An Iranian commander has been shot dead south of the Syrian capital, a war monitor reported Saturday.Farhad Dabirian was killed on Friday in the Sayyida Zeinab neighbourhood outside Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, identifying him as a commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).Iran’s Fars news agency said that Dabirian had been “martyred”, without specifying his rank or whether he was a member of the IRGC. It said he was tasked with guarding a Shiite shrine south of the Syrian capital. Iran has deployed personnel from the IRGC in Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad.Both Fars and the Observatory said Dabirian had participated in battles against the Islamic State group in the desert town of Palmyra.Syrian troops backed by Russian jets took back the ancient town in 2017.The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria, called the death an “assassination” but did not suggest who was responsible.The Guards hold sway over myriad militia groups whose ranks include fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon.The head of the IRGC’s foreign operations arm, Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a US drone strike on Baghdad airport at the beginning of the year.Topics :
Wuhan police later issued a statement saying that giving Li a disciplinary statement had been “wrong” and they “apologise to his family for the mistake”.The deputy director of the Zhongnan Road police station was given a “demerit” on his record and the officer on duty was handed an “administrative warning”, it added.It is rare for Chinese authorities to admit such wrongdoing, but Beijing has sought to direct criticism over the mishandling of the virus outbreak onto provincial officials, with several of the region’s top Communist Party and health officials sacked.Li’s death had initially been reported by state media before their reports were quickly deleted. Wuhan Central Hospital only confirmed Li’s death hours later, after saying he was undergoing emergency treatment.Social media users who immediately took to the Twitter-like Weibo platform in droves to mourn Li — before posts related to his death were scrubbed by censors — had accused hospital authorities of inappropriately attempting to resuscitate Li after he had already died. China reported zero domestic COVID-19 infections for the first time on Thursday, even as nations across the world have shut down in a desperate effort to contain the pandemic.China’s central government has sought to distance itself from the origins of the disease, initially by sacking local officials blamed for allowing the virus to spread, and recently by supporting the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 originated in the US.Topics : Police in China’s virus epicentre Wuhan acted “inappropriately” by punishing a doctor who blew the whistle on the outbreak that has now killed more than 9,000 worldwide, a Chinese government investigation found Thursday.Li Wenliang, one of a group of doctors in Wuhan who shared posts on social media warning of a SARS-like virus spreading in the city in December, was reprimanded by police for sharing the information and made to sign a statement agreeing not to commit any more “law-breaking actions.”Li’s death from the virus in February prompted a national outpouring of grief as well as anger at the government’s handling of the crisis, and bold demands for freedom of speech. A central government investigation initiated after Li’s death found that Wuhan police “acted inappropriately by issuing a disciplinary letter” and took “irregular law enforcement procedures,” state broadcaster CCTV reported Thursday.The investigators also found that Li’s colleagues had repeatedly attempted to resuscitate the 34-year-old before he was declared dead because he was “very young,” CCTV said.State media said Li’s colleagues told investigators, “as long as there was a bit of hope we were unwilling to give up, at the time there were no other factors.”The central government investigators “suggest” that Wuhan authorities “supervise and rectify the matter,” and urged local police to revoke the disciplinary statement issued to Li, according to CCTV.
Read also: Activists, politicians urge protection of Chinese mistreated over coronavirusThe workers were briefly detained last week at a COVID-19 monitoring post at the border between the provinces of Southeast and Central Sulawesi, despite having lived in Kendari for a long time.Longki said it was important to tighten surveillance of foreigners to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the region.The governor argued that there was a legal basis for preventing the Chinese nationals from entering his province founded on a Manpower Ministry circular on foreign workers and other efforts to curb the spread of the disease. Local governments have shown a lack of trust in Chinese workers employed in numerous projects throughout the country, potentially signaling a flashpoint in Indonesia-China relations and dampening milestone diplomatic celebrations this year.Recently, Central Sulawesi Governor Longki Djanggola ordered 10 Chinese workers to return to their camp in Kendari, in neighboring Southeast Sulawesi, after they were stopped on their way to a work site in North Morowali regency.The workers were expecting to repair smelters belonging to PT Gunbuster Nickel Industries (GNI), a subsidiary of PT Virtue Dragon Nickel Industry, the Chinese-backed mining company that employs them. They were reportedly the only people with the expertise to make the repairs. Longki said that companies had to provide the necessary paperwork and inform local authorities before sending foreign workers on work-related trips.In the meantime, he said, the 10 workers would be monitored by local agencies from the immigration, health and manpower sectors.”You cannot just bring in foreign workers without coordination, so I asked that they immediately be returned to Kendari,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.The presence, activities and health of foreign workers had to be supervised by the government, the governor said, even if the workers were carrying out activities on behalf of their firms.The COVID-19 epidemic has elicited increased suspicion of foreign workers in Indonesia, particularly those from China, where the virus that causes the disease is believed to have originated – although some studies cast doubt on this assumption.Read also: How to communicate COVID-19 risk without fuelling anti-Chinese sentiment in IndonesiaAs of Thursday, there were 7,775 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, 37 of which were reported in Southeast Sulawesi and 29 of which were reported in Central Sulawesi.Three people have died in Central Sulawesi, including the late North Morowali regent Aptripel Tumimomor, who tested positive for the disease posthumously earlier this month.First responders: Officials respond to a helicopter crash inside an industrial park in Morowali, Central Sulawesi, on Friday. The helicopter was carrying six Chinese nationals. (Courtesy of/The National Disaster and Mitigation Agency )Other regions have also shown a tendency to discriminate against Chinese workers.Late last month, 39 Chinese workers arriving in Bintan in the Riau Islands province were refused entry. Authorities argued that the workers’ employer, the aluminum producer PT Bintan Alumina Indonesia based in the Galang Batang special economic zone (KEK), did not have a permit to employ foreign workers, kompas.com reported.A Chinese worker was refused entry to West Kalimantan despite having obtained a medical certificate. He was deported just days after his arrival, which sparked public protest amid COVID-19 fears.Asmuni, a spokesman for the Pontianak Imigration Agency, said he was under strict orders from the regional administration head to deport the person in question.“While he did produce a medical certificate, we still don’t know the actual conditions in his home country. It is better to be sent home than to be allowed in and end up making a fuss,” he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.The Pontianak administration rejected the worker on March 27, well before the central government announced it would temporarily ban foreigners from entering Indonesia.The ban, which was formalized under Law and Human Rights Ministry Regulation No. 11/2020, came into effect on April 3.“Based on our observations since the ban, there is no foreign traffic to or from West Kalimantan at this time,” Asmuni said.Throughout Indonesia, 239 foreigners have been denied entry between Feb. 6 and April 19, according to data from the Law and Human Rights Ministry’s Directorate for Immigration.From the official records, 89 of those denied entry were from China, 15 from Malaysia and 12 from Russia.The Chinese Embassy in Jakarta was not immediately available for comment.Anti-Chinese sentiment has been a growing problem in Southeast Asia – even before the COVID-19 outbreak – as Beijing’s influence and presence in the region has increased.Foreign direct investment from China, Indonesia’s second-largest foreign investor, almost doubled last year to US$4.7 billion from $2.4 billion in 2018, according to data from the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM).Meanwhile, many Indonesians of Chinese descent still have deep-seated fears of a mass reprisal against their minority group, owing to the country’s history of anti-communist violence, which was often directed at racial minorities.Read also: Chinese-Indonesians feel like outsiders amid persisting racist sentimentThe recently growing sentiment has aggravated underlying grievances caused by the fear that Chinese investments will further marginalize local communities, said Dewi Fortuna Anwar from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).“The general perception of China in Indonesia is very mixed,” the international relations research professor said.“There’s always distrust based on history, politics and the social makeup of the two countries, as well as ethnicity. It’s complex, and the issue of Chinese workers has been here for a few years following increased investment [from] China.”The Morowali Industrial Park in Central Sulawesi, which turned Indonesia into the world’s second-largest exporter of stainless steel in just five years, has been mired in rumors of an influx in foreign workers. The rumors have exacerbated anti-Chinese sentiment, but the government has brushed them aside as an exaggeration.Unlike projects from Europe or Japan that employ a few foreign experts and arrange transfers of technology, Dewi said that Chinese investment was mostly bundled with workers from China.“This has resulted in resentment at the local level because [of the lack of] added value to the local economy,” she said. “There are existing concerns that foreign workers will take opportunities away from locals, and they are often exclusive in nature, which prompts racist responses.”But all of that should go away with the significantly reduced mobility everywhere, not just among Chinese people, she noted.Indonesia and China will celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations this year.– Severianus Endi contributed to this story from Pontianak, West Kalimantan. Editor’s note: The main photo for this article has been replaced to better reflect the story’s content.Topics :
New bosses Legal watershed Some legal figures saw the statements as a watershed moment and a new example of the city’s liberties being chipped away at by Beijing.The Basic Law grants Hong Kong some self-governance and freedoms until 2047 — the 50th anniversary of the city’s handover.Article 22 of the Basic Law forbids central government departments from “interfering” in areas where Hong Kong rules itself, such as its legislature and judiciary.Beijing’s statements on the lawmakers were seen as an unconstitutional breach of that article.As criticism mounted, the Liaison Office went even further and declared itself unbound by Article 22.The return of flashmob protests began soon after that announcement. Anti-sedition law Hong Kong’s failure to pass an anti-sedition law has long been a source of frustration for Beijing.Article 23 of the Basic Law — Hong Kong’s mini constitution — says the city must create a law prohibiting “treason, secession, sedition [and] subversion”.But it has never been implemented due to public fears it would curtail the city’s free speech laws.The last attempt in 2003 sparked huge protests.Luo has said the city urgently needs the legislation to counter violent protesters and pro-Beijing politicians have begun campaigning for the bill. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters want to reignite their movement after a coronavirus lockdown lull, angered by a flurry of moves by China to subdue them.Flashmob rallies have resurfaced in recent days and protesters are calling for a bigger show of force on Friday’s Labor Day holiday.Violent demonstrations last year paralyzed the city of seven million people for months, driven by anger over Beijing chipping away at their freedoms. The year began with Beijing appointing two key officials to deal with Hong Kong.Luo Huining was put in charge of the Liaison Office — which represents China’s central government in Hong Kong — while Xia Baolong took over the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office. Analysts saw the appointments as a clear signal that Beijing wanted to reinforce control over the city after the protests.Neither have links to Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong and both have a track record of tackling troublesome provinces — Luo as a corruption buster, Xia as a hardliner who suppressed unsanctioned churches in Zhejiang.Since taking office, neither have signaled any willingness to reconcile Hong Kong’s ideological divides.Instead Luo has called for a new national security law and their offices have pushed for a greater say in supervising how Hong Kong is run. China’s communist leaders have only sought to tighten that control during the coronavirus pandemic.Here is an explainer on how China’s latest tactics are rekindling the pro-democracy movement: National anthem and filibustering Tensions were raised further by Luo and Xia’s offices igniting a constitutional row.Earlier this month their offices released coordinated statements lambasting pro-democracy lawmakers for filibustering in Hong Kong’s legislature and choking dozens of bills.The pro-democracy camp wants to stop a bill that criminalizes disrespecting China’s national anthem.But Beijing’s two offices suggested the lawmakers were betraying their oaths and could be prosecuted or kicked out of office.Disqualifying lawmakers would be risky. It could weaken the opposition ahead of elections in September for the city’s legislature. But it could also further galvanize voter anger. Local government defiant Police and prosecutors have been busy during the virus lull.Earlier this month 15 prominent democracy activists were arrested on charges linked to last year’s protests.Those detained were not the petrol bomb-wielding radicals but some of the city’s best known moderates — including an 81-year-old barrister who co-wrote the Basic Law.Back in January Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam vowed to “listen to public views” and heal divisions.Yet prosecutions have continued apace for some of the 7,800 people arrested last year with authorities rejecting calls for an amnesty or an inquiry into the protests.Lam’s administration sided with the Liaison Office in the constitutional row.And during a cabinet reshuffle last week key officials who sparked last year’s unrest by pushing for a law allowing extraditions to China’s party-controlled courts kept their jobs. What next? So far the flashmob protests have been small.One gathering on Sunday night inside a mall attracted a few hundred protesters who were swiftly met by riot police.But more rallies seem inevitable given anger towards Beijing is resurfacing just as the city looks to ease social distancing measures — and as the one-year anniversary of last year’s protests in June approaches.Then in September, seats are up for grabs in the city’s partially elected legislature. Topics :
The attack came hours after 39 pupils and staff were wounded in a knife attack at a rural primary school in south China’s Guangxi region. The attacker, reportedly a 50-year-old security guard at the school, was apprehended. Violent knife crime is not uncommon in China, where firearms are strictly controlled, with a number of similar attacks at schools in recent years.Topics : Three people were killed and seven wounded in a stabbing spree at a supermarket in rural southeast China, police said Friday.The suspected attacker, a 35-year-old man, was arrested shortly after the incident late Thursday in Fujian province, they said in a statement, without specifying the kind of weapon used.The injured were in stable condition in hospital, they added.
Topics : ‘No second wave’ Top officials from the administration of President Donald Trump, meanwhile, continued to downplay the severity of the pandemic, a nearly constant theme since the virus was first reported in the United States in January.”There is no second wave coming,” White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow told CNBC, adding that lawmakers will likely present another stimulus package by the end of next month. Kudlow claimed in late February that the virus had been “contained” and an economic tragedy avoided.At a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday, President Trump said he wanted to slow down testing, on grounds it was making the United States look bad.Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, however, told CBS News on Sunday: “We’re seeing the positivity rates go up. “That’s a clear indication that there’s now community spread underway. And this isn’t just a function of testing more.” But all the barbers in his shop took online courses on how to be safe, which included using special gowns, wearing masks, and no blow-drying.”I’m slightly nervous, like it’s the first day I come to work, the first day somebody hired me,” he laughed.In Manhattan, Sam Karalis, owner of The Windsor Florist, said his business was one of the lucky ones to have survived with the help of the government and his landlord.He was relieved to be able to open his doors to paying customers.Allowing people inside the shop “makes a big difference because people like to look at the stuff,” he said. “If you can’t look at the stuff, you can’t really buy it.” Nationwide cases rising Statewide, Governor Andrew Cuomo reported 10 new deaths Sunday while the rate of positive test results has fallen to one percent — which has paved the way for incremental lifting of restrictions.New York City is now in the second of its four-phase reopening, which began two weeks ago when construction and industries were allowed to resume working.But the picture is far less positive in other parts of the United States, with the virus spiking in several states despite predictions that summer heat, humidity and bright sunlight would limit its spread.Cases were skyrocketing in California, Texas, Arizona and Florida and in the Midwestern state of Missouri.In Florida, which reopened bars and restaurants earlier this month, emergency physician Rajiv Bahl said cases were rising across age groups. “Personally, I am seeing more patients who are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s with upper respiratory symptoms than I did before,” he told AFP.”While it is not exactly known why this is the case, it may be because of the opening of bars and restaurants,” he added, with those working in the service industry accounting for a high volume of the cases.The Sunshine State saw more than 4,000 cases on Friday and Saturday, according to official data, and Bahl urged would-be tourists to think carefully about their plans.”You may want to rethink mass gatherings and opt for more isolated adventures such as national parks, isolated beaches, or enjoying a pool with more strict distancing rules,” he said. New York businesses opened their doors to returning waves of workers Monday as the city that was once the epicenter of the global pandemic marked an important milestone in its return to normalcy, even as other US states were seeing an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases.Nationwide, cases have been on the rise for the past two weeks following a long plateau in the spring, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, with California hitting levels of new infections not seen since March.But for many in hard-hit New York, where more than 20,000 people succumbed to the disease, the return to normal meant resuming their small every day rituals. For some, that meant getting a haircut.”I’ve been cutting it myself and doing a very bad job, so I was very excited to see [the barber],” said Jeremiah Zinn, a man in his 50s who was the first client to walk through the door at Benny’s Barbershop in Brooklyn.Yury Ykubov, the owner, told AFP he had opened the shop six months prior, and negotiated with the landlord to make rent during the lockdown.Ybkov himself contracted COVID-19 but, like the city itself, has recovered and has antibodies for protection.
Home Minister Tito Karnavian has responded to public criticism of a video contest run by the ministry to promote the so-called new normal, saying the initiative costing Rp 168 billion (US$11.8 million) sourced from the state budget was not a waste of money.“It’s not a waste of money. This is after all in the form of existing regional incentive funds, but we ask the regions to compete in embracing the new normal,” Tito said on Wednesday in a hearing with House of Representatives Commission II, which oversees home affairs.He explained that he had consulted with the Finance Ministry before running the contest, noting that the purpose was to push the regional administrations to collaborate with their stakeholders in entering the new normal. The prize money would not go to the region head but to the regional budget (APBD) to support its programs in the form of the regional incentive funds (DID) as well as for COVID-19 handling, Tito stated.Finance Ministry Regulation No. 19/2020 on regional cash transfers during the COVID-19 pandemic mandates that the DID should be prioritized for COVID-19 handling. The funds allocated to the DID total Rp 13.5 trillion.“The prize money can be used for programs in the regional budget. The spending is at the regional leader’s discretion, but it should be included in the regional budget. It can also be used for COVID-19 handling, including to provide [economic] stimulus,” Tito said.Lawmakers and members of the public have lambasted Tito’s initiative, saying such a competition was unnecessary.Commission II deputy chairman Yaqut Cholil Qoumas said the government seemed to have lost its creativity in making policies, noting that each region would have different measures in implementing the new normal, and that was not for a competition.”There are many experts. The government can look at the data in making policies. Don’t make it like idol competition shows,” the Nation Awakening Party (PKB) politician said.Read also: Most Indonesians dissatisfied with administration’s COVID-19 response, survey findsHidayatullah, a member of House Commission XI overseeing finance, deplored the initiative, saying the government had to have a sense of crisis and that the DID should be an award for regions that perform well in budget management, governance and public services.“Such incentives should be distributed proportionally by also prioritizing the worst-affected areas […]. The experts say we should resolve the health emergency first and then the economy, and move to the new normal,” said the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician.Topics : “To encourage them, we ran a competition in simulating the new normal protocol through a short video. By making the video, they will inevitably collaborate with all stakeholders, such as markets, hotels, tourist destinations, restaurants and transportation [service providers],” he said.The competition was divided into seven categories: traditional markets, modern markets, hotels, restaurants, tourism spots, public transportation and one-stop integrated service (PTSP).The Home Ministry picked 84 winners consisting of the first, second and third place for the seven categories and four clusters. The winners get Rp 3 billion in prize money, while those coming second and third get Rp 2 billion and Rp 1 billion respectively.Read also: Indonesia increases COVID-19 budget again amid soaring deficit
The loan guarantee program, Sri Mulyani explained, not only aimed to help MSMEs by encouraging them to seek funding for their businesses, it also encouraged banks to disburse more loans during the pandemic.The loan disbursement rate among Indonesian banks grew just 3.04 percent year-on-year (yoy) in May, much slower than 5.73 percent in April as the coronavirus battered the real sector.“Guaranteeing loans can help us break the risk-averse attitude of MSMEs and banks, which would allow us to boost our economic growth,” Sri Mulyani said, adding that the government hoped to record positive economic growth in the third and fourth quarters this year.The government projects the economy to shrink 3.1 percent in the second quarter this year, the worst quarterly growth since the 1998 Asian financial crisis, due to the impact of large-scale social restrictions. The Indonesian economy grew 2.97 percent yoy in the first quarter.Bank Indonesia, meanwhile, projected gross domestic product to shrink 0.4 percent in the second quarter before picking up 1.2 percent in the third quarter and 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter.Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan expressed hope that aside from boosting economic growth, the program would prevent further layoffs as the pandemic forced businesses, especially small ones, to shut their doors after social restrictions hit demand.Unemployment numbers are expected to increase by 4.22 million people in 2020, according to the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas).With the government having launched various stimulus programs to stoke the economy, Luhut gave assurances that all measures were being carried out in accordance with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s instructions.“We need to quickly realize our spending in times of crisis, but we’re going about it carefully without disregarding the good governance principle,” he said.Topics : The government has guaranteed working capital loans worth Rp 100 trillion (US$6.92 billion) for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) following the launch of a loan guarantee program to help small businesses survive the pandemic.Under the guarantee program, the government has paid out Rp 5 trillion worth of credit insurance premiums to state-owned credit insurers PT Jaminan Kredit Indonesia (Jamkrindo) and PT Asuransi Kredit Indonesia (Askrindo) to provide guarantees for banks that channel loans to MSMEs until November 2021.“The premiums are enough to cover Rp 100 trillion worth of working capital loans to be disbursed in the next 18 months with an interest rate of 7.65 percent,” Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said during a virtual launch of the guarantees on Tuesday, with the expectation that the banks channel between Rp 65 trillion and Rp 80 trillion worth of loans following the launch. The program would cover loans with a ceiling of Rp 10 billion and a tenor of three years, with loans available for 60.6 million healthy MSMEs from all business sectors, Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Teten Masduki said in the same event.The loan guarantee is part of the government’s relief package to help small businesses recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, the government rolled out tax incentives and loan restructuring and loan interest subsidies for MSMEs.It has also placed Rp 30 trillion in funds in state-owned banks with the expectation that they will disburse more loans for businesses.The government has allocated Rp 695.2 trillion toward fighting the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak, of which Rp 123.46 trillion is allocated for MSMEs incentives, Rp 87.55 trillion for health care and Rp 203.9 trillion for social safety nets.
Topics : Chargui’s sharing of the post in May angered some conservative social media users who demanded punishment in a nation periodically polarized between secular and Islamist political wings since a revolution that introduced democracy nine years ago.Court spokesman Mohsen Dali said the sentence was on charges of inciting hate between religions and races.The case has brought criticism from rights groups.Saying she was a victim of a “repressive law” that curtailed free speech, Amnesty International said the prosecution did not allow Chargui’s lawyer to accompany her to court, where she was asked about her religious beliefs and mental condition.Chargui blogs on freedom and women’s issues. A Tunisian court has sentenced blogger Emna Chargui to six months in prison and a $700 fine for reposting a Facebook joke about the coronavirus written as if it was a Koranic verse.”This is unfair and unjust … this proves that there is no freedom here,” Chargui, 27, told Reuters from home where she had been waiting for the ruling.She plans to appeal as allowed within 10 days.
“If we can’t get the Champions League, the Europa League is important.”Mourinho also paid tribute to striker Harry Kane after he scored twice to move past 200 career club goals, and defender Serge Aurier, who was playing despite his brother being shot dead in France earlier this week.”Harry Kane knows how important he is, he is incredible,” Mourinho added.”Serge Aurier is a very strong character, every person is different and in his case he wanted to play.”Topics : Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho hailed his side’s resilience after Wednesday’s 3-1 Premier League victory over Newcastle United and said it was important they qualify for Europe next season.Spurs, who were in action 72 hours after their 2-1 victory over London rivals Arsenal, are seventh on 55 points, a point behind Wolverhampton Wanderers in sixth, which is likely to offer the last Europa League spot for next season.”The team was tired before we even started,” Mourinho told the BBC. “We had resilience and a great desire to win the match and to fight until the last for our objective, which is the Europa League.