- S. Korea activists launch leaflets, cash into North
- No answers, only hope as MH370 China father heads home
- Chinese mourn young firemen who fell from highrise
Posted: 02 May 2014 10:04 PM PDT
SEOUL: South Korean activists on Saturday launched around 200,000 anti-North leaflets across the border, a move that will anger Pyongyang which insists Seoul should forcibly prevent such events.
Around 30 campaigners led by a former North Korean defector Park Sang-Hak sent bundles of the leaflets, attached to large helium balloons, from the border city of Paju in a bid to urge the North to end human rights abuses.
"Down with Kim Jong-Un's hereditary dictatorship," read a slogan scribbled on one of the balloons, which the activists hoped would be blown by winds into the North over the heavily-militarised border.
The leaflets were sent in packages that also contained 2,000 United States one dollar bills, 400 DVDs detailing human rights abuses in the North and 300 booklets boasting of the South's economic achievements.
"We launched the leaflets in order to inform North Koreans that (the) international community is doing its best to help bring them liberty and rights," Park told journalists.
A group of nine leftist activists staged a rally nearby, protesting that the leaflet launch would only raise cross-border tensions instead of improving rights conditions in the North.
On Thursday during a UN review in Geneva of the isolated Asian country's rights record, diplomats urged North Korea to immediately halt a litany of abuses and crimes against humanity.
But North Korea - backed by its main ally, China - hit back at the criticism, saying a recent report by UN investigators was designed to "defame" the country.
At rare high-level talks in February, the two Koreas reached an accord which included a commitment by both sides to stop trading verbal insults.
But the agreement quickly degenerated, with both sides accusing one another of continuing to slander their respective leaders. -AFP
Posted: 02 May 2014 09:51 PM PDT
BEIJING: Almost two months after he dashed to Beijing following the disappearance of his son's flight, Yan Jiacheng finally left a hotel he shared with other desperate Chinese relatives, still clinging to the hope that he could be alive.
"I don't want to leave of course, but I have no choice," Yan told AFP as relatives drove him 800 kilometres (500 miles) home after Malaysia Airlines said it would no longer provide accommodation in Beijing.
Softly spoken and non-confrontational, Yan was one of the quiet ones at the Lido hotel in the Chinese capital.
The hotel became a powder keg of conflict between highly emotional relatives seeking answers about their missing loved ones, and airline officials and Malaysian government representatives stymied by the way flight MH370 vanished.
Yan's younger son Yan Ling, 30, was one of the 153 Chinese passengers on the flight - making up two-thirds of those on board.
The last time the pair had spent time together was when Yan Ling returned to the family home for Chinese New Year in late January.
The annual pilgrimage is replicated in tens of millions of homes across the country, where high-achieving offspring often find work in the booming cities after university, rather than in their backwater hometowns.
'Nothing but despair'
During regular family briefings at the hotel, the 60-year-old would sit near the back of the hall, sipping a cup of iced water provided by airline support staff and lifting his head only during the occasions when tempers frayed.
Sometimes he would find solitude away from the insults and allegations, sitting outside in the car park with his thoughts and a cigarette, while relatives burst out of the door behind him sobbing into their handkerchiefs.
In the early days after the plane's disappearance, the signs of sleepless nights were etched on his face, with bags under his eyes and his thin hair ruffled.
Now Yan is more outwardly composed, but inside he remains crippled.
He has "felt nothing but despair", he says, since his life was turned upside down by a phone call from his son's girlfriend on the morning of March 8, 56 days ago.
"She said two sentences. She told me 'The plane is missing. Yan is missing'. Then she said nothing more, as she burst out crying," said Yan, from Yancheng in the eastern province of Jiangsu.
His son's boss telephoned him to say that the aircraft was missing and he should travel to the capital.
"I dropped everything and made the journey here."
There were no flights available to Beijing from nearby airports, so he had no choice but to buy a standing ticket on a train which took "a day and night".
Even at normal times the crowded journey would be gruelling. In the circumstances it was mental torture.
"The plane has gone. The plane has gone. I knew it was something terrible," he said, recalling the thoughts that raced through his mind.
Yan described his missing son as "introverted", but his tone brightened as he proudly exclaimed: "His boss says he is an excellent worker. A really good engineer."
Yan Ling works for a medical equipment company in Beijing's Haidian district and had travelled to Malaysia on a work-sponsored "short-study trip" with a colleague, his father said.
The family are close, said Yan, who was joined in Beijing by his elder son while his wife, who has health problems, stayed in Yancheng.
'I will always hope'
A vast multi-national search has failed to find any sign of wreckage, and some Chinese relatives have embraced improbable conspiracy theories of hijackings and hostage-takings.
At times the reality of the most likely outcome hits Yan.
"The passengers have probably already died," he said. "I think so, but I don't dare to tell my family that."
Even so, as his voice broke with emotion, Yan refused to accept that he may have spent his last Chinese New Year with his son.
He still clings to the thought of Yan Ling one day walking through the door of the family home once again.
"That would be great. I would be so happy. I hope this day will come, and I will always keep that hope." -AFP
Posted: 02 May 2014 09:41 PM PDT
BEIJING: Two young Chinese firefighters who fell to their deaths during a blaze in a highrise building are being hailed as heroes of their generation on social media.
Qian Lingyun and Liu Jie died Thursday while responding to the fire in an apartment on the 13th floor of the building in Shanghai, China's commercial capital, according to the city's fire department.
As firefighters were breaking down the apartment door, a sudden blast occurred and hot air and smoke blew out into the floor's elevator area where Qian and Liu were, the department said.
The force blew them through an open window from where they plunged to a terrace above the building's entrance.
A dramatic photo of the two men in freefall from the building was published on the front page of the Beijing News daily on Friday.
The fire department did not give the men's exact ages, but said that Qian was born in 1991, while Liu was born in 1994.
"You are heroes," said a message posted Saturday on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblog similar to Twitter.
"Heaven needs the brave like you," said another, which included two images of burning candles to signify remembrance.
Some questioned whether the deaths could have been prevented.
"It looks more like a safety accident," said one post.
"(Didn't they) think about the blast before breaking the door?"
Qian's last post on his weibo account suggested the difficulty of his work as a firefighter.
"It's not been easy this year, still more than a half year to go!", he wrote. "I'm holding on!"
As of Saturday morning there were 92,340 comments left on his final post by social media users.
"An ordinary person has shown us an extraordinary heart," wrote one.
"Good-bye our hero, rest in peace."
"You explained to the world that the generation born after 1990 is courageous - not a crumbling generation," said one post, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper on Saturday.
"Thank you, my heroes." -AFP
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