US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China

US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China
Former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile at Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India, on June 18. (REUTERS)
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Updated 19 June 2024
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US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China

US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China
  • Relations deteriorated even more following the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising military tensions in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait
  • The Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and says he only advocates substantial autonomy and protection of Tibet’s native Buddhist culture

DHARAMSHALA, India: A bipartisan United States congressional delegation met with the Dalai Lama Wednesday at his residence in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China which views the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism as a dangerous separatist.
This comes as Washington and Beijing have recently restarted talks after several years of turmoil that began after the imposition of tariffs on Chinese goods under the Trump administration. Relations deteriorated even more following the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising military tensions in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait.
The high-level delegation, led by Republican Rep. Michael McCaul and including Democratic former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, arrived Tuesday at the hillside town, which the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has made his headquarters since fleeing from Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. There, they met with officials from the Tibetan government-in-exile, which wants more autonomy for Tibet.
Beijing doesn’t recognize the exiled administration and hasn’t held any dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010.
After meeting the spiritual leader on Wednesday, the seven US lawmakers addressed hundreds who had gathered at a monastery just outside the 88-year-old Dalai Lama’s residence, waving American and Tibetan flags.
They told the crowd that a key focus of their visit was to underscore the Resolve Tibet Act, passed by the US Congress last week, and aims to encourage dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Chinese officials with the hopes of finding a peaceful resolution between Tibet and Beijing. The bill should now be sent to the White House to be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
The bill is “a message to the Chinese government that we have clarity in our thinking and our understanding of this issue of the freedom of Tibet,” Pelosi said, eliciting applause.
McCaul, the Republican representative, said the bill reaffirms American support for the Tibetan right to self-determination. “Just this week our delegation received a letter from the Chinese Communist Party, warning us not to come here... but we did not let the CCP intimidate us for we are here today,” he said as people cheered.
However, the visit and newly passed bill have triggered swift backlash from Beijing.
Lin Jian, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, urged Washington on Tuesday not to support Tibetan independence and said the White House “must not sign the bill into law,” or China will take “resolute measures,” without elaborating on what these measures may be.
“It’s known by all that the 14th Dalai Lama is not a purely religious figure, but a political exile engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion,” Lin added, urging the US side to “have no contact with the Dalai group in any form, and stop sending the wrong signal to the world.”
The Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and says he only advocates substantial autonomy and protection of Tibet’s native Buddhist culture.
The Tibetan spiritual leader has a history of engaging with US officials, including meeting American presidents — from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama — except for Donald Trump. He has yet to meet Biden since he took office in 2021.
The Dalai Lama is expected to travel to the US on Thursday for medical treatment on his knees, but it is unclear if he will meet any officials while there.
Meanwhile, Beijing has repeatedly asked the US not to interfere with Tibetan affairs and has argued that the people of Tibet have enjoyed social stability and economic growth under its rule.
While India considers Tibet to be part of China, it hosts Tibetan exiles.


Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit

Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit
Updated 6 sec ago
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Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit

Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reaffirmed Washington’s unwavering support for Ukraine in a call with Ukraine’s defense minister, Rustem Umerov, the Pentagon said late on Tuesday

It was the first call between the defense heads since US President Joe Biden’s announcement that he was ending his reelection bid and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican former President Donald Trump.

“During the call, the secretary reaffirmed the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” the Pentagon’s press secretary, Major General Pat Ryder, told journalists at a briefing, according to a transcript on the US Department of Defense website.

Umerov said he and Austin also discussed the recent developments on the frontline and Ukraine’s urgent battlefield needs.

“I once again highlighted the importance and urgency of lifting the bans on long-range fires,” Umerov said in a statement on X.

Washington, under the helm of Biden, has been Ukraine’s biggest supporter in the war that Russia has been waging against its smaller neighbor. The US has provided more than $50 billion in military aid since 2022.

After a call between Harris’ national security adviser and his chief of staff on Tuesday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was important that “the dynamics of our joint work for a just peace do not diminish.” 


US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’
Updated 9 min ago
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US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

PANAMA CITY: Deportation flights from Panama for undocumented US-bound migrants who have crossed the lawless Darien jungle from South America are expected to start imminently, a US official said Tuesday.

Washington this month pledged $6 million in funding for migrant repatriations from the Central American nation in the hope of reducing irregular crossings at its own southern border.

The program was expected to use “large numbers” of charter and commercial flights to send back migrants who cross the Darien Gap, said Marlen Pineiro, an official at the US Department of Homeland Security.

“We’re still negotiating (with Panama), but the focus of this program is deportations and expulsions,” she said at a news conference in Panama City.

“I don’t want to give a date yet, but I think we’re going to start imminently,” Pineiro added.

The Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama has become a key corridor for migrants traveling overland from South America through Central America and Mexico to the United States.

Despite the dangers posed by treacherous terrain and violent criminal gangs, more than half a million undocumented migrants — mostly Venezuelans — crossed the Darien last year.

Transit countries such as Panama and Mexico have come under increased pressure from Washington to tackle the highly contentious migration issue in a US election year.

Jose Raul Mulino, Panama’s new president, vowed during his election campaign to deport migrants and close the key route.

After he was sworn in on July 1, the conservative lawyer said his country would no longer be a “transit” point for undocumented migrants.

However, he appeared to soften his tone last week, saying, “We cannot forcibly repatriate” migrants.


Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American

Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American
Updated 11 min 25 sec ago
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Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American

Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American
  • CAIR says complaints of anti-Muslim US incidents totaled 8,061 in 2023, the highest since it began records nearly 30 years ago

WASHINGTON: A Kentucky man was arrested and charged with a federal hate crime for threatening a Palestinian American man with a loaded gun, the US Justice Department said on Monday, in a step welcomed by advocates documenting rising Islamophobia.
The Justice Department said the incident occurred at the end of March, without giving further details. It identified the suspect as Melvin P. Litteral III and the victim only by his initials, O.S.
The indictment also included a weapons charge. Litteral could not immediately be contacted.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
Human rights advocates have noted a rise in Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian bias and antisemitism in the US since the start of Israel’s war in Gaza that has killed tens of thousands and caused a humanitarian crisis.
The Council on American Islamic Relations advocacy group welcomed the indictment. CAIR says complaints of anti-Muslim US incidents totaled 8,061 in 2023, the highest since it began records nearly 30 years ago.

KEY QUOTE
“Melvin P. Litteral III used force or the threat of force to intimidate and interfere with the victim – a Palestinian American man and practicing Muslim identified in the indictment by the initials O.S. – because of O.S.’s race, color, religion and/or national origin, and because O.S. was enjoying the goods, services and facilities of a local restaurant,” the Justice Department said.

CONTEXT
Other recent alarming US incidents include the fatal October stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American child in Illinois, the February stabbing of a Palestinian-American man in Texas, the November shooting of three students of Palestinian descent in Vermont and the attempted drowning of a 3-year-old Palestinian-American girl in May.
A former Cornell University student pleaded guilty in April to posting online threats, including of death and violence, against Jewish students on campus. There have been allegations of alarming antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric in some protests and counterprotests over the war and the dire situation of Palestinians in Gaza and the fate of Israeli hostages held there.

 

 

 


Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group

Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group
Updated 20 min 36 sec ago
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Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group

Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group
  • Prosecutor Tom Little, who described Choudary as having a “warped and twisted mindset,” said that he had stepped in to lead ALM after Omar Bakri Muhammad, the group’s founder, was imprisoned in Lebanon between 2014 and March 2023


LONDON: Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary was found guilty Tuesday by a London jury of directing a terrorist group.
Choudary, 57, was convicted in Woolwich Crown Court of membership in a banned organization, the radical Muslim group Al-MuHajjiroun, or ALM, and for drumming up support for the group.
ALM was outlawed by the British government in 2010 as a group involved in committing, preparing for or promoting terrorism.
“ALM’s tentacles have spread across the world and have had a massive impact on public safety and security,” Metropolitan Police Cmdr. Dominic Murphy said. “There are individuals that have conducted terrorist attacks or traveled for terrorist purposes as a result of Anjem Choudary’s radicalizing impact upon them.”
Prosecutor Tom Little, who described Choudary as having a “warped and twisted mindset,” said that he had stepped in to lead ALM after Omar Bakri Muhammad, the group’s founder, was imprisoned in Lebanon between 2014 and March 2023.
Choudary, who was previously convicted of supporting the Daesh group, denied at trial that he promoted ALM through his lectures, saying ALM no longer exists.
Prosecutors said the group has operated under many names, including the New York-based Islamic Thinkers Society, which Choudary has spoken to.
The Islamic Thinkers Society was ALM’s US branch, said New York Police Deputy Commissioner Rebecca Weiner, who called the case historic.
“It is usually the foot soldiers, the individuals who are brought into the network who go on to commit the attacks who are brought to justice,” Weiner said. “And it’s rarely the leader, which is what makes this a particularly important moment.”
Choudary was convicted with one of his followers, Khaled Hussein, who prosecutors said was a dedicated supporter of the group.
Hussein, 29, of Edmonton, Canada, was convicted of membership in a proscribed organization.
The two were arrested a year ago after Hussein landed at Heathrow Airport.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 30.

 


German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria

German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria
Updated 24 July 2024
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German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria

German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria
  • Germany has been a major destination for Syrians fleeing the country’s 13-year civil war. Attitudes toward migrants have hardened in recent years

BERLIN: A German court has ruled that there is no longer a general danger to all civilians from the long-running conflict in Syria, rejecting a claim to protected status by a Syrian man who had been convicted in Austria for involvement in smuggling people into Europe.
The ruling by the top administrative court of North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany’s most populous, was announced Monday. Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said Tuesday it was “a decision that one can understand, if one assumes that there are now regions in this country that are very dangerous but also other areas where there isn’t necessary a danger to life.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what consequences if any the ruling would have for German authorities’ practice in handling claims for protection from Syrians, who so far largely have been deemed to face such a threat. It could still be appealed.
The court in the western city of Muenster ruled in the case of a man from Hasaka province in northeastern Syria who arrived in Germany in 2014.
German authorities denied him protected status because he had previously been involved in smuggling people from Turkiye to Europe, an offense for which he was given a several-year sentence in Austria. But a court obliged them to recognize him as a refugee.
The Muenster court reversed that ruling on appeal. The presiding judge said the man didn’t face political persecution in Syria and his previous offenses barred him from being given refugee or other protected status, the court said in a statement.
It also found that he didn’t qualify for a lesser degree of protection in part because there is no longer a “serious individual threat to the life or physical integrity of civilians as a result of arbitrary violence in the context of a domestic conflict in Hasaka province, but also generally in Syria.” The court contended that fighting and attacks in the region no longer reach a level at which civilians face a high probability of being killed and wounded.
A German group that supports asylum-seekers criticized the ruling. Wiebke Judith, a spokesperson for Pro Asyl, argued that it ignores the reality in Syria, German news agency dpa reported.
Germany has been a major destination for Syrians fleeing the country’s 13-year civil war. Attitudes toward migrants have hardened in recent years.
Last month, Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed to resume deporting criminals from Afghanistan and Syria, though it remains unclear how that would happen.