- China cracks down on "slay red dragon" doomsday cult
- Japan's LDP set for big win in Sunday election - polls
- Korean American tourist detained in North Korea
Posted: 13 Dec 2012 09:00 PM PST
BEIJING (Reuters) - China has launched a crackdown on a cult it says is calling for a "decisive battle" to slay the "Red Dragon" Communist Party, and which has been spreading doomsday rumours, state media said on Friday.
In recent weeks, hundreds of members of the "Almighty God" group have clashed with police, sometimes outside government buildings, in central Henan, northern Shaanxi and southwestern Gansu provinces, according to photos on popular microblogs.
(The group) has "incited followers to launch a decisive battle with the 'Big Red Dragon', to make the 'Red Dragon' extinct and to establish the reign of the kingdom of the 'Almighty God'", the provincial Shaanxi Daily said on its website.
It added that the sect's followers have been distributing leaflets saying that the world will end in 2012.
China's Communist Party brooks no challenge to its rule and is obsessed with social stability.
It has particularly taken aim at cults, which have multiplied across the country in recent years. Demonstrations have been put down with force and some sect leaders executed.
"The State Bureau of Religious Affairs has already documented the group's cult nature, has outlawed it and is presently harshly cracking down," the Shaanxi Daily said.
It did not say how many followers the sect had.
The State Bureau of Religious Affairs did not answer repeated calls from Reuters seeking comment.
Former President Jiang Zemin launched a campaign in 1999 to crush the Falun Gong religious group, banning it as an "evil cult" after thousands of practitioners staged a surprise but peaceful sit-in outside the leadership compound in Beijing to demand official recognition of their movement.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Additional reporting by Huang Yan, Editing by Jonathan Standing and Elaine Lies)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 13 Dec 2012 06:52 PM PST
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is on track for a stunning victory in Sunday's election, returning to power with hawkish former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the helm, and possibly ending Japan's political gridlock.
Opinion polls by the Asahi, Yomiuri and Nikkei newspapers on Friday forecast that the LDP was headed for a hefty majority in the powerful, 480-seat lower house of parliament.
The LDP and its smaller ally, the New Komeito party, could even gain the two-thirds majority needed to break through a policy deadlock that has plagued the world's third biggest economy since 2007.
An LDP win on Sunday would usher in a government committed to a tough stance in a territorial row with China, a pro-nuclear power energy policy despite last year's Fukushima disaster and a radical recipe of hyper-easy monetary policy and big fiscal spending to end persistent deflation and tame a strong yen.
Sino-Japanese relations chilled sharply after Japan bought tiny islands also claimed by Beijing from their private owner.
Abe may temper his hardline toward Beijing with pragmatism as he did when he took office in 2006, but he may have less leeway to do so this time as tensions escalate and experts agree his focus will be to bolster the U.S. alliance.
Japan is in its fourth recession since 2000 and business sentiment worsened for a second straight quarter in the three months to December and will barely improve next year, a central bank survey showed on Friday.
The worsening business outlook strengthens the case for the Bank of Japan (BOJ) to take bolder action to support an economy hurting due to the global slowdown and pressure from the row with China. The BOJ holds a policy meeting next week.
DEBACLE FOR PM'S PARTY
Between 30 percent and nearly 50 percent of voters were undecided just days before the election, the surveys showed. Experts said that was unlikely to affect the general trend, although turnout will probably fall below the 69.28 percent seen in the last lower house election in 2009.
Contributing to the indecision is a fragmentation of the political landscape that has resulted in a dozen parties, some of them just weeks old, contesting the election, and confusion over policy differences between the main contenders.
"Unlike the past two (lower house) elections, the main points of contention are not so clear and in that sense, it is hard for voters to understand," said Yukio Maeda, a political science professor at the University of Tokyo.
"But if there is no huge news, bad or good, in the next few days, there is unlikely to be a shift that is beneficial or detrimental to any particular party," he said.
The surveys showed that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which surged to power three years ago promising to pay more heed to consumers than corporations and break bureaucrats' stranglehold on policymaking, could win fewer than 70 seats. That would be its worst showing since its founding in 1998, the Nikkei said.
The new right-leaning Japan Restoration Party, created by popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and now led by outspoken nationalist Shintaro Ishihara, was struggling and might win fewer than 50 seats, the Asahi newspaper showed.
If the LDP and the New Komeito control two-thirds of the lower house they could enact legislation even if it is rejected by the upper chamber, where they currently lack a majority.
Since 2007, no ruling bloc has had a majority in the upper house, which can block bills other than treaties and the budget.
But over-riding the upper house is a cumbersome and time-consuming process, so the LDP and its ally will be aiming to win a majority in the chamber at an election next July when half the seats are up for grabs.
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 13 Dec 2012 06:34 PM PST
SEOUL (Reuters) - A Korean-American tourist who visited North Korea last month for what was to have been a five-day trip has been detained by police in the reclusive state, associates of his family and activists in Seoul said.
Kenneth Bae, 44, was in a group of five tourists who visited the northeast city of Rajin, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said, citing a report by the Kookmin Ilbo newspaper. Bae entered North Korea on November 3 for a five-day visit.
"What we know is that he is a person who wants to help poor children, kotjebis (homeless children), and he took pictures of them to support them later," said Do Hee-youn, a North Korean human rights activist and head of the Citizens' Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees.
There are said to be thousands of homeless, starving children in the North after a famine in the 1990s. Kotjebis translates into English as "fluttering swallows".
It was impossible to confirm Bae's arrest in one of the world's most secretive states and there has been no formal announcement on North Korean media.
The Swedish Embassy in Seoul did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether it was aware of the arrest. Sweden handles the affairs of U.S. citizens in North Korea because Washington does not have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
Kookmin Ilbo, owned by an evangelical church in Seoul, reported it was expected Bae could be released in two or three weeks. The paper cited an unidentified source and it was not possible to confirm the report.
It cited sources as saying Bae had been arrested for carrying a computer hard disk which contained footage of North Korea executing defectors and dissidents. This was also impossible to verify.
A HISTORY OF TROUBLE
U.S. citizens of Korean descent have previously run into trouble in the North. Robert Park, a missionary, was detained after entering the country in late 2009 and says he was tortured for protesting against the country's human rights record.
Earlier that year, former U.S. President Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang to secure the release of two American journalists who had entered North Korea illegally.
The U.S. State Department declined to comment on the reports.
"I don't have anything for you on that one way or the other, for privacy reasons," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news briefing.
A pastor at a Korean church in Washington state, who said Bae's mother attended services there, said the mother, Myung Bae, had prayed for her son's release on Wednesday morning after learning of his detention from news reports.
"She just learned that he had been detained," pastor Chan Song of the Korean Emmanuel Church in the Seattle suburb of Lynnwood told Reuters. "She's scared. ... She doesn't know how he was detained."
Bae's mother has attended a morning prayer group at the church for several years, the pastor said, but her son was not a member of the church. Efforts to contact the mother at her Washington state home were unsuccessful.
The office of state Senator Paull Shin, a Korean-American whose district includes parts of Lynnwood, was trying to find out more but was not in contact with the family, legislative assistant Jeff King told Reuters.
On Wednesday, North Korea sparked calls for sanctions from Washington and others when it fired a long-range rocket that put a satellite into space.
Critics say the North is breaching U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit it from activities linked to nuclear development or missile technology.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in WASHINGTON and Laura L. Myers in SEATTLE; Ediing by Paul Tait)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
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