Fees protester detained
Police have detained a car owner for online attempts to organize a campaign against rising licence fees, state press said yesterday in a sign of official concern over potential unrest. The owner, publicly identified only by an online name, hoped for 100 cars to parade around Yangjiang, Guangdong Province, after the city proposed a 400 yuan (US$65) annual fee for vehicles with up to nine seats, reports said. The driver printed bumper stickers depicting a clenched fist and reading: “To hell with the annual fee” and “Say no to corruption,” the state-owned Global Times said, and he was detained by the authorities. However, no protest took place and the detention has raised concerns among lawyers, who say it was not legal, while social media commentators have raised fears over curbs on civil liberties. “The car owner shouldn’t be detained as there was no parade or gathering,” the paper quoted a lawyer in Guangdong as saying.
Tomb flattening sparks furor
Zhoukou, Henan Province, has halted a campaign to clear graves for farmland after the demolition of more than 2 million tombs sparked outrage. The city government demolished the graves this year as part of a “flatten graves to return farmland” campaign, the Beijing News reported yesterday. The newspaper quoted a local official as saying the campaign had stopped, after revised regulations on funeral management removed the government’s right to “use force” to “correct” the construction of graves. Local officials were ordered to set an example by demolishing their family tombs, the 21st Century Business Herald reported. The grave-flattening prompted an outcry on Chinese Internet sites, with thousands posting messages opposing the campaign. “Burying the dead has always been a sign of our level of civilization; this campaign shows our country has lost its moral foundations,” one user of Sina Weibo wrote.
Joke backfires on blogger
Hundreds of Internet users are rallying around a Beijing blogger who has been detained by police after posting a joke on Twitter about a pivotal Chinese Communist Party congress. On Nov. 5, Zhai Xiaojun posted a tweet that suggested the next movie in the Final Destination horror franchise would be about the Great Hall of the People collapsing on party delegates. The tweet said: “An earthshaking debut will be seen at the global premiere on Nov. 8,” which was when the week-long congress began. A Beijing police officer, who would only give his surname, Sun, said yesterday that Zhai was being investigated for “spreading terrorist information.” Zhai’s supporters call the allegation absurd. More than 400 people have signed an online petition urging authorities to release him.
Tweets land man in court
A man has received a suspended 10-month prison term for retweeting North Korean propaganda posts. The Suwon District Court cited the National Security Law in its ruling yesterday against Park Jeong-geun. The law prohibits praising and glorifying North Korea. Park could have received seven years in prison. The court says it suspended the prison term partly because Park promised not to repeat his act. It says Twitter’s widespread influence over society is the reason Park’s actions threatened national security. The 24-year-old Park retweeted dozens of posts from North Korea’s Twitter account last year. He denies that he meant to praise Pyongyang and says he was only trying to lampoon North Korea.
French are top vacationers
A poll has shown that there may be a lot of truth to the stereotype of French people loving their vacances. Public schools across the nation close for at least two months in July and August while many municipal sports centers, stores, restaurants and businesses shut up shop as families head for the beach or the countryside. A study by Harris Interactive says the French take more holidays than anyone else in Europe — an average of 30 days compared with 26 elsewhere on the continent and 15 worldwide. Economic crisis or not, the French intend to carry on doing so, with 72 percent planning at least as many holidays in the next 12 months and 10 percent to take even more. Many of those taking fewer days off — about 11 percent — are not doing so for financial reasons, but because they want to accumulate time off to get away for longer next year, the poll showed. Of those polled, 60 percent said they had never canceled or postponed a holiday for work reasons. The Japanese take the fewest holidays, with almost one-quarter of those questioned saying they had never taken time off for a vacation.
William in ‘royal’ blunder
Buckingham Palace officials had to hastily remove several photographs of Prince William from the Internet on Tuesday after realizing that they showed Ministry of Defense passwords in the background. The photos, published on the Web site the 30-year-old prince shares with his wife, Catherine Middleton, aimed to provide a glimpse into his life as a search-and-rescue pilot with the Royal Air Force (RAF), but revealed more than intended. The photos show the second in line to the British throne in his RAF khaki jump suit and going about everyday tasks at his Welsh base, from carrying out checks on his Sea King helicopter to making a cup of tea. Several shots in the album show computer screens in the background of RAF operation rooms.
Ex-PM jailed for bribe-taking
Former prime minister Ivo Sanader was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Tuesday for taking bribes from two foreign companies, becoming the highest state official to be convicted of corruption in the country. A Zagreb county court found Sanader guilty of taking payments from Austrian Hypo Alpe Adria Bank in 1995 and from Hungarian energy group MOL in 2008. Sanader has denied wrongdoing, dismissing the trial as politically motivated. Croatia is due to join the EU in July next year. Its efforts to fight crime and graft will be carefully monitored until then.
‘Black widow’ gets 18 years
The widow of a late provincial governor was sentenced to 18 years prison for the New Year’s Day murder of her husband, a court ruled on Tuesday. Carlos Soria, 61, a former governor of Rio Negro Province and spy chief, was shot in the left eye with a .38 caliber pistol during an argument with his wife, prosecutors said. Soria, an ally of President Cristina Fernandez, was just weeks into his job in the key oil-producing province of Rio Negro when he was shot. A panel of judges ruled that Soria’s widow, Susana Freydoz, 61, was guilty of first-degree murder, but did not give prosecutors the life in prison sentence they were seeking. The verdict stated that there were “extraordinary attenuating circumstances” — namely, that Freydoz is undergoing psychiatric treatment. The judges ruled that Freydoz can serve her time in the mental health wing of the hospital where she is currently being treated under police guard.