4 Chinese Tourists Killed in Utah Bus Accident Identified

All, News, Technology

Authorities on Saturday identified the four Chinese tourists killed in a bus crash in southern Utah, and the tour group is dispatching employees from China to help those injured.

Three women and one man perished in the crash on a highway running through the red-rock landscape of southern Utah on Friday. The victims have been identified as Ling Geng, 68, Xiuyun Chen, 67, Zhang Caiyu, 62, and Zhongliang Qiu, 65. They were all from Shanghai, China.

They were part of a tour group made up of 29 tourists and one leader. They come from Shanghai and the nearby provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Heilongjiang, according to a news report on the media website huanqiu.com. The tour leader came from Hebei Province, near Beijing, according to the Zhejiang Online news site.

Five passengers remained in critical condition Friday night, and the death toll could rise, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street said.

All 31 people on board were hurt. Twelve to 15 on board were considered to be in critical condition shortly after the crash, but several of them have since improved, Street said. Not everyone was wearing a seatbelt, as is common in tour buses, he said.

The Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism urged the travel agency, Shanghai Zhuyuan International Travel Agency, to spare no effort in rescuing the injured and properly handle the follow-up matters.

Phone calls to the travel agency rang unanswered Sunday morning. Lu Yong, the travel agency’s general manager, told a Chinese TV program that the agency’s American partners sent 10 staff members to hospitals to help the victims communicate with doctors and police.

The News Perspective program, part of the Shanghai Media Group, said in an article on its official social media account that seven relatives of the victims were expected to leave for the United States on Monday or Tuesday with travel agency staff and officials from the culture and tourism bureau.

The news program’s social media post included photos of parts of the itinerary, indicating the accident occurred on the seventh day of a 16-day trip and also included visits to Yellowstone National Park, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. They were to fly to the East Coast after the western U.S. stops.

The crash happened near a highway rest stop a few miles from southern Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, an otherworldly landscape of narrow red-rock spires.

Authorities believe the driver swerved on the way to the park on Friday morning. But when he yanked the steering wheel to put the bus back onto the road, the momentum sent the bus into a rollover crash, authorities said.

The driver, an American citizen, survived and was talking with investigators, Street said. He didn’t appear to be intoxicated, but authorities were still investigating his condition as well as any possible mechanical problems, he said.

There was some wind, but it was not strong enough to cause problems, Street said.

The crash left the top of a white bus smashed in and one side peeling away as the vehicle came to rest mostly off the side of the road against a sign for restrooms.

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team to investigate. The agency was scheduled to speak about the investigation Sunday afternoon.

The company listed on the bus was America Shengjia Inc. Utah business records indicate it is based in Monterey Park, California. A woman answering the phone there did not have immediate comment.

Intermountain Garfield Memorial Hospital said it received 17 patients, including three in critical condition and 11 in serious condition. Patients also were taken to Cedar City and St. George hospitals.

Millions of people visit Utah’s five national parks every year. Last year, about 87,000 people from China visited the state, making them the fastest-growing group of Utah tourists, according to state data.

More than half of visitors from China travel on tour buses, said Vicki Varela, managing director of Utah Office of Tourism.

The Chinese Embassy tweeted that it was saddened to hear about the crash and that it was sending staff to help the victims.

Bryce Canyon, about 300 miles (480 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City, draws more than 2 million visitors a year.

“You have a group from China who have worked hard to come to the states, got the visa and everything they needed, excited about it, and for a tragedy like this to happen it just makes it all the more tragic,” Street said.

Egypt Warns Media to Take Care in Coverage Amid Protests

All, News, Technology

Egypt’s media authority warned journalists Sunday that it was monitoring coverage to ensure they abide by “professional codes” amid a rare burst of protests against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. The warning came hours after the latest small protest was dispersed by police in clouds of tear gas.

Dozens of people including children marched Saturday evening in the port city of Suez, calling for el-Sissi to step down, three witnesses told The Associated Press. Police “pursued the people in the streets … there was lots of gas,” one resident said. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals.

The protest came after rare anti-government demonstrations in several Egyptian cities late Friday. Those too were quickly broken up by police. But they marked a startling eruption of street unrest, which has been almost completely silenced the past years by draconian measures imposed under el-Sissi.

The government effectively banned all public protests in 2013 shortly after el-Sissi led the military’s overthrow of the country’s first freely elected civilian president in modern history. Since then, anyone who dared take to the streets was quickly arrested and received years-long prison sentences.

In its statement issued Sunday, the State Information Service, which accredits foreign media representatives, said it has “carefully monitored” the coverage of the protest.

It called for reporters to “strictly abide by professional codes of conduct” and for media to provide a space for “viewpoints to be presented in an equal manner and that includes the viewpoint of the State or who represents it.” The SIS has issued similar statements in the past surrounding sensitive events.

It also warned that “social media outlets should not be considered as sources of news,” because of the numerous “fake accounts and fabrications.”

False information about protests has appeared on social media, including videos of protests from years past presented as if they were happening live.

But social media have also been vital for getting out authentic videos of protests, since they are the only venue not dominated by the government. Nearly all newspapers and television channels in Egypt are under the sway of the government or military and have given almost no coverage to the protests. In recent years, Egypt has imprisoned dozens of reporters and occasionally expelled some foreign journalists.

In the wake of Friday’s protests, security forces have reportedly arrested dozens of people in Cairo and other parts of the country, according to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, a non-governmental organization.

The new protests emerge from an online campaign, led by an Egyptian businessman living in self-imposed exile who has presented himself as a whistleblower against corruption. His calls for demonstrations come at a time when Egypt’s lower and middle classes have been badly squeezed by years of economic reforms and austerity measures.

The businessman, Mohammed Ali, has put out a series of viral videos claiming corruption by the military and government. His videos inspired others — often wearing masks to hide their identity — to post their own videos relating experiences with alleged corruption or mismanagement.

Ali has alleged his contracting business witnessed the largescale misuse of public funds in military-run projects building luxury hotels, presidential palaces and a tomb for el-Sissi’s mother, who died in 2014.

El-Sissi has dismissed the corruption allegations as “sheer lies.” However, he said he would continue building new presidential residences for the good of Egypt. “I am building a new country,” he said.

El-Sissi and government officials have argued that the military is the only institution that can efficiently lead mega-projects aimed at stoking the economy. The president has repeatedly warned that protests and demonstrations risk causing chaos that would disrupt efforts at repairing the country.

Also Sunday, Egyptian prosecutors ordered the brother of a prominent Egyptian activist to remain in custody for 15 days, a rights lawyer told AP.

Wael Ghonim is in self-exile in the U.S. and led a Facebook page that helped ignite the 2011 pro-democracy uprising. He has recently been criticizing el-Sissi on social media, and says his brother’s arrest from their parents’ home in Cairo was retaliation for that criticism.

FILE – Mahinour el-Masry, an Egyptian activist, takes notes during a trial session of activists facing charges on organizing unauthorized protests, at a courtroom in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 4, 2014..

Mahinour el-Masry, a rights lawyer and notable activist from the 2011 uprising, was arrested Sunday as well.

Egyptian authorities have imposed heavy security in the capital, Cairo, particularly around near Tahrir Square. That was the epicenter of the so-called Arab Spring uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

El-Sissi is a former army general who has overseen an unprecedented political crackdown, silencing critics and jailing thousands. Shortly after the military took power in 2013, a sit-in by Islamists was broken up by security forces in an operation that left hundreds dead.

Egypt remains among the world’s worst jailers of journalists, along with Turkey and China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a U.S. based non-profit.

Taliban Leaders Visit China to Discuss ‘Dead’ US Talks

All, News, Technology

A visiting Afghan Taliban delegation held talks with senior officials in China Sunday to discuss the Islamist insurgent group’s now defunct peace negotiations with the United States.

The insurgent visit comes two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump had abruptly called off his administration’s months-long peace talks, citing ongoing Taliban deadly attacks in Afghanistan.

The two adversaries were believed to be on the verge of signing an agreement to end the 18-year-old Afghan war before Trump declared the peace process as “dead.”

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the nine-member delegation has traveled to Beijing under the leadership of Mullah Baradar, the head of the group’s political office in Qatar, which hosted the U.S.-Taliban talks.

 

The visitors’ opened their tour with a meeting Sunday with Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan, Deng Xijun, the Taliban spokesman said.

“The Chinese special representative said the U.S.-Taliban deal is a good framework for the peaceful solution of the Afghan issue and they support it,” Shaheen noted.

He quoted Baradar as telling the Chinese host the Taliban had initiated the talks with the U.S. and a “comprehensive deal” was also concluded.

“Now, if the American president cannot uphold his words and promises, then the responsibility for further destruction and bloodshed in Afghanistan rests on his shoulders,” Baradar said.

There were was no immediate comments available from Chinese officials about their meetings with the Taliban delegation.

On Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman while addressing his regular news conference in Beijing had called for restarting the stalled U.S.-Taliban peace process.

“We stand ready to enhance coordination and cooperation with all parties concerned to contribute to the national reconciliation, peace and stability in Afghanistan at an early date,” said Geng Shuang.

Prior to their visit to China, the Taliban had sent its political representatives to Russia and Iran to discuss developments that had stemmed from President Trump’s cancellation of the talks with insurgents.  

Shaheen, who is part of the delegation visiting Beijing, said that Moscow and Tehran both have also supported the Taliban’s efforts for promoting peace and security in Afghanistan.

The insurgent group’s diplomatic efforts come as Afghanistan is set to hold its fourth presidential election later this week, amid allegations incumbent President Ashraf Ghani, who is seeking reelection, is using state resources to run his campaign. Ghani’s campaign team has rejected the charges.

The Taliban has threatened to launch violent attacks on election-related activities to disrupt the September 28 vote. An insurgent suicide bomber targeted an election rally Ghani was addressing last week in the northern Parwan province that killed around 30 people and injured many more.

 

 

Steak, Beer and Politics: 2020 Democrats Look to Impress Iowans

All, News, Technology

With marching bands, drum lines, hundreds of yard signs and at least one fire truck, Democratic presidential candidates made a colorful and often loud pitch to Iowa Democrats at the Steak Fry fundraiser in Des Moines on Saturday.

The event, a fundraiser for the Polk County Democratic Party and one of the biggest remaining opportunities for candidates to flex their organizing muscles in Iowa before the caucuses, comes as a number of candidates are facing an uncertain future in the race and shaking up their campaign strategies in an effort to break out of the pack.

Warren gains in poll

A new CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll Saturday shows Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren challenging Joe Biden’s dominance in the field. Warren stands at 22% to the former vice president’s 20% in a poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker waits to speak at the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry, Sept. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.

On Saturday morning, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker warned he may need to end his campaign if he’s unable to raise $1.7 million by the end of the third fundraising quarter. His announcement came soon after California Sen. Kamala Harris announced she’d be going all-in on Iowa in hopes of finishing in the top three. Both have been stagnant in national and Iowa surveys, with Harris polling in the middle of the pack and Booker struggling to move beyond low single digits.

In the new poll, Harris sits at 6% and Booker, along with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, has 3%.

At the Steak Fry, however, Harris turned out her fans in force, marching into the event with hundreds of supporters and a drum line. Booker had a smaller crowd gathered to see him into the event, and the portrait the candidate painted to reporters after speaking to the Steak Fry crowd was dire.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. speaks at the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry, in Des Moines, Iowa, Sept. 21, 2019.

“I don’t believe people should stay in this just to stay in it,” he said. “You either have a trajectory to win or not. And right now if we don’t raise $1.7 million we won’t be able to make the investments necessary. He added: “If we don’t have a pathway to win we should get out of this race.”

Part parade

The event Saturday is part parade, part organizing show of force — and quintessentially Iowa, home of the 2020 race’s leadoff caucuses in February.

It began as a fundraiser for Tom Harkin’s first congressional bid, where the 53 attendees could buy a steak and a foil-wrapped baked potato for $2.

Harkin has retired from the Senate and is out of politics, but the steak fry lives on, now more than four decades strong.

This year, more than 12,000 people were expected to join in addition to 19 presidential candidates. Attendees enjoyed the traditional steaks — 10,500 were grilled by volunteers — but they also had the option to order from a food truck or visit a craft beer tent.

There are even camping grounds, where supporters of former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke spent Friday night.

The county’s Democratic chairman, Sean Bagniewski, said the event has a “modern twist.”

“That’s the future of the party — it’s gonna be more women in positions of leadership, it’s gonna be more people of color, and it’s going to be more young people,” he said.

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden puts on a Beau Biden Foundation hat while speaking at the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry, in Des Moines, Iowa, Sept. 21, 2019.

Part show of force

What hasn’t changed is the event’s significance for the candidates. When Barack Obama marched into the 2007 Iowa steak fry flanked by 1,000 supporters, skeptical Iowans were put on notice that he could win the state’s caucus. Bagniewski said that, like 2007, Democrats are looking for someone who can show they have the organizational strength to win.

“Everyone wants to beat Donald Trump,” he said. “Everyone has a top five, but when you actually see that your candidate of choice has 1,000 people supporting them at the steak fry, it gives you more liberty to make that decision.”

A few hours before the candidates began their speeches, gray clouds swirled overhead at the Des Moines Waterworks.

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry, in Des Moines, Iowa, Sept. 21, 2019.

People wore campaign T-shirts and chanted the names of their preferred candidates as smoke hovered over the thousands of cooking steaks at the riverside park.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who was hoping to make a big splash Saturday as he steps up his Iowa presence, addressed hundreds of supporters sporting his campaign’s signature gold and blue T-shirts. In the new CNN/Des Moines Register poll, Buttigieg has 9%. O’Rourke, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang all have 2%

Against this festive backdrop, former Vice President Joe Biden commented on the whistleblower’s complaint in Washington that involved Trump’s phone conversation with Ukraine’s leader. Although the complaint is under wraps, Trump is known to want Ukraine to investigate business dealings there by Biden’s son, Hunter, during his vice presidency.

“The fact of the matter is that that fellow in the White House knows that if we get the nomination we’re gonna beat him like a drum,” Biden said. “So be prepared for every lousy thing that’s coming from him.”

IS Claims Blast That Killed 12 Near Iraq’s Karbala

All, News, Technology

The Islamic State group on Saturday claimed a bomb blast that killed 12 people near the Iraqi Shiite holy city of Karbala the previous day.

The blast aboard a bus at a checkpoint north of Karbala also wounded five people, according to the city’s health authorities.

Security forces said Saturday that they had arrested a man suspected of placing the explosives on the bus before it disembarked.

Iraq declared victory against IS in late 2017 after three years of a brutal fight against the extremist Sunni group, which had specifically targeted Shiite gatherings.

Jihadist sleeper cells have continued to carry out hit-and-run attacks against government positions across the country, particularly at checkpoints, but attacks targeting Shiite religious gatherings had been rare in recent years.

The deadliest incident this year was a stampede earlier this month in Karbala that left more than 30 pilgrims dead and dozens injured.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from Iraq, Iran and as far away as India had been gathering in the southern city this month to mark the Shiite holy day of Ashura.

Iraq is expecting millions more Shiite pilgrims to arrive at the end of October for the annual Arbaeen commemoration, which marks the end of the 40-day mourning period for the seventh-century killing of Imam Hussein by the forces of the Caliph Yazid.

Greek Police Arrest Suspect in 1985 TWA Hijacking, Killing of Navy Diver

All, News, Technology

Greek police said Saturday they have arrested a suspect in the 1985 hijacking of a flight from Athens that became a multiday ordeal and included the slaying of an American.

Police said a 65-year-old suspect in the hijacking was arrested Thursday on the island of Mykonos in response to a warrant from Germany.

Lt. Col. Theodoros Chronopoulos, a police spokesman, told The Associated Press that the hijacking case involved TWA Flight 847. The flight was commandeered by hijackers shortly after taking off from Athens on June 14, 1985. It originated in Cairo and had San Diego as a final destination, with stops scheduled in Athens, Rome, Boston and Los Angeles.

FILE – While holding carnations he carried off the plane, former hostage Victor Amburgy hugs an unidentified girl upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, July 2, 1985. Thirty former hostages from TWA flight 847 were greeted by President Reagan.

The hijackers shot and killed U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem, 23, after beating him unconscious. They released the other 146 passengers and crew members on the plane during an ordeal that included stops in Beirut and Algiers. The last hostage was freed after 17 days.

Suspect from Lebanon

The suspect was in custody Saturday on the Greek island of Syros but was set to be transferred to the Korydallos high security prison in Athens for extradition proceedings, a police spokeswoman told The Associated Press. She said the suspect was a Lebanese citizen. The spokeswoman spoke on condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.

Police refused to release the suspect’s name.

In Beirut, the Foreign Ministry said the man detained in Greece is a Lebanese journalist called Mohammed Saleh, and that a Lebanese embassy official planned to try to visit him Sunday.

However, several Greek media outlets identified the detainee as Mohammed Ali Hammadi, who was arrested in Frankfurt in 1987 and convicted in Germany for the plane hijacking and Stethem’s slaying. Hammadi, an alleged Hezbollah member, was sentenced to life in prison but was paroled in 2005 and returned to Lebanon.

Germany had resisted pressure to extradite him to the United States after Hezbollah abducted two German citizens in Beirut and threatened to kill them.

Hammadi, along with fellow hijacker Hasan Izz-Al-Din and accomplice Ali Atwa, remains on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists. The FBI offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to each man’s capture.

News agency dpa reported Saturday that Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office declined to comment on news reports about the case.
 

More Sanctions as Trump Shows Military Restraint on Iran

All, News, Technology

U.S. President Donald Trump announced new sanctions Friday on Iran’s central bank, calling them the most severe sanctions ever imposed on a country. But it appears that he wants to avoid military action against Tehran, in response to recent cruise missile and drone strikes against Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has this story.
 

Will US Republicans Feel the Heat from Climate Change?

All, News, Technology

Francis Rooney is a Republican congressman from a conservative Florida district who opposes federal funding for abortions and supports President Donald Trump’s plans for construction of a wall along the Mexican border.

But he also recently co-sponsored a carbon pricing bill and is one of a handful of lawmakers from his side of the aisle who have bucked orthodoxy and acknowledged human beings are responsible for global warming.

The modern Republican Party is one of the few political forces in the world whose leadership denies manmade climate change, but there are now small yet perceptible signs of changes within its ranks, driven by an increase in extreme weather events and shifting public opinion.

FILE – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., second from left, poses during a ceremonial swearing-in with Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., right, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 3, 2019.

“Seventy-one percent of the people in my district say that climate change is real. We’re scared of sea-level rise and we want the government to do something about it,” Rooney, citing recent polling, said at a talk this week organized by the World Resources Institute.

In late July, he along with Democrat Dan Lipinksi of Illinois introduced a new bill aimed at setting a price on carbon emissions, one of several similar proposed laws currently before the House of Representatives.

Extreme weather

For now, the legislation has no hope of passing: fellow Republicans are highly unlikely to take it up in the Senate, and even if it did clear the upper house, Trump would almost certainly exercise his veto. 

But the bills “indicate that Republicans and Democrats are beginning to agree that a price on carbon is the most efficient way to reduce America’s emissions,” the Citizens’ Climate Lobby wrote in a blog post on the subject.

FILE – A man hangs his clothes after washing them at the Mudd neighborhood, devastated after Hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in Marsh Harbor, Bahamas, Sept. 6, 2019.

“Republicans are getting very nervous about their lack of any serious policy on climate change, because climate change is beginning to have huge costs to average everyday Americans,” Paul Bledsoe, a former staffer for ex-president Bill Clinton and lecturer at American University, told AFP.  

There is a broad scientific consensus that warmer oceans are supercharging hurricanes, making Category 4 and 5 storms more common. 

New research suggests that warming may also be affecting global atmospheric currents, thus increasing the frequency of ultra slow-crawling hurricanes like last month’s Dorian and 2017’s Harvey.

Rooney and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, who also supports a carbon tax, are the two most outspoken Republican lawmakers on climate change, but in recent months others have begun talking about the need to reduce emissions.

These include Senator John Barasso from deep red Wyoming, who earlier this year introduced a bill to expand nuclear power, in part citing the need to address climate change, and a handful of others including Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and John Cornyn of Texas who have made similar calls to expand renewables.

But if the majority of the party of Lincoln remains ostensibly skeptical of the science surrounding climate change, it was not ever thus.

FILE – The coal-fired Plant Scherer in Juliette, Ga., June 3, 2017. The Trump administration is doing away with a decades-old air emissions policy opposed by fossil fuel companies, a move that environmental groups say will result in more pollution.

Rightward lurch

Karolyn Bowman, a senior fellow at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute told AFP that when Americans first became conscious of it in the late 1960s, environmentalism was a non-partisan cause — indeed, it was under President Richard Nixon that the Environmental Protection Agency was created. 

The practice of imposing taxes to reduce emissions was later used to great effect by former president George H.W. Bush, who in 1990 signed an amendment to the Clean Air Act that placed a price on sulfur dioxide to address the then-serious problem of acid rain, a wildly successful policy.

But Republicans then assumed a harder tack driven by lobbying from special interest groups funded by the likes of the Koch brothers, along with the emergence of an anti-taxation wing under the Republican Congress of the 1990s and the Tea Party movement of the late 2000s.

The question of what happens next is up for debate. 

A Trump victory in 2020 would put to rest any chance of a serious climate policy becoming law in the U.S., according to Bledsoe, even if younger Republicans are starting to care more about the issue.

But David Karol, the author of “Red, Green and Blue: The Partisan Divide on Environmental Issues,” said the emergence in Congress of the bipartisan “Climate Solutions Caucus” in 2016 was an interesting development, even if some environmentalists have deemed it a way for Republican legislators to “check a box and claim to care.”

“Even if that’s true, the fact that the GOP politicians felt a need to do this says something about where they think public opinion is,” Karol said.
 

Kiribati Cuts Diplomatic Ties to Taiwan in Favor of China

All, News, Technology

The United States said it is deeply disappointed in Kiribati’s decision to abandon its diplomatic ties with Taiwan, in favor of China.

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers voiced grave concerns. A Senate panel plans to move forward with a congressional proposal that could “impose consequences on nations downgrading ties with Taiwan.”

In a stern statement on Friday, a State Department spokesperson said “countries that establish closer ties to China primarily out of the hope or expectation that such a step will stimulate economic growth and infrastructure development often find themselves worse off in the long run.”

The spokesperson said the U.S. supports the status quo in cross-Strait relations, which includes Taiwan’s diplomatic ties and international space, as important to maintaining peace and stability in the region.

“China’s active campaign to alter the cross-Strait status quo, including by enticing countries to discontinue diplomatic ties with Taiwan, are harmful and undermine regional stability. They undermine the framework that has enabled peace, stability, and development for decades,” the spokesperson told VOA.

Kiribati

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan on Friday, becoming the second country to do so this week and bolstering China’s hand.

This comes as another blow to Taiwan, as its three decades’ diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands ended on Monday after the Pacific island state’s cabinet voted in favor of switching ties to China.

“In the last couple weeks, the Solomon Islands and now Kiribati have cut formal ties with Taiwan under pressure from Beijing. Unless this behavior is confronted, Beijing will stop at nothing to isolate Taiwan internationally,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said.

In the last couple weeks, the Solomon Islands and now Kiribati have cut formal ties with Taiwan under pressure from Beijing. Unless this behavior is confronted, Beijing will stop at nothing to isolate Taiwan internationally. https://t.co/dVS8h1uLgm

— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) September 20, 2019

The U.S. sees Taiwan as part of a network of Asian democracies, calling Taiwan “a democratic success story and a force for good in the world.”  Informal Taiwan-U.S. ties have improved under U.S. President Donald Trump.

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who is also ranking member of Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, also weighed in on Twitter.

China’s predatory campaign to isolate #Taiwan from the rest of the international community is seriously alarming & unacceptable. Taiwan is, and always will be, one of our most important partners in the region. We must continue to stand for democracy. https://t.co/B0XUjcMve3

— Senator Bob Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) September 20, 2019

Next week, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will consider the so-called TAIPEI Act, the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act, said Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner in a tweet.

“Kiribati ending diplomatic ties with Taiwan demonstrates a need for urgent action,” said Gardner, who is the chairman of Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and international cybersecurity policy.

The proposed bill will allow the secretary of state to consider “the expansion, termination, or reduction” of U.S. foreign assistance to countries that downgrade ties with Taiwan.

China’s ‘problematic behavior’

As China’s influence in the region has grown, American officials frequently point out what they see as “a range of increasingly problematic behavior” that includes China’s ongoing militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea, and “predatory” economic activities and investments seen to undermine good governance and promote corruption and human rights abuses.

“This should concern all countries,” a State Department official told VOA.

Funds were promised by China in return for Kiribati’s recognition, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said.

“According to information obtained by Taiwan, the Chinese government has already promised to provide full funds for the procurement of several airplanes and commercial ferries, thus luring Kiribati into switching diplomatic relations,” Wu said.

One China principle

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Kiribati’s decision “fully testifies to the fact that the One China principle meets the shared aspiration of the people.” 

Geng added, “There is but one China in the world and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing the whole of China.” 

The two sides split after the 1949 civil war when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces were driven off the mainland by Mao Zedong’s Communists and sought refuge on Taiwan. But Beijing considers the self-ruled island part of its territory and has vowed to take control of it, by force if necessary.

The U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, but U.S. presidents are bound by law to supply it with arms and come to its defense.

The nuance between Washington’s “One China policy” and China’s “One China principle” is that the U.S. stance leaves open the possibility that a future resolution could be determined peacefully by both China and Taiwan.
 

 

Leader of Zimbabwe Doctors Strike Reappears After 5 Days Missing

All, News, Technology

The Zimbabwean doctor whose disappearance sparked off a wave of doctors’ protests across the country, has reappeared, alive.

Speaking Thursday on VOA Zimbabwe Service’s Livetalk program, a disoriented-sounding Dr. Peter Magombeyi, the president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association, confirmed he was the one on the other end of the phone.

“I honestly don’t know how to truly identify myself, but I am Dr. Peter Magombeyi, I work at Harare Hospital,” he said.

The doctor, who had been spearheading calls for an increase of doctors’ salaries when he disappeared on September 15, said he could not remember exactly what happened to him or how he ended up where he was — an area called Nyabira, about 33 kilometers from Harare.

“That part I’m just so vague about, I need time to recall,” he said.

A Zimbabwean doctor lays on a banner during a protest in Harare, Sept, 18, 2019.

Dr. Magombeyi said his last recollection before being taken by unnamed people was the memory of being electrocuted.

“I remember being in a basement of some sort, being electrocuted at some point, that is what I vividly remember. I, I just don’t remember,” Dr. Magombeyi said, struggling to speak.

Zimbabwe’s government and police have denied involvement in Magombeyi’s disappearance, but said they were doing all they could to find the doctor.  

Officials also suggested a third party could be involved in the disappearance to taint the government’s image.

Responding to the police allegation, and also Twitter posts alluding to the same accusations, Magombeyi said he had no answers.  

“I need time to think about it, I don’t know,” he said.