Rabu, 16 April 2014

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The Star Online: World Updates

China releases blogger on bail, jails another amid rumour crackdown

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 08:35 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese-American venture capitalist known for his controversial blogs has been released on bail after nearly eight months in detention because of a "serious illness", Beijing police said amid a crackdown on online dissent.

Charles Xue, also known as Xue Manzi, was detained in August on a charge of visiting prostitutes, an accusation that activists said stemmed from China's efforts to rein in social media.

China's crackdown on online "rumour-mongering" is widely seen as a tool to halt criticism of the ruling Communist Party and has chilled political discourse, with high-profile bloggers saying they have reined in sensitive posts for fear of detention.

The government says the crackdown is necessary to preserve social stability.

Xue was released on bail because he was sick, Beijing police said on its official microblog. State television showed Xue on television on Wednesday night confessing to his crime, saying he was extremely sorry to his wife and children.

"(I) have committed a crime, have confessed and have repented," Xue said on state television.

Xue's lawyer, Qi Xiaohong, declined to comment, telling Reuters "it was not convenient for her to speak". Xue could not be reached for comment.

In September, Xue, who had 12 million followers on Weibo, appeared on state TV in handcuffs to apologise, saying that "freedom of speech cannot override the law".

China adopted tough measures to crack down on online rumours last year. People will be charged with defamation if posts that contain rumours are visited by 5,000 internet users or reposted more than 500 times, according to a judicial interpretation issued by China's top court and prosecutor. That rule could lead to three years in jail.

Online rumours are particularly pervasive in China, where traditional media is heavily regulated by the government and public trust in the media is low.

In a separate case, a court jailed popular microblogger Qin Zhihui for three years on Thursday on charges of defamation and affray after he confessed to spreading rumours about the Chinese government, Xinhua state news agency said.

Qin had invented a story that the Chinese government gave 200 million yuan (19.3 million pounds) in compensation to the family of a foreign passenger killed in a high-speed train crash in 2011, Xinhua said. He also told false stories about a popular television starlet and other celebrities, according to Xinhua.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Dengue outbreak at Australian detention centre sparks fresh concerns

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 07:00 PM PDT

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An outbreak of dengue fever at an Australian refugee detention centre in the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru sparked calls on Thursday for greater oversight at the facility, which has been criticised by rights groups and the United Nations.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's office said that medical officers at the centre had confirmed three cases of the potentially fatal tropical disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes.

Two of those affected by the sickness are potential refugees awaiting processing, while the other was a member of staff working at the centre, they said.

"All three people have been isolated and are receiving appropriate treatment and are expected to make a full recovery," a spokeswoman for Morrison said in a statement.

But Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, immigration spokeswoman from the opposition Greens Party, said that outbreaks are inevitable in crowded camps like the one on Nauru and called for greater independent oversight of the overseas refugee detention system.

"The government can't control these types of outbreaks in the harsh detention camp environment. With seven families to a tent, it's impossible to keep children safe from the disease,"

she said in a statement.

Australia uses detention centres in Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea to process would-be refugees sent there after trying to get to Australia, often in unsafe boats after paying people smugglers in Indonesia.

Canberra's tough stance on asylum seekers, including offshore processing and a blanket ban on people arriving by boat ever settling in Australia, has been criticised by the United Nations and other groups as illegal and inhumane.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in a November report said neither centre had a "fair and efficient system for assessing refugee claims" nor provided "safe and humane conditions of treatment in detention".

Nauru in particular has come under fire after President Baron Waqa earlier this year unilaterally sacked the nation's entire judiciary, one aspect of what critics have called a creeping authoritarianism there.

Critics say that Australia has been unusually silent about developments in Nauru in order to ensure that the camp, which is vital to its immigration policy, stays open.

In February, a riot at the detention centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea left at least one asylum seeker dead and 77 more injured.

Hundreds still missing in deadly Korea ferry sinking

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 06:10 PM PDT

JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - South Korean coastguard and navy divers resumed searching on Thursday for about 290 people still missing, many of them students from the same high school, after a ferry capsized in sight of land.

Grieving family members gathered on the quay of the coastal city of Jindo, huddled in blankets against the spring cold as efforts to locate the missing went into a second day.

One parent, Park Yung-suk, told Reuters she had seen the body of her teenage daughter's teacher brought ashore earlier in the morning.

"If I could teach myself to dive, I would jump in the water and try to find my daughter," Park said as light rain fell.

Of some 450 passengers on board the ferry when it set sail from the port of Incheon late on Tuesday, nearly 340 were teenagers and teachers from the Danwon school near the capital Seoul on a field trip to Jeju island, about 100 km (60 miles) south of the Korean peninsula.

So far 179 people have been rescued and six confirmed dead in what could be the country's worst maritime accident in 20 years.

As coastguard officials arrived at Jindo on Thursday, waiting relatives jeered at them, shouting: "The weather's nice, why aren't you starting the rescue."

It is not known why the 6,586 tonne vessel, built in Japan 20 years ago, sank.

As frustration grew with the lack of information, some parents of missing school children hired their own boat on Wednesday night. They appeared to blame the government of President Park Geun-hye and rescue officials for not making a big enough effort.

"Since the government refused to take us to the scene 11 parents chipped in 61,000 won (35 pounds) each to hire a boat and took a reporter and a diver. But there was no rescue operation going on," said one father who declined to give his name.

"I am extremely angry. Media is saying the rescue op is still going on. It's all a lie," he said.


It was not immediately clear why the Sewol ferry had listed heavily on to its side in apparently calm waters off South Korea's southwest coast, but some survivors spoke of a loud noise prior to the disaster.

A member of the crew of a local government ship involved in the rescue, who said he had spoken to members of the sunken ferry's crew, described the area as free of reefs or rocks and said the cause was likely to be some sort of malfunction on the vessel.

There were reports of the ferry having veered off course, but coordinates of the site of the accident provided by port authorities indicated it was not far off the regular shipping lane.

The ferry sent a distress signal early on Wednesday, the coastguard said, triggering a rescue operation that involved almost 100 coastguard and navy vessels and fishing boats, as well as 18 helicopters.

According to a coastguard official in Jindo, the waters where the ferry capsized have some of the strongest tides off South Korea's coast, meaning divers were prevented from entering the mostly submerged ship for several hours.

The ship has a capacity of about 900 people and an overall length of 146 metres (480 feet). Shipping records show it was built in Japan in 1994.

According to public shipping databases, the registered owner of the ship is Chonghaejin Marine Co Ltd, based in Incheon. Reuters was unable to reach the company by phone.

Earlier, company officials offered an apology over the accident but declined to comment further.

The databases showed that Chonghaejin Marine Co Ltd became the owner of the vessel in October, 2012.

(Additional reporting by Jack Kim, Ju-Min Park, Choonsik Yoo, Meeyoung Cho and James Pearson in SEOUL and Jonathan Saul in LONDON; Writing by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Dean Yates)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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