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Germany Announces Response to China’s Hong Kong Security Law

Wolfgang Holzem

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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, visited his British counterpart Dominic Raab in London on Wednesday. If necessary, Germany would implement measures without the support of other EU countries, said the Foreign Minister.

The United States recently demanded the immediate closure of the Chinese consulate general in Houston.

Germany wants to react to the controversial Chinese security law for Hong Kong, if necessary, independently of other EU countries. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced this during a visit to Great Britain. As planned measures, he named the simplification of the entry for Hong Kong Chinese, an export freeze for certain armaments, scholarship programs for scientists, artists or journalists threatened by the law as well as an end of the extradition agreement with Hong Kong.

Berlin and Paris had already put these proposals up for discussion among the EU foreign ministers. After meeting his British colleague Dominic Raab at his country home in Chevening near London, Maas made it clear.

“We want to get this on the way with as many European countries as possible. But Germany will definitely implement the suggestions we made with France,” said the foreign minister.

“If the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ is eroded by the security law, this will also have an impact on our relationship with Hong Kong and China.”

China is heavily criticized internationally for its Hong Kong policy. The new security law was adopted by Beijing in late June. It is directed in Hong Kong against activities that China regards as subversive, separatist, or terrorist.

US demands closing of Chinese consulate general in Houston

The United States had immediately asked China to close the Chinese consulate general in the Texas city of Houston on Tuesday. “We have ordered the closure of the Consulate General of the PRC in Houston to protect American intellectual property and private information,” said Morgan Ortagus, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, in a statement. In addition to the tough Chinese approach in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the US is also criticizing China’s handling of the Corona virus outbreak and Beijing’s trade policy.

Former founder of Asiarooms.com and now reporting mainly on the Asia Pacific region and the global Coronavirus crises in countries such as Thailand, Germany & Switzerland. Born near Cologne but lived in Berlin during my early teenage years. A longterm resident of Bangkok, Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhon and Phuket. A great fan of Bali, Rhodes & Corfu.

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Twitter Reports It Locked Account of China’s US Embassy Over Xinjiang Tweet

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SHANGHAI – Twitter has locked the account of China’s U.S. embassy for a tweet that defended China’s policies in the Xinjiang region, which the U.S. social media platform said violated the firm’s policy against “dehumanization.”

The Chinese Embassy account, @ChineseEmbinUS, posted a tweet this month that said that Uighur women were no longer “baby making machines,” citing a study reported by state-backed newspaper China Daily.

The tweet was removed by Twitter and replaced by a label stating that it was no longer available. Although Twitter hides tweets that violate its policies, it requires account owners to manually delete such posts. The Chinese Embassy’s account has not posted any new tweets since January 9.

Twitter’s suspension of the embassy’s account came a day after the Trump administration, in its final hours, accused China of committing genocide in Xinjiang, a finding endorsed by the incoming Biden administration.

The Biden administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Twitter’s move.

“We’ve taken action on the Tweet you referenced for violating our policy against dehumanization, where it states: We prohibit the dehumanization of a group of people based on their religion, caste, age, disability, serious disease, national origin, race, or ethnicity,” a Twitter spokesperson said on Thursday.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment. Twitter is blocked in China but is an increasingly favored platform by China’s diplomats and state media.

China has repeatedly rejected accusations of abuse in its Xinjiang region, where a United Nations panel has said at least 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims had been detained in camps.

Last year, a report by German researcher Adrian Zenz published by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation think tank accused China of using forced sterilization, forced abortion and coercive family planning against minority Muslims. The Chinese foreign ministry said the allegations were groundless and false.

Twitter’s move also follows the removal of the account of former U.S. President Donald Trump, which had 88 million followers, citing the risk of violence after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol this month.

Twitter had locked Trump’s account, asking for deletion of some tweets, before restoring it and then removing it altogether after the former president violated the platform’s policies again.

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Thailand Charges Opposition Figure Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit with Defaming King

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BANGKOK – Billionaire Thai pro-democracy champion Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit on Wednesday evening defended his questioning of a vaccine company owned by the king after he was hit Wednesday with a wave of charges for royal defamation.

Earlier Wednesday, the government had filed multiple charges alleging that Thanathorn had breached the kingdom’s draconian royal defamation law by criticizing the country’s vaccine strategy in a Facebook Live video.

The charges came as Thailand’s establishment tries to extinguish rampant criticism of the monarchy and the lèse-majesté law shielding it.

The move is the latest in dozens of cases brought in recent weeks by the royalist establishment struggling to quash an anti-government movement that has roused unprecedented public criticism of the monarchy’s wealth and political influence with calls for the palace to be put under the constitution.

Thanathorn’s latest legal troubles came after a court Tuesday jailed Anchan Preelert, a former civil servant, for more than 43 years for sharing audio clips seen as defamatory to the monarchy. The sentence is the longest recorded under the lèse-majesté law, which is aimed at shielding the monarchy from criticism, and is widely seen as a warning to the mainly young protesters who massed on Thailand’s streets for much of last year to end their brazen attacks on the monarchy.

Thanathorn was banned from politics by Thai courts and his Future Foward party disbanded, less than a year after the party came from nowhere to garner 6 million votes — mainly among millennials — in a 2019 election.

Under Wednesday’s 10 charges, which carry up to 15 years per conviction of “defaming, threatening or insulting” key royals, including King Maha Vajiralongkorn, Thanathorn could face more than a century in jail.

In a rare move the charges were filed with police — the first step toward a formal charge — directly by the government after Thanathorn held a Facebook Live seminar on the potential for a conflict of interest in the award of a contract to develop a homegrown vaccine to Siam Bioscience, in which the immensely wealthy Vajiralongkorn is the only shareholder.

In his Facebook Live session Monday, Thanathorn asked whether a royalist government headed by ex-army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha could be counted on to hold the company accountable in the event of problems with “unfair distribution, side effects, or other unexpected outcomes,” given who its shareholder is.

The questioning of the monarchy in the potentially lucrative vaccine market brought a swift response from the government.

“Thanathorn distorted facts and caused misunderstanding among people,” Suporn Atthawong, a minister in the prime minister’s office, told reporters on Wednesday after filing Section 112 charges with police.

“He violated the monarchy, which upset Thai people who love and protect the monarchy,” he added.

A day earlier Prayuth, an ex-army chief who led a 2014 coup endorsed by the palace, had warned legal charges were coming.

“Everything he [Thanatorn] said was misinformation, no facts at all. I will have anyone who disseminates misinformation prosecuted,” he said.

Thanathorn hit back late Wednesday.

“The more you try to discredit me or harass me with charges, the more it make you look suspicious. Why does the state have to go these lengths to defend a private company?” he said in a Facebook post.

In his latest Facebook post, Wednesday night, he said, “I was just being curious about how the government is handling the vaccine, but I got charged for it.”

Warning for protesters seen

Experts say the courts are getting tough on sentences for 112 — as the law is more commonly known — as a warning to the youth protesters, to seed fear and stub out flashmobs attacking the 112 law as well as the palace it protects.

Authorities “are using lèse-majesté prosecutions as their last resort … in response to the youth-led democracy uprising that seeks to curb the king’s powers and keep him within the bounds of constitutional rule,” said Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

The legal noose is tightening around critics of the monarchy, by some estimates the world’s richest, as Thailand’s top institution reasserts its power after months of being put off balance by the protesters’ angry, satirical attacks — which include speeches, banners and online memes.

Their rallies, which at their peak drew tens of thousands, were drifting toward violent confrontation with royalists before they were suspended while Thailand battles a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus.

But protesters have turned to guerrilla tactics during the lull, hanging banners from exclusive shopping malls and daubing their discontent with the 112 law which is being pointed at them on walls.

Attapon Buapat, a key protest leader, told VOA that the latest show of legal force by the state will not “deter” the movement.

He also said it would not deter him personally, although he faces multiple Section 112 charges, adding, “We should not fear to fight for what we believe.”

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Brazil

The Amazonas Nurse of Manaus Brazil

Wolfgang Holzem

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President Jair Bolsonaro has been downplaying the threat of the virus for weeks and Indigenous peoples in the Amazonas state in Brazil are particularly at risk and you are now forced to help yourself.

The only 50 intensive care beds in the metropolis of Manaus, which has a population of 1.7 million, have been occupied for weeks. Mass graves were dug in the cemeteries and every day, around a hundred people are buried in the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas.

Brazil Coronavirus Report
8,850,135
Confirmed
33,881
Confirmed (24h)
217,133
Deaths
658
Deaths (24h)
2.5%
Deaths (%)
7,826,079
Recovered
20,425
Recovered (24h)
88.4%
Recovered (%)
806,923
Active
9.1%
Active (%)

The city’s health system has collapsed, the dead are stored in refrigerated containers or are being picked up by volunteer undertakers – urban services have long ceased to be in control of the situation and the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro ignores the plight of the Brazlians.

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