China bans ‘religious’ names for Muslim babies in Xinjiang

A police officer checks the identity card of a man as security forces keep watch in a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, in this photo taken on March 24, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 April 2017
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China bans ‘religious’ names for Muslim babies in Xinjiang

JEDDAH: China further tightened restrictions on Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang with a ban on Islamic names for babies in an ongoing crackdown that has already seen Muslim women wearing the niqab and men having “abnormal beards” prohibited from using public transportation.
Xinjiang is home to about half of China’s 23 million Muslims.
“This is just the latest in a slew of new regulations restricting religious freedom in the name of countering ‘religious extremism,’ “ Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in a statement. “These policies are blatant violations of domestic and international protections on the rights to freedom of belief and expression.
“If the government is serious about bringing stability and harmony to the region as it claims, it should roll back — not double down on — repressive policies.”
Names such as Islam, Qur’an, Saddam and Makkah, as well as references to the star and crescent moon symbol, are all unacceptable to the ruling
Communist party. Children with those names will be denied household registration, a crucial document that grants access to social services, health care and education, according to The Guardian newspaper in London.
A full list of names has not yet been published and it is unclear exactly what qualifies as a religious name.
While China blames Uighur extremists for terrorist attacks, experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the Uighur threat and that repressive domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence there that has left hundreds dead since 2009.
Last month, Xinjiang authorities fired an ethnic Uighur official for holding her wedding ceremony at home according to Islamic traditions instead of at a government-sanctioned venue, according to Radio Free Asia.
The ban stems from China’s crackdowns on the Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang. The Communist Party blames religious extremists for violent incidents that have killed hundreds of people. But Uighur rights groups say the crackdowns violate religious expression.
The ban widens host of restrictions that has already seen staff at train stations and airports prohibit women wearing the niqab and men wearing beards access to transportation.
The restriction on beards is now formalized in the new law, which also stipulates that children cannot have names to “exaggerate religious fervor.”


El Chapo bribed Interpol, Mexican officials to keep drugs flowing, informant says

In this file photo taken on February 3, 2017 the wife of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Emma Coronel Aispuro, exits the US Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn after a hearing in his case in New York. (AFP)
Updated 35 min 33 sec ago
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El Chapo bribed Interpol, Mexican officials to keep drugs flowing, informant says

  • Brought to the US almost 22 months ago, Guzman, 61, is accused of smuggling more than 155 tons of cocaine into the United States over 25 years and faces life in prison if found guilty

NEW YORK: Drug baron Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman paid huge bribes to Mexican prosecutors, police, military and even Interpol to ensure smooth operations for his Sinaloa cartel, a key informant said at his US trial on Thursday.
Jesus “El Rey” Zambada, brother of the cartel’s co-head, the still-at-large Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, detailed the eye-watering costs of protecting cocaine shipments that originated in Colombia and traveled to the US via Mexico — with payments amounting to $300,000 per month in Mexico City alone.
Zambada, who worked for the cartel from 1987 until his arrest in 2008, was returning to the witness stand on the third day of a trial expected to last about four months.
He told the court that as the head of the organization’s operations in the capital city, he personally paid bribes to the attorney general’s office, the federal highway police that also operates bridges and airports, federal, state and local police forces, and “Interpol, as well.”
“The bribes for officials in Mexico City were about $300,000 per month,” the 57-year-old said, wearing a blue prison suit with an orange shirt.
Zambada added he once paid a $100,000 bribe to General Gilberto Toledano, in charge of the state of Guerrero, at Guzman’s request.

“I was going to import cocaine from Colombia through the state of Guerrero... and El Chapo told me, ‘Go and meet General Toledano, he’s my friend, and give him $100,000 from me,’” Zambada said.
He also recounted violent turf wars, describing how his brother had partnered with El Chapo and the Sinaloa cartel after working for another gang in the Tijuana border zone — triggering brutal infighting between the two clans.
Among the killings he mentioned was an infamous 1992 gunbattle in a seaside disco in the resort town Puerto Vallarta that left six dead but which failed to take out the head hitman of the rival gang, Ramon Arellano Felix.
And in 1993, a cardinal, Juan Jesus Posadas, was murdered after he had the misfortune of going to the airport in the same brand of car as El Chapo — and was therefore mistakenly targeted by the Tijuana group.
According to Zambada, El Chapo finally murdered the leader of Tijuana’s hired gunmen in 2002, and he confided years later: “If there is one thing that makes me want to live, it is to have killed Ramon Arellano Felix.”
Guzman, wearing a dark suit and tie, listened attentively to the testimony of his former ally.
Brought to the US almost 22 months ago, Guzman, 61, is accused of smuggling more than 155 tons of cocaine into the United States over 25 years and faces life in prison if found guilty.
His lawyers argue he has been scapegoated by Mexico’s “corrupt” government and the US Drug Enforcement Agency, and that the cartel’s true chief was Ismael Zambada.