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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Protesters march in Hong Kong ahead of Tiananmen vigil

Posted: 01 Jun 2014 05:11 AM PDT

HONG KONG, June 01, 2014 (AFP) - Pro-democracy protesters marched in Hong Kong on Sunday to call for greater political freedoms in China and an end to one-party rule, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Organisers said 3,000 people took to the streets in sweltering heat for the annual protest, calling on Beijing to release imprisoned political dissidents and formally acknowledge the bloody crackdown of 1989.

Hong Kong police put the number of protesters lower at 1,900.

It comes ahead of a mass candle-lit vigil planned for Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in which hundreds of people, by some estimates more than 1,000, died.

Marchers shouted slogans such as "Democracy Now", "End One-Party Rule" and "Release Gao Yu", referring to a Chinese journalist recently detained for allegedly leaking state secrets.

China still forbids public discussion of the events of June 3-4 1989 when the military brutally suppressed pro-democracy protesters, mainly students, in central Beijing.

Hong Kong is the only city in China to mark the anniversary openly.

"As for many years, it is a continuous struggle hoping to find justice and have a democratic China. This is the case even after 25 years," Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, a protest organiser, told AFP.

"It is the responsibility of Hong Kong people to show support because we still have protection for our human rights," Tsoi, the vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance In Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said.

Including Gao, police have criminally detained some 20 prominent liberal academics, lawyers and activists in recent weeks, according to the US-based group Human Rights in China.

They include Pu Zhiqiang, one of China's most celebrated human rights lawyers.

Amnesty International last week criticised Chinese President Xi Jinping for choosing "repression over reform", as clampdowns precede the Tiananmen anniversary.

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 as a semi-autonomous territory with its own constitution that guarantees basic rights and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including freedom of speech and assembly.

A bid by the government to introduce patriotic lessons in schools sparked massive protests in 2012, forcing the authorities to backtrack.

Pro-democracy advocates in the city have constantly sought ways to remind locals and mainland Chinese visitors of what happened.

Lee Cheuk-yan, a lawmaker who is the chairman of the Alliance, told protesters before the march: "We are protesting because suppression continues today and is getting more severe."

"Led by the Xi Jinping administration, freedom and human rights in China today is the worst for the past 25 years," he said.

In April, the world's first museum dedicated to the Tiananmen crackdown opened in Hong Kong.

Beijing has never provided an official final death toll for the military crackdown, but some independent observers put the figure at more than 1,000.

An official Chinese Communist Party assessment after the Tiananmen protests branded the movement a "counter-revolutionary rebellion".

Asylum-seekers sew lips shut in Australia protest: activists

Posted: 01 Jun 2014 03:17 AM PDT

SYDNEY, June 01, 2014 (AFP) - Seven asylum-seekers sewed their lips shut Sunday as part of a mass hunger strike protest involving hundreds of detainees in an Australian immigration detention centre, activists said.

Refugee activists said seven Iranian men had stitched their lips to protest their detention on Australia's remote Christmas Island for almost a year under punitive policies aimed at deterring people-smuggling voyages.

Almost 400 asylum-seekers at the Christmas Island compound, about 2,600 kilometres from the west coast capital Perth, were refusing food, Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said.

The protest as part of a demonstration against the death of Iranian asylum-seeker Reza Barati.

"Hundreds are into their fourth day of hunger strike as the anger and frustration grows," said Rintoul.

"Seven Iranians in Gold and Green compound have also stitched their lips."

Barati was killed in wild riots at an Australian refugee camp on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island in February, which also left 69 others injured.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the situation on Christmas Island was "under control", adding that "it is not uncommon for peaceful protests to occur in detention facilities".

He refused to confirm or comment on the lip-stitching claims.

"It is not helpful for refugee activists, I think, to dramatise these events and seek to whip them up in the public mind," he said.

"Because frankly, that is the purpose of these protests, to do just that," the minister told reporters.

"The purpose of engaging in such activity is to gain media attention and... where there are those sorts of allegations of people's behaviour I am not about to encourage others to engage in it either by giving it publicity."

An official Australian review released on Monday found Barati was beaten to death in an assault led by a Salvation Army worker at the centre. This has been denied by PNG police, who have described the Australian probe as "stink(ing) of a major cover-up".

Rintoul said the protesters wanted the media and United Nations inspectors to be allowed inside the Christmas Island facility to see how conditions were "deteriorating badly" among detainees.

"Their mental health is already declining, yet they face many more months, and perhaps years, in detention," he said.

Asylum-seekers who arrive in Australia on people-smuggling boats face a "no advantage" offshore detention policy, designed as a deterrent.

The policy places no limits on the length of time they can be locked up on Christmas Island, PNG or the far-flung Pacific outpost of Nauru.

Japan heatwave kills two, hundreds taken to hospital

Posted: 01 Jun 2014 01:57 AM PDT

TOKYO, June 01, 2014 (AFP) - Two people have been killed and hundreds treated in hospital after a weekend heatwave swept over Japan, officials and reports said Sunday.

A 74-year-old women collapsed while working in a greenhouse in the eastern prefecture of Chiba on Saturday and was later pronounced dead.

In Ibaraki, also in the east of the country, a 61-year-old was found collapsed in her garden and died.

On Sunday, a 76-year-old man was taken to hospital unconscious in Sera, in the western prefecture of Hiroshima, after collapsing near a river bank.

"He is suspected of having a heatstroke," a local ambulance worker told AFP by telephone.

The official said there were unconfirmed reports that the man had been working in rice paddies before collapsing.

More than 300 people were treated at hospital on Saturday alone, the public broadcaster said as mercury rose past 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) in many towns across the nation.

The temperature reached 33 degrees C (91F) in central Tokyo by mid-afternoon Sunday with over 36 degrees C (97 F) recorded in Tatebayashi, north of the capital.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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