After harsh criticism from civil rights and free-speech advocates, Russia's Parliament agreed Friday to amend a proposed law that would have banned people from demonstrating in the majority of public places. \nIn its second reading of the bill, the lower house will remove language banning demonstrations outside government buildings, embassies and the offices of international organizations, as well as along main roads, railways and pipelines. \nBoris Gryzlov, the leader of the pro-Kremlin party United Russia backed off supporting the bill, which his party had voted for Wednesday. \nGryzlov, who is also a close ally of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said amendments would be introduced before the bill comes up for a second reading in the Duma. "The bill requires significant further work," he said on national television. \n"It will be amended before the second reading," he said. \nUnited Russia has controlled the Parliament since last fall, when elections restored the nation to a one-party majority. \nThe International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights condemned the bill. \n"This draft law represents a crude attempt to stifle dissent by the public," Aaron Rhodes, executive director of the federation, said in a statement. \nRussian authorities already required political gatherings and protests to obtain permits and advance permission, and police are generally quick to disperse unsanctioned demonstrations. \nGryzlov said, "The hottest public debate concerned the list of venues where demonstrations and pickets are banned, including outside government offices." \nUnited Russia "formally offered amendments excluding some venues from the list," he said. \nGryzlov also said that a United Russia of Parliament, Pavel Krasheninnikov, on Thursday put forward an amendment to change the original bill. \nHe pledged amendments that would no longer restrict public events held outside buildings belonging to most executive departments, with the exception of the president's residence. \nAleksandr Yakovlev, the godfather of perestroika and a former aide to Mikhail Gorbachev, said, "If that bill had passed as it was, we could say goodbye to democracy." \nRussian law requires that legislative bills be given at least three separate readings in the Parliament and that they receive the signature of the president before they are officially entered into the law.
Japan’s Mount Aso erupted yesterday, spewing a giant column of ash thousands of meters into the sky as hikers rushed away from the popular tourist spot. No injuries were immediately reported after the late-morning eruption in southwest Japan, which sent rocks flying in a dramatic blast captured by nearby CCTV cameras. People were warned not to approach the volcano as it ejected hot gas and ash as high as 3,500m, and sent stones tumbling down its grassy slopes. Authorities were checking if any hikers had been trapped or injured, officials told local media, as TV footage showed dozens of vehicles and tour buses
South Korea yesterday said that it would lift COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings next week as the country prepares to switch to a “living with COVID-19” strategy amid rising vaccination levels. A new panel established this week is drawing up a plan for a gradual lifting of curbs, aiming to lift restrictions and reopen the economy next month on the expectation that 80 percent of the adult population will be fully vaccinated. From Monday, the South Korean government is to allow gatherings of up to four unvaccinated people and ease operating-hour restrictions imposed on venues such as restaurants, cafes and cinemas, South
‘AVOIDABLE SITUATION’: After being tortured in his home country, a Sri Lankan and his family are at risk of deportation from the UK, despite his academic fellowship A scientist conducting groundbreaking research into renewable energy is facing deportation with his family to Sri Lanka, where he was tortured, after receiving contradictory information about his case from the British Home Office. Nadarajah Muhunthan, 47, his wife, Sharmila, 42, and their three children, aged 13, nine and five, went to the UK in 2018 after Muhunthan, who is working on thin-film photovoltaic devices used to generate solar power, was given a prestigious Commonwealth Rutherford fellowship. The award allowed him to reside to the UK for two years to research and develop the technology. His wife obtained a job caring for
A top global law firm is no longer representing the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in seeking the removal of a Tiananmen memorial from its campus after it came under heavy criticism in the US for helping China purge dissent, the Washington Post reported. Mayer Brown is the latest international company to face pressure over how its actions in China contradict its more progressive statements in the West. The 8m high Pillar of Shame sculpture by Danish artist Jens Galschiot has stood on HKU’s campus since 1997, the year the city was handed back to China. It features 50 anguished faces and tortured