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Putin says liberalism ‘eating itself,’ migrant influx to Europe hurt people’s interest

OSAKA, June 30: Russian President Vladimir Putin fired a new broadside against Western liberalism at the Group of 20 summit in Japan, saying that policies such as welcoming migrants have hurt people’s interests.

Speaking after the summit in Osaka concluded on Saturday, Putin charged that Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and a drop of popularity of traditional parties in Europe have been rooted in growing public dismay with mainstream liberal policies.

He said Trump’s election victory was driven by growing disenchantment with liberal policies.

“The liberal idea has started eating itself,” Putin said at a news conference. “Millions of people live their lives, and those who propagate those ideas are separate from them.”

He also charged that the influx of migrants to Europe has infringed on people’s rights. “People live in their own country, according to their own traditions, why should it happen to them?” Putin said.

The Russian leader added that while “liberal ideas remain attractive as a whole,” election results show that people want change.

Putin hailed his meeting with Trump on Friday on the sidelines of the G-20 summit as “business-like and pragmatic.”

“We addressed almost the entire list of issues of mutual concern,” he said. “Of course, we talked about the situation in various parts of the world. Overall, these consultations were useful.”

He said the claims of Russian meddling in the U.S. election were part of the agenda of his talk with Trump.

At the start of Friday’s meeting, the Russian leader laughed when a reporter shouted about Trump warning Putin “not to meddle” in the 2020 presidential election.

Asked Saturday whether the issue was discussed during the meeting, Putin said that “we talked about it,” but didn’t elaborate.

He said he believes it’s necessary to “turn the page” in relations with the U.S., which have plunged to the lowest level since the Cold War era.

In November, Trump abruptly canceled a scheduled round of talks with Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Argentina over Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian navy ships and their crews. Russia has kept the seamen in custody pending trial.

Putin said that Trump raised the issue during Friday’s meeting and made it a priority.

The Russian leader said the naval incident was a provocation staged by the former Ukrainian president, and signaled that the Ukrainian seamen could be released after their trial is over.

“We should wait until it’s over and then could deal with it,” he said. “They were only fulfilling an order, but they violated the Russian law.”

Putin said he and Trump agreed that the nations’ top diplomats should continue discussions on a possible extension of the New Start nuclear arms reduction treaty that expires in 2021.

They also talked about the need to encourage the development of bilateral economic ties, Putin said.

He also responded to criticism from singer Elton John, who accused Putin of duplicity after he offered a critical view of the Western emphasis on LGBT rights.

“I deeply respect him, he is a musical genius and we all love his performance, but I believe he’s mistaken,” Putin said.

John and the filmmakers of his biopic “Rocketman” have sharply criticized a Russian distributor’s decision to censor scenes from the new movie featuring gay sex and drug use.

Putin argued that Russia’s ban on “propaganda” of LGBT culture among children is aimed at protecting them from aggressive proselytizing by the LGBT community.

“Let a person grow up first before making a choice,” Putin said. “Let the children in peace.”

He said that “our attitude to the LGBT community is absolutely calm and unbiased,” but added that “this part of community aggressively enforces its point of view on others.”

International human rights groups have said that Russia’s “gay propaganda” law has exacerbated hostility toward LGBT people in the country and stifled access to LGBT-inclusive education and support services.

They also strongly protested a 2017 crackdown on gays in the mostly Muslim republic of Chechnya, where more than 100 gay men were arrested and subjected to torture, with some of them killed, according to activists.

Earlier this year, rights activists in Russia reported a new crackdown on gays in Chechnya in which at least two people have died and about 40 people have been detained. Authorities in Chechnya have denied the claims.

Taliban kills 25 as peace talks with US get under way in Doha

DOHA, June 29: Taliban fighters have killed at least 25 pro-government forces in northern Afghanistan as the seventh round of peace talks with the United States is under way in the Qatari capital.

The armed group attacked the pro-government fighters in Baghlan on Friday night, Afghan officials said. Eight others were wounded in the hours-long fighting late on Friday.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.

New round of talks between the US and the Taliban has began in Doha on Saturday, just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington is hoping for an Afghan peace agreement before September 1.

"There is a genuine sense of expectation on both sides," a senior US official, who declined to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to media, told Reuters news agency.

"It's a make-or-break moment."

The Doha talks centre on four interconnected issues: a Taliban guarantee that it will not allow fighters to use Afghanistan to launch international attacks, the withdrawal of US and NATO forces, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.

About 20,000 foreign troops, most of them American, are in Afghanistan as part of a US-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. Several thousand US forces carry out counterterrorism operations.

Khalilzad has been in Afghanistan and regional countries for several weeks meeting their representatives and Afghan officials, including President Ashraf Ghani.

On a trip to Kabul on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US was close to finishing a draft agreement with the group on counterterrorism assurances and he hoped a peace pact could be reached by September 1.

The pace of talks between the US and Taliban has sped up as Afghanistan heads for presidential elections on September 28.

"This is one of the crucial meetings," a senior Taliban leader in Qatar said, on condition of anonymity.

"If we fail to find any solution to the Afghan conflict then we would like to negotiate with the elected representatives of the American people."

The Taliban has repeatedly refused to allow representatives of the Afghan government join the negotiations, but has held several rounds of talks with some Afghans, including former President Hamid Karzai, in two meetings in Moscow earlier this year.

The Taliban, which controls or contests half the country, more than at any time since being overthrown by the US invasion in 2001, does not support the election process and has rejected a ceasefire.

Ghani, who has been sidelined from the talks, hopes the seventh round will open the door for an intra-Afghan meeting.

Civil society representatives, especially women's groups are concerned that a deal with the Taliban, which banned women from many aspects of public life while in power, will roll back freedoms they have gained since the group was removed from power in 2001.

Dubai’s Princess Haya flees UAE with money, kids: Reports

LONDON, June 29: Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, the sixth wife of Dubai’s billionaire ruler, has reportedly fled the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 31 million pounds and their two children following the break-up of their marriage.

According to media reports, the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum -- the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE -- is believed to be in hiding in London.

The princess, the half-sister of King Abdullah of Jordan, is said to be seeking a divorce after initially fleeing to Germany with her children Jalila, 11, and Zayed,7, where she requested political asylum.

She is understood to have taken 31 million pounds with her to start a new life, reports say.

Oxford educated Princess Haya has not been seen in public since May 20 and her social media accounts, which are usually full of photos of her charitable work, have not been active since February.

Unconfirmed reports in Arab media say that a German diplomat helped the princess “escape” from Dubai, leading to a potential diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

It is claimed that German authorities refused a request from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, one of the world’s richest men, to return his wife to Dubai.

Two sources close to the Dubai royal family were cited as saying by media reports that Princess Haya has indeed left the country and is seeking a divorce.

It comes after one of the Sheikh’s daughters, Princess Latifa attempted to flee from her father and Dubai. She was captured on a boat off the Indian coast and has since disappeared, but is believed to have been returned to the UAE.

Princess Latifa said abuse forced her to flee the kingdom - and human rights groups claim she is being held in captivity in Dubai.

Radha Stirling, Chief Executive of watchdog Detained in Dubai, said: “Whenever someone applies for political asylum, obviously, it is because their lives are in danger, and because they have suffered severe abuses and violations of their human rights.

“We already know that Princess Latifa, Sheikh Mohammed’s daughter, fled the UAE seeking asylum and alleging unspeakable abuse at the hands of her father.

“Now, it seems, Princess Haya, Sheikh Mohammed’s wife, has also fled the country and sought refuge in Germany.”

She said there are now “serious questions” about what prompted Princess Haya to flee.

Kithana ache he Modi: Australia’s Scott Morrison praises PM

OSAKA, June 29: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday tweeted a selfie with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and praised him in Hindi, saying “Kithana acha he Modi!”.

The two leaders are in Osaka, Japan for the G20 Summit.

The newly-elected Australian Prime Minister met his Indian counterpart in the morning and shared some light moments with him.

Morrison clicked a selfie with Modi and posted it on Twitter with a captain “Kithana acha he Modi!” (How good is Modi).

Last month, the two leaders congratulated each other on their respective election victories and pledged to work together.

The G20 (Group of Twenty) is an international leaders’ forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union. The 14th edition of the G20 Summit is being held here from June 28-29.

Modi holds separate talks with presidents of Indonesia, Brazil

OSAKA, June 29: Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the presidents of Indonesia and Brazil separately on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit here Saturday, and discussed ways to boost bilateral ties and enhance cooperation in trade and investment.

During his meeting with Indonesian president Joko Widodo, the prime minister discussed ways to deepen bilateral cooperation in trade and investment, defence and maritime fronts.

This was Modi’s first official engagement on the second day of the June 28-29 summit.

“Beginning Day 2 of the #G20 Summit by meeting a valued friend. PM @narendramodi holds talks with President @jokowi on ways to deepen India-Indonesia cooperation,” the prime minister’s office tweeted.

In a tweet, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “Taking forward the comprehensive strategic partnership. PM @narendramodi had a productive meeting with Indonesian President @jokowi on margins of #G20Summit. Discussed expanding cooperation in trade & investment, defence, maritime, space & exchanged views on Indo-Pacific vision.” Soon after, Modi met Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro.

“Deepening the close & multifaceted strategic partnership. PM @narendramodi & Brazilian President @jairbolsonaro held wide-ranging discussions on bilateral relationship, specially cooperation in trade & investment, agriculture & bio-fuels in the context of climate change,” Kumar tweeted.

Later in the day, the prime minister will meet leaders of Turkey and Australia among others.

On Friday, Modi held bilateral and plurilateral meetings with many leaders, including US President Donald Trump, Russian president Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping.

G20 leaders showcase support for women’s empowerment

OSAKA, June 29: Group of 20 leaders have joined their host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in showcasing support for helping women close the gap with men in finance and other forms of economic empowerment.

Ivanka Trump, adviser to President Donald Trump, said Saturday that the world economy would get a boost of up to USD 28 trillion by 2025 if women were on an equal economic footing. She was speaking at a special session on the issue at the G-20 summit in Osaka that included her father. She described improving the status of women as “smart economic and defense policy.” Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, the UN secretary-general’s special advocate for inclusive finance for development, says “it is really necessary to close this gap for women to be economically empowered.”

Modi meets Turkish President, holds talks on counter-terrorism, defence

OSAKA, June 29: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and held talks on a host of key issues including trade and investment, defence and counter-terrorism.

The two leaders, who are in Osaka, Japan, met in the morning on the margins of the two-day G20 Summit and talked about the strong development partnership between India and Turkey.

According to Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, the two leaders’ discussions focused on trade and investment, defence, counter-terrorism, IT and civil aviation.

“The interactions in Osaka continue. A productive meeting with President @RTErdogan on the sidelines of the #G20 Summit. Both leaders talked about the strong development partnership between India and Turkey,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a tweet.

The Turkish leader, during a two-day visit to India in July, 2018, assured India of his country’s full support in the fight against terrorism.

Earlier on Saturday, Prime Minister Modi met the presidents of Indonesia and Brazil separately on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit and discussed ways to boost bilateral ties and enhance cooperation in trade and investment.

On Friday, Modi held bilateral and plurilateral meetings with many leaders, including US President Donald Trump, Russian president Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping.

Modi discusses bullet train, Varanasi with Japan PM on G20 sidelines

OSAKA, June 27: Prime Minister Narendra Modi started his G20 visit with wide-ranging discussions on bilateral matters - including the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project and the Varanasi convention centre being built with Japanese cooperation-- with ‘old friend’ Japanese PM Shinzo Abe.Japan has granted India a soft loan of Rs 79,000 crore for India’s first bullet train modeled on Japan’s Shinkansen trains. One of the most ambitious infrastructure projects carried out with Japanese cooperation is due for 2022 launch.

The bilateral meeting also discussed other important issues of mutual concern and was described as “very constructive and detailed” between ‘old friends’ by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale.

He said Japan PM Abe had specifically suggested that the G20 should take up PM Modi’s initiative on the issue of fugitive economic offenders as part of its anti-corruption measures.

Both PMs would meet again tomorrow for a trilateral meeting between Japan, India & US for further discussions on the Indo-Pacific initiative that all three countries are separately pursuing and discussing together, he added

PM’s meeting with Abe is the first of many he will hold with top global leaders outside and inside the ambit of the summit.

At the start of the meeting, Shinzo Abe congratulated Modi for his stellar poll victory and said that it was ‘his turn’ to visit India and he was ‘looking forward’ to it. Prime Minister Modi acknowledged that Abe was the first to call after his victory. “...you were the first friend of India who congratulated me, on phone. I also express my gratitude for the warm welcome you and Japan Government have accorded to us.” PM said.

Kim Jong Un receives ‘excellent’ letter from Trump

SEOUL, June 24: President Donald Trump sent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a letter, a government-controlled news agency reported Sunday.

Kim “said with satisfaction that the letter is of excellent content,” the Korean Central News Agency reported.

“Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong Un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content,” the agency said.

The White House declined to confirm that Trump had sent a letter to Kim.

Nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea broke down after the failed summit between Kim and Trump in February in Vietnam.

The U.S. is demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons entirely before international sanctions are lifted. North Korea is seeking a step-by-step approach in which moves toward denuclearization are matched by concessions from the U.S., notably a relaxation of the sanctions.

The North Korean report on Trump’s letter came days after Kim’s summit with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping, which experts say underscored China’s emergence as a major player in the diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with the North.

North Korean state media said Kim and Xi discussed the political situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula and reached unspecified consensus on important issues.

Xi is expected to meet with Trump next week in Japan. Analysts say he could pass him a message from Kim about the nuclear negotiations.

Kim during his annual New Year’s speech said he would seek a “new way” if the United States persists with sanctions and pressure against North Korea. Following the collapse of his meeting with Trump in Hanoi over disagreements in exchanging sanctions relief and disarmament, Kim said Washington has until the end of the year to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal to salvage the negotiations.

Trump and Kim exchanged letters in 2018 after a summit in Singapore to discuss the nuclear issue. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time that the letters addressed their commitment to work toward North Korea’s “complete denuclearization.”

In September 2018, Trump told a cheering crowd at a campaign rally in West Virginia that Kim “wrote me beautiful letters and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”

China, Malaysia, Turkey bail out Pakistan at FATF meet

ORLANDO, June 22: Pakistan has managed to avoid being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for now even as the international watchdog found in its latest review that Islamabad failed to curb funnelling of funds to terror groups.

FATF said that it will keep Pakistan on its 'grey' list for now. The global terror funding watchdog, however, warned Islamabad of further action if it failed to show tangible results by October, which would likely result in sanctions hitting its fragile economy hard.

Pakistan got a temporary breather, garnering support of three out of the 35 member states: China, Malaysia and Turkey. While China has been an all-weather ally for Islamabad, bailing it out in the face of economic crisis, the neighbouring country has recently managed to strengthen its ties with Malaysia after assertive diplomatic efforts.

Pakistan has been inching closer to Turkey since the mid 2000s as the two countries fortified their trade and defense ties; it was also the only member that stood by Pakistan despite a strong campaign launched by the US, UK, India and Europe after recent terrorist attacks on India.

China, especially has backed Islamabad on multiple occasion despite increased global pressure spurred by India's relentless campaign. More recently, Beijing blocked New Delhi's bid to list Masood Azhar as a global terrorist four times before finally giving way in May. But experts say the move only came after it became 'untenable' for China to protect Pakistan's interest any longer as all other veto-powered members of the United Nations Security Council started rallying behind India.

The FATF decision is only a temporary relief for Pakistan, but experts say it will earn Islamabad much needed time to garner support from more friendly nations to eventually wade off the looming threat of sanctions.

"This is a temporary relief allowing us to rally more and more support to permanently get rid of this threat. As far as I know, the foreign ministry is already in touch with FATF and Asia Pacific Group (APG) members and other friendly countries, and briefing them of measures it has taken to combat terror financing and money laundering recently", according to Ali Sarwar Naqvi, former ambassador of Pakistan to Jordan.

Furthermore, it is noteworthy that China is set to secure FATF presidency before the next meeting is held while Saudi Arabia representing the Gulf Cooperation Council is to become a full FATF member, both countries being traditional Pakistani allies. With this, fears are ripe that Islamabad may get away once again, which will mean that action against groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba may lose steam, a government source said days before the FATF meeting began.

Currently, India, the co-chair of the joint group of FATF and the APG, along with the United States and United Kingdom, has been campaigning to ensure Islamabad ends up in FATF's 'blacklist', claiming that the country has failed to meet international standards in combating financial crimes and terror financing.

During the FATF meeting, the US, the UK and France were some prominent countries to have voiced concern over Pakistan's failure to do enough to contain terror funding in its soil and not registering cases against terror masterminds Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar under anti-terror laws, sources said.

Pakistan continues to state that it has seized more than 700 properties of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Jamat-ud-Dawah (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), similar to what it did as a result of its previous grey listing in 2012. However, FATF members are concerned that there are no cases registered against the terror leadership, namely Hafeez Saeed and Masood Azhar and other UN-designated terrorists.

In a bid to bluff the financial watchdog, Pakistani authorities have shown arrests of LeT, JeM, JuD and FiF cadres. But all were apprehended under its Maintenance of Public Order Act and not under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.

Under the MPO Act, authorities cannot hold a detainee beyond 60 days. Pakistan has detained JeM founder Azhar and LeT founder Saeed mostly under the laws that provide for detention for apprehension of breach of peace, they have never been prosecuted under anti-terror laws.

The FATF implements UN designations, which do not warrant arrest. They ask only for freeze of funds, denial of access to weapons and travel embargo. The financial watchdog also wants nations to impose penalties that are proportionate and dissuasive.

Islamabad has been on the global money laundering and terror financing watchdog FATF 'grey list' since June, 2018 after thorough assessment of the Asia Pacific Group (APG) of the country's security mechanism and its financial systems.

Pakistan has not been able to implement the 27 point action plan, which was assigned to it by the APG and FATF. The group set Islamabad a deadline for 2019 January to show conclusive proof of impact caused, which was further extended till May 2019. Pakistan failed to meet both deadlines.

India reminds Imran Khan as terror blacklist looms for Pakistan

NEW DELHI, June 22: India on Saturday called on Pakistan to take verifiable and irreversible action to effectively implement within the next three months an action plan framed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to curb terror financing.

New Delhi’s response came a day after a plenary meeting of FATF held in Orlando, Florida, said Islamabad had failed to meet targets to counter terror financing for the second consecutive time, and warned Pakistan could face harsher action.

The multilateral watchdog placed Pakistan on its “grey list” in June last year for failing to counter fund-raising by eight terror groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Islamic State and al-Qaeda. During an assessment in February, FATF said Pakistan had made “limited progress” in curbing terror financing and failed to show proper understanding of risks posed by the banned groups.

Responding to FATF’s latest assessment, external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “We expect Pakistan to take all necessary steps to effectively implement the FATF action plan fully within the remaining time frame i.e. by September 2019 in accordance with its political commitment to the FATF and take credible, verifiable, irreversible and sustainable measures to address global concerns related to terrorism and terrorist financing emanating from any territory under its control.”

Kumar noted that FATF had decided to continue to keep Pakistan on its grey list for monitoring “for its failure to complete the action plan items due in January and May 2019”.

In Islamabad, Pakistan’s finance ministry reiterated its “commitment to take all necessary measures to ensure completion of the FATF action plan in a timely manner”.

The FATF had “acknowledged the steps taken by Pakistan to improve its anti-money laundering/counter-terror financing regime and highlighted the need for further actions for implementing the action plan” and will undertake the next review of Pakistan’s progress in October, the finance ministry said in a statement.

In recent months, Pakistan has taken some steps in line with the action plan, including a ban on foreign currency transactions without a national tax number and a ban on currency change of up to $500 in the open market without submission of a copy of a national identity card.

Pakistan has also banned some militant groups and seized their assets, including Jamaat-ud-Dawah and JeM.

Following the assessment at its plenary meeting in Orlando this week, FATF expressed “concern that not only did Pakistan fail to complete its action plan items with January deadlines, it also failed to complete its action plan items due May 2019”.

“The FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its action plan by October 2019 when the last set of action plan items are set to expire. Otherwise, the FATF will decide the next step at that time for insufficient progress,” the watchdog said in a statement issued on Friday.

Though the statement didn’t mention the black list, which entails harsher financial sanctions, people familiar with developments said the tacit threat of further action was an indication FATF could downgrade Pakistan from the grey list.

IFJ urges UN to end discrimination against Taiwan journalists

By Deepak Arora

TUNIS, June 21: A resolution urging the U.N. to end its discrimination against Taiwan reporters was announced June 17 following the 30th Congress of the International Federation of Journalists in Tunisia.

The resolution condemns the “discriminatory exclusion” of Taiwan reporters from the World Health Assembly on the grounds they were using passports issued by a non-U.N. member state and working for local media outlets.

The WHA is the annual meeting of the governing body of the World Health Organization. Taiwan was excluded from the 72nd edition running May 20-28 in Geneva at the request of Beijing citing the “one China principle.”

According to the IFJ, the U.N. must cease “oppressing journalists for being who they are and for whom they chose to work and to immediately remove the term dictating applicant’s passport must be from a state recognized by the U.N. General Assembly.” The federation also urges the U.N. to accredit Taiwan journalists wishing to cover U.N. events.

In a tweet on the official account of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister Jaushieh Joseph Wu praised the IFJ for its “brave resolution” and urged the “#UN to end its discrimination against Taiwan & stop acting as a vassal of the CCP regime.”

Founded in 1926, the Brussels-headquartered IFJ represents around 600,000 media professionals in more than 140 countries and territories. It works to promote international action on issues ranging from journalist union development to labor and gender rights in the media.

Taiwan keeps Tier 1 ranking in Trafficking in Persons Report

By Deepak Arora

WASHINGTON, June 21: Taiwan maintained Tier 1 status for the 10th consecutive year in the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report released June 20 by the U.S. Department of State.

The country fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, the report said, with the government continuing to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts in investigating trafficking, prosecuting offenders, protecting victims and raising awareness of the issue.

Of the 33 Tier 1 countries, Taiwan is one of six in the Asia-Pacific alongside Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea. Hong Kong and China are listed as Tier 2 and Tier 3, respectively.

The report spotlights various government endeavors to strengthen enforcement and protections. These include investigating significantly more traffickers and labor recruitment agencies; conducting for the first time random inspections of fishing vessels on the high sea; repatriating an increased number of foreign victims; and amending legislation to improve protections for migrant workers.

The Ministry of the Interior said the ranking is recognition of government efforts in safeguarding human rights and fulfilling its responsibility as a member of the international community.

According to the MOI, 120 foreign victims of human trafficking
were rescued in 2018, while 112 individuals were prosecuted for conducting such crimes. Both numbers are the lowest record for Taiwan.

Regarding report recommendations pertaining to the fishing industry and recruitment of overseas workers, the MOI said remedial measures are in place and will be monitored accordingly by relevant agencies.

President Tsai to work with US for more free, open Indo-Pacific

By Deepak Arora

TAIPEI, June 19: President Tsai Ing-wen has said that Taiwan is committed to working with the U.S. in boosting bilateral ties and advancing a more free and open Indo-Pacific.

The two sides are strengthening cooperation across the board as they celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, Tsai said. This is demonstrated by growing exchanges in areas spanning culture, national defense, security and trade, she added.

Deepening ties are also underscored by the recent renaming of the Taiwan Council for U.S. Affairs, Tsai said. Formerly known as the Coordination Council for North American Affairs, TCUSA was established in 1979 to handle official exchanges with the American Institute in Taiwan.

Tsai made the remarks while receiving a delegation from Washington-based think tank the Brookings Institution at the Presidential Office in Taipei City.

Led by Brookings President John Allen alongside Richard C. Bush, senior fellow and former chairman and managing director of the AIT, the six-member delegation is in country on a political fact-finding visit. The group also participated the previous day in the inaugural conference for the institution’s Sustaining the East Asian Peace project.

According to Tsai, the decision to host the first meeting of the research initiative in Taiwan spotlights the country’s important role in upholding regional stability.

The Taiwan-U.S. partnership is a powerful force for promoting peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, Tsai said. Joint efforts in this regard include the co-staging of 19 capacity building workshops for officials and experts from across the region under the Taiwan-U.S. Global Cooperation and Training Framework, she added.

With Japan co-hosting several GCTF events for the first time this year, Tsai expressed hope that this platform can help further deepen regional cooperation.

Taiwan Is A Valuable Partner

By Ambassador Tien Chung-Kwang

NEW DELHI, June 7: The largest and the most arduous election in India has accomplished with great success. On behalf of the government and people of the Republic of China (Taiwan), I wish to extend our hearty congratulations to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the landslide victory in the recently concluded 17th Lok Sahba election. The election was widely commended for demonstrating once again India’s
strong democratic foundation as well as the Indian people’s staunch support and recognition for the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) Government under the dynamic leadership of the Prime Minister Modi.

With shared common values of freedom, democracy and human rights, Taiwan and India are natural partners as well as important stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific region. Since the establishment of representative offices in the respective capital in 1995, there has been steady progress in the relationship in the various spheres between India and Taiwan.
Annual two way trade of the two countries increased from $1.2 billion in 2000 to $7 billion last year. It is expected to raise to $10 billion in the next few years. There has been a rise in Taiwan’s investment in past years. In 2018 there are 105 Taiwanese companies working in different sectors of India economy with a total investment around $1.5 billion.

Over the years, Taiwan has set up 14 language centers in Indian universities and other educational institutions for the purposes of not only to provide Madarin Chinese language training but also to make connection between our two young generations. So far there are more than 6,000 Indian students have been benefited from the training program. Apart from that, Taiwan encourages India students to study in Taiwan and awards nearly 100 scholarships for Indian university students annually. Currently there are about 2,400 students pursuing their higher education in Taiwan.

Science, technology and agricultural cooperation between the two countries is also on the increasing trajectory in the past year. As of May 2019, nearly 90 projects and joint proposals have been carried out while 24 seminars have been held annually. India and Taiwan held its first Joint Working Committee Meeting for Agriculture, Husbandry and Fishery Cooperation in 2017, in which a very positive road map for the future
cooperation in those fields had been drawn. The Second Joint Working Committee Meeting will be held in the latter part of this year.

In recent years, cultural and people-to –people exchanges between India and Taiwan have been on the increase. In addition to the Taiwan films being screened annually in major film festivals of India, performing art groups and Youth Ambassador delegations have been welcomed by Indian society.

I would like to take this opportunity to express sincere appreciation for Prime Minister Modi and the NDA government for the support and good efforts in enhancing collaboration and substantial relations between India and Taiwan in the last five years. Most notably is the signing of the Bilateral Investment Agreement on December 18, 2018 between Taiwan and India.

This Agreement is one of the very first agreements India has signed with the countries which consider India as a great investment destination. While extending cordial congratulations for Prime Minister Modi’s second term and the new NDA government, Taiwan looks forward to strengthening even more close cooperation relationship with India.

We strongly believe that India and Taiwan are natural partners with no issues and baggages at all. As the two nations are complementary to each other in many areas and given Taiwan’s rich experience and expertise in the fields of hardware manufacturing, infrastructure, information and communication technology, AI and food processing and others, Taiwan could play a vital role in the India’s governments “Make in India”, “Digital India”, “Skill India” and ”Smart Cities” initiatives.

Finally, I wish to echo professor C. Raja Mohan’s comment in his article “Modi’s Taiwan Opportunity" published in May 29 in the India Express. “There are at least three reasons why Dehli shall take a fresh look at Taiwan and replace its current incrementalism with a more ambitious policy,” and “What the bilateral relations now need is high-level political attention in Delhi to make things happen and quickly….”

There is no doubt that Taiwan is surely a valuable partner for India. Taiwan’s contribution to India will never and could not be a liability but a great asset to India Government and people. As India is a key partner under Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy, we sincerely believe that India will cherish its relationship with Taiwan and wish that India and Taiwan will continue to work together to further strengthen the bilateral relationship and cooperation in areas such as economy and trade, science and technology, cultural, education and people to people exchanges in the next 5 years, so as to jointly advance peace, prosperity, security and development for the two countries and Indo – Pacific region.

@ Ambassador Tien Chung-Kwang is representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India

Terrorism ‘gravest threat’ people face in Asia: Jaishankar at CICA Summit

DUSHANBE, June 15: Terrorism poses the “gravest threat” to the people in Asia and terrorists and their victims must never be equated, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said here on Saturday.

Addressing the fifth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) Summit in the Tajik capital, Jaishankar said that the CICA members are the victims of terrorism.

“Terrorism is the gravest threat we face in Asia. CICA members are its victims and so it should be clear that terrorists and their victims must never be equated,” he tweeted.

His statement came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing the SCO Summit in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, lashed out at countries “sponsoring, aiding and funding” terrorism and said that such states must be held accountable, in a veiled reference to Pakistan.

The CICA is a pan-Asia forum for enhancing cooperation and promoting peace, security and stability in Asia.

Ahead of the Summit, Jaishankar was welcomed by President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon.

“An important Central Asian partner. EAM @DrSJaishankar welcomed by President of Tajikistan @EmomaliRahmon at the start of the #CICA2019 summit. CICA leaders will discuss collective strategies to deal with challenges facing the Asian continent,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet.

Jaishankar said India supports a peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.

“All initiatives and processes must include all sections of Afghan society, including the legitimately elected government,” he said.

Globalisation is under stress due to new geo-political and geo-economic faultlines. India supports a rule based order, he said.

“The India-Central Asia 5 dialogue format is big positive for cooperation and stability across regions.

“India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific is rooted in SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and in sync with CICA’s goals,” Jaishankar added.

The new External Affairs Minister arrived here on Friday for the 5th CICA Summit.

The theme of the summit is “Shared Vision for a Secure and More Prosperous CICA Region”.

The Summit will adopt a declaration covering issues of cooperation within CICA.

During the Summit, the CICA leaders are likely to deliberate on the existing and emerging issues of common concern and underline implementation of confidence building measures for developing Asia into a prosperous, secure and peaceful region.

India is a member of the CICA since its inception and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had participated in the first CICA Summit held in 2002 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

India has been actively participating in various activities conducted under the aegis of CICA.

After Protests, Hong Kong Suspends Divisive Extradition Bill

HONG KONG, June 15: Hong Kong's embattled leader on Saturday said a divisive bill that would allow extraditions to China would be "suspended" in a major climbdown from her government after a week of unprecedented protests.

The city's pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam has come under huge pressure to abandon the controversial legislation, including from her own political allies and advisers.

"The government has decided to suspend the legislative amendment exercise, restart our communication with all sectors of society, do more... work and listen to different views of society," Lam told reporters Saturday.

"We have no intention to set a deadline for this work and promise to report to and consult members of the legislative council panel on security before we decide on the next step forward."

The international finance hub was rocked by the worst political violence since its 1997 handover to China on Wednesday as tens of thousands of protesters were dispersed by riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

As criticism mounted, signs also emerged of a growing discomfort among Communist Party leaders in Beijing, and Lam held her press conference Saturday at the same government complex that was besieged by protesters earlier in the week.

The South China Morning Post said Lam held an emergency meeting on Friday night with her advisers while Chinese officials were also meeting in the nearby city of Shenzhen to map a way out of the impasse.

Carrie Lam had previously refused to consider abandoning the extradition bill

Tensions were running high with protest organisers planning another mass rally on Sunday.

Lam, who is appointed by a committee stacked with Beijing loyalists, had previously refused to consider abandoning the bill, despite months of criticism from business and legal bodies -- and a record breaking rally on Sunday where organisers said more than one million protesters hit the streets.

"I feel deep sorrow and regret that the deficiencies in our work and various other factors have stirred up substantial controversies and disputes in society following the relatively calm periods of the past two years," Lam said.

On Friday she found herself facing growing calls from within her own political camp to reverse course and tamp down spiralling public anger -- including from hardline pro-Beijing lawmakers.

"Shouldn't (we) cool the citizens down? I think to postpone it for a little bit is not a bad thing. At this moment, the government should self-examine," Ann Chiang, a hardcore pro-Beijing lawmaker, told i-Cable News.

But others have warned against Lam bending to the protesters.

"If the government caves in to violence and external influences, in the long run that would also make Hong Kong ungovernable," pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip told reporters.

Opposition to the extradition bill has united an unusually wide cross section of Hong Kong.

Protest organisers had been calling for a full withdrawal of the bill, not a postponement.

James To, a lawmaker from the city's pan-democrat camp, called on Lam to step down.

"The credibility of our chief executive has already been written off, it's a kind of government that cannot have any credibility to rule anymore," he told reporters Friday.

Beijing has vocally supported the bill and earlier this week threw its full support behind the Lam administration, calling protesters "rioters".

But it has since sought to distance itself as public anger spiralled.

"The central government gave no instruction, no order about the... amendment," Lu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to Britain, told the BBC.

"This amendment was initiated by the Hong Kong government."

On Friday night, thousands of parents gathered in a park in the heart of the city's commercial district to condemn the use of rubber bullets and tear gas against predominantly young protesters on Wednesday.

Terror sponsors must be held accountable, Modi tells SCO

BISHKEK, June 14: Countries supporting and financing terror must be held accountable, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday while addressing a gathering in the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek that included his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan.

Modi didn’t name any country in his speech at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, keeping in mind the grouping’s sensitivities to the raising of bilateral matters by members, but there was little doubt the reference was to Pakistan.

India’s concerns about terror emanating from Pakistan were also addressed in the Bishkek Declaration adopted at the summit, which spoke of the need for greater coordination to tackle “cross-border” security challenges and said the use of terror groups “to achieve one’s own mercenary ends is unacceptable”.

“It is necessary that the countries which encourage, support and finance terrorism are held responsible,” said Modi, who largely kept his distance from Khan while attending at least seven events during the two-day summit, including photo ops, a formal dinner and a formal lunch. The two leaders only “exchanged usual pleasantries” when they came face-to-face in the leaders lounge on Friday, people familiar with developments said.

Modi referred to the impact of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka last month and called for an international conference to fight terror. All humanitarian forces will have to emerge from their narrow realms and unite to combat the menace, he said.

“During my visit to Sri Lanka last Sunday, I visited St Anthony’s Church, where I saw the ugly face of terrorism that emerges everywhere and at any time to claim the lives of innocents,” Modi said in his address, referring to one of the sites targeted by the suicide bombers who killed more than 250 people.

SCO members should use the full potential for cooperation under the grouping’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) to eliminate terror, he added, speaking in Hindi.

India has linked any engagement with Pakistan to a crack down on terror groups based on Pakistani soil. Modi said during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday that Pakistan is yet to take concrete action on India’s concerns and create an atmosphere free of terror.

The Bishkek Declaration called for close coordination and constructive cooperation by the world community to tackle “challenges and security threats that are becoming cross-border in their nature”, including terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, unsettled conflicts undermining the global security system and climate change.

The SCO members condemned terror in all forms and emphasised their intention to deepen cooperation to address threats to stability and security. They said acts of terrorism cannot be justified and called for comprehensive measures to determine, and eliminate factors and conditions that promote terror.

“They note that interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs under the pretext of fighting terrorism and extremism as well as using terrorist, extremist and radical groups to achieve one’s own mercenary ends is unacceptable,” the declaration said.

While condemning the “propaganda of the ideology of terrorism” and intolerance and discrimination based on religion, the SCO members said it is a priority to step up joint efforts to counter attempts to involve youngsters in the activities of terrorist, separatist and extremist groups.

Modi also presented a new acronym HEALTH that could be a template for cooperation – healthcare cooperation, economic cooperation, alternate energy, literature and culture, terrorism-free society and humanitarian cooperation.

A peaceful and united Afghanistan is an important factor for stability and security in the SCO area and India backs an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled inclusive peace process, he said. “We are happy that the road map for further action by the SCO Afghanistan contact group is ready,” he added.

In the field of climate change, Modi urged SCO members to back the International Solar Alliance to mobilise technology and finance to reduce solar energy costs.

Referring to India’s involvement in connectivity projects such as Iran’s Chabahar port and the North-South Corridor, Modi told the gathering that included Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that all such initiatives should be based on respect for sovereignty, regional integrity, transparency and reliability.

In his speech, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said his country condemns terrorism in all forms and manifestations, “including state-terrorism against people under illegal occupation”. He contended Pakistan was among the “few countries to have successfully turned the tide against terrorism”. He also said growing intolerance and Islamophobia were “threatening to accentuate religious fault lines”.

A scheduled bilateral meeting between the Indian premier and the Iranian president on Friday couldn’t be held as an official banquet for all the SCO leaders was delayed and this disrupted the schedule of all the leaders, people familiar with developments said.

Modi had to attend a business forum while Rouhani had various engagements, they said.

Netanyahu Thanks India for rare vote for Israel at UN

JERUSALEM, June 13: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has thanked his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for voting in favour of a decision introduced by the Jewish state that objected to granting consultative status to a Palestinian group at the UN’s Economic and Social Council.

In a rare move, India on Tuesday voted in favour of Israel in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to deny the Palestinian non-governmental organisation ‘Shahed’ the observer status, after Israel said the organisation did not disclose its ties with Hamas.

“Thank you @NarendraModi, thank you India, for your support and for standing with Israel at the UN,” Netanyahu said in a tweet on Wednesday, almost a week after the June 6 vote.

It is the first time that India has voted on a resolution at the UN that is being perceived as pro-Israel.

India’s position on the Middle East Peace Process has been consistent and clear. India supports a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel as endorsed in the Quartet Roadmap and relevant UNSC Resolutions. India has also always played a proactive role in garnering support for the Palestinian cause in multilateral fora.

New Delhi had abstained during a voting at the UNHRC in 2015 on a resolution related to violence in Gaza which was seen as a “significant move” in Israel and attributed by many to the “emerging strong chemistry between Modi and Netanyahu”.

India had then explained to the Palestinian Authority the reasons for its stand and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had “accepted and understood” why New Delhi abstained then.

The ECOSOC vote, which took place at the UN, saw countries such as the US, France, Germany, India, Japan, the UK, South Korea and Canada polling in favour of Israel, while China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others voted against it.

The proposal made by the Palestinian NGO ‘Shahed’ to obtain observer status in the UN was rejected by a 28-14 vote.

Maya Kadosh, deputy chief of mission at the Israel embassy in India, on Tuesday in a Tweet thanked New Delhi “for standing with @IsraelinUN and rejecting the request of terrorist organization “Shahed” to obtain the status of an observer in #UN. Together we will continue to act against terrorist organizations that intend to harm.” Kadosh mentioned that the organisation has links with Hizbullah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad that was designated as terrorist organisation in 1997.

“This is a good sign… India was the first country to support us amongst the Asia group, so we are very happy,” she added.

A statement by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs later said that ‘Shahed’ claims to be dealing with human rights and humanitarian issues, but in practice it is a “terrorist organisation” and operates as “an arm of the Hamas terror organisation” based in Lebanon.

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has been described as a terrorist organisation by many European countries.

At meeting with Xi, Modi drives point home on terror from Pak

BISHKEK, June 13: Pakistan is yet to take “concrete action” on India’s concerns and create an atmosphere free of terrorism, which is necessary to facilitate any possible engagement between the two sides, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday.

Modi made the remarks when the issue of Pakistan came up during his bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek.

“The Prime Minister did inform President Xi Jinping that Pakistan needs to create an atmosphere free of terrorism and that at this stage, we did not see this as happening as yet, and that, therefore, we expect Pakistan to take concrete action on the issues that India has proposed in the areas of concern that we have flagged to Pakistan,” foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale told a news briefing after the meeting.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan too is in Bishkek for the summit though Indian officials have ruled out the possibility of a bilateral meeting. Modi’s remarks made it clear there is little possibility of an immediate breakthrough in improving relations between the two sides, which nosedived after the suicide attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed at Pulwama in Kashmir on February 14.

Reports from Bishkek said Modi and Khan didn’t shake hands or exchange pleasantries at a dinner hosted by the Kyrgyz president and at a concert. At both events, the two leaders were seated a few seats apart.

Modi also told Xi that India has a “consistent position on Pakistan”, which includes discussing all issues through a bilateral mechanism and looking for peaceful settlement through negotiation, Gokhale said.

“We are committed to this process. The Prime Minister recalled that he has made efforts in this regard and these efforts have been derailed,” Gokhale added, an apparent reference to Modi’s efforts to reach out to the Pakistan government in his first term.

Modi’s meeting with Xi, the first since his electoral victory last month, largely focused on preparations for the second informal summit between the two leaders, expected to be held in India on October 11, and the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2020. Modi proposed the two sides should organise 70 events, 35 in each country, and the two leaders tasked their foreign ministers to finalise the details.

Both leaders agreed there was a “new momentum” in bilateral relations since the first informal summit at Wuhan last year and Modi noted this had led to improved “strategic communication at all levels”, which had resulted in the resolution of some long-pending issues such as the listing of JeM chief Masood Azhar at the UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee and the opening of Bank of China branch in India.

They agreed that they “must thoroughly prepare” for the second informal summit so that its outcome meets the expectations of both countries, Gokhale said.

Modi also said it was important to tackle the trade deficit with China and appreciated the simplification of regulatory procedures by the Chinese side, especially for non-basmati rice, sugar, agricultural products and pharmaceuticals. He hoped there will now be a “significant uptick” in India’s exports of these products.

There was a brief discussion on the boundary issue and Modi and Xi instructed the Special Representatives for this matter – National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and foreign minister Wang Yi – to expedite discussions for “achieving a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution”, Gokhale said.

A statement from China’s foreign ministry said Xi again congratulated Modi on his re-election and said both the countries should strengthen confidence-building measures and maintain stability in the border areas. China and India should “jointly safeguard free trade and multilateralism”, he added.

Xi said the two sides “should adhere to the basic judgment that China and India are mutual development opportunities and do not pose a threat to each other”, the statement said. They should “deepen mutual trust, focus on cooperation and properly handle differences to make Sino-Indian relations a greater positive asset”.

The Chinese leader added the two sides should also “jointly promote regional interconnectivity, including the construction of economic corridors between Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar, to better achieve cooperative and common development”.

During a separate bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Modi accepted an invitation to be the chief guest at the Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Vladivostok during September 4-6. The forum will be followed by the annual India-Russia Summit at the same venue, Gokhale said.

Modi told Putin business delegations and representatives of key Indian states will visit Russia’s resource-rich Far East before his visit to work on potential areas of cooperation as part of India’s Act East policy. The two sides also discussed cooperation in exploring Arctic oil and gas reserves and the use of skilled Indian manpower in Russia’s under-populated Far East, Gokhale said.

These issues will be further discussed at a strategic economic dialogue in July, while Russia’s deputy premier and special representative for the Arctic and Far East, Yury Trutnev, will visit India in June.

Sudan death toll climbs to 113 after crackdown on pro-democracy protesters

KHARTOUM, June 7: The death toll following the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters here has risen to 113, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said on Friday.

“Due to internet cuts and pressure on doctors, we have just received information since Wednesday on those who lost lives. The death toll rose to 113, including four in Port Sudan and one in Khartoum, due to the bullets of the Cancavit militias and the Transitional Military Council (TMC),’‘ Anadolu Agency quoted the committee as saying.

The country’s health ministry, however, maintained that only 61 people had lost their lives in the crackdown.

“Since the first day of the events, the number of bodies delivered to hospitals has reached 61,” Sudan’s Deputy Health Minister, Solaiman Abdul Jabbar said, according to the state news agency.

Violence erupted on Monday after the military stormed the main camp of the protesters here in a bid to break up the agitation. The demonstrators had demanded that the TMC, which toppled Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir in a coup this April, hand over the government charge to civilians.

The deputy chairman of the ruling TMC, Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, has denied the military’s involvement in the violence altogether.

Quoting eyewitnesses, CNN had earlier reported that the police and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces fired shots at the protesters, while many law enforcement personnel beat the demonstrators who took to the streets.

While protesters have been asking the TMC to step down to make way for a government led by civilian leaders, the military reached a settlement with the opposition for a three-year transition to democracy.

During an address on state TV on Tuesday, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of the council, however, said that elections will be held within nine months.

Swedish court denies detention request for Julian Assange

UPPSALA, June 4: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has won a major legal victory as a Swedish court denied a request to detain him over a sexual assault investigation dating back to 2010.

The ruling by the Uppsala District Court on Monday is a setback for prosecutors who were hoping to issue a European Arrest Warrant for Assange and request his extradition from the United Kingdom to Sweden.

The court agreed with prosecutors that Assange could pose a flight risk, but said detention would not be proportionate, CNN reported.

The Swedish rape investigation was the reason Assange spent almost seven years in self-imposed exile in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy. The WikiLeaks founder walked into the building in June 2012, shortly after losing a years-long extradition battle in the UK’s Supreme Court.

He remained there until April this year, when his dramatic arrest prompted Swedish prosecutors to reopen the investigation last month.

Assange’s lawyer, Per E Samuelson, said Monday that his client denied the accusations and also argued that detention would be disproportionate. He added that Assange “has always wanted to cooperate” with the investigation.

The rape allegation was one of four sexual assault accusations that Assange faced after his visit to Sweden in August 2010. The case has never moved beyond the investigation stage and Assange has not been charged with any crimes in the country.

In August 2015, the statute of limitations on three of the four allegations lapsed. Under Swedish law, any charges related to the fourth allegation of rape must be made by August 2020.

The probe into the alleged rape was suspended in 2017 as a result of Assange’s continued residence in the embassy.

On Monday the judge said that in order to finish the investigation, the prosecutors could issue a European Investigation Order, which would make it possible for them to interview Assange and conclude the inquiry.

The prosecutor said the investigation will continue but didn’t give any details about the next steps.

Since his arrest in April, Assange has been sentenced to nearly a year in a UK prison over bail violations stemming from when he first entered the Ecuadorian embassy. He is also facing a US extradition request.

Assange was indicted in the United States on one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. He was then charged with 17 counts under the Espionage Act for his role in receiving and publishing national defence information in concert with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

The Swedish court’s decision means the US will not have to compete with Sweden over which extradition request is given priority.

Taiwan says 'unrepentant' China covers up truth about Tiananmen Square crackdown even today

TAIPEI, June 4: China continues to cover up the truth about the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, Taiwan’s president said on Tuesday, ahead of vigils in the region to commemorate the event.

Chinese troops opened fire to end the student-led unrest, with the toll ranging from several hundred to several thousand, according to witnesses and rights groups.

Chinese authorities ban any public commemoration and have never released a full toll.

“The Chinese government not only did not plan to repent for the past mistake, but it also continued to cover up the truth,” Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen said in a Facebook post. “Please be reassured — Taiwan will definitely defend democracy and freedom. Regardless of threats and infiltration, as long as I’m the president, Taiwan will not bow to pressure.”

The post, which was accompanied by a cartoon of Tsai holding a candle, also expressed concern for China’s “erosion of freedom” in Hong Kong, a former British colony which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula.

Democratic Taiwan tends to use the Tiananmen Square anniversary to criticise China and call for it to face up to its actions. China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its sacred territory, to be taken back by force if necessary.

Tsai’s comments came ahead of large candlelight vigils in the region, including in Taipei and Hong Kong.

The chairman of Apple supplier Foxconn, Terry Gou, who is seeking to represent the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party in Taiwan’s presidential election in January, said Taiwan’s democratic development was a “beacon light” for China.

“I have always been deeply saddened and sympathetic towards all the civilians and their families who were harmed... This is a historic wound that should have been appeased and healed,” Gou told reporters in Taipei.

Beijing has increased government suppression of rights activism, pushing the demonstrators’ original goals further away than ever.

Financial information provider Refinitiv, under pressure from China’s government, has removed from its Eikon terminal Reuters news stories related to the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown.

Tsai’s government urged Beijing on Monday to “sincerely repent” for the Tiananmen crackdown, while a Chinese newspaper said nobody in China was interested in dragging up the past.

China suspects Tsai and her ruling party of pushing formal independence for Taiwan, a red line for China.

Beijing steps up security on 30th anniversary of Tiananmen

BEIJING, June 4: The tight security served as a reminder of the government’s attempts to quash any memories of the crackdown on the night of June 3-4, 1989, that is believed to have killed hundreds and possibly thousands of people.

China stepped up security around Tiananmen Square in central Beijing on Tuesday, as its embassy in Washington criticized the top U.S. diplomat for his statement on its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests at the square 30 years ago.

Extra checkpoints and street closures greeted tourists who showed up before 5 a.m. to watch the daily flag-raising ceremony at the square. An honor guard marched across a barricaded road and raised the Chinese flag as the national anthem played.

The tight security served as a reminder of the government’s attempts to quash any memories of the crackdown on the night of June 3-4, 1989, that is believed to have killed hundreds and possibly thousands of people.

For many Chinese, the 30th anniversary of the crackdown will pass like any other day. Any commemoration of the event is not allowed in mainland China, and the government has blocked access to information about it on the internet.

A half-dozen activists could not be reached by phone or text. One who could, Beijing-based Hu Jia, said he had been taken by security agents to the northeastern coastal city of Qinghuangdao on May 30.

Chinese authorities routinely take known dissidents away on what are euphemistically called “vacations” or otherwise silence them during sensitive political times.

“This is a reflection of their fears, their terror, not ours,” Mr. Hu said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement on Monday saluting what he called the “heroes of the Chinese people who bravely stood up thirty years ago ... to demand their rights.”

A post on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Washington said that Pompeo’s statement “grossly intervenes in China’s internal affairs ... and smears its domestic and foreign policies.”

It added that the Chinese government and people reached a verdict long ago on what it called “the political incident of the late 1980s,” and that China’s rapid economic development and progress in democracy and the rule of law show it is following the right path.

Kim Jong Un’s sister back in public eye at North Korea’s mass games

SEOUL, June 4: The powerful younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended a public event in Pyongyang for the first time in more than 50 days, casting further doubt on media speculation he had ordered her to lay low over the failed nuclear summit with Washington.

North Korea’s state media on Tuesday showed Kim Yo Jong clapping aside her brother, his wife and other top officials at the 150,000-seat May Day Stadium where thousands of gymnasts, dancers and flip-card-wielding spectators worked in precise unison to perform “The Land of the People.”

The official Korean Central News Agency said the performers on Monday showed “beautiful and graceful rhythmic movements, high-spirited gymnastics, interesting national emotion and rich artistic depiction,” but also that Kim Jong Un was quite unhappy about their display. He seriously criticized the creators for their “wrong spirit of creation and irresponsible work attitude” and set forth “important tasks” to correctly implement the country’s revolutionary policy on literature and art, the agency said.

State media often reports on Kim scolding factory officials, educators and others perceived as not performing to his standards. The mass games events were once routine in North Korea but were on hiatus for several years during the mourning for Kim’s father and only returned last year.

Kim Yo Jong is a senior official of North Korea’s ruling party and is believed to be her brother’s closest confidant. She had accompanied him to his summits with President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in and had joined other dignitaries in the stands at last year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

But speculations about her status grew after she was left out from her brother’s trip to Vladivostok, Russia, in April for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. North Korean media had last shown her at a meeting of the North’s rubber-stamp parliament on April 12.

South Korea’s conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper last week cited an unidentified source to report that Kim Jong Un had ordered his sister to lay low following the collapse of his summit with Trump in February over mismatched demands in sanctions relief and nuclear disarmament. The newspaper had also reported Kim had punished his former top nuclear envoy, Kim Yong Chol, who North Korean media showed at the mass games and at a weekend concert of military wives.

Senior envoy Kim Hyok Chol, who the Chosun reported had been executed along with four Foreign Ministry officials for betrayal, has not been seen by the media since the end of the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February.

South Korea’s government and media have a mixed record on tracking developments among North Korea’s ruling elite, made difficult by Pyongyang’s stringent control of information about them. Although North Korea has previously banished or executed scapegoats to atone for major political flops, experts doubted the recent reports, saying such extreme punishments were unlikely unless Kim Jong Un was abandoning negotiations with the United States.

Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, said Kim Yo Jong would not have been seen at the Supreme People’s Assembly meeting in April had she been disciplined over the summit failure. Cheong said it’s more likely she was reappearing after a period of rest.

Women’s rights slipping, gender equality under attack: Justin Trudeau

VANCOUVER, June 4: Gender equality is “under attack” amid hatred, misogyny and politicians campaigning to undo women’s rights, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday at the launch of a global conference on women’s issues.

Progress in women’s rights is backsliding in the face of taunts and hostility that travel on social media and seep into public discourse, said Trudeau, a self-avowed feminist who appointed the first gender-balanced cabinet.

Some 8,000 delegates from more than 165 countries are attending Women Deliver in Vancouver, the world’s largest gender equality conference, which will address topics from women’s political empowerment to education and employment.

The conference was opened by a procession of indigenous men and women, clad in traditional clothing, some wearing red in memory of murdered and missing girls and women.

Trudeau hailed as a “significant step toward justice” a Canadian government finding on Monday that the deaths of more than 1,000 aboriginal girls and women in recent decades was a national genocide.

The report, from an inquiry launched by Trudeau’s government in 2016, blamed the violence on long-standing discrimination against indigenous people and Canada’s failure to protect them.

“For too long, indigenous women and girls have experienced violence at a rate that is staggering when compared to non-indigenous women,” Trudeau said.

The report made scores of recommendations, and Trudeau vowed to develop and implement a national action plan to prevent future violence.

He told delegates that women around the world were battling misogyny, racism and hatred.

“Gender equality is under attack,” he said. “Individuals and interest groups are trying to roll back women’s rights. “Politicians are giving into the pressure, shamefully campaigning to undo women’s hard-won victories. That’s a daunting reality.”

The inquiry into the missing and murdered women was a painful process that heard testimony from thousands of witnesses, including hundreds of family members of victims.

Citing colonial violence, racism, sexism and more, the report said many indigenous people have grown up normalized to violence, while Canadian society showed “an appalling apathy” to addressing the issue.

“The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls finds that this amounts to genocide,” it said.

Pak sabotages Iftar hosted by Indian mission in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD, June 2: India on Sunday denounced the sabotage of the traditional iftar hosted by India’s envoy to Pakistan, saying it violated “all notions of civilized behaviour”, and lodged a strong protest with Islamabad.

“The disappointing chain of events on June 1 not only violate basic norms of diplomatic conduct but are against all notions of civilized behaviour,” a statement from the Indian High Commission here said.

“Stopping diplomats and officials of the High Commission of India in Pakistan from discharging their diplomatic functions by intimidation and coercion is entirely counter-productive for our bilateral relationship,” the statement said.

Pakistani security personnel forcibly stopped some 300 visitors, mainly Pakistanis, from attending the iftar hosted by Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria at Hotel Serena here on Saturday. They also misbehaved with Indian diplomats.

“The security forces stationed on the main road outside Hotel Serena rudely rebuffed and intimated officers and diplomatic staff of the High Commission of India who tried to ascertain from the security personnel the reasons for harassment of the guests,” the statement said.

“Some officials were jostled, pushed, abused and aggressively threatened with bodily harm. In some cases, mobile phones belonging to officials were snatched.”

The statement said: “Guests faced unprecedented harassment and intimidation at the hands of security agencies.”

It said a concerted campaign was launched by Pakistani security agencies in the days preceding the iftar to reach out to invitees to actively dissuade them from attending the event.

“Those guests who did reach the function venue, in some cases from places as far as Lahore and Karachi, were intimidated and physically stopped from attending the iftar by Pakistani security forces, who had virtually laid the Serena Hotel under siege.

“Further, many guests from the diplomatic community based in Islamabad were also subjected to harassment.

“In complete violation of diplomatic norms, a large Pakistani security detachment, equipped with forklifts, was detailed outside Serena Hotel to aggressively turn away Pakistani civilians.

“In some cases, cars used by invitees were lifted and removed using forklifts. The more than 300 esteemed Pakistani guests who were turned away included MPs, government officials, media representatives, retired military officials and businessmen and retired diplomats, in addition to citizens from all walks of life.”

The High Commission said India “has strongly protested to Pakistan” over “the gross intimidation of guests”.

The mission urged the Pakistani government to “urgently investigate these ugly events and share the results of the exercise with it.

“Further, we have emphasized to the government of Pakistan the need to ensure that diplomats and officials of the High Commission of India are allowed to discharge their diplomatic functions without fear of coercion or harassment.”

Later on Saturday, Bisaria told the media: “I want to apologize to all the friends who were subject to some extra scrutiny outside (the venue).”

Witnesses said the operation was carried out by Pakistani security agencies including intelligence personnel not in uniform.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi were among those invited to the event but they skipped it.

As soon as the guests started arriving at the venue, they were stopped outside and prevented aggressively from going in by the security agencies.

Pakistani security officials reportedly also telephoned members of the Karachi Federation of Chambers of Commerce, the Faisalabad Chambers of Commerce and the Lahore Chambers of Commerce not to attend the iftar party.

The Pakistani media did not report Saturday’s incident, which comes days after Islamabad accused Indian security personnel of obstructing Indians from attending an iftar party thrown by the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi.

India-Pakistan relations have been badly hit after an Islamist group based in Pakistan claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 40 troopers in Jammu and Kashmir in February.

 
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