Former officials expelled
Two former officials from Wukan Village in Guangdong Province were expelled from the Communist Party over charges of corruption and rigged elections, Xinhua news agency reported. The expulsions follow a heated stand-off over land grabs last year in the coastal village, which emerged as a symbol of rural activism after authorities acted to defuse a flashpoint by allowing elections. Former Wukan Communist Party secretary Xue Chang (薛昌) and former village committee head Chen Shunyi (陳舜意) were expelled, Xinhua said on Monday. Xue was ordered to return illegal gains amounting to 189,200 yuan (US$30,000), while Chen must give back more than 86,000 yuan, Xinhua said, quoting Zeng Qinrong (曾慶榮), from the supervision department of southern Guangdong Province. Six other former village officials were also punished and Xinhua said more than 1.06 million yuan had been seized.
Paracels tourism mulled
Hainan Province Vice Governor Tan Li (譚力) on Tuesday announced plans for the development of tourism in the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) that are occupied by China but claimed by Vietnam, as well as Taiwan. Such a plan could further raise tensions in the South China Sea. Six nations claim all or part of the area and its scattered island groups, of which the Paracels is one of the largest. A plan to open the Paracels to tourism was announced several years ago, but has been delayed by Beijing over concerns that it could heighten tensions with Vietnam. The nation’s assertiveness over territorial claims has prompted a strong backlash in recent years and since last year diplomats have worked to repair the damage. However, Hainan Province has continued to push for tourism development.
Galaxy cluster found
Japanese astronomers said yesterday they had found a cluster of galaxies 12.72 billion light-years away from Earth, which they said is the most distant ever discovered. Using a powerful telescope based in Hawaii, the team peered back through time to a point 1 billion years after the Big Bang. “This shows a galaxy cluster already existed in the early stages of the universe when it was still less than 1 billion years into its history of 13.7 billion years,” the team of astronomers said in a press release. The discovery was made jointly by researchers from the state-run Graduate University of Advanced Studies and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. The discovery is expected to help scientists understand the structure of the universe and how galaxies developed. The study is to be published in the Astrophysical Journal of the United States. Researchers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope previously announced the discovery of a possible cluster of galaxies about 13.1 billion light-years from Earth, but that has not yet been confirmed, the Japanese researchers said.
Elephant kills zookeeper
A zookeeper has been killed by an African elephant she was caring for. Police said in a brief statement that officers were called to the Franklin Zoo near Auckland yesterday afternoon following an incident. Police said they would not release further details until the woman’s next of kin had been informed. On its Web site, the zoo lists its sole elephant as Jumbo, also known as Mila. She arrived four years ago after retiring from a circus, and the zoo built a new enclosure for her in 2010.