North rail survey to start
North and South Korea are to begin a joint survey on reconnecting railways across their border this week, the Ministry of Unification said yesterday. Linking up the railway systems was one of the agreements made earlier this year between the two countries. A South Korean train is to depart from Seoul early tomorrow and cross the border on a 18-day joint mission to examine the North’s rail system. It would be the first time since 2007 a train from the South is to enter North Korea. The train is to have 28 South Korean passengers on board — mostly officials and experts — as well as 55,000 liters of fuel and other unspecified materials. “The actual construction will be pursued according to progress in North Korea’s denuclearization,” the ministry said.
Le Pen ordered to repay
An EU court yesterday rejected a bid by far-right leader Marine Le Pen to halt the repayment of parliamentary expenses she used to pay a bodyguard. Le Pen is under investigation for allegedly using European Parliament expenses to pay party political staff. In one such case, she is alleged to have wrongly used EU parliamentary funds to pay a bodyguard, Thierry Legier, more than 41,000 euros (US$46,256).
Election to test sentiment
Millions voted yesterday in a state election seen as a key duel between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his main rival before the entire country goes to the polls next year. Modi’s right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has governed the central state of Madhya Pradesh since 2003, having won three state elections in a row. However, polls suggest that the opposition Congress headed by Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, could win on the back of concerns about rising unemployment and by appealing to disgruntled farmers. The party has campaigned aggressively against three-time Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on issues of corruption and misgovernance. Chouhan has nevertheless sounded confident. The vote is one of five state elections this month and next that are a litmus test of Modi’s popularity ahead of general elections that have to take place before May, but for which no date has yet been announced. Results from all the state elections are due on Dec. 11. A defeat in the state would be a major setback for the party and dent Modi’s winning image.
Jeremic backs Patrick Ho
Former UN General Assembly president Vuk Jeremic on Tuesday said that he never witnessed “anything improper” on the part of prominent Hong Kong businessman Patrick Ho Chi-ping (何志平), on trial in New York City on charges of bribing government leaders in two African nations to land lucrative business deals for a Chinese oil and gas conglomerate. Jeremic reported to Ho when he worked as a consultant for CEFC China Energy. Jeremic told a federal jury that he connected Ho to high-ranking officials in several countries and opened diplomatic doors for CEFC as it expanded its business around the globe. However, in an interview following his hours-long testimony, Jeremic said he never had concerns about Ho’s dealings. Jeremic, who leads the opposition party in Serbia, said he has been “vilified” in his home country over his involvement in Ho’s proceedings. “It’s been portrayed as if I were on trial,” he said. “It was very important for me to clear Serbia’s name.”
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘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
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS: In its tender, the Hong Kong administration said that it had failed to ‘mobilise the community to support law enforcement actions’ The Hong Kong government has agreed to pay millions of pounds to a discreet London-based PR firm to counter coverage of the territory in the international media. Consulum, which has also represented Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was on Monday awarded the ￡5 million (US$6.2 million) one-year contract to improve Hong Kong’s reputation — the same day that China passed national security legislation targeting the territory. The Mayfair-based PR business was founded by Tim Ryan and Matthew Gunther Bushell, two former employees of Bell Pottinger, an agency that has been criticized for representing some governments and leaders that other businesses