Risking China’s anger, Blinken meets representative of Dalai Lama in India

Risking China’s anger, Blinken meets representative of Dalai Lama in India
India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, right, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken walk together before meetings at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 28 July 2021

Risking China’s anger, Blinken meets representative of Dalai Lama in India

Risking China’s anger, Blinken meets representative of Dalai Lama in India
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also met his Indian counterpart, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with a representative of Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in New Delhi on Wednesday, a State Department spokesperson said, a move that is likely to provoke anger in China.
Blinken met briefly with Ngodup Dongchung, who serves as a representative of Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), also known as the Tibetan government in exile, the spokesperson said.
Chinese troops seized Tibet in 1950 in what Beijing calls a “peaceful liberation.” In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
The CTA and Tibetan advocacy groups have received a boost in international support in recent months amid rising criticism of China’s human rights record, particularly from the United States.
In November, Lobsang Sangay, the former head of the Tibetan government in exile, visited the White House, the first such visit in six decades.
A month later, the US Congress passed the Tibet Policy and Support Act, which calls for the right of Tibetans to choose the successor to the Dalai Lama, and the establishment of a US consulate in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.
Blinken’s meeting with Dongchung is the most significant contact with the Tibetan leadership since the Dalai Lama met then-president Barack Obama in Washington in 2016.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Beijing says Tibet is a part of China and has labelled the Dalai Lama a dangerous separatist.
In his first visit to India since joining US President Joe Biden’s administration, Blinken also met his Indian counterpart, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and other officials on Wednesday before heading to see Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The two sides are expected to discuss supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, the security situation in Afghanistan, and India’s human rights record.
Speaking to a group of civil society leaders at a New Delhi hotel, Blinken said that the relationship between the United States and India was “one of the most important in the world.”
“The Indian people and the American people believe in human dignity and equality of opportunity, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms including freedom of religion and belief . . . these are the fundamental tenets of democracies like ours,” he said.
“And of course, both of our democracies are works in progress. As friends we talk about that.”
Indian foreign ministry sources said ahead of Blinken’s visit that the country was proud of its pluralistic traditions and happy to discuss the issue with him.
Modi’s government has faced allegations of suppressing dissent, pursuing divisive policies to appeal to its Hindu nationalist base and alienating Muslims, the country’s biggest minority.
Blinken arrived in India on Tuesday night and leaves for Kuwait later on Wednesday.


Greece begins moving migrants to new ‘closed’ camp

Greece begins moving migrants to new ‘closed’ camp
Updated 8 sec ago

Greece begins moving migrants to new ‘closed’ camp

Greece begins moving migrants to new ‘closed’ camp
  • The Samos camp, which will serve as a pilot for the other so-called closed and controlled access facilities, can only be entered via fingerprint scans and electronic badges
  • The EU has committed €276 million euros for the new camps on Greece’s five Aegean islands — Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos — that receive most of the migrant arrivals
SAMOS, Greece: Greece on Monday began moving asylum seekers to the first of several new EU-funded “closed” camps on its islands, despite activists complaining that controls on access are too harsh.
A double barbed-wire fence surrounds the camp on Samos island, a facility for 3,000 people that also has surveillance cameras, X-ray scanners and magnetic doors.
During the migrant crisis in 2015 and 2016, the previous camp on Samos sheltered nearly 7,000 asylum seekers despite being built to take just 680, and campaigners had long denounced conditions as deplorable.
“Today is a historic day... a day of joy for us,” Manos Logothetis of the Greek migration ministry told state TV ERT on Samos.
Logothetis told AFP that out of some 400 people at the current Vathy camp at Samos, 270 have said they want to move to the new Zervou facility.
At the entrance of the new camp, police lined up the residents, checking them for weapons or dangerous objects, an AFP reporter said. Asylum personnel handed out clean bedsheets and showed the migrants how to use the gate’s magnetic entry cards.
Some of the asylum seekers carried boxes containing stray cats from the old camp, where rats were an ever-present menace.
“People are just angry for what will happen in the new camp, they think that it’s prison, but I don’t think it,” said Didier Tcakonmer, a 28-year-old Cameroonian who has spent more than two years in Samos.
“It will be better than here, no mosquitos, no rats.”
The ministry is prepared to register up to 200 people today and the remainder on Tuesday, Logothetis said.
The Samos camp, which will serve as a pilot for the other so-called closed and controlled access facilities, can only be entered via fingerprint scans and electronic badges.
Gates will remain closed at night and disciplinary measures await those who return after 8:00 pm.
Late on Sunday, a fire broke out in an abandoned part of the Vathy camp — though the ministry said nobody was hurt.
Logothetis told ERT it was common for asylum seekers to sort through their belongings ahead of a camp move and burn anything they did not intend to bring with them.
According to the ministry, all the asylum seekers had been evacuated on Sunday to an empty space near the entrance of the camp as firefighters tackled the blaze.
The new Samos facility is the first of several such camps on five Greek islands created with EU funds.
The EU has committed 276 million euros ($326 million) for the new camps on Greece’s five Aegean islands — Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos — that receive most of the migrant arrivals by sea from neighboring Turkey.
The Leros and Kos camps will open in November, the government said Monday.
Logothetis said the new restricted-access Samos camp offers “safety and humanitarian values,” but rights groups say the measures are too restrictive.
The Samos community, which had for years demanded the relocation of all the migrants to mainland Greece and Europe, has also opposed the construction of the new Zervou camp.
On the nearby island of Lesbos, the similarly overcrowded camp of Moria was destroyed in two fires that left 13,000 without shelter for several days.

India to restart COVID-19 vaccine exports to COVAX, neighbors

India to restart COVID-19 vaccine exports to COVAX, neighbors
Updated 20 September 2021

India to restart COVID-19 vaccine exports to COVAX, neighbors

India to restart COVID-19 vaccine exports to COVAX, neighbors
  • India, the world’s biggest maker of vaccines, stopped exports of COVID-19 shots in April to focus on inoculating its own population

NEW DELHI: India will resume exports of COVID-19 vaccines from the next quarter, prioritizing the global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX and neighboring countries first as supplies rise, the health minister said on Monday.
India, the world’s biggest maker of vaccines, stopped exports of COVID-19 shots in April to focus on inoculating its own population as infections exploded.
The country’s monthly vaccine output has since more than doubled and is set to quadruple to over 300 million doses next month, minister Mansukh Mandaviya said, adding that only excess supplies would be exported.
“We will help other countries and also fulfill our responsibility toward COVAX,” he told reporters.
Reuters reported last week that India was considering restarting exports of COVID-19 vaccines soon. It donated or sold 66 million doses to nearly 100 countries before the export halt.
The announcement on resumption of exports come ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington this week where vaccines are likely to be discussed at a summit of the leaders of the Quad countries — the United States, India, Japan and Australia.
India wants to vaccinate all its 944 million adults by December and has so far given at least one dose to 64 percent of them and two doses to 22 percent.
India’s inoculations have jumped since last month, especially as the world’s biggest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India, has more than trebled its output of the AstraZeneca shot to 200 million doses a month from April levels.
Indian companies have set up the capacity to produce nearly 3 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses a year.


Rwandan court finds ‘Hotel Rwanda’ film hero guilty in terrorism case

Rwandan court finds ‘Hotel Rwanda’ film hero guilty in terrorism case
Updated 20 September 2021

Rwandan court finds ‘Hotel Rwanda’ film hero guilty in terrorism case

Rwandan court finds ‘Hotel Rwanda’ film hero guilty in terrorism case
  • Prosecutors had sought a life sentence on nine charges
  • Rusesabagina’s trial began in February, six months after he arrived in Kigali on a flight from Dubai

KIGALI: A Rwandan court on Monday found Paul Rusesabagina, a one-time hotel manager portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood film about the 1994 genocide, guilty of being part of a group responsible for terrorist attacks.

“They should be found guilty for being part of this terror group — MRCD-FLN,” judge Beatrice Mukamurenzi said of 20 defendants including Rusesabagina. “They attacked people in their homes, or even in their cars on the road traveling.”

The case has had a high profile since Rusesabagina, 67, was arrested last year on arrival from Dubai after what he described as a kidnapping by Rwandan authorities.

Since being portrayed by actor Don Cheadle as the hero of the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda,” Rusesabagina emerged as a prominent critic of President Paul Kagame, based in the United States. He had denied all the charges against him, while his supporters called the trial a sham and proof of Kagame’s ruthless treatment of political opponents.

Prosecutors had sought a life sentence on nine charges, including terrorism, arson, taking hostages and forming an armed rebel group which he directed from abroad. After the announcement of the initial verdict, one of the defendants became ill, causing a short recess which delayed verdicts on other charges and sentencing.

Rusesabagina became a global celebrity after the film, which depicted him risking his life to shelter hundreds as the boss of a luxury hotel in the Rwandan capital Kigali during the 100-day genocide when Hutu ethnic extremists killed more than 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi minority.

Cheadle was nominated for an Oscar for the role. Rusesabagina used his fame to highlight what he described as rights violations by the government of Kagame, a Tutsi rebel commander who took power after his forces captured Kigali and halted the genocide.

Rusesabagina’s trial began in February, six months after he arrived in Kigali on a flight from Dubai. His supporters say he was kidnapped; the Rwandan government suggested he was tricked into boarding a private plane. Human Rights Watch said at the time that his arrest amounted to an enforced disappearance, which it called a serious violation of international law.


Macron apologizes for French treatment of Algerian Harki fighters

Macron apologizes for French treatment of Algerian Harki fighters
Updated 38 min 5 sec ago

Macron apologizes for French treatment of Algerian Harki fighters

Macron apologizes for French treatment of Algerian Harki fighters
  • The French government left the loyalist fighters known as Harkis to fend for themselves, despite earlier promises that it would look after them
  • Macron has already spoken out on a number of France’s unresolved colonial legacies, including nuclear testing in Polynesia, its role in the Rwandan genocide and war crimes in Algeria

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday asked “forgiveness” on behalf of his country for abandoning Algerians who fought alongside France in their country’s war of independence.
More than 200,000 Algerians fought with the French army in the war that pitted Algerian independence fighters against their French colonial masters from 1954 to 1962.
At the end of the war — waged on both sides with extreme brutality, including widespread torture — the French government left the loyalist fighters known as Harkis to fend for themselves, despite earlier promises that it would look after them.
Trapped in Algeria, many were massacred as the country’s new masters took brutal revenge.
Thousands of others who escaped to France were interned in camps, often with their families, in degrading and traumatising conditions.
“I want to express our gratitude to the fighters,” Macron said at a ceremony at the Elysee Palace attended by around 300 people, mostly surviving Harkis and their families.
“I’m asking for forgiveness. We will not forget,” Macron said, adding that France had “failed in its duty toward the Harkis, their wives, their children.”
The centrist president, who has been tackling some of the darker chapters of France’s colonial past, said the government would draft a law on the recognition of the state’s responsibility toward Harkis and the need for “reparation.”
His speech was interrupted several times by hecklers, with one woman in the audience accusing Macron of “making empty promises.”
Previous French presidents had already begun owning up to the betrayal of the Algerian Muslim fighters.
Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande in 2016 accepted “the responsibilities of French governments in the abandonment of the Harkis.”
The meeting came days before national Harki day, which has been observed since 2003 — especially in southern France where many of the surviving fighters settled after the war.
Their political sympathies often lie with the nationalist right whose leader, Marine Le Pen, is the frontrunner among Macron’s rivals in France’s presidential election next spring.
Authorities have in the past allowed a number of legal procedures to go ahead for the Harkis and their families to claim damages from France.
Ahead of the ceremony, Harki organizations had demanded an official recognition of their treatment to be enshrined in a law by the end of the year.
“We hope that you will be the one to end 60 years of a certain hypocrisy by which the abandoning of the Harkis is recognized in speeches, but not in the law,” they said in an open letter to Macron.
Macron’s initiative comes over a year after he tasked historian Benjamin Stora with assessing how France has dealt with its colonial legacy in Algeria.
The report, submitted in January, made a series of recommendations, including owning up to the murder of a prominent Algerian independence figure and creating a “memory and truth commission.”
Macron has already spoken out on a number of France’s unresolved colonial legacies, including nuclear testing in Polynesia, its role in the Rwandan genocide and war crimes in Algeria.
Before the end of his mandate he is expected to attend ceremonies marking the anniversaries of two key events still weighing on French-Algerian relations.
One is the brutal repression of a demonstration of Algerians on October 17, 1961, by Paris police who beat protesters to death or drowned them in the river Seine, and the other is a signing of the Evian accords on March 18, 1962, which ended the war of independence.


Six dead after gunman opens fire on Russian campus

Six dead after gunman opens fire on Russian campus
Updated 20 September 2021

Six dead after gunman opens fire on Russian campus

Six dead after gunman opens fire on Russian campus
  • The Investigative Committee initially said eight people were killed
  • Country’s second mass shooting this year to target students

MOSCOW: A gunman opened fire Monday on a university campus in central Russia and killed six people before being detained, investigators said, in the country’s second mass shooting this year to target students.

Video on social media showed students throwing belongings from the windows of university buildings in the city of Perm, around 1,300 kilometers east of Moscow, before jumping to flee the shooter.

The Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes in Russia, initially said eight people were killed but later revised the number of deaths to six.

It said 28 people were being treated after the attack at Perm State National Research University.

“Some of them have been hospitalized with injuries of varying severity,” it said in a statement.

It said the gunman, later identified as a student at the university, carried out the shooting with a hunting rifle he purchased earlier this year.

“During his arrest, he put up resistance and was wounded, after which he was taken to a medical facility,” the statement said.

The health ministry, in comments cited by Russian news agencies, said 19 among the wounded were being treated for gunshots.

State media broadcast amateur footage reportedly taken during the attack showing an individual dressed in black tactical clothing, including a helmet, carrying a weapon and walking through the campus.

Video from outside the university showed distressed students fleeing the campus and making phone calls to friends and family behind a cordon of police wearing helmets and body armor.

President Vladimir Putin had been notified of the shooting, the Kremlin said, and ministers had been ordered to travel to Perm to coordinate assistance for the victims.

“The president expresses sincere condolences to those who have lost family and loved ones as a result of this incident,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Regional authorities said that classes at local schools, colleges and universities were canceled on Monday.

School shootings have been relatively unusual in Russia due to tight security at education facilities and because it is difficult to buy firearms.

But Monday’s attack was the second one this year, after a 19-year-old opened fire in his old school in the central city of Kazan in May, killing nine people.

Investigators said that gunman suffered from a brain disorder, but he was deemed fit to receive a license for the semi-automatic shotgun he used in the attack.

On the day of that attack — one of the worst in recent Russian history — Putin called for a review of gun control laws. The age to acquire hunting rifles was increased from 18 to 21 and medical checks were strengthened.

Peskov noted Monday that despite the tightened legislation “unfortunately, this tragedy has happened, and it has to be analyzed.”

“Law enforcement agencies must give an expert assessment. It looks like we are talking about abnormalities in a young man who committed these killings,” Peskov said.

Authorities have blamed foreign influences for previous school shootings, saying young Russians have been influenced by similar attacks in the United States and elsewhere.

In November 2019, a 19-year-old student in the far eastern town of Blagoveshchensk opened fire at his college, killing one classmate and injuring three other people before shooting and killing himself.

In October 2018, another teenage gunman killed 20 people at a Kerch technical college in Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

He was shown in camera footage wearing a similar T-shirt to Eric Harris, one of the killers in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in the United States, which left 13 people dead.

The Crimea shooter was able to legally obtain a gun license after undergoing marksmanship training and being examined by a psychiatrist.

The country’s FSB security service says it has prevented dozens of armed attacks on schools in recent years.

The shooting took place as Russia was counting ballots following three-day parliamentary and local elections.