Myanmar has ‘no religious discrimination’, army chief tells Pope

Myanmar’s commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing arrives to give a speech during talks between the government, army and representatives of ethnic armed groups over a cease-fire to end insurgencies, in Naypyitaw on January 12, 2016. (File photo by Reuters)
Updated 27 November 2017

Myanmar has ‘no religious discrimination’, army chief tells Pope

YANGON: Myanmar’s army chief Min Aung Hlaing said he told Pope Francis his country had “no religious discrimination” after the pair met late Monday, in a papal visit framed by the exodus of the Rohingya Muslim minority.
“Myanmar has no religious discrimination at all,” he said in a Facebook post by his office. “Likewise our military too... (it) performs for the peace and stability of the country.”
The Tatmadaw, as his army is known, has been accused by the UN and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of conducting a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” by driving 620,000 Rohingya from western Myanmar into Bangladesh since August.
Myanmar denies any wrongdoing despite testimony by refugees pointing to a widespread campaign of rape, murder and arson.
The Rohingya, who are effectively stateless, are subject to a suffocating web of state-enforced restrictions.
Most are denied citizenship by Myanmar, which says they are illegal “Bengali” immigrants.
Last week Amnesty International called western Rakhine state a “crime scene,” describing the restrictions on the Rohingya as tantamount to “apartheid.”
The pope, who is visiting Myanmar to spread a message of peace, has spoken up several times for the Rohingya as the crisis has unfolded calling the benighted group “brothers and sisters.”
His comments have enraged hard-line Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar, who are now waiting to see if he uses the term “Rohingya” during his four-day trip.
Min Aung Hlaing’s office said the senior general had welcomed the pope during a brief 15 minute meeting in Yangon and told the pontiff there was also “no discrimination between ethnic groups in Myanmar.”
The Rohingya are not recognized as an official ethnic group.


Hong Kong protesters sing ‘God Save the Queen’ in plea to former colonial power

Updated 50 min 4 sec ago

Hong Kong protesters sing ‘God Save the Queen’ in plea to former colonial power

  • The Chinese-ruled territory has been rocked by weeks of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests
  • Demonstrators angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in their city’s affairs despite a promise of autonomy

HONG KONG: Hundreds of Hong Kong protesters singing “God Save the Queen” and waving Union Jack flags rallied outside the British Consulate on Sunday demanding that the former colonial power ensures China honors its commitments to the city’s freedoms.
The Chinese-ruled territory has been rocked by weeks of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests, with demonstrators angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in their city’s affairs despite a promise of autonomy.
The Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984, lays out Hong Kong’s future after its return to China in 1997, a “one country, two systems” formula that ensures freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.
“Sino-British Joint Declaration is VOID,” one placard read. “SOS Hong Kong,” read another.
“One country, two systems is dead,” they shouted in English under the sub-tropical sun, some carrying the colonial flag also bearing the Union Jack. “Free Hong Kong.”
With many young people looking for routes out of Hong Kong, campaigners say Britain should change the status of the British National (Overseas) passport, a category created after Britain returned Hong Kong to China. The passports allow a holder to visit Britain for six months, but do not come with an automatic right to live or work there.
“I am here to demand the UK protect our citizens’ rights in Hong Kong and speak up for Hong Kong under the Joint Declaration,” Jacky Tsang, 25, told Reuters.
The spark for the protests was planned legislation, now withdrawn, that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial, despite Hong Kong having its own much-respected independent judiciary.
The protests have since broadened into calls for universal suffrage.
China says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” arrangement, denies meddling and says the city is an internal Chinese issue. It has accused foreign powers, particularly the United States and Britain, of fomenting the unrest and told them to mind their own business.
Britain says it has a legal responsibility to ensure China abides by the 1984 declaration.
“The Joint Declaration is a legally binding treaty between the UK and China that remains as valid today as it was when it was signed and ratified over 30 years ago,” a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said in June.
“As a co-signatory, the UK government will continue to defend our position.”
But it was not immediately clear what Britain could or would want to do defend that position. It is pinning its hopes on closer trade and investment cooperation with China, which since 1997 has risen to become the world’s second-largest economy, after it leaves the European Union at the end of next month.
The Civil Human Rights Front has also called for a mass rally in Victoria Park, just to the east of the central business district, but police have denied permission because of earlier clashes after huge gatherings.
Protesters are expected to turn up early in the afternoon anyway.