No Commonwealth censure
The nation’s human rights record was glaringly absent from a communique issued by Commonwealth leaders on Sunday at the end of a fractious summit dominated by allegations of war crimes during the bloody climax of the island’s 26-year civil war. The normally sedate two-yearly meeting of mostly former British colonies ran into controversy this year before it had even begun after some members objected to it being hosted by a government accused of shelling civilians just four years ago. Sparks flew at the summit when British Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to push for an international inquiry into the allegations of large-scale civilian deaths during the army’s final victory over the Tamil Tiger separatists in 2009. About 300,000 civilians were trapped on a narrow beach during the onslaught and a British panel has estimated that 40,000 non-combatants died. It concluded that, while both sides committed atrocities, army shelling killed most victims.
Police detain churchgoers
Relatives of a Christian pastor yesterday said that police have detained the religious leader and about 20 churchgoers in a crackdown on a state-backed church involved in a local land dispute. Pastor Zhang Shaojie (張少傑) was taken away from his church in Henan Province’s Puyang city on Saturday by police who provided no identification or basis for the detention, Zhang’s wife, daughter and son-in-law said. Sun Zhulei, Zhang’s son-in-law, said police have also taken away about 20 others since Wednesday last week, including Zhang’s two sisters. The crackdown is unusual for a state-approved church. The government allows worship only in such churches, while unregistered congregations tend to be subject to harassment. However, Zhang and other church leaders have been involved in a land dispute with local authorities in which city officials have tried to seize back land that had been earlier allocated to the church for its expansion, Zhang’s daughter, Zhang Yunyun, said.
Graft crackdown nets 17,000
Nearly 17,000 people have been punished for flouting the Chinese Communist Party’s “frugality” guidelines, state media said yesterday, in the latest sign of efforts to clamp down on corruption. A total of 16,699 people have been punished for violating the rules announced in December last year, Xinhua news agency said, citing the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. Their offenses including violating a “ban on government building projects, excessive spending on receptions, use of government vehicles for private purposes, unnecessary trips in China and abroad using public money, as well as excessively large wedding banquets,” Xinhua said, citing the commission’s notice.
Farmland transferral tested
An eastern region is experimenting with letting farmers mortgage or transfer control of their publicly owned land, in what could help spread prosperity to the impoverished countryside and become one of the nation’s most pivotal rural land reforms in 35 years. There is no private land ownership in the country, with all urban land under state ownership and rural land under collective ownership overseen by village officials. That would not change in Anhui Province, where the latest experiment is under way. However, farmers would be given more flexibility in how their allotted plots are used and more opportunities to profit from the nation’s booming real-estate market.