Arrests made in arson case
Police have detained seven suspects, including a local official and a property developer, in connection with the death of a villager in a land grab case in eastern China, state-backed media reported yesterday. Seizures of land across the country, a major cause of unrest, have been fueled by soaring prices and the government’s urban expansion drive, resulting in often violent clashes between officials and villagers. The 63-year-old villager from Shandong Province was camped out near his farm to protect it from being seized, media reported. He was killed when his tent was set on fire last week. Four arsonists were hired by a property developer and a village official, Legal Daily reported. The seventh person detained was acting as a middleman.
Official reported dead in fall
A top official at the government information department died yesterday after a fall, Chinese Communist Party media reported. Li Wufeng (李伍峰), deputy director of the State Council Information Office “fell to death,” the People’s Daily newspaper reported on its English-language Twitter feed. “Cause is unknown,” it added, without elaborating. Chinese news outlet Caixin also reported the death on its Web site, although the story was later deleted. Li, 56, was appointed to the post in June last year, state media reported at the time, and was previously deputy head of the State Internet Information Office. Little other information on Li, other than basic biographical facts, was immediately available and he did not appear to be a target of any known investigations.
US first lady goes Tibetan
US first lady Michelle Obama has ended her week-long trip to China with a Tibetan theme, having lunch in a Tibetan restaurant and meeting students who presented her with a Tibetan silk scarf and tapping Tibetan prayer wheels. Her staff said the restaurant choice yesterday in Chengdu City in southwest Sichuan Province was in accordance with her interest in the rights of minorities in the nation. Yesterday Obama, her mother and daughters visited pandas at the Chengdu Panda Base. She was to return to the US later yesterday.
‘Insult’ laws to be repealed
Authorities moved on Tuesday to water down its race discrimination laws, saying hurt feelings were inevitable during robust debate and the government would not legislate to protect them. Attorney-General George Brandis said the government planned to repeal a section of the Racial Discrimination Act that makes it illegal to “offend, insult or humiliate another” because of their race. “Laws which are designed to prohibit racial vilification should not be used as a vehicle to attack legitimate freedoms of speech,” he said. Brandis said a new clause would be inserted into the law to ban racial vilification, defined as inciting hatred against racial groups, rather than simply offending them. The change honors an election promise made in the wake of a court case when a conservative newspaper columnist criticized “white Aborigines” who claimed grants and scholarships meant for indigenous Australians. The columnist, Andrew Bolt, was found guilty of racial discrimination when a group of the people targeted in his article took him to court saying they had been offended and insulted. Brandis said it was impossible to discuss difficult issues without occasionally causing offense to those who held a different view.