in 1947, is a key focus for the BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that won a second term in power with an increased majority in May.

The BJP also wants to abolish special privileges for Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state, to the fury of many Kashmiris.

Source: Reuters


China Focus: African ministers in Beijing to discuss closer cooperation with China


Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) meets with Cameroon’s Foreign Minister Lejeune Mbella Mbella in Beijing, capital of China, June 23, 2019. Lejeune Mbella Mbella was here to attend the coordinators’ meeting on the implementation of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit outcomes. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)

BEIJING, June 23 (Xinhua) — Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks or meetings here Sunday with foreign ministers from eight African countries, who are here to attend the upcoming coordinators’ meeting on the implementation of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit outcomes.

The foreign ministers are Sierra Leone’s foreign minister Nabeela Tunis, Gabon’s foreign minister Alain Claude Bilie, Cameroon’s foreign minister Lejeune Mbella Mbella, San Tome and Principe’s foreign minister Elsa Teixeira Pinto, Somali foreign minister Ahmed Isse Awad, Madagascar’s foreign minister Andriantsit Ohaina Franck Michel Niaina, Congo’s foreign minister Jean Claude Gakosso and Senegal’s foreign minister Amadou Ba.

In talks with Tunis, hailing the two countries as “good friends and good brothers”, Wang called on the two sides to continue to firmly support each other on issues concerning each others’ core interests and major concerns, strengthen alignment of the Belt and Road Initiative and the eight major initiatives proposed at the FOCAC Beijing Summit with Sierra Leone’s medium-term national development plan, and beef up cooperation on infrastructure, agriculture and fishery, health care, communication, and capacity building.

Sierra Leone supports Africa and China to deepen partnership and is ready to strengthen communication and coordination with China on implementing the sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and reform of the global governance system, Tunis said.

When meeting with Bilie, Wang said 53 countries in Africa have sent high-level delegations to the coordinators’ meeting, including 25 foreign ministers. The move fully reflected the importance that the African side attaches to the China-Africa ties and the unbreakable solidarity and friendship between the two sides.

Wang said the two sides should continue the support to each other on issues involving each other’s core interests, seize opportunities of the 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and Gabon this year to create new progress in ties, and expand cooperation on Belt and Road Initiative and multilateral issues.

Bilie said Gabon is willing to strengthen exchanges of experience with China in governance and seek synergy between its own development strategy with the Belt and Road Initiative.

In meeting with Mbella, Wang said Cameroon is China’s traditional friend and important partner in Africa. Both sides should continue to understand and support each other on issues involving each others core interests and major concerns. China’s financial support for African countries is based on equality and voluntarism and aims to help Africa improve its capacity for independent and sustainable development.

There is no such thing as a “debt trap” between China and Cameroon or between China and Africa, said Wang, adding that China will not seek any political purpose.

Mbella said that Cameroon spoke highly of China’s policy toward Africa and thanked China for its understanding and sincere assistance to Cameroon in alleviating the debt problems.

When meeting with Pinto, Wang said facts have proved that the resumption of diplomatic relations is in full compliance with the interests of the two countries and peoples. The Chinese side appreciates Sao Tome and Principe’s active support for the Belt and Road Initiative and is willing to continue to provide assistance within its capacity to the African country.

Pinto said Sao Tome and Principe will firmly adhere to the one-China principle, strengthen political and diplomatic dialogue with China, actively promote cooperation in infrastructure and enhance non-governmental exchanges.

In the meeting with Awad, Wang said China supports Somalia to restore stability and embark on the path of recovery. China is ready to explore new ways to develop mutually beneficial cooperation with Somalia under the new situation, and conduct cooperation in the areas most needed by Somalia such as agriculture, fisheries and processing industries.

Awad said Somalia expects to strengthen exchanges with China, and promote cooperation in areas such as infrastructure construction.

In the meeting Niaina, Wang expressed the will to promote the alignment with Madagascar’s development strategy, and said China is ready to enhance the cooperation on multilateral issues.

When meeting with Gakosso, Wang hailed bilateral relationship and also reiterated China’s stance to safeguard multilateralism.

In the talks with Amadou Ba, Wang said China would like to work with other international partners in conducting tripartite cooperation in Senegal, on the basis of respecting Senegal’s willingness.

The coordinators’ meeting will be held in Beijing from June 24 to 25. There will be over 80 African ministerial-level officials at the meeting. On the sidelines of the meeting, more than 40 bilateral and multilateral activities will be held to implement the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit, synergize efforts, consolidate consensus and deliver more benefits to the peoples.

Source: Xinhua


India rejects U.S. report on attacks on minority Muslims

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India on Sunday rejected a U.S. State Department’s annual report on religious freedom that raised questions about the government’s inability to curb violent attacks on the country’s minority Muslims.

Preparing for a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday, India’s foreign ministry issued a stiff rejoinder to the U.S. criticism.

“India is proud of its secular credentials, its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion,” Raveesh Kumar, the ministry’s spokesman, said in a statement.

The State Department report, released on Friday, said some senior officials from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last year had made “inflammatory speeches” against religious minorities.

Kumar said India’s constitution guarantees fundamental rights and religious freedom of all citizens, including its minority communities. Muslims make up 14 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people.

“We see no locus standi for a foreign entity to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights,” Kumar said.

The U.S. State Department report examined attacks on minorities during 2018.

“Mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef,” the report said.

It also noted reports by non-governmental organisations that the government sometimes failed to act on mob attacks on religious minorities, marginalized communities, and critics of the government.

While in New Delhi, Pompeo is expected to hold talks aimed at laying the ground for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Modi during a Group of 20 summit in Japan later next week.

Source: Reuters

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