China punishes officials for corrupting Muslim pilgrimage arrangements

Updated 16 January 2015
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China punishes officials for corrupting Muslim pilgrimage arrangements

BEIJING: Thirty-two officials in far-western China have been punished over alleged bribe-taking, nepotism or other wrongdoing in the choosing of people for over-subscribed Muslim pilgrimages to the holy city of Makkah, a Communist Party commission and a state newspaper said.
China’s Uighur Muslims, native to the region of Xinjiang where bloody ethnic violence rages despite a security crackdown, are allowed to make such pilgrimages only on government-authorized trips.
The party and government officials accused of taking advantage of their positions in selecting people for the trips included mayors and a local police chief, the Xinjiang Disciplinary Commission said in an online statement Wednesday.
It said the 32, mostly from Kizilsu prefecture near the border with Kyrgyzstan, had been punished for violating party discipline, misuse of power, negligence and seeking benefits. Six of them were fired from their posts and expelled from the party and will be criminally investigated.
The state-run China Daily newspaper said on its website Thursday that the officials arranged pilgrimages for “unqualified people” and that some had taken bribes. Some officials changed lists to reduce waiting times for relatives, said the report, which cited unnamed authorities.
There are officially about 22 million Muslims in China. Last year, about 14,000 Chinese pilgrims went to Makkah on a government-organized trip, and there was a long waiting list of others hoping to make the journey, the China Daily said.
“China strictly forbids Uighurs to make unauthorized pilgrimages,” Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Munich-based advocacy group World Uyghur Congress, said in an e-mailed statement. “The strict quotas on the official organization of pilgrimage groups have brought about the phenomenon of buying a place.”
Beijing is concerned about Uighurs going abroad amid violence linked to Xinjiang that has killed about 400 people within the past two years, which it blames on radical separatists with foreign ties.
On Wednesday, a state newspaper reported that police detained nine Uighurs terror suspects for allegedly trying to leave China on altered Turkish passports, along with 10 Turks.


Major powers, Iran meet to salvage nuclear deal without US

European Union Foreign Affairs and Security Policy High Representative Federica Mogherini is seen at the start of a meeting on Libya hosted by France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 4 min 57 sec ago
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Major powers, Iran meet to salvage nuclear deal without US

  • Highlighting just how difficult it will be for the Europeans to come up with concrete solutions, French state-owned bank Bpifrance on Monday abandoned its plan to set up a financial mechanism to aid French companies trading with Iran

UNITED NATIONS: Iran has ample reason to stay in the 2015 nuclear deal despite the US withdrawal and the remaining parties on Monday will discuss ways to blunt the effect of impending US sanctions on Tehran, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said.
Speaking before a gathering of senior officials from Britain, China, Germany, Russia and Iran, the EU’s Federica Mogherini made the case for Iran remaining in the deal that US President Donald Trump abandoned on May 8.
“An essential part of the agreement and its implementation regards Iran having the possibility of benefiting from the lifting of sanctions, and this is exactly why we are discussing tonight, operational concrete steps that we can put in place,” Mogherini told reporters before the talks at the United Nations.
“Iran has good arguments and good reasons to remain in the agreement. ... the more operational decisions we will manage to take and ... implement, I believe the more Iran will have reasons to do,” she added.
The European Union, however, has so far failed to devise a workable legal framework to shield its companies from US sanctions that go into effect in November and that, among other things, seek to choke off Iran’s oil sales, diplomats said.
Highlighting just how difficult it will be for the Europeans to come up with concrete solutions, French state-owned bank Bpifrance on Monday abandoned its plan to set up a financial mechanism to aid French companies trading with Iran.
The crux of the deal, negotiated over almost two years by the administration of former US President Barack Obama, was that Iran would restrain its nuclear program in return for the relaxation of sanctions that had crippled its economy.
Trump considered it flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s ballistic missiles program or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
The United States began reimposing economic sanctions this summer and the most draconian measures, which seek to force Iran’s major customers to stop buying its oil, resume Nov. 5.
Their impending return has contributed to a slide in Iran’s currency. The rial has lost about two-thirds of its value this year, hitting a record low against the US dollar this month.
There are limits to what the EU can do to counter the oil sanctions, under which Washington can cut off from the US financial system any bank that facilitates an oil transaction with Iran.