‘Philippines, Province of China’ signs stir anger on anniversary of arbitration win

Traffic enforcers stand next to a banner reading ‘Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China’ after removing it from an overpass in Metro Manila. (Reuters)
Updated 12 July 2018
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‘Philippines, Province of China’ signs stir anger on anniversary of arbitration win

  • No group claimed responsibility for the banners, which feature English and Chinese characters and a Chinese flag flanked by dragons
  • Some users accused the political opposition of making the signs to discredit the government’s warming ties with China

MANILA: Banners calling the Philippines a “province of China” mysteriously appeared on bridges in Manila on Thursday, sparking fury on social media on what was the second anniversary of Manila’s victory over Beijing in a landmark arbitration case.
The terms “province of China” and “South China Sea” trended prominently on Twitter, while news reports of the sudden appearance of the red tarpaulin banners along key thoroughfares generated thousands of shares and comments on Facebook.
No group claimed responsibility for the banners, which feature English and Chinese characters and a Chinese flag flanked by dragons. City authorities were seen removing some of them, which were spotted in at least five locations.
Emojis denoting anger or surprise dominated comments on social media next to pictures of the signs, which say “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China.”
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled two years ago that China had no historic title over the waters of the South China Sea and it had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights by blocking its fishermen and building artificial islands in its Exclusive Economic Zone.
“NOT FUNNY,” former solicitor general and chief lawyer for the Philippine case, Florin Hilbay, posted on his social media accounts.
Some users accused the political opposition of making the signs to discredit the government’s warming ties with China.
Other chided the government for not challenging China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea. “This is too much. The country was sold off,” one Facebook user said.
The two countries have a bitter history of disputes over maritime sovereignty, but under President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office just two weeks before the Hague ruling, Manila has taken a conciliatory approach and wants China’s loans, trade and investments.
Duterte frequently praises Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and in February caused a stir when he jokingly offered the Philippines to Beijing as a province of China.
The Philippines scored an “own goal” in its failure to press China to implement the arbitration ruling, opposition party Akbayan said.
During an event to mark the anniversary of the ruling, Vice President Leni Robredo, who was elected separately to Duterte, said Filipinos should peacefully protest against the government’s inaction.
Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, called the banners “absurd” and said it was likely the government’s political enemies were behind them.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Cambodia genocide verdict a signal to other perpetrators: US

The historic verdict comes nearly 40 years after the Khmer Rouge were expelled from Cambodia following a four-year reign of terror that left about a quarter of the population dead. (AP)
Updated 17 November 2018
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Cambodia genocide verdict a signal to other perpetrators: US

  • A war crimes tribunal in Cambodia found the Khmer Rouge’s former head of state Khieu Samphan, 87, and “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 92, guilty of genocide on Friday
  • Let this be a message to other perpetrators of mass atrocities: US State Department

PHNOM PENH: The US has welcomed Cambodia’s landmark genocide verdict and said it served as a warning that perpetrators of mass atrocities, “even those at the highest levels,” will eventually face justice for their crimes.
A war crimes tribunal in Cambodia found the Khmer Rouge’s former head of state Khieu Samphan, 87, and “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 92, guilty of genocide on Friday and sentenced them to life in prison.
The historic verdict comes nearly 40 years after the Khmer Rouge were expelled from Cambodia following a four-year reign of terror that left about a quarter of the population dead from starvation, mass executions, and overwork.
“Their crimes were numerous, calculated, and grave,” US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, commending the courage of the victims and witnesses who testified during the trial.
“Let this be a message to other perpetrators of mass atrocities, even those at the highest levels, including former heads of state, that such actions will not be tolerated and they will ultimately be brought to justice,” she said in a statement.
Cambodia’s neighbor Myanmar has come under fire in recent months for its handling of the Rohingya crisis, which United Nations investigators believe amounts to “genocide” given the atrocities perpetrated on the stateless Muslim minority.
Myanmar has denied the allegations but UN investigators have urged that the case be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation and prosecution.
Despite the show of support for war crimes prosecution, the US is one of the few Western countries that is not signed up to the ICC, which has a mandate to investigate the gravest offenses including genocide and crimes against humanity.
The country’s refusal to be party to the body erupted again following an ICC request to open an investigation into alleged war crimes by the US military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan, especially over the abuse of detainees.
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton called the Hague-based rights body “unaccountable” and threatened to arrest and sanction judges and other officials of the court if it moved to charge any American.