■ Hong Kong
Police seize 10kg of cocaine
A 72-year-old man returning from Peru has been arrested with 10.2 million Hong Kong dollars (US$1.3 million) worth of cocaine at Hong Kong's airport, the government said yesterday. Customs officers arrested the Hong Kong man, identified by his surname Lam, on Saturday morning and seized his 10.3km haul, the government said in a statement. He had traveled to Hong Kong from Lima, Peru, via the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, it said. Lam will be charged with trafficking a dangerous drug, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a HK$5 million (US$640,000) fine in Hong Kong, the statement said.
Couples may get HIV tests
Couples in Singapore may face mandatory HIV tests before marrying, Singapore media reported yesterday, a week after the government said all pregnant women would be screened for HIV/AIDS to stem a rise in new infections. Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said Singapore planned to seek public feedback on the pre-marital HIV tests in the wealthy, tightly controlled city-state, where the number of new HIV infections reached a record high this year. "If you ask me as a parent, I think there is no harm. I have three girls and you do not know what their boyfriends will be like," Khaw was quoted by The Straits Times as telling local reporters on Saturday.
Thousands put to death
China carried out nearly 90 percent of the world's executions last year, putting at least 5,000 people to death, according to an activist group campaigning to end capital punishment. China is one of 60 countries that still have the death penalty, the Rome-based group Hands Off Cain said in a report issued Friday. It said other governments carried out more than 500 executions. China's government relies heavily on the death penalty in effort to reassure the public that it is taking action against corruption and rising crime. People are executed for crimes ranging from murder and rape to tax fraud, petty theft and other nonviolent offenses. The figure given by Hands Off Cain for China's executions is higher than those reported by other human rights groups.
Muslims pray for peace
Millions of Muslims prayed together for peace and harmony on a riverbank near the Bangladeshi capital yesterday, concluding an annual assembly that is considered one of the world's largest Islamic gatherings. Gathered under a huge bamboo-and-canvas marquee on the banks of the Turag River, the pilgrims listened to recitations from the Islamic holy book, the Koran, and took part in the noon prayer. Organizers said as many as 4 million people were expected to attend the event, which wraps up a three-day congregation.
■ Hong Kong
Fortune-telling books seized
Customs officers have seized nearly 1,500 fake fortune telling books that contain published predictions for the wrong year, a customs official said yesterday. The fake books, which were seized Friday, purport to offer predictions for the next Chinese calendar year, the Year of the Rooster, but their texts are lifted from published predictions for previous years, said Customs and Excise Department official Chiu Yuk-hung. The fakes were published under the names of local fortune tellers and legitimate publishers, he said. Six people were arrested and customs officials are still investigating, Chiu said.