Category Archives: General

Activist Under House Arrest in Kazakhstan, Prompting Fears of Pressure From China

Authorities in Kazakhstan have placed activist Serikzhan Bilash under house arrest for two months on charges of inciting ethnic hatred after he campaigned for the release of fellow ethnic Kazakhs from detention in China, prompting concerns the move was made in response to pressure from Beijing.

A Kazakh citizen born in neighboring China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), Bilash and his group Atajurt work to release ethnic Kazakhs from political reeducation camps, where authorities in the XUAR are believed to have detained more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring strong religious views and politically incorrect ideas since April 2017.

Reuters news agency cited Atajurt in a report, saying security forces had broken into Bilash’s hotel room in Almaty early on Sunday, detained him and quickly flown him to the Kazakh capital Astana.

On Monday, Agence FrancePresse cited Bilash’s lawyer Aiman Umarova as saying a court had ruled that her client be released to house arrest for two months until he is tried for inciting ethnic hatred. Under the terms of the arrangement, he will not be permitted to engage in activism.

RFA’s Uyghur Service confirmed the reports through one of Bilash’s associates on Monday.

According to AFP, police have sealed Atajurt’s office, confiscating computers and other equipment activists said contained data about reeducation camp detainees in the XUAR, and have refused to return the key to the building.

Reuters quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang in Beijing as saying he was aware of Bilash’s case, and suggesting the activist had illegally entered Kazakhstan last year.

According to what is understood he may have some debt problems in China, Lu told Reuters.

This kind of person has ulterior motives to make things up. I think the aims behind this need no explanation, he added, without elaborating.

Bilash’s arrest has drawn significant attention in Kazakhstan, which is a major trading partner of China, but whose citizens are wary of Beijing’s policies toward their ethnic brethren and other Muslim minorities in the XUAR.

While Astana has refrained from criticizing Beijing, the Kazakh government has negotiated the release of around two dozen people of dual Kazakh and Chinese citizenship detained in China.

Speaking to RFA on Monday, Dolkun Isa, president of the Munichbased World Uyghur Congress exile group, called Bilash’s arrest a political decision, not a legal one.

I believe Kazakhstan arrested him due to enormous pressure from the Chinese government, Isa said.

Serikzhan Bilash hasn’t violated any Kazakh or international laws in pursuing the human rights of Kazakhs detained in China’s reeducation camps, he added, calling on authorities in Kazakhstan to release the activist and allow him to return to his work.

Ilshat Hassan, president of the Washingtonbased Uyghur American Association, told RFA that instead of arresting Bilash, the Kazakh government should be providing assistance to him and his organization.

As an independent and sovereign state, Kazakhstan should protect its own people and not take orders from China, he said, calling for the activist’s immediate release.

Brownback blowback

Bilash’s arrest came as U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback on Monday defended his claim that reeducation camps in the XUAR were created to wipe out the cultural and religious identity of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities as part of Beijing’s wider war with faith, following a tersely worded statement from China’s foreign ministry condemning his remarks.

Last week, while presenting a speech on religious freedom at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong, Brownback accused authorities in the XUAR of persecuting Uyghurs, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians and practitioners of Falun Gong, but warned China that its attack on faith is one they will not win.

On Monday, Lu Kang dismissed Brownback’s statement, saying China protects its citizens’ freedom of religious belief in accordance with law, and accusing Washington of cooking up or using the socalled religious issues to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs.

Lu specifically addressed the situation in the XUAR, saying the authorities had set up vocational and educational training centers as a preventive measure against terrorism and extremism, and that government policies in the region enjoy extensive support from all ethnic groups.

Responding to Lu’s statement during a forum on religious freedom on the democratic island of Taiwan on Monday, Brownback said his office had tracked down information on hundreds of Uyghurs in the XUAR that are missing and believed detained for their faith.

“Where are they? What is happening to them? Why can’t their family members hear from them?” Brownback asked, according to media reports, which said the ambassador called on China’s government to provide the whereabouts of the individuals.

Camp network

Though Beijing initially denied the existence of reeducation camps, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the XUAR, told China’s official Xinhua news agency in October 2018 that the facilities are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uyghurs.

Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations, however, has shown that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.

Adrian Zenz, a lecturer in social research methods at the Germanybased European School of Culture and Theology, has said that some 1.1 million people are or have been detained in the camps�equating to 10 to 11 percent of the adult Muslim population of the XUAR.

In November 2018, Scott Busby, the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State, said there are “at least 800,000 and possibly up to a couple of million” Uyghurs and others detained at reeducation camps in the XUAR without charges, citing U.S. intelligence assessments.

Citing credible reports, U.S. lawmakers Rubio and Chris Smith of the bipartisan CongressionalExecutive Commission on China recently called the situation in the XUAR “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.”

Since 1999, the U.S. has designated China a Country of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

Copyright (copyright) 19982016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

Nissan Chairman Ghosn Released From Prison On Bail

Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn has been released from prison after posting a nearly $9 million bail.

Ghosn was surrounded by uniformed security guards as he walked out of the Tokyo Detention Center early Wednesday morning, his face shielded by a mask, hat and glasses.

A Japanese court approved Ghosn’s release Tuesday night, but it was delayed when prosecutors filed a lastminute appeal.

The Tokyo District Court imposed several restrictions on Ghosn, including where he can live, a ban on foreign travel, and vows not to tamper with evidence.

The former head of the NissanMitsubishi MotorsRenault alliance had been in prison since his November 19 arrest on charges of falsifying financial statements for nearly a decade by underreporting compensation by $82 million.

Ghosn reiterated in a statement he is “innocent” and said he was “grateful” for family and friends who supported him “throughout this terrible ordeal.”

The Japanese auto giant fired Ghosn as chairman, but he remains on the Nissan board until a decision is made at a shareholders’ meeting.

Ghosn faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Source: Voice of America

Extradition Case Against Huawei Official to Proceed in Canada

Canada says it will allow an extradition hearing to proceed against the chief financial officer of China’s Huawei Technologies, paving the way for a legal battle that could complicate the Canadian and U.S. relationships with China.

Canada’s Department of Justice announced Friday that a date for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s extradition hearing would be set in a Vancouver courtroom on March 6.

“The department is satisfied that … there is sufficient evidence to be put before an extradition judge for decision,” it said.

The Chinese Embassy in Canada said it was “utterly dissatisfied with and firmly opposes” the decision to allow the case to proceed.

Lawyers for Meng said she maintains her innocence, and they called the U.S. extradition request an abuse of the legal process.

Meng was arrested at the request of the United States as she changed planes in Vancouver in December. She is wanted by Washington on charges that she conspired to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Bilateral ties harmed

The case has damaged China’s relationship with Canada. After Meng’s detention, China arrested two Canadians on national security grounds, and a Chinese court sentenced to death a Canadian man who previously had only been jailed for drug smuggling.

China has repeatedly called on Canada to release Meng, but Canada has refused, saying the case is a legal matter, not a political one.

It could be months or even years before Meng, who is under house arrest in Canada, is sent to the United States, since many decisions can be appealed in the Canadian justice system.

U.S. President Donald Trump suggested last year that the United States could cut a deal with China to secure Meng’s release. However, since then the U.S. Justice Department has unsealed its indictment against Meng and Huawei, and Trump has played down the idea of dropping the charges.

Source: Voice of America

Extradition Case Against Huawei Official to Proceed in Canada

Canada says it will allow an extradition hearing to proceed against the chief financial officer of China’s Huawei Technologies, paving the way for a legal battle that could complicate the Canadian and U.S. relationships with China.

Canada’s Department of Justice announced Friday that a date for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s extradition hearing would be set in a Vancouver courtroom on March 6.

“The department is satisfied that … there is sufficient evidence to be put before an extradition judge for decision,” it said.

The Chinese Embassy in Canada said it was “utterly dissatisfied with and firmly opposes” the decision to allow the case to proceed.

Lawyers for Meng said she maintains her innocence, and they called the U.S. extradition request an abuse of the legal process.

Meng was arrested at the request of the United States as she changed planes in Vancouver in December. She is wanted by Washington on charges that she conspired to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Bilateral ties harmed

The case has damaged China’s relationship with Canada. After Meng’s detention, China arrested two Canadians on national security grounds, and a Chinese court sentenced to death a Canadian man who previously had only been jailed for drug smuggling.

China has repeatedly called on Canada to release Meng, but Canada has refused, saying the case is a legal matter, not a political one.

It could be months or even years before Meng, who is under house arrest in Canada, is sent to the United States, since many decisions can be appealed in the Canadian justice system.

U.S. President Donald Trump suggested last year that the United States could cut a deal with China to secure Meng’s release. However, since then the U.S. Justice Department has unsealed its indictment against Meng and Huawei, and Trump has played down the idea of dropping the charges.

Source: Voice of America

Good News and Bad News for Turtle Lovers Comes from the Pacific 2019

While turtle populations around the world have been declining steadily, here’s good news from the Pacific.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), recent data suggest that some of the world’s endangered green sea turtles’ primary nesting locations are stabilizing.

Green turtles nest in more than 80 countries and inhabit coastal waters in more than 140 countries.

In NOAA’s Pacific Islands Region, green sea turtles’ nesting occurs in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI).

But nature inevitably takes a toll: Green sea turtles and endangered Hawaiian monk seals suffered heavily in early October of last year when a hurricane struck East Island in northwestern Hawaii.

East Island, a small strip of sand among the French Frigate Shoals, served as a major nesting ground for green sea turtles.

When Hurricane Walaka struck, it scattered rocks and sand, and the island disappeared under the water.

Seven researchers studying seals and green sea turtles had to be evacuated.

It’s still not clear how many green sea turtles were able to escape.

Meanwhile, in East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, well-organized criminal gangs seeking high profits are involved in the trafficking of turtles.

Turtles are endangered not only in Asia but in many other parts of the world.

One small example suffices to illustrate this: Early this month, a Philadelphia man pleaded guilty to trafficking in protected turtles, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said that David Sommers admitted to sending a package to Canada in 2014 containing 11 diamondback terrapin hatchlings.

The demand side

Michael Lau, senior head of the program for local biodiversity and regional wetlands at the World Wildlife Fund in Hong Kong reported three years ago that the demand for sea turtles among consumers in China was rising.

A number of sea turtles were also getting caught and accidentally drowned in fishing boat nets, and Chinese consumers have long sought the turtles for their meat and eggs.

But Hawaii might now offer a model for how to protect green sea turtles.

Though the turtles are revered by some in Hawaii who consider them to be aumakua, a guardian spirit or protective deity, it should also be noted that other Hawaiians value the turtles for their meat and skin and not necessarily for their purported spiritual connections.

Success in protecting the turtles on Hawaii’s island of Kauai is based on legal protections plus public awareness and the advocacy work of nonprofit organizations.

Both federal and state laws here protect wild marine mammals and turtles from harassment.

In Kauai, this means approaching them no closer than 20 feet and doing nothing that disrupts their behavior as they rest on beaches or rocks or in sea caves.

The turtles eat plants growing on rocks. and when well-protected can live for decades.

Large adults can weigh between 240 and 420 pounds and are capable of swimming long distances.

But the turtles can be extremely sensitive to artificial light.

On Feb. 12, two Hawaiian environmental groups sued to block the replacement of some 4,800 streetlight fixtures across Maui County with LED fixtures that threatened to either kill or injure imperiled seabirds and sea turtles.

Why we should care about turtles

Turtles are among the most threatened animals on earth, experts say.

More than 300 species are threatened with extinction, according to internationally recognized Red List criteria.

If current trends continue, all seven species of sea turtles could face extinction.

Aside from the sea turtles, the other six species are flatbacks, hawksbills, Kemp’s ridleys, leatherbacks, loggerheads, and olive ridleys.

The Sea Turtle Conservancy in Gainesville, Florida, says that the extinction of sea turtles could have major ecological effects.

Sea turtles, and especially green sea turtles, are among the few animals to eat sea grass.

Sea grass beds need to be cut short to enable the grass to grow across the sea floor, and sea turtles perform this service.

Sea grass beds provide breeding and development grounds for many species of fish, shell fish, and crustaceans, according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy. And without sea grass beds, many marine species that humans harvest could be lost.

The impact of human activity on turtles

Turtles and tortoises have survived since the age of the dinosaurs, but the biggest threat to them in recent years has become the intervention of humans.

Industrial development around the world has contributed to the possible extinction of turtles and tortoises by eliminating their nesting habitats in many places.

Humans also generate various forms of waste that can entangle turtles and tortoises. And some forms of waste, such as plastic, can be inadvertently consumed by them.

Some scientists rank habitat destruction and climate change as the biggest future threats to sea turtles.

Scientists say that while turtles and tortoises have survived 220 million years, their shells no longer ensure their continued survival.

Shells work great against natural predators, but are no match against humans intent on consuming them, said Peter Paul van Dijk, co-editor of a report on the 25 most endangered turtles and tortoises.

Seventeen of those most endangered are found in Asia.

In China, the trade has been enormous, with imports of turtle and tortoise products coming not only from Asia but also from as far away as Africa and North America.

Traffickers can make high profits from trading in all species of turtles.

According to a 2011 report, wealthy collectors will pay thousands of dollars on the black market for turtles and tortoises.

The report was produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG), Conservation International (CI), and the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

In many parts of the world, turtles are theoretically protected by anti-poaching laws and by an international treaty. But these laws are often poorly enforced.

But in reality, nothing seems to be working.

The group’s report highlights the extent of the trade in turtles’ meat, shells, and eggs, and the fact that it seems to be expanding despite attempts to rein it in.

The report also found that the main regional trade route for whole turtles and turtle derivatives seemed to originate in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

The products were shipped mostly to East Asia, where demand was reported to be on the rise � both Chinese demand for turtle meat and medicine, and Japanese and Taiwanese demand for traditional crafts made of turtle bone.

In 2014, the Indian Ocean Sea Turtle Agreement (IOSEA) group released a report on the Illegal Take and Trade of Marine Turtles in the IOSEA Region, which looked at key trends and patterns since 2000.

It highlighted the extent of the trade in meat, shells and eggs.

Countering trafficking by raising awareness

WildAid, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization, launched a campaign last year in China aimed at discouraging Chinese purchases of turtle products such as turtles’ meat, skin, and scales.

At the time, a WildAid survey of 1,500 people conducted in five locations in China found that 17 percent of respondents had purchased sea turtle products in the past, and 22 percent expressed an interest in buying more in the future.

Only 57 percent knew that it was illegal to purchase sea turtle products in China.

WildAid released a series of TV messages featuring the popular Chinese actor Liu Ye to raise awareness of the threats to turtles.

The campaign reached nearly 34 million views online and was featured in Chinese state media, according to Steve Blake, WildAid’s China chief representative.

On March 3, which is World Wildlife Day, WildAid plans to release sea turtle messages from the actor Eddie Peng calling on Chinese to avoid purchasing sea turtle products.

Blake said that WildAid is also working on a 75-minute-long film with Eddie Peng on sea turtles that will be broadcast on the video platform Youku, based in Beijing.

And in April, Taiwanese musician and songwriter Jay Chou will be featured in yet another campaign.

Copyright (copyright) 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036