White House says it isn’t trying to weaken bill on China’s Uyghurs

Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021. (REUTERS)
Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Updated 04 December 2021

White House says it isn’t trying to weaken bill on China’s Uyghurs

Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021. (REUTERS)
  • China denies abuses in Xinjiang, which supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels, but the US government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden’s administration is not lobbying against a US bill that would ban some Chinese imports over concern about forced labor among Uyghurs, which Republicans have accused Democrats of stalling, the White House said on Friday.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region, is set to be considered by the House of Representatives as soon as next week, the bill’s sponsor, congressman Jim McGovern, told reporters on Thursday.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded to a Washington Post report https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/12/02/congress-needs-act-xi... that suggested the Biden administration was telling lawmakers to slow the bill down while the White House pursues a more targeted approach, rather than a blanket ban on goods from the region, and support from other countries.
The Post article said Biden administration sources had confirmed that in an October call between Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, a co-sponsor of the bill, Sherman made it clear the administration preferred such an approach.
It said she told Merkley that getting buy-in of allies was critical and more effective than unilateral action.
Sherman was asked at a Brookings Institution event with the chief of the European Union’s diplomatic service on Friday whether the administration supported a bill banning goods from Xinjiang on the assumption they were tainted by forced labor.
“Secretary Blinken, very early on, and I have as well, have called what has occurred in Xinjiang genocide,” she replied, referring to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We are quite concerned, and remain concerned, about the horrific human rights abuses that have taken place. And the particular amendment that you’re discussing, the administration does not oppose this amendment,” she said.
“We need to stand in solidarity with the Uyghurs, with religious minorities all over the world, to make sure that they can live in security and dignity.”
Merkley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Washington Post report and Sherman’s remarks.
Republicans have accused Biden’s Democrats of stalling the legislation because it would complicate the president’s renewable energy agenda, which requires Chinese cooperation. The Democrats deny this.
If the Uyghur measure becomes law, the sponsors have said it would create a “rebuttable presumption” that all goods from Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has set up a vast network of detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslims, were made with forced labor.
China denies abuses in Xinjiang, which supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels, but the US government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio has been demanding that the measure be included as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, delaying the Senate’s consideration of the massive annual bill setting policy for the Pentagon.


At least 16 killed, 24 wounded in north Afghanistan blast - local media

At least 16 killed, 24 wounded in north Afghanistan blast -  local media
Updated 6 min 29 sec ago

At least 16 killed, 24 wounded in north Afghanistan blast - local media

At least 16 killed, 24 wounded in north Afghanistan blast -  local media

KABUL: At least 16 people were killed and 24 others wounded Wednesday by a blast at a madrassa in Afghanistan's northern city of Aybak, a doctor at a local hospital said.

There have been dozens of blasts and attacks targeting civilians since the Taliban returned to power in August last year, most claimed by the local chapter of the Daesh group.

A doctor in Aybak, about 200 kilometres (130 miles) north of the capital Kabul, said the casualties were mostly youngsters.

“All of them are children and ordinary people,” he told AFP, asking not to be named.

A provincial official confirmed the blast, but could not provide casualty figures.


US, Europe security body seeks ‘end to Ukraine war, rights atrocities’

US, Europe security body seeks ‘end to Ukraine war, rights atrocities’
Updated 30 November 2022

US, Europe security body seeks ‘end to Ukraine war, rights atrocities’

US, Europe security body seeks ‘end to Ukraine war, rights atrocities’
  • Upcoming OSCE meet critical, says American envoy
  • Nuclear escalation a ‘real and imminent danger’

WASHINGTON: The upcoming meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, will be critical to help end the war in Ukraine and the continuing human rights violations resulting from the conflict. 

This is the view of Michael Carpenter, the US’ permanent representative to the OSCE, who spoke to Arab News recently about the group’s annual ministerial council gathering in Lodz, Poland, from Dec. 1-2. 

Carpenter said OSCE officials are expected to discuss the expansion of the organization’s work to tackle issues including human trafficking and election monitoring. 

While strongly criticizing Russia for its role in the conflict, Carpenter said European nations have recently engaged with Moscow and Kyiv for a “de-escalation.” 

Carpenter’s comments come in the wake of US news outlets reporting in the last two weeks of a secret meeting between CIA Director Bill Burns and his Russian intelligence counterpart, Sergey Naryshkin, in Ankara, Turkey. The meeting was part of ongoing US efforts to “communicate with Russia on managing (the) risk” of possible nuclear escalation. 

A CIA spokesperson declined to provide comment to Arab News on the meeting, citing a lack of authorization to speak about the CIA director’s schedule. 

The OSCE has 57 participating states from Europe, Central Asia and North America and works to promote human rights and democratic governance through election monitoring and combating human trafficking. 

It functions as a forum for dialogue on global issues affecting member states and has 13 field missions in the Western Balkans, Central Asia and Moldova. A new office will soon be set up in Ukraine. 

Carpenter said that a new field mission called the Support Program for Ukraine was inaugurated on Nov. 1, funded by a “generous contribution” from the US and other voluntary support. 

“Through this new field presence, we intend to support projects that will contribute to enhancing the resilience of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, humanitarian demining (and) the mitigation of the environmental impacts of the war,” he said. 

The US delegation would be led by Victoria Nuland, America’s under-secretary of state for political affairs — joining representatives from the 57 OSCE participating states and 11 partner states.  

Carpenter said the most important topic of the upcoming meeting was the war in Ukraine. “The real story of the OSCE is not what has been said but what has been done.” 

He said the OSCE states take decisions based on consensus. It has three autonomous institutions — the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the Representative on Freedom of the Media, and the High Commissioner on National Minorities.

“The OSCE has a number of special representatives who carry out work on extremely important issues like anti-corruption, countering trafficking in human beings, supporting gender equality, and promoting tolerance and non-discrimination,” he said. 

He said that in Tajikistan, for example, the OSCE supports women resource centers that provide the only government-sanctioned outlets for victims of domestic violence. They have access to legal aid, psychological support, and help with finding employment. 

“In the Western Balkans and Central Asia, our field missions support efforts to document and safeguard stockpiles of small arms and light weapons to enhance stability and security in many of these post-conflict societies.” 

Carpenter said that as a result of the war in Ukraine the OSCE put out information on the risks of human trafficking using an innovative public-private partnership that pushes the information to the smartphones of those most at risk. 


Pakistan Taliban claim suicide blast killing 3

Pakistan Taliban claim suicide blast killing 3
Updated 30 November 2022

Pakistan Taliban claim suicide blast killing 3

Pakistan Taliban claim suicide blast killing 3
  • Taliban earlier announced an end to a shaky cease-fire with Islamabad and ordered nationwide attacks

QUETTA, Pakistan: Three people were killed and 23 injured Wednesday when a suicide bomber targeted a police truck in western Pakistan, an official said, an attack claimed by the domestic chapter of the Taliban.
The Pakistan Taliban — known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — are separate from the Taliban in Afghanistan but share a common hard-line Islamist ideology.
On Monday, the group announced an end to a shaky cease-fire with Islamabad declared over the summer and ordered nationwide attacks to resume.
Senior police official Azhar Mehesar told AFP the blast targeted a police team preparing to escort polio vaccinators in the city of Quetta and that those killed “include a policeman, a woman and a child.”
In a statement to AFP, the TTP claimed responsibility for the attack and said it would soon share further details.
The group was founded in 2007 by Pakistani jihadists who fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s before opposing Islamabad’s support for American intervention there after 9/11.
For a time they held vast tracts of Pakistan’s rugged tribal belt, imposing a radical interpretation of Islamic law and patrolling territory just 140 kilometers (85 miles) from the Pakistan capital.
The Pakistani military came down hard after 2014 when TTP militants raided a school for children of army personnel and killed nearly 150 people, most of them pupils.
Its fighters were largely routed into neighboring Afghanistan, but Islamabad claims the Taliban in Kabul are now giving the TTP a foothold to stage assaults across the border.
In the year since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan, Pakistan has seen a 50 percent surge in militant attacks, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).
Most of these attacks have been focused in the western provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which neighbor Afghanistan.
The 2014 school assault deeply shocked Pakistan, and since then the TTP have vowed only to target state security forces.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only nations in the world where wild polio is still endemic.
Polio vaccination teams are routinely escorted by police in the western regions, and the TTP has made a habit of ambushing officers as they travel into those restive remote areas.
Pakistan officials on Monday launched a week-long immunization campaign aiming to inoculate over 13 million children living in “high-risk districts.”
In April, Pakistan reported its first case of polio in 15 months. Since then 20 cases have been reported, according to the government-funded End Polio Pakistan program.


Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries

Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries
Updated 30 November 2022

Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries

Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries
  • It marks the first time a former prime minister has been censured by parliament, though the motion is symbolic in nature

SYDNEY: Australia’s parliament on Wednesday voted to censure former Liberal prime minister Scott Morrison after an inquiry found his secret appointment to multiple ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic undermined trust in government.
Morrison, who lost power in a general election in May, secretly accumulated five ministerial roles during the pandemic: health, finance, treasury, resources and home affairs.
The historic motion, brought by the ruling Labor party, passed by 86 votes to 50 in the country’s lower house.
It marks the first time a former prime minister has been censured by parliament, though the motion is symbolic in nature.
“The fact is, that our democracy is precious,” Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said during the debate, speaking in favor of censuring Morrison.
“There’s no room for complacency.”
Morrison has said his decisions were lawful, and that the decision was necessary in case ministers became incapacitated during the pandemic.
“For those who wish to add their judgment today on my actions in supporting this censure motion, I simply suggest that they stop and consider the following: have you ever had to deal with a crisis where the outlook was completely unknown?,” Morrison said in parliament before the vote on Wednesday.
“In such circumstances, were you able to get all the decisions perfectly right?“
Morrison said he had only used the powers on one occasion, to block BPH Energy’s PEP-11 gas exploration project.
He accepted the recommendations of an inquiry into the appointment, including legislation requiring public notice of ministerial appointments.


Trump ‘unlikely’ to be president after hosting Fuentes, top Republican McConnell suggests

Trump ‘unlikely’ to be president after hosting Fuentes, top Republican McConnell suggests
Updated 30 November 2022

Trump ‘unlikely’ to be president after hosting Fuentes, top Republican McConnell suggests

Trump ‘unlikely’ to be president after hosting Fuentes, top Republican McConnell suggests
  • 'There is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy, and anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the US,” McConnell told reporters

WASHINGTON: The top two Republicans in the US Congress broke their silence on Tuesday about former President Donald Trump’s dinner last week with white supremacist Nick Fuentes, saying the Republican Party has no place for antisemitism or white supremacy.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Representative Kevin McCarthy, who may become speaker of the US House of Representatives when Republicans take control in January, had not commented previously on the Nov. 22 meeting.
Trump began his 2024 bid for the White House on Nov. 15, and is Republican voters’ top choice, according to opinion polls.
“There is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy, and anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States,” McConnell told reporters without mentioning Trump by name.
“That would apply to all of the leaders in the party who will be seeking offices,” McConnell added, when asked if he would support Trump should he become the party’s 2024 presidential nominee.
McCarthy was pressed for his thoughts on the Trump dinner by reporters at the White House, after talks with President Joe Biden.
“I don’t think anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes,” said McCarthy, currently the House minority leader. “His views are nowhere within the Republican Party or within this country itself.”
Trump has said the encounter at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, was inadvertent, but the meeting has drawn rare criticism from fellow Republicans, some of whom accused Trump of empowering extremism.
Tuesday’s comments were the first by McCarthy and McConnell to address the Trump dinner.
Fuentes has been described as a white supremacist by the US Justice Department. The Anti-Defamation League said Fuentes once “’jokingly denied the Holocaust and compared Jews burnt in concentration camps to cookies in an oven.’“
While president, Trump was broadly criticized for not explicitly condemning white nationalists whose August 2017 rally on a college campus in Charlottesville, Virginia, was seen as having provoked violence with counter-protesters, one of whom was killed.
“You also had people that were very fine people on both sides,” Trump said at the time.
PENCE CALLS FOR APOLOGY
Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence on Monday called for an apology from Trump for the meeting with Fuentes.
“President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an antisemite and a Holocaust denier a seat at the table, and I think he should apologize,” Pence said in a televised interview with NewsNation.
McCarthy mentioned that Trump said he didn’t know who Fuentes was.
“I condemn his ideology. It has no place in society,” he said of Fuentes.
Fuentes attended the dinner with Ye, the musician formerly known as Kanye West, who has also drawn widespread criticism for antisemitic comments.
“The president will have meetings with who he wants. I don’t think anybody, though, should have a meeting with Nick Fuentes, and his views should come nowhere within the Republican Party or the country itself,” McCarthy said.