Imprisoned journalist ill
The health of a Hong Kong reporter for a Singapore newspaper who was jailed by China is deteriorating in prison, the Hong Kong Journalists Association said yesterday, urging his release on medical parole. Ching Cheong (程翔), a Straits Times correspondent, has been detained since April 2005. He was sentenced to five years in jail last August in a high-profile case underscoring China's curbs on the media and dissent. In a letter to President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), the Hong Kong Journalists Association said Ching has been suffering from arrhythmia.
Jesus caricature draws ban
The government slapped a one-month publishing ban on a newspaper on Friday for printing a caricature of Jesus holding a cigarette and a can of beer. State news agency Bernama quoted the Internal Security Ministry as saying the publishing permit of Tamil-language daily Makkal Osai Tamil would be suspended for a month from Friday. The devoutly Muslim prime minister, who last year imposed similar bans on two newspapers that published caricatures of Prophet Mohammed, had condemned publication of the Jesus caricature, saying it was unacceptable in a multi-racial society.
Army officer kidnapped
A group of pro-Taliban militants kidnapped an army officer, two of his guards and a government official near an army base in the northwest, officials said yesterday. The four men were seized late on Friday in Ladha, a town in the troubled South Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan. No one claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, and a security official in the area, who sought anonymity because of the sensitive nature of his job, said officers and tribal elders were trying to ensure the release of the kidnapped men. The official identified the kidnapped officer as Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Shahid, but provided no other details.
Beijing's flies targeted
To help Beijing present a spotless image at next year's Olympics, a pair of farmers are trying to rid the capital of flies. Guo Zhanqi and Ji Guijun have been staking out parks and public washrooms to target the flies' breeding grounds, the state-run China Daily reported yesterday. The two have videotaped flies to better understand their prey and have offered to buy flies dead or alive at 2 yuan (US$0.25) apiece, the report said. Their goal, the report said, is eradicating 80 percent of Beijing's insects before next August. So far, the city has said ``no thanks,'' with one official quoted as saying Beijing has plans in place to bring the insect population under control.
Curfew lifted briefly
Shoppers thronged markets yesterday as a curfew clamped on six cities to reassert the military-backed government's authority after violent clashes was relaxed for most of the day. The restrictions -- imposed on Wednesday after three days of anti-army student protests spread to other cities -- were also lifted for most of Friday but were due to be enforced again yesterday evening. Five university professors have been detained by security forces for their alleged involvement in the protests that spiraled out of control on Wednesday, prompting the government to announce the curfew.
Shoe thief tries exchange
Police arrested a woman who stole a pair of Crocs shoes when she returned to the store hours later to exchange them because they did not fit her son, a police spokesman said on Friday. "The store clerk identified her from security camera footage and called us," said Amos Shimoni, police spokesman in the northern town of Safed. "Instead of exchanging the shoes for another pair, she exchanged them for a criminal record."