App catches censored posts
Researchers have developed software able to identify censored posts on China’s main microblog, they said yesterday. Called “WeiboScope,” the program developed as a project at the University of Hong Kong is able to detect politically sensitive posts deleted by censors on Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. Beijing regularly blocks Internet searches under a vast online censorship system known as the Great Firewall of China, but the growing popularity of microblogs such as Sina Weibo has posed the authorities a new challenge. The study showed posts including names such as disgraced Chongqing Communist Party boss Bo Xilai (薄熙來) and dissident Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) that had been frequently deleted in the past few months. Chinese authorities announced plans earlier this month to tighten control of microblogs, including making their users register with their real names.
Asylum-seeker bill defeated
A bill to allow boat people to be sent offshore for processing was defeated in the senate yesterday, leaving the divisive issue of asylum seekers at a stalemate. The bill had passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday after an emotional debate sparked by another crowded asylum-seeker boat sinking off Christmas Island. However, it was doomed to fail in the upper house, with the conservative opposition and the Australian Greens vowing to block it. If passed, it would have allowed the government to implement a people-swap deal with Malaysia and permit the reopening of a detention center in Nauru.
Sobriety tests for police
After reports of boozing on the job, traffic police in Metro Manila will be required to undergo breathalyser tests, said Yves Gonzales, director of the region’s traffic discipline office. The new policy covering the 1,400 Metro Manila traffic enforcers was imposed following complaints about some personnel “drinking on duty,” he said, adding that the tests would be conducted at random as the enforcers reported for duty.
Pangolin scales seized
Customs authorities have seized 208kg of endangered pangolin scales, which are in demand for traditional medicine, especially on the mainland. They said the pangolin scales, worth up to HK$1.7 million (US$219,000), were confiscated on Tuesday in the town of Sai Kung, where seven men were loading them onto a speedboat. The suspects fled on a speedboat and escaped into mainland waters after a high-speed chase by marine police. Authorities were still investigating the scales’ destination. Also seized were 11kg of birds’ nest, as well as 1,600 computer hard disks, 7,350 mobile phones and a vehicle, with the goods estimated to be worth HK$4.7 million.
Mukherjee files nomination
Former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee yesterday filed his nomination papers to contest next month’s presidential election. The 77-year-old politician was selected last month as the ruling coalition’s nominee to succeed President Pratibha Patil, despite some clashes between various coalition partners as to whom would make the best candidate. “I am grateful to them as they have reposed faith in me to occupy the office which was occupied in past by great stalwarts of this country,” Mukherjee told reporters after filing his papers. He will face off against former parliamentary speaker P.A. Sangma in the July 19 election.