Forbidden City thief jailed
A Chinese farmer has been sentenced to 13 years in jail for stealing works of art and jewels from the Forbidden City last year, his lawyer said yesterday, in a rare theft at the ancient imperial palace. Shi Baikui (石柏魁), 27, from Shandong Province, was arrested in May last year at an Internet cafe in Beijing more than 48 hours after committing the theft. According to Xinhua news agency, Shi broke into the heavily guarded former home of Chinese emperors in May last year, where he stole nine valuable items, including gold and jewels. Police managed to recover six of the stolen items, but three pieces worth an estimated 150,000 yuan remain missing, Xinhua said. News reports at the time said the stolen items — valued at up to 10 million yuan — dated from the early 20th century and included jewelry boxes and women’s make-up cases. Shi’s theft is the fifth on record at the Forbidden City.
Hydro project endangered
A Chinese company building a crucial hydroelectric power plant in power-starved Nepal has threatened to pull out, an official said yesterday. Energy Ministry spokesman Arjun Karki said China Three Gorges International Corp has sent a letter to the government expressing concern over a parliamentary committee order for the company to suspend work while it investigates possible irregularities in the granting of the firm’s license. The company said in the letter that it could pull out of the project. The parliamentary Natural Resources and Means Committee said it was probing the government’s decision to grant the project to the Chinese company without calling for international bidding.
Concert played on bridge
A group of Sydney Symphony Orchestra musicians scaled the city’s Harbour Bridge for an exclusive concert yesterday to celebrate the sweeping structure’s 80th birthday. Known as the “Grand Old Dame” of Sydney, or more colloquially “The Coathanger,” the bridge was officially opened to traffic on March 19, 1932, joining the harbor’s northern and southern shores for the first time. It was an ambitious project that took eight years to complete, with construction of the 1,149m span claiming the lives of 16 men. To celebrate its 80th anniversary, 11 brass section musicians from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra — also turning 80 this year — climbed to the top of the bridge’s 134m high arch to perform for a select group of guests. “The musicians performed Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man plus the theme music from the movie Chariots of Fire” a spokeswoman said.
Palestine not viable: report
A government report says the Palestinian Authority is not economically stable enough for statehood. The report is set to be presented this week to donors to the Palestinian Authority. They include the US, the EU, the World Bank and the IMF. The report says Palestinian “financial stability is now challenged.” It cited a shortfall of foreign aid and lack of development in the private sector. Last year, the IMF said Palestinian financial institutions were ready for statehood. Palestinian spokesman Ghassan Khatib rejected the Israeli report, citing statements by the IMF and others. “As Palestinians, we are ready for statehood,” he said. “Our institutions are ready.” Donors have given billions of dollars to the Palestinians since 1993.
Ten human heads found
Authorities in a town in Guerrero State made a grisly discovery on Sunday, finding 10 severed human heads near an open-air market, officials said. “They were the severed heads of 10 people, three women and seven men,” police spokesman Arturo Martinez Nunez said. A prosecutor’s office official in Teloloapan, the town where the remains were found, said they were found beside the open-air market. Messages against La Familia drug cartel were found with the heads, authorities said. La Familia is a criminal group active in the nearby state of Michoacan and has frequent turf battles with other crime gangs. President Felipe Calderon has launched a military crackdown against the cartels battling it out for control of the lucrative drug trade, in which about 50,000 Mexicans have lost their lives since 2006.
Road privatization mulled
Sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and private investors could take control of the nation’s main roads, Prime Minister David Cameron was to announce in his pre-budget speech yesterday. Tolling could also be introduced to help fund new roads as the government seeks to repair infrastructure, Cameron was expected to say, according to his Downing Street office. Cameron has already asked the Department for Transport and the Treasury to carry out a feasibility study on the proposed changes to road financing, results of which will be announced at the end of the year. “We need to look urgently at the options for getting large-scale private investment into the national roads network,” Cameron was to say in his speech. “Road tolling is one option — but we are only considering this for new, not existing, capacity.” He was to argue that much of the nation’s infrastructure is already funded by the private sector and question why the nation’s roads still rely on public finances. Motoring group AA warned that the proposals could be “the thin end of the wedge,” opening the way for a surge in tolling.
Two killed by landmine
Two men in their 20s died on Sunday, when a landmine left over from the 1992 to 1995 Bosnian War exploded while they were cutting wood in a zone clearly marked as dangerous, authorities said. The fatal accident took place near the northeastern town of Lukavac, national television cited the local civil protection authority as saying. The two men, aged 27 and 28, were collecting wood despite the area being marked as infested with anti-personnel mines laid during the inter-ethnic conflict, which claimed about 100,000 lives, the authorities said. The devices, laid up to 20 years ago, still cover an estimated 1,400km2, 2.8 percent of the national territory. Since the end of the war in 1995, about 580 people have been killed in such landmine explosions. Last year there were five fatalities.
Ex-military chief shot dead
The former head of military intelligence, Colonel Samba Diallo, was shot dead at a bar near his residence in the capital, Bissau, late on Sunday, hours after a presidential election, witnesses and a security source said. Diallo was among the military officials deposed and temporarily jailed in an April 2010 coup within the military that ousted army chief of staff Jose Zamora Induta. A nearby resident said that soldiers fired on Diallo just before midnight and his body was taken away. Another witness said he saw Diallo’s body at a hospital, and a security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the killing.
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
A squad of gun-toting police officers patrolled Myanmar’s sacred site of Bagan under the cover of night, taking on plunderers snatching relics from temples forsaken by tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each evening as dusk falls, about 100 officers fan out across the plain of Bagan covering 50km2, sweeping flashlights over the crumbling monuments to scour for intruders. “Our security forces are patrolling day and night,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Sein Win told reporters. “We have it under control for the moment, but it’s a challenge.” The central Burmese city is strewn with more than 3,500 ancient monuments — stupas, temples, murals and sculptures