- Chinese Nobel winner dodges call for laureate's freedom
- Philippines starts to bury dead as typhoon toll hits 418
- Man pleads guilty in plot to attack Seattle military site - prosecutors
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 07:55 PM PST
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A flustered Mo Yan, the Chinese winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature, steered clear of human rights issues and refused on Thursday to back a petition by fellow laureates for jailed compatriot and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.
A group of 134 Nobel laureates including the Dalai Lama, wrote to Chinese Communist Party chief and president-in-waiting Xi Jinping urging him to release Liu, who won the prize two years ago. They also want Xi to free Liu's wife.
The case has drawn attention to China's human rights record, although China says Liu is a criminal and decries such criticism as unwarranted interference in its internal affairs.
Mo, the first Chinese national to win the $1.2 million literature prize who was in Stockholm to receive the award, refused to express support for Liu, and sometimes appeared agitated after repeated questions over Liu at a news conference.
The writer also defended censorship as sometimes necessary, comparing it to security checks at airports.
"I have already issued my opinion about this matter (over Liu)," he told journalists in Stockholm through a translator, days ahead of the formal award ceremony.
In October, after the award announcement, Mo said he hoped that Liu would achieve his freedom as soon as possible.
"I have said this prize is about literature. Not for politics," said the 57-year-old whose adopted pen name Mo Yan means "don't speak".
Despite world attention on days of Nobel prize events in Stockholm, Mo shunned any chance of making a clear call for Liu's freedom.
"I am sure you know what I said that day (in October). Why do you want to repeat that? Time is precious," he said when pressed over Liu.
"I have never praised a system of censorship, but also censorship exists in every country," he added. "There is only a difference of a degree of censorship."
Pressed on whether he would support the call from the laureates, Mo said: "I have always been independent. I like it that way ... when I am forced to express my opinion, I will not do it."
Mo was being accompanied on his Stockholm trip by a Chinese official, raising questions over whether the author was under pressure not to say anything about politics.
A number of dissidents and other writers have said Mo was unworthy of winning as he had shied away from commenting on Liu's plight. They have also denounced him for commemorating a speech by former paramount leader Mao Zedong.
Hu Jia, one of China's most prominent dissidents, told Reuters he was "very disappointed" by Mo's statements on Thursday.
"Could he not just say one sentence in his (Liu's) support?" Hu said.
In November, Herta Muller, who won the Nobel literature prize in 2009, called the Nobel award for Mo a "catastrophe".
Liu, a veteran dissident involved in 1989 pro-democracy protests crushed by the Chinese army, won the prize in 2010. He had been jailed the year before and is serving an 11-year sentence. His wife Liu Xia is under house arrest.
Mo is best known in the West for "Red Sorghum", which portrays the hardships endured by farmers in the early years of communist rule and was made into a film directed by Zhang Yimou.
His books also include "Big Breasts and Wide Hips" and "The Republic of Wine".
(This story corrects reference to Nobel award for Mo, instead of for Liu, in fourth-from-last paragraph)
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Louise Ireland)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 07:51 PM PST
NEW BATAAN, Philippines (Reuters) - Residents in the southern Philippines began to bury their dead on Friday even as rescue workers continued scouring remote areas for possible survivors of Typhoon Bopha, the country's strongest storm this year, which killed 418 people and left nearly as many missing.
Officials in Compostela Valley, one of the worst hit provinces on the resource-rich island of Mindanao, were considering mass graves for unclaimed bodies killed by the typhoon which hit two days ago.
Bopha cut a swathe of destruction in the valley, flooding farming and mining towns and burying many people in mudslides.
"We are thinking of burying the unclaimed bodies on health concerns," Major General Ariel Bernardo, an army division commander in the southern Philippines, told Reuters. "The foul smell is becoming strong."
Bernardo said rescue and retrieval work was hampered by lack of equipment. "Some of the dead are buried in knee deep mud and we only have our hands and shovels," he said.
Arturo Uy, governor of Compostela Valley, said the province was considering digging mass graves if most of the dead are not claimed in two to three days. He estimates 212 died in his province while nearly 400 were missing.
"Probably half of the missing could be dead by now," he told Reuters.
The official death toll stands at 418, with 383 missing and hundreds injured, the national disaster agency said in its latest tally. But the toll is expected to rise, with local government officials quoting higher numbers of missing.
A Reuters photographer saw at least 10 bodies under mud and piles of logs and debris and only a few hundreds of metres from a crowded makeshift grandstand in New Bataan town in Compostela Valley, where President Benigno Aquino was due to give out relief goods later on Friday.
"Up to now, we are not discussing stopping (the search)," Uy told reporters. "There are still survivors in barangays (villages) which we couldn't reach immediately."
Stephen Antig, executive director of Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, estimates about 7 billion pesos ($171 million) worth of bananas mostly for export in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte were destroyed by the typhoon.
The area, where plantations owned by Dole Food Company Inc and Del Monte Pacific Ltd are located, accounts for almost a fifth of the country's total banana production.
Bopha has now weakened and is slowly moving north-northwest towards the South China Sea, with central winds of up to 110 kph (68 mph) and gusts of up to 140 kph (87 mph).
About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, often causing death and destruction. Almost exactly a year ago, Typhoon Washi killed 1,500 people in Mindanao, but most storms make landfall further north.
($1 = 40.965 Philippine pesos)
(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco, Manny Mogato and Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Michael Perry)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 06:10 PM PST
SEATTLE (Reuters) - A Seattle man pleaded guilty on Thursday in connection with a plot to mount a machine-gun and grenade attack on a U.S. military recruitment centre in the city, federal prosecutors said.
Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, 35, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle to conspiracy to murder officers and employees of the United States and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.
His co-defendant, 33-year-old Walli Mujahidh, pleaded guilty in December 2008 to conspiracy and weapons charges.
(Reporting by Laura Myers; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
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