Sabtu, 21 September 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Hong Kong battens down as powerful Typhoon Usagi nears


HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong was bracing on Sunday for this year's most powerful typhoon, with government meteorologists warning of severe flooding created by a double whammy of powerful winds and exceptionally high tides.

Typhoon Usagi, the strongest storm to hit the Western Pacific this year, is expected to hit the Asian financial centre late on Sunday and early on Monday.

The Hong King observatory posted a No. 3 signal warning of strong wind late on Saturday and was expected to raise the storm signal later on Sunday.

The storm posed a severe threat to the city, the observatory said.

China's National Meteorological Center issued its highest alert, warning that Usagi would bring gales and downpours to southern coastal areas, the official Xinhua news agency said.

More than 80,000 people had moved to safety in Fujian province and authorities had deployed at least 50,000 disaster-relief workers, it said.

Major Chinese airlines cancelled flights to cities in the southern provinces of Guangdong and Fujian while shipping was suspended between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, Xinhua reported.

In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, the city's main airline, and its unit Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Ltd, will cancel all flights into and out of the international airport from 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) on Sunday.

If a No. 8 storm signal remain in place after 7 a.m. on Monday (2300 GMT on Sunday), the Hong Kong stock exchange will be closed for at least part of the day.

Financial markets, schools, businesses and non-essential government services close when a No. 8 storm signal is hoisted, posing a major disruption to business in the former British colony.

Typhoon Usagi lashed the east and south coasts of Taiwan with heavy rain and wind on Saturday after slamming into the Philippines' northernmost islands where it cut communication and power lines and triggered landslides.

(Reporting By Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Robert Birsel)

China sentences ousted politician Bo to life in jail


JINAN, China (Reuters) - A Chinese court sentenced ousted senior politician Bo Xilai to life in jail on Sunday after finding him guilty on all counts following his dramatic five-day trial last month on charges of corruption, taking bribes and abuse of power.

Bo was a rising star in China's leadership circles when his career was stopped short last year by a murder scandal in which his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of poisoning a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who had been a family friend.

The court in the eastern city of Jinan, where Bo was tried, also ordered that all his personal assets be seized, and deprived him of his political rights for life too, according to a transcript released by the court's official microblog.

"Bo Xilai was a servant of the state, he abused his power, causing huge damage to the country and its people ... The circumstances were especially serious," the court said in its judgement.

Bo, 64, has 10 days to appeal from Monday, the court added.

State media said he was likely to appeal, in which case the supreme court in Shandong province, where Jinan is located, would have to hear the case within two months.

The court showed a picture of a handcuffed Bo, with clenched fists in an apparent show of defiance, flanked by two towering policemen who held him by his shoulders and forearms. Two more policemen stood by.

At the close of Bo's trial last month, prosecutors demanded a heavy sentence, saying his "whimsical" challenge to charges flew in the face of the evidence. State media, which speaks for the party, had already all but condemned him.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post cited a source last week as saying Bo believes one day his name will be cleared.

"I will wait quietly in the prison," Bo said in a letter to his family last week, according to the newspaper.


Bo, who was Communist Party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, mounted an unexpectedly feisty defence during his trial, denouncing testimony against him by his wife as the ravings of a mad woman.

He repeatedly said he was not guilty of any of the charges, though he admitted making some bad decisions and shaming his country by his handling of former Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun, who first told Bo that Gu had probably murdered Heywood.

Wang fled to the U.S. consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu in February last year after confronting Bo with evidence that Gu was involved in the murder. Wang was also jailed last year for covering up the crime.

The state prosecutor had said Bo should not be shown leniency as he had recanted admissions of guilt ahead of his trial.

Senior party figures feared Bo could stage a political comeback one day if he was not dealt a harsh sentence, sources told Reuters after the trial.

A light sentence could have undermined President Xi Jinping's pledge to go after corrupt political heavyweights as harshly as those lower down the pecking order.

Bo cultivated a loyal following through his charisma and populist, quasi-Maoist policies, especially among those left out in the cold by China's anything-for-growth economic policies.

(Additional reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim and Adam Rose in BEIJING; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

Sri Lanka's main Tamil party wins polls with landslide victory


JAFFNA, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's main ethnic minority Tamil party secured a landslide victory in a provincial poll that has threatened to rekindle animosity between the government and Tamils, four years after the military crushed separatist rebels and ended a 26-year war.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the former political proxy of the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels, won 30 seats in the 38-member provincial council in the former northern war zone, election officials said on Sunday.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's ruling coalition won 7 seats, while a Muslim party won one.

It was the first provincial council election in the north in 25 years and was held after the government came under international pressure to restore democracy.

Defeat for the government, the most humiliating set-back for Rajapaksa since he assumed office in 2005, is largely symbolic.

But the TNA's victory shows that the defeat of the rebels in 2009 did nothing to dampen calls for autonomy among Tamils, who make up about 14 percent of Sri Lanka's 20 million people.

"This is a strong message to the international community to say that Tamils need a political solution," said a voter in the northern town of Jaffna, computer studies lecturer T. Sivaruban.

"It could be a separate state or power sharing within a united Sri Lanka," said Sivaruban, 33.

The TNA won more than 84 percent of the votes in Jaffna, once the heartland of the rebel movement, 81 percent in Kilinochchi, the de-facto capital of the separatists, and 78 percent in Mullaitivu, where thousands of civilians were said to have been killed in May 2009, when government forces moved in to defeat the rebels.

"It's a great vindication of the political stand we've taken and our people have stood up without bowing down to violence and intimidation," M. A. Sumanthiran, a TNA legislator, told Reuters. "Now the president has to bow down to this verdict."

A foreign observer said the election commission had done a very good job inside the polling centres, though it did not have any control over what went on outside, where some voters reported attacks and intimidation.


The government has accused the TNA of renewing calls for a separate state through its push for the devolution of power. The TNA says it wants devolution in a united Sri Lanka, not a separate state.

Many voters have called for the return of land that they say the army has occupied. They are also calling for the withdrawal from the north of the army, which was accused of human rights abuses in the final stages of the war.

Some voters have also called for a separate state, for decades the goal of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who launched their war in 1983 to end what Tamil activists saw as systematic discrimination by Sri Lanka's Sinhalese majority.

Election officials said they received "plenty" of complaints, including complaints of intimidation of voters during the polling, but turnout was about 68 percent.

The military has rejected any suggestion of involvement by the security forces in election-related violence of any sort.

Rajapaksa has a majority of more than two-thirds in the national parliament and controls the eight other provinces.

The president has faced international pressure to bring to book those accused of war crimes committed at the end of the war, and to boost reconciliation efforts.

His government has rejected accusations of rights abuses and Rajapaksa in July ordered an inquiry into mass disappearances, mostly of Tamils, at the end of the war.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)


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