Thursday, July 9, 2020

UK says China 'can't be trusted' over its treatment of Hong Kong

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (Photo:ANI)

London (ANI): British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has questioned whether China can be trusted to live up to international obligations after its move to introduce a new security law for Hong Kong, which London says it contravenes the historical agreement handing over the territory to Beijing, CNN reported.

"China freely assumed international obligations to the United Kingdom... in relation to the way that it would treat Hong Kong and in particular, would respect the autonomy and freedoms," Raab said.
"It is a matter of trust and lots of countries around the world are asking this question -- does China live up to its international obligations? Because if they cannot be trusted to keep their word on Hong Kong, why would they be trusted to live up to their wider international responsibilities," he added.

Raab's comments come after China's ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming accused Britain of "gross interference" in China's internal affairs by commenting on the new security law in Hong Kong.

London has said it will provide a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands -- potentially millions -- of Hong Kongers, citing threat as a result of the security law which empowers the city police to search properties without a warrant in special circumstances, freeze assets, intercept communications and require internet service providers to remove information.

That law gained new teeth on Monday, as Hong Kong's government unveiled new "implementation rules" under the legislation, drastically expanding police powers to search and order potentially-illegal material online to be deleted for the purposes of "preventing, suppressing and imposing punishment for any acts and activities endangering national security."

The US has moved to sanction Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for the law and undermining freedoms in the city, something Raab said that the UK has not ruled out.
Speaking in the House of Commons after the passage of Magnitsky-style sanctions targeting overseas officials accused of human rights abuses and involvement crime, Raab was asked about targetting China under the new law.

He said, "I am not going to pre-empt or pre-judge further designations now. But we are already working on what the next wave might be."
Raab announced the new rules in the House of Commons on Monday, along with the details of the first wave of sanctions which includes 25 Russian nationals "involved in the mistreatment and death of auditor Sergei Magnitsky" and 20 Saudi nationals involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Raab said it is the first time there has been a "UK-only regime," adding it gives the country "the power to impose sanctions on those involved in the very worst human rights abuses right around the world".

"This extends beyond state officials to non-state actors as well. So if you are a kleptocrat or an organised criminal, you will not be able to launder your blood money in this country," he further said.

Also included in the first wave of sanctions are two "high-ranking Myanmar military generals involved in the systematic and brutal violence against the Rohingya people and other ethnic minorities" and "two organisations involved in the forced labour, torture and murder that takes place in North Korea's gulags," a written statement from the Foreign Office said. (ANI)

Blocking construction of Hindu temple in Islamabad signifies Pak's troubled relationship with minorities

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Islamabad [Pakistan], July 9 (ANI): A Hindu temple planned for Islamabad, the city's first, was supposed to be a symbol of tolerance for Pakistan. But violence and controversy have turned it into an emblem of the country's troubled relationship with its religious minorities.

On July 5, the local development authority in Islamabad stopped the construction of the boundary wall on the plot allotted to the Shri Krishna Mandir. According to the authority's spokesperson Mazhar Hussain, the action was taken because a building plan had not been submitted to the authority, The New York Times reported.

"Any construction taking place in Islamabad, residential or commercial, requires a building plan (map) to be approved," he was quoted as saying by local media.

When Pakistan's former government allotted land for the temple in 2018, Muslim demonstrators quickly camped out on the plot, refusing to allow a Hindu structure to be built in Islamabad, according to The New York Times.

But the temple's Hindu advocates seemed to prevail and the temple's first foundation stones were laid last month. Days later, Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered the government to provide about USD 1.3 million for the temple's construction, roughly a fifth of what is needed.

However, Muslim clerics stepped in again and things started changing.

Several clerics ruled that no Hindu temple should be built because Pakistan is a Muslim country. Citizens denounced the government for using their taxes to provide funding for the temple. Media outlets openly campaigned to shut the project down.

Under mounting pressure, the government late last week backtracked from its initial pledge to donate money to the temple's construction, instead of asking for guidance from the Council of Islamic Ideology on whether to give the grant.

The violence over the issue reached heights on Sunday when a group of men destroyed the partially constructed wall around the temple's land, claiming it was their Islamic duty to do so. They gleefully filmed their exploits and posted it on social media. Unfortunately, none of the vandals have been arrested.

In a matter of just two weeks, the hope surrounding Islamabad's first Hindu temple was derailed, in a similar as many aspirations that the Imran Khan government had delivered on the religious coexistence when he had promised when he won elections in 2018, The New York Times reported.

In his election campaign, the cricketer-turned-politician had promised to improve conditions for Pakistan's religious minorities, often treated as second-class citizens and targetted in attacks by Islamic fundamentalists with few repercussions. He had also vowed to restore their places of worship.

Khan seemed to make good on his promise late last year when the government reopened one of Sikhism's holiest shrines, the 500-year-old Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur. But the latest move over the construction of Hindu temple in the capital province once again marred efforts of Imran Khan's promise to religious tolerance.

Although Hindus are between two and four per cent of Pakistan's population, Islamabad does not have a temple for them to worship in. If their relatives die, they must travel long distances with the body to Hindu-run cremation facilities to perform traditional burial rites.

As of now, Islamabad's Hindu Panchayat has halted the construction and decided to visit the local authority office this week to discuss the matter further. Hindu Panchayat President Pritam Das told SAMAA news agency that the panchayat had already submitted an application addressed to the authority regarding the boundary wall construction on June 19, but got no response from them. The application said that the boundary wall was being built to secure the possession of the plot.

Last Friday, the country's religious affairs ministry, in a press conference, said that it only "releases funds for the renovation and rehabilitation of minority's worship places", not for construction.

This, however, is not the only problem faced by the panchayat during the temple's construction.

In a tweet on Saturday, PTI MNA Lal Chand Malhi said the Hindu Panchayat has announced that it is discontinuing the temple's construction, even if the local authority now allows it, due to recent cases of violence and destruction of its site. (ANI)

Chinese took incredibly aggressive action, Indians have done their best to respond: Pompeo on India-China border tension

US Secretary of State: Mike Pompeo (Photo:ANI)

Washington D.C. [US], July 9 (ANI): US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo on Wednesday (local time), while referring to India-China border tensions, hit out at Chinese saying they took "incredibly aggressive action".

Pompeo said that he has spoken to External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar several time about it.

"I have spoken with Foreign Minister Jaishankar a number of times about this. The Chinese took incredibly aggressive action. The Indians have done their best to respond to that," Pompeo said.

The US Secretary of State also criticised "General Secretary" Xi Jinping and said that the number of both maritime and boundary disputes that the Chinese Communist Party has engaged in is "unequalled anyplace else in the world".

"I'd put this in the context of General Secretary Xi Jinping and his behavior throughout the region, and indeed, throughout the world. It's - I don't think it's possible to look at that particular instance of Chinese Communist Party aggression in isolation. I think you need to put it in the larger context," he said.

"When I was up here once before, we talked about the number of both maritime and boundary disputes that the Chinese Communist Party has engaged in. I think it's unequaled anyplace else in the world. There aren't many neighbors that could satisfactorily say that they know where their sovereignty ends and that the Chinese Communist Party will respect that sovereignty. That's certainly true now for the people of Bhutan as well," said the US Secretary of State.

Pompeo slammed Chinese Communist Party for engaging in what he termed was "increasingly revisionist effort" and said US under President Donald Trump has taken that seriously.

"This is what the world must come together to respond to. This increasing revisionist effort that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in is something that President Trump has taken incredibly seriously. The United States hadn't done that in previous administrations," said Pompeo.

"We will respond to this in a way that we think is appropriate, and we have attempted to communicate to the Chinese leadership that we are serious about this. When I say "we," it's not just the United States. We will start very shortly a dialogue with our EU friends on how we collectively can respond to this challenge from the Chinese Communist Party," he added.

The US Secretary of State highlighted that with the spread of coronavirus, world has seen the true colours of Chinese Communist Party.

"I think what's happened with the spread of this virus from Wuhan, China - I think the world has seen the true colors of the Chinese Communist Party, and I am convinced more than ever that the free peoples of the world will come to understand the threat that's presented not only internally inside of China, but importantly, that the impact that General Secretary Xi has on the world is not good for free peoples and democracy-loving peoples...," he said.

"...And the world will come together to respond to that in a way that is powerful and important and will preserve sovereign nations operating under the rule of law in the way that we have all come accustomed to and benefits people all across the world," said the US Secretary of State. (ANI)

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