Pakistan holds Chinese man for Koran insult

KORANIC CRIME::Workers say Lee Ping threw the holy book on the floor after a dispute with a colleague. If found guilty of blasphemy, Lee could face execution

AFP, MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan, and BEIJING

Sun, May 19, 2013 - Page 6

A Chinese man working on an energy project in Pakistan-administered Kashmir was being held yestserday after hundreds of protesters attacked his company offices over the alleged desecration of a Koran, officials said.

Lee Ping, administration manager of a Chinese consortium building the Neelum Jhelum Hydropower project, was accused by Pakistani coworkers of throwing the Koran on the ground.

“We have taken Ping [sic] into protective custody after protests erupted in the company when Pakistani laborers saw him throwing the belongings of a Pakistani worker including the Koran,” Sardar Gulfraz, a senior police official, told reporters.

Lee Ping was moving the belongings of a Pakistani doctor after he had refused to vacate his room for relocation.

“Doctor Sajid had a dispute with the company management about the relocation of his room. He refused to vacate the room and Ping threw out all his belongings in anger,” police official Raja Anser Shahzad said.

“Local laborers saw Ping throwing out luggage, including the Koran, and they started protesting. Later, people from outside the company also joined the rally and around 1,000 protesters attacked the offices,” Shahzad said.

Police said the incident happened at midday on Friday, when local Muslims were preparing to offer their main weekly prayers.

“They broke vehicles and windows inside the company premises. We have called in extra police to protect instalments and have also moved Lee to a secret location for protective reasons,” Gulfraz said.

Authorities said a commission had been formed to determine whether Ping was involved in a desecration.

Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97 percent of the 180 million population are Muslims, and even unproven allegations can spark a violent public backlash.

Rights campaigners say that the blasphemy laws, for which the maximum penalty is death, are often abused to settle personal scores and should be reformed.

“[Lee] will be charged under the blasphemy law only after this commission confirms that he was involved in a serious violation,” Gulfraz said.

Pakistan and China have close ties and Chinese firms and engineers are working in development and energy projects across Pakistan.

Also yesterday, reports said Pakistan is set to become the fifth Asian country to use China’s domestic satellite navigation system, launched as a rival to the US global positioning system.

The Beidou, or Compass, system started providing services to civilians in the region in December last year and is expected to provide global coverage by 2020. It also has military applications.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) is to visit Pakistan next week after a visit to India.