Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest shrines, begins the year-round umrah pilgrimage for Muslims, following the authorities' announcement that only people immunised against Covid-19 will be allowed to attend. AERIAL
Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest shrines, begins the year-round umrah pilgrimage for Muslims, following the authorities' announcement that only people immunised against Covid-19 will be allowed to attend. AERIAL
The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday (14 May) confirmed 52 new COVID-19 cases in Singapore, taking the country's total case count to 61,505.
Anticipation mounted Friday for the landing on Mars of China's "Zhurong" rover, a few months behind America's latest probe to the Red Planet, as Beijing presses ahead with its increasingly bold space ambitions.
Saudi Arabia has released construction magnate Bakr bin Laden, more than three years after his detention in a purge of the kingdom's elite that upended his vast business empire, sources told AFP.
Beaten, kicked in the groin and threatened with sexual violence -- a young Myanmar teenager detained by the junta's security forces has described the treatment suffered by some women and girls behind bars.
Metro Manila and adjacent provinces, the nation’s economic engine, will shift to the second-lowest level of curbs called “general community quarantine” until end-May, the government said on Thursday.
Despite best efforts, a "very virulent" variant of COVID-19 "broke through" the layers of defense at Changi Airport.
China has moved to shore up ties in Central Asia through pledges for vaccines and connectivity under its Belt and Road Initiative, amid growing criticism in the West of Beijing’s repression in the neighbouring Xinjiang region. Foreign Minister Wang Yi offered to deepen regional cooperation on Covid-19 vaccines and the development of Chinese-funded infrastructure projects with his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in the second meeting with the grouping on Wednesday in Xian, in northwestern China’s Shaanxi province. The six countries also discussed building a “grand Eurasian passageway of interconnectivity”, new Chinese government scholarships for Central Asia, agricultural cooperation, playing a “constructive role” after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, as well as cracking down on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement that Beijing has blamed for violence in Xinjiang.Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. In separate bilateral talks from Monday to Wednesday, Wang stressed the need to defend “non-interference in internal affairs” and the Central Asian countries’ foreign ministers said they supported China’s efforts in “safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity” and on the issue of Xinjiang, according to Chinese foreign ministry readouts. The meetings come as Beijing clashed at the United Nations on Wednesday with the US, Germany and Britain over concerns about its treatment of Uygurs in China’s far-western Xinjiang region, which shares a border with Tajikistan, Kyrgzystan and Kazakhstan. China has been accused of the arbitrary detention up to 1 million Uygurs and other members of ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang along with claims by rights groups of forced labour – claims the US and others have termed “crimes against humanity and genocide”. Beijing has denied these allegations, defending many of its policies as intending to counter terrorism and extremism in the region. Analysts say China’s overtures reflect its desire to further institutionalise multilateral cooperation with the five Central Asian countries. Four of the five are also members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a Chinese-backed Eurasian alliance that includes Russia, India and Pakistan. Zhao Long, a senior research fellow from the Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said the US had also tried to strengthen cooperation with the five countries. “In its new Central Asian strategy, the US proposes to help countries in the area deal with other ‘malicious actors’ and avoid relying on other forces,” he said. “China can counterbalance the moves of the US through the institutionalised cooperation with Central Asian countries.” Srdjan Uljevic, senior lecturer at the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan, said the SCO may now take a back seat to the new multilateral format with the five Central Asian nations, noting that Japan, South Korea, the European Union, US, India and Russia all had similar formats. He said it was hard for the Central Asian countries – which depended on China economically and for vaccines – to criticise policies in Xinjiang. “They need investments and China is providing the investments, and it’s expected that they would adhere to this political goal that Beijing has when it comes to their own core interests,” he said. China says extremism must not be allowed to return to Afghanistan But while Beijing has stepped up its investments in Central Asia, there has been growing unease in the region over the expanding Chinese footprint. Polling from the Central Asia Barometer showed that while the governments in those countries welcomed closer ties with China, public opinion was mixed, with 30 per cent in Kazakhstan and 35 per cent in Kyrgyzstan viewing China unfavourably compared to single-digit unfavourable ratings for Russia in those countries. “There has been pushback, but I don’t see any other country stepping in and replacing China when it comes to Chinese economic engagement, and I don’t see central Asian leaders saying no to that engagement,” Uljevic said. Temur Umarov, an expert on China and Central Asia at the Carnegie Moscow Centre, said Russia – which has traditionally held strong influence in the region – did not see Chinese interests there as conflicting with its own for now. China had also shown an awareness of negative public sentiment in Central Asia, shifting from vast projects towards ones that created local job opportunities, he said. “For these countries, it’s a very difficult situation,” he said. “On the one hand, they have China, which is a dominant economic partner and growing power right across the border, and on the other hand, they have their own civic societies that are growing more and more dynamic and sceptical of relations with China, like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. “From their point of view, it will not be wise to criticise China because it will lead to certain economic consequences in the economic sphere.” What is China’s Belt and Road Initiative all about? Michael Clarke, associate professor at the Australian National University, said China had sought to boost its presence in Central Asia as the region was a critical source of natural resources – such as oil and natural gas – and a key transit zone for Chinese efforts to trade with Europe, Russia and the Middle East. The belt and road raised the stakes for Beijing to see a stable regional environment, to secure its investments and infrastructure as well as to secure Xinjiang, he said. “A big issue here though is a growing divide between elite or government views and public opinion, where the former remain at least publicly positively disposed to BRI and continued Chinese investment in the region and the latter increasingly sceptical about the benefits to local populations of BRI projects,” he said. Additional reporting by Rachel ZhangMore from South China Morning Post:China looks to Turkmenistan for more gas as it cuts Australian supplies‘Based on lies’: China demands UN meeting on Uygurs be cancelled, claiming political biasHow Xinjiang human rights controversy is souring relations between China and the WestChina, Pakistan reiterate commitment to infrastructure development programmeHow China can tighten its Belt and Road Initiative in Central AsiaThis article China offers vaccines, projects in bid to shore up relations with Central Asian neighbours first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.
Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, who was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt, was flown to Germany Thursday for treatment, officials said.
Attracted by a female tourist's looks, a hotel housekeeper forced his way into her room and molested her while covering her mouth with a towel.
From 16 May to 13 June, COVID-19 restriction will be tightened, only takeaway and delivery options will be allowed for all dine-in F&B establishments.
While pending a COVID-19 swab test, an Indian national who was supposed to wait for his test results at a hospital left the premises, intending to take a flight back to his home country.
The US State Department released its annual report on the state of religious freedom around the world on Wednesday, slamming Beijing for suppressing Christians, Uygur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists and sanctioning a senior Communist Party official. In releasing the 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Chinese Communist Party official Yu Hui, the former director of a Chengdu office aimed at suppressing “heretical religions”, would be denied entry to the United States, along with his immediate family. “He is designated for his involvement in gross violations of human rights, namely the arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners for their spiritual beliefs,” said Blinken, referring to the exercise and meditation group founded in 1992 and banned in China as an “evil cult” in 1999.Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. “We will continue to consider all appropriate tools to promote accountability for those responsible for human rights violations and abuses in China,” Blinken added. China’s ‘repression against all religions continues to intensify’, Mike Pompeo says The 2,400-page survey examined religious tolerance in some 200 countries and territories. China accounted for the largest section, and the State Department cited persistent reports of Chinese human rights violations, including torture, physical abuse, arrests, detention, forced indoctrination of Communist Party ideology and deaths in custody of religious believers. “China broadly criminalises religious expression and continues to commit crimes against humanity and genocide against Muslim Uygurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups,” Blinken told reporters. Separately, John Kerry, the US special envoy on climate, told Congress on Wednesday that the Biden administration was considering whether to impose sanctions on solar panels and other products made in Xinjiang believed to have been made using Uygur forced labour. China only recognises five official religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism. And in theory, to hold worship services, religious groups must register and belong to one of five state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations”, though many unofficial groups operate without approval. The report found that the Chinese government “continued its 2019-2024 campaign of ‘Sinicization’ to bring all religious doctrine and practice in line with CCP doctrine, including by requiring clergy of all faiths to attend political indoctrination sessions, monitoring religious services, preapproving sermons, and altering religious texts”. Washington designated China in 1999 a “country of particular interest” – a term to express concern over its suppression of religious beliefs – and it has remained on the list ever since. In 2020, it was one of 10 nations so designated, along with others including Iran, Myanmar, Russia, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. “One might say they are charter members of the country-of-particular-concern club,” Daniel Nadel, director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, said in an interview. While the Biden administration in its first four months has often sought to draw a sharp line between itself and the often-mercurial Trump administration on policy and tone, the report suggested a strong continuity on religion. On issues of religious expression, Nadel said, there was virtually no daylight between Republicans and Democrats on their view of China or broader concerns. “Religious freedom has been an unbelievably bipartisan effort,” he said. “Our relationship with China will be competitive where it should be, collaborative where it can be and adversarial where it must be. “And unfortunately when it comes to issues of fundamental freedoms, there is no path but an adversarial approach.” According to the State Council, China’s cabinet, the county of 1.4 billion has more than 200 million religious adherents – international civic groups estimate it is nearly double that figure – and around 5,500 religious groups. The US estimates that Buddhists make up around 18.2 per cent, Christians 5.1 per cent, Muslims 1.8 per cent, followers of folk religions 21.9 per cent and atheists some 52.2 per cent of the population. Hindus, Taoists and Jews make up less than one per cent. The Chinese embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on the report. But Beijing has frequently condemned the US for what it terms its meddling, hypocrisy and attempts to impose its human rights standards on the rest of the world. In March, Beijing released an 18-page report analysing the US human rights record that cited racial injustice, gun violence and the US response to the pandemic. The United States “has always considered itself an exception and superior” and “sees itself as “the so-called ‘city upon a hill’ and ’beacon of democracy’“, it said. China warns US against taking a superior position in global affairs Nadel said that the US welcomes scrutiny and is hardly perfect, adding that it has a series of institutions – including rule of law, a free media, an independent judiciary and periodic elections “so you can vote the bums out” when officials fall short. “None of these checks are available to the vast majority of Chinese people,” he said. “They are simply subjects of their government, rather than participants in their government.” The State Department report said that religious groups in Hong Kong were divided about how the national security law Beijing imposed on the city last summer would affect worship. In 2020, religious freedom remained unchanged, the groups reportedly said, “although they expressed concerns about possible future encroachment by PRC authorities”. The State Department cited a huge gap between Chinese religious freedoms and the wide latitude Chinese officials have to limit worship to “normal religious activities” without defining “normal”. In the Tibetan region, it said, reports persist of “forced disappearances, arrests, torture, physical abuse, and prolonged detentions without trial of individuals due to their religious practices”. And in Xinjiang, it added, Uygurs were subject to political indoctrination, torture, physical and psychological abuse, forced sterilisation, sexual abuse and forced labour, among other practices, due to their religion and ethnicity. “There‘s no question that the PRC government is among the worst abusers of religious freedom in the entire world,” Nadel said. Additional reporting by Jacob FromerMore from South China Morning Post:Anonymous Xinjiang report attracts angst, agreement in questioning ‘genocide’ definitionUS, China take a less belligerent tone in remarks to UN Security CouncilUS-China relations: Blinken condemns China’s ‘baseless sanctions’This article US Secretary of State says China ‘criminalises religious expression’ as report on religious freedom is released first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.
Singapore announced a ban on dine-ins and cut group sizes to two people on Friday as it further toughened virus curbs to stem a rise in local transmissions.
Holding the Tokyo Olympics safely as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage would be "impossible", a union of Japanese hospital doctors warned on Wednesday.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai came under pressure in a Senate hearing over whether America should seek entry to the Asia-Pacific trade pact that Washington withdrew from in 2017 and faced backlash for her backing of a proposal to waive coronavirus vaccine patent protections. Tai’s hearing before the Senate Finance Committee reflected strong bipartisan support for talks regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that was revised by the remaining 11 signatories including Japan, Canada and Mexico after former president Donald Trump pulled the US out and came into effect as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in 2018. “A number of us have talked about the TPP, whether in some revised and updated form, but the geopolitics of that seem very obvious as well as the economic benefits,” said Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas.Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. “The one thing that we have in the United States that China does not have is friends, and I think it will do nothing but enhance our national security and our economic security by banding together with like minded countries in the region.” China’s exclusion from the TPP, negotiated during the administration of former president Barack Obama, was a key attribute for the US and other countries looking to check the regional influence Beijing had been gaining in tandem with its economic growth, even if such sentiments were never openly expressed. As voter sentiment turned sharply against global trade in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Trump made withdrawal one of his first official acts. US ‘made wrong move in response’ to China’s tech challenge Beijing then integrated itself more deeply into the region’s trade ties last year as leaders from China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) ratified the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Mike Crapo, the senior Republican on the Senate committee called RCEP “China’s model for what trading relationships in the region should look like”. “In the absence of US leadership in the region, our allies will have to look elsewhere,” said the senator from Idaho. “If the United States has to pursue a worker-centred trade policy we need to be mindful that American workers lose when China writes the rules.” Benjamin Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland raised the same concern. “It’s important that we expand our trading opportunities with countries in [the Asia-Pacific] region,” he said. “We’re not a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we find China extremely engaged, so what is our strategy to deal with China’s influence?” When pressed directly on whether she would seek negotiations with CPTPP members on Washington’s possible entry, Tai reiterated her stance that negotiations would require support from the trading bloc for a “worker-centred” trade policy that does not stop enriching manufacturers. She also alluded to the need for strong bipartisan support for CPTPP negotiations, noting that domestic political opposition to the pact’s first incarnation doomed the effort. Could a win for Joe Biden see the US re-engaging on global trade? “There are a lot of good [trading] partners … that are very interested in engaging with US leadership again that will be there,” said Tai, adding that she wants “to ensure that as we are taking steps … to make sure that we are effective, and that we are pursuing a vision that is well supported, here at home, on a very strong and robust bipartisan basis”. Perceptions of China as an economic threat have gained more momentum since the 2016 election, helping to overcome opposition to an Asian-focused trade pact, said Neysun Mahboubi, a research scholar at University of Pennsylvania’s Centre for the Study of Contemporary China. “The utility of TPP for purposes of competing with China, economically, is overwhelmingly apparent,” said Mahboubi, who also cautioned that “there remain countervailing domestic politics” to be overcome before bipartisan support is strong enough for Washington to join. Some labour unions, including the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), for example, opposed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Trump‘s signature trade deal. Congress passed the USMCA, a revised and more labour-friendly version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) last year, although IAM president Robert Martinez Jnr announcing after its passage that accord did not do enough to stop the outsourcing of hundreds of thousands of jobs to Mexico. There was less agreement among the senators on the patent waiver front in Wednesday’s hearing. The message was mostly split between criticism from Republicans and encouragement from Democrats, with the exception of Bob Menendez from New Jersey, who chided Tai for not engaging in “appropriate congressional consultation” before making her announcement last week. Many of the Republicans warned that such a move would undercut health care technology innovation that will be needed to fight additional infection surges as well as future pandemics. “Why would we expect American innovators to make massive new investments in medical research, in carbon capture, in clean energy and advanced technologies, if they risk losing intellectual property during the next thing that is truly a global crisis?” said John Barrasso, a Republican senator from Wyoming. US trade representative expects to meet China’s Liu He ‘in the near term’ Other Republican used the same line of argument. “I am aware of no evidence whatsoever, that this step is going to enhance vaccine availability in developing countries,” said Patrick Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican. “It could quite possibly be the contrary … there are many safety concerns, for instance, [about] facilities around the world that just don’t have the technology to make this properly. “Frankly, I think it undermines our ability to deal with the next crisis, including the possibility of the next iteration of this crisis,” Toomey said. Tai pushed back against Republicans, pointing out that the pandemic remained out of control in many parts of the world, and would continue to drag economic growth in the US and globally until government action was taken to make vaccines more widely available. She also stressed that no final decision would be made before consensus was reached within the framework of the World Trade Organization.More from South China Morning Post:US agrees to remove Xiaomi from trade blacklist after lawsuitUS Trade Representative Katherine Tai says she expects to meet Chinese counterpart Liu He ‘in the near term’US-China relations: trade talks will take place ‘when the time is right’, says new US Trade Representative Katherine TaiSenate confirms Katherine Tai as US Trade RepresentativeThis article USTR Katherine Tai under pressure on Asia-Pacific trade pact first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.
Sinovac has already shipped some 380 million doses, more than AstraZeneca and second only to Pfizer worldwide. But unlike those companies, it still hasn’t published any data in an academic journal.
China has deployed more ships in a disputed area of the South China Sea even after the Philippines’ repeated protests, according to President Rodrigo Duterte’s top diplomat.
A group of United Nations members has demanded that China grant “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access” to Xinjiang for the group‘s human rights chief to inspect alleged abuses of Uygurs and other Muslim minorities there. In a virtual hearing called by Britain, Germany and the United States and backed by 15 other mostly Western UN member states, China was accused by a procession of ambassadors, rights groups and academics of “systematic” persecution of minorities in the far western region. China was also accused of using its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council – as well as its growing economic heft – of blocking efforts to investigate events in Xinjiang.Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. “We appeal to China to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we ask China to tear down the detention camps. If you have nothing to hide, why do you not finally grant unimpeded access to the commissioner for human rights?” Christoph Heusgen, the German ambassador to the UN, asked. The UN‘s special rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, said the UN had itself been “timid” in its failure to criticise the situation in Xinjiang more insistently. “Given the scale of what we have been hearing, or the allegations that have been made, I must admit it seems very timid and I would acknowledge that seems very timid from the side of the UN not to be more vocal and assertive in trying to obtain collaboration from the government of China,” he said. “Where there‘s smoke, there’s fire, and there’s a heck of a lot of smoke right now affecting hundreds of thousands of people, most of them minorities, most of them Muslims and most of them Uygurs,” Varennes added. The Turkish delegation described the situation facing Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang as “extremely worrying”, saying that Ankara had raised the issue with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on his visit to the country in March, adding that it supported “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region” for the UN human rights chief. In a strongly worded, unconventional interjection, Guo Jiakun, a member of China’s UN delegation, decried the “lies of the century” and reiterated Beijing’s consistent position that no human rights abuses are taking place in Xinjiang. As he spoke, someone held a mobile phone up to the camera and played a video of a former US army officer claiming that the West seeks to use unrest in Xinjiang to destabilise the central Chinese government. The clip, which has gone viral on the Chinese internet, shows Lawrence Wilkerson – who was chief of staff to Colin Powell when he was US secretary of state – addressing a 2018 Washington conference by the conservative Ron Paul Institute, saying that the Central Intelligence Agency would mount an operation in China using Uygurs in Xinjiang. China state media claim Xinjiang conspiracy hidden in video “So the truth is, it is not about human rights in Xinjiang, it‘s about using Xinjiang as a political tool for containing China,” Guo said, adding that allegations of genocide and forced labour are “lies of the century, which never happened, and it will never happen in China”. “We welcome everyone to visit Xinjiang, but we oppose any kind of investigation based on lies, and with the presumption of guilt,” he added. The UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has been in talks about a visit to Xinjiang, but no human rights commissioner has visited the country since September 2005. A planned visit to the region by EU ambassadors in March stalled over their request for access to Ilham Tohti, the jailed Uygur academic. Reuters reported last week that China‘s UN delegation had urged members not to attend the hearing, saying: “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.” But China was greatly outnumbered at the hearing, after diplomats from nations including Australia, Denmark, France and Slovakia all made statements condemning Beijing‘s actions in Xinjiang and calling for an independent inspection of the situation. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, argued that there were “credible reports that many Uygur people and other ethnic and religious minorities who only wish to practice basic freedom of religion, belief, expression and movement are being forced to work until they drop, manufacturing clothes and goods at the behest of the state”. Xinjiang has become a major bone of geopolitical contention between China and the West. In March, Britain, Canada, the European Union and the US coordinated sanctions on Chinese officials and an entity for their roles in the alleged abuses; Beijing immediately followed with reprisals on a host of European elected officials, academics and ambassadors. The tit-for-tat sanctioning has raised questions concerning the completion of a broad EU-China investment deal, reached at the end of 2020 but yet to be ratified by the European Parliament. Last year, the US government, then led by Donald Trump, became the first to classify the collective programme of actions in Xinjiang as “genocide”. Joe Biden’s administration has maintained this stance. Parliaments in Britain, Canada and the Netherlands have also defined Xinjiang abuses as genocide, but their respective governments have not endorsed the stances. Human rights groups and academics speaking at Wednesday‘s hearing said that without access to Xinjiang, it was difficult to ascertain the conditions of genocide, but urged governments not to play down the gravity of lesser “crimes against humanity”. “What‘s going on in Xinjiang is clearly an example of crimes against humanity, which is very severe. There’s this tendency to feel that if you do not call it genocide is not really bad, that is wrong. You know, crimes against humanity is awful,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. Roth said the UN should explore “alternative avenues to justice” that could bypass China’s use of its Security Council veto.More from South China Morning Post:‘Based on lies’: China demands UN meeting on Uygurs be cancelled, claiming political biasHow Xinjiang human rights controversy is souring relations between China and the WestChina hits out as G7 slams Beijing over human rights, backs TaiwanThis article UN members call for ‘immediate, meaningful and unfettered access’ to Xinjiang for rights inquiry first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.
Here are three reliable dividend stocks that can provide sustainable dividends even if Singapore enters a second lockdown. The post 3 Steady Dividend Stocks You Can Rely On if Circuit Breaker 2.0 Happens appeared first on The Smart Investor.
Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal reached the quarter-finals of the Italian Open along with another former winner Alexander Zverev on Thursday as spectators returned to the stands for the first time in Italy.