US has ‘deep concerns’ about UN official’s trip to China

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A Chinese police officer takes his position by the road near what is officially called a vocational education centre in Yining in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 4, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Workers walk by the perimeter fence of what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 4, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 June 2019
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US has ‘deep concerns’ about UN official’s trip to China

BEIJING: The US government expressed deep concerns to the UN about a reported trip by the UN counterterrorism chief to the restive Xinjiang region in China’s far west.
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, in a phone call Friday with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, called the visit “highly inappropriate in view of the unprecedented repression campaign underway in Xinjiang against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims.”
The Chinese foreign ministry confirmed that Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov, the undersecretary-general of the UN counterterrorism office, is in China at the country’s invitation, but didn’t provide any details.
“More specific information will be released in time,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing.
China has faced international criticism over internment camps in Xinjiang that hold an estimated 1 million members of the Uighur and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups.
Chinese officials describe the camps as vocational training centers and say they are necessary to curb religious extremism.
Sullivan told Guterres that “Beijing continues to paint its repressive campaign against Uighurs and other Muslims as legitimate counterterrorism efforts when it is not,” and that Voronkov’s trip puts the UN’s reputation and credibility at risk.
Geng has previously said the US accusations are “fabricated lies” and that the United States should not interfere in China’s internal affairs.
Human Rights Watch criticized the United Nations for sending a counterterrorism official instead of a human rights expert, saying it risks deflecting attention from what it called “a massive government rights violation against the Turkic Muslim population.”
Chen Xu, China’s new ambassador in Geneva, told reporters Thursday that China had invited UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to visit the camps in Xinjiang “to see for herself.”
UN spokeswoman Marta Hurtado confirmed Bachelet had met Chen and that her office is continuing to negotiate “full access” for any trip to China.
Geng said China would welcome a visit but added, “we will never allow people with political purposes to interfere in China’s internal affairs and damage China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity with their visit to Xinjiang.”


Monsoon flooding death toll rises to 152 in South Asia

Updated 23 min 4 sec ago
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Monsoon flooding death toll rises to 152 in South Asia

  • At least 90 people have died in Nepal and 50 in northeastern India’s Assam state over the past week
  • South Asia’s monsoon rains, which hit the region from June to September, are crucial for the rain-fed crops planted during the season

GAUHATI, India: The death toll in monsoon flooding in South Asia has risen to 152 as millions of people and animals continue to face the brunt in three countries, officials said Saturday.
At least 90 people have died in Nepal and 50 in northeastern India’s Assam state over the past week. A dozen have been killed in Bangladesh.
Shiv Kumar, a government official in Assam, said 10 rare one-horned rhinos have died in Kaziranga National Park since the Brahmaputra River burst its banks, flooding the reserve.
Some 4.8 million people spread over 3,700 villages across the state are still affected by the floods, though the frequency of rains has decreased in the past 24 hours, the Assam Disaster Response Authority said. More than 2.5 million have also been hit by flooding in India’s Bihar state.
Amid the flooding, 20-year-old Imrana Khatoon delivered her first baby on a boat in floodwaters early Friday while on her way to a hospital in Assam’s flooded Gagalmari village, locals said. The woman and the newborn were brought back to their home without getting to the hospital.
Community health worker Parag Jyoti Das, who visited the family, said there were no post-delivery health complications. However, the mother and the child were moved to a hospital on a boat to the nearby town of Jhargaon because of unhygienic conditions due to floodwaters, Das said. The health center in Khatoon’s village was flooded and closed.
“I would have felt happier if the baby’s father was here,” said Khatoon, whose husband works in a hotel in the southern state of Kerala.
More than 147,000 people have taken shelter in 755 government-run camps across Assam, officials said.
Authorities warned they would take action against suppliers who were reported to be distributing poor quality rice and other essentials to marooned people and inmates of temporary shelters at some places.
“We have ordered the arrest of those unscrupulous elements supplying substandard materials and playing with the lives of the affected people,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam’s finance minister.
In Nepal, the Home Ministry said about 36,728 families were affected by the monsoon rains. The flooding and mudslides forced some 13,000 families to flee their homes.
In at least two of Nepal’s districts, helicopters were used to transport emergency food supplies, while other transport means were being used to move tents and other supplies to the victims.
South Asia’s monsoon rains, which hit the region from June to September, are crucial for the rain-fed crops planted during the season.