Fury as Hunan watermelon seller is ‘beaten to death by chengguan’
The death of a Hunan watermelon vendor has reignited public outrage against the chengguan force in China as the latest incident of what some call excessive violence has triggered a protest in the south-central province. The Linwu county government dispatched more than 200 riot police on Thursday morning to seize a farmer’s body and disperse protesters who had gathered in the area to demand fair punishment of the chengguan, an urban management force, a journalist reported.
Linwu farmer Deng Zhengjia, 56, was reported dead on Wednesday morning after he and his wife clashed with local urban management officers at their stand. The Beijing News quoted a witness as saying eight officers beat the couple while one of them struck Deng’s head with a metal measuiring weight. When Deng fell to the ground, the chengguan refused to call an ambulance and left the scene, witnesses said.
An ambulance later arrived, but Deng was already dead. His wife, who had minor wounds, was taken to hospital. The conflict first began when chengguang fined the couple 100 yuan (HK$126) and confiscated some of their watermelons, saying they were operating a vendor stand without a licence and proper uniforms, according to Deng’s relatives. Local authorities issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon, saying that Deng had “suddenly fallen to the ground and died” during the incident. But the victim’s relatives were not convinced, and said Deng has always been in good health.
Chengguan, which are installed in almost every city, mostly clamp down on illegal street vendors. They have increasingly made the news in recent years for their bullying, which has often resulted in injuries and sometimes death. On Wednesday, hundreds of angry onlookers, who called the officers’ enforcement methods violent, joined Deng’s relatives and surrounded his body, refusing to leave the scene.
They fended off attempts by authorities to seize the body because they were concerned it would not be given a proper and transparent autopsy. The stand-off, which lasted until early Thursday morning, led to several confrontations between the police and public overnight, according to website journalist Cao Xiaobo, of state-run China Central Television. At least 10 people were injured as of Thursday morning, Cao reported from a local hospital.
Two television reporters from Hunan Economic TV also sustained multiple wounds from police beatings after they tried to shoot video at the scene on Wednesday night, the Beijing News reported. “Don’t you dare shoot or you will die here,” they heard the police who had thick wooden sticks in their hands as saying. The reporters also told the newspaper that police smashed their car and took away one of their mobile phones. Local police on Wednesday night said they had detained several chengguan members for investigation, the Beijing News reported. The government also said it had set up various task forces to deal with the matter and vowed to investigate all relevant parties.
Colombia To Eradicate Illegal Mining
BOGOTA, July 18 (BERNAMA-NNN-XINHUA) — The Colombian government will eradicate illegal mining that damages environment and funds rebel groups while keeping the independent mining running, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Wednesday after demonstrations broke out in key mining departments. “We are not against artisanal mining, we are against criminal mining that damages the environment and breaks all laws. We have seen how illegal mining is destroying rivers, reservoirs and the entire country,” Santos said at a public event in the city of La Virginia in Colombia’s western department (state) of Risaralda.
More than 200,000 artisanal and small-scale miners went on strike on Wednesday in 18 different regions, demanding a repeal of the Andean Community law that allows authorities to seize and destroy machinery used in illegal mining. Miners called for the government to make a new law, clearly differentiating between independent artisanal miners and illegal miners.
The president said he was willing to listen to the demands of the miners and was pleased to hold dialogues. But he warned that the government will not allow any of these strikes to blockade a single highway that affect Colombians’ daily life. As the world’s fourth-largest exporter of coal, Colombia has been suffering several rounds of strikes from local miners who demand better treatment since February. — BERNAMA-NNN-XINHUA
Oyo: Police arrest 37 students protesting hike in tuition
OYO State police command has arrested 37 students of Emmanuel Alayande College of Education, Oyo, over the attack on policemen during a students’ protest against the increase in tuition fees, on Wednesday. One of the policemen was reported to have sustained serious injured when they were trying to prevent the breakdown of law and order during the protest. The students were alleged to have physically assaulted the chief security officer of the institution, damaging his phone and other valuables, while the school library, computer room and the Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) taken to the school for crime prevention were vandalised.
Trouble was said to have started on Saturday when the students of the institution studying for bachelor’s degrees were informed of the decision of Ekiti State University, to which the institution is affiliated, to increase its fees. The students, said to be writing their final paper that day, left the examination hall to protest the increase in fees, but were calmed by the school authorities and the police, led by the Oyo Area Commander, Mr Olawale Olokede. Not assuaged by the pleas of the police officer, the students were said to have gone to the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, to express their grievance, though they could not see him.
On Monday, the area commander and the college authorities reportedly held a meeting with the students’ representatives, where it was disclosed that only the degree-awarding arm of the school would be affected by the increment. The authorities also promised to convey their grievances to the authorities of Ekiti State University. It was gathered that after the peace parley, the students were misinformed that the school fees of the college had been increased, a development that made the students to abandon the exam halls to start a protest.
The situation was said to have been brought under control again, the evidence of which was noticed in the calmness that pervaded the institution on Tuesday. Things, however, took a dramatic turn when some students, numbering about 25, were said to have invaded the campus on Wednesday morning at about 8.00 a.m, wearing masks on their faces. They allegedly attacked the chief security officer who tried to calm them down, while they took away his phone, wrist watch, money and other valuables, leaving his office vandalised. The students reportedly proceeded to the computer room and library and left them vandalised.
The action was said to have made the school authorities to draft policemen from four divisions, comprising Jobele, Durbar, Atiba and Ojongbodu, led by the divisional police officers, as well as operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), led by officer-in charge, Olusola Aremu and mobile policemen. On sighting the police, the students reportedly started pelting them with stones, a development that caused one of the policemen to be severely injured, while others suffered bruises. The headlamps and windscreen of the Armoured Personnel Carrier were also vandalised by the rampaging students, who were reportedly shouting at the police: “Shoot us! Shoot us!!”
They were also said to have attempted to set the policemen ablaze by wetting them with petrol, while bonfires were reportedly made by the students. Confirming the incident, the Oyo State Police Public Relations Officer, Olabisi Okuwobi-Ilobanafor, told the Nigerian Tribune that the police officers exercised utmost restraint in the face of glaring provocation by the students. She condemned the criminal act whereby some people would hide under studentship to be lawless. She said many of the students were arrested, with 37 of them found culpable after screening, adding that those arrested would be charged to court today.
Palestinian refugees shut down UNRWA office in Lebanon camp
BEIRUT (Ma’an) — Palestinian protesters shut down a UN office in a refugee camp in Lebanon on Wednesday in protest over welfare cuts. Protesters gathered in the center of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp and called on the UN Relief and Works Agency to reverse its decision to cut funding. They closed the UN office and burned tires, and said they would escalate protests until their demands were met.
Indians and leftists slam Argentina’s Chevron deal
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The Argentine government’s long-sought deal with Chevron Corp. to exploit shale oil reserves in Patagonia was strongly criticized Wednesday by Mapuche Indians, human rights activists, environmentalists and leftists who called it a sellout to the U.S. that could drain and pollute the nation’s resources. The $1.5 billion joint venture with Chevron was made public in a brief announcement by the state-owned YPF oil company Tuesday night. President Cristina Fernandez said the deal will promote energy independence for Argentina, but many of her one-time allies warned that it would do the opposite.
“It’s an irresponsibility and a lack of consciousness that the national government hands over these resources to Chevron,” said Nilo Cayuqueo, who leads a Mapuche community in Neuquen province, where the Vaca Muerta shale oil basin is. “We’re talking about money here, nothing else. They don’t talk about the environment, or of future generations.” Mapuches say the land belongs to them and contend they weren’t consulted about the deal in violation of international treaties covering indigenous peoples. YPF denied that claim Tuesday. Adolfo Perez Esquivel, an Argentine rights activist awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980, said the deal would hurt the country.
“We Argentines,” he said, “are giving our resources to the United States and converting YPF into a highly polluting company that will use this method known as fracking,” which requires millions of gallons of fresh water pumped at high pressure to extract oil and natural gas from otherwise unproductive wells deep underground in shale deposits. Perez Esquivel said he would file suit demanding to see environmental impact studies and try to block the oil development.
But he said he had little hope of success since the court system recently overturned an injunction seizing any Chevron profits in Argentina if the company didn’t pay a $19 billion damage judgment won by plaintiffs in Ecuador, where the Texaco oil company since bought by Chevron was judged to have contaminated parts of the Amazon. The deal reached with Chevron is the biggest foreign investment that Argentina has attracted since expropriating YPF from control of the Spanish company Grupo Repsol last year. Repsol is demanding $10 billion in compensation and threatens to sue any oil company that takes over the wells.
Baloch Women Taking More Prominent Role in Fight for Independence from Pakistan
For several years, Pakistan has been facing a separatist insurgency by ethno-nationalist rebels belonging to the Baloch ethnic group. The guerrillas in the southwest province of Balochistan have become increasingly daring with their attacks. Two weeks ago, they shocked the rest of Pakistan by destroying the historic residence of Pakistan’s founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah in the town of Ziarat. Balochistan is one of the most underdeveloped regions in Pakistan, and has traditionally had a heavily male-dominated patriarchal society. Women have rarely had a role in public life. But things have been changing recently, as increasing numbers of women are taking up active and leading roles in the Baloch nationalist movement.
One such women is Zarina Baloch. When her cousin was found murdered in February, it was a turning point in her life. Baloch’s cousin, Sangat Sana, was a young political activist who supported the idea of Balochistan’s secession from Pakistan. He had been missing for two years before his mutilated body was found. “I was in Karachi when I heard the news that the mutilated body has been found in Turbat. I don’t have words. What can I do?” she says. “I heard there is a protest by BHRO the next day, so I have to join that protest and I joined. I even spoke to many news channels and told them that my brother has been killed. I got his mutilated body.” Zarina Baloch was a high school student then, and it was the first time she became politically active.
Since then, attending protest rallies and sit-ins has become a part of her daily routine. She attended a recent protest rally in front of the Karachi Press Club, with other women, young and old. They’re all wearing traditional Balochi dresses with intricate colorful embroidery, and most of their faces are covered with veils. And at the back of the rally are a handful of men straggling along, and hardly as involved in the protest as the women. “Shame on the United Nation’s silence!” the protest leader chants.
“Where are you UN?” This protest is about what is known in Pakistan as the “missing persons” issue. In recent years, hundreds of young Baloch men – especially Baloch separatist activists – have “disappeared.” Their bodies have sometimes forcefully disappeared. The dead bodies of many of the missing people have been found days, months or years later, often dumped on the roadside bearing signs of mutilation. Human rights organizations point the finger at the military and intelligence agencies.
Baloch nationalists have complained for decades of ethnic discrimination and exploitation by the Pakistani state. But the recent state-sponsored violence has pushed the movement in a new direction. What started as a demand for more rights has turned into a movement for outright secession. And increasingly, women like Zarina are playing more active roles in that movement. Mama Qadeer Baloch heads a rights group called Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. He helped organize this protest rally. “Baloch society has traditionally been heavily segregated,” he says. “Women rarely leave the home, and when they do it is only for education. But ever since this barbarity of abducting and killing, and military operations started, women whose husbands, brothers, or father have been abducted have started taking to the street to raise their voices in protest.”