Fines for Online rumormills
Internet users in southwest China who spread malicious rumors online face fines of up to 5,000 yuan (US$630) and possible detention, state media reported yesterday in the latest crackdown on dissent. Under legislation passed in Chongqing municipality, people who post "defamatory comments or remarks, launch personal attacks or seek to damage reputations online" will receive a warning or be fined between 1,000 and 5,000 yuan, the China Daily said. "Those whose rumors cause serious consequences could be detained for five days or even more," the paper said.
Beijing's beat police doubled
Beijing has doubled the number of plainclothes police officers on the beat in a bid to make people feel more secure, state media reported yesterday. A 1,200-strong plainclothes team under the Public Security Bureau was put in place this week to combat street crimes such as theft, robbery, fraud and drug dealing, the China Daily reported. The plainclothes police officers will be deployed across the city in public places such as railway stations, hotels, restaurants and business districts and will be allowed to carry weapons, including guns. Some local residents have expressed reservations about such a measure, fearing it would lead to more abuse of power, which is often cited as a huge problem among police.
`Free creativity' house opened
President Saparmurat Niyazov has inaugurated a massive, book-shaped building dedicated to the media in the heavily censored and tightly controlled Central Asian nation, a government-run daily newspaper reported yesterday. The US$17 million ``House of Free Creativity'' was unveiled on Tuesday as part of lavish celebrations of the country's 15th anniversary of independence. The new building will accommodate offices of the government-controlled press. Niyazov -- who has declared himself Turkmenbashi, or Father of All Turkmen -- personally approves the content of all newspapers.
■ Solomon Islands
Immigration minister arrested
The country's immigration minister was arrested and charged yesterday over his government's attempts to prevent the extradition of Julian Moti, its attorney-general, to Australia, on child sex charges. Peter Shanel was charged with perverting the course of justice, misleading a police officer and misleading a public officer over his role in the affair, which has led to the development of a crisis in the relationship between the Pacific neighbors. The charges against Shanel relate to an order he signed which would have allowed Moti -- a close friend of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare -- to enter the country without a passport.
Four kidnapped in Jolo
Gunmen kidnapped a Filipino engineer and three workers who had inspected a US-funded road project on the Jolo island, officials said yesterday. Six kidnappers, who were believed to be security guards for the project in Jolo's Parang town, stopped the victims' pickup truck and dragged them away at gunpoint on Tuesday, provincial army commander Colonel Reynaldo Sealana said. It was still not clear if the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, who are being targeted by a months-long US-backed offensive in Jolo's hinterlands, were involved in the kidnapping. A US embassy spokesman said the incident would not affect humanitarian projects in Jolo that are being funded by Washington.