Rabu, 30 April 2014

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Chinese dissident 'freed' after nine years

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 03:14 AM PDT

Beijing (AFP) - A Chinese activist who has spent nearly half his life in detention has been freed from prison, reports said Wednesday, in a rare move amid clampdowns on other dissidents.

Xu Wanping was released this week from the Yuzhou jail in the southwestern mega-city of Chongqing, according to the New York-based campaign group Human Rights in China and US-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Xu, a former factory worker and member of the outlawed Chinese Democracy Party, which advocates for an end to one-party rule, was sentenced in 2005 to 12 years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power".

He was freed this week after authorities in Chongqing granted him a three-year reduction, he told RFA Wednesday, without specifying a reason.

Despite his release, Xu will be deprived of his political rights for four years -- essentially a ban on speaking to media as well as restrictions on his movements and contacts -- and his wife told RFA she remains concerned about his physical condition after so many years in jail.

Xu has served a total of 20 years in various forms of detention. He was first jailed for eight years in 1989 for taking part in pro-democracy protests in Chongqing, and after his release was sentenced to three years in a labour camp in 1998 for inciting laid-off workers to protest.

In 2005, he was jailed again when Chinese authorities swept up several long-time democracy activists shortly after anti-Japanese protests in major cities.

The detentions apparently reflected China's fear that dissidents could take advantage of the anti-Japan demonstrations to influence ordinary people to protest over other issues including corruption and lack of freedoms.

News of Xu's release comes as other outspoken critics of the ruling Communist Party have reportedly been placed under detention ahead of June's 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, a date that remains highly sensitive in China.

Among them is Gao Yu, a prominent journalist whose political writings have landed her in jail in the past.

Gao had been planning to attend a private Tiananmen-related gathering this week but has not been seen since last Thursday, according to multiple reports.

Crisis-hit Thailand to hold new election on July 20

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 03:06 AM PDT

BANGKOK: Thailand will hold a new general election on July 20, a top poll official said Wednesday, in an effort to resolve a deadly six-month political crisis.

Election Commission (EC) secretary general Puchong Nutrawong said the new voting date had been decided during talks with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

"We agreed that the most suitable election day is July 20 and the EC will draft the royal decree for the prime minister to submit to the king for royal endorsement," he told reporters.

The kingdom has been without a fully functioning government or parliament since December. A general election held in February was voided after opposition demonstrators disrupted voting.

It was not immediately clear if the main opposition Democrat Party would take part in the new vote.

The opposition protesters want Yingluck to resign to make way for an unelected "people's council" to oversee political reforms before elections are held.

Yingluck is pushing for new polls as soon as possible to shore up her position in the face of a series of legal threats that could force her from office.

She is accused of dereliction of duty linked to a loss-making rice subsidy scheme and the improper transfer of a senior civil servant.

The nation has been shaken by months of political violence that has left 25 people dead and hundreds wounded, including many anti-government protesters, in grenade attacks and shootings.

Thailand has been bitterly divided since a coup in 2006 ousted Yingluck's brother Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister.

He still wields huge influence from his self-exile in Dubai, where he lives to avoid prison for a corruption conviction.-AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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