TIME indonesia

Jakarta Governor Widodo Wins Indonesian Election

(JAKARTA, Indonesia) — Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, who won the hearts of Indonesians with his common man image, won Indonesia’s presidential election with 53 percent of the vote, final results from the Election Commission showed Tuesday.

The numbers were released shortly after his opponent, former general Prabowo Subianto, declared he was withdrawing from the contest, saying there was massive fraud during the election and that it was unfair and undemocratic.

Widodo, a former furniture maker known widely as “Jokowi,” had maintained a slim lead of about 4 percentage points in unofficial “quick counts” by polling agencies released after the July 9 election.

But Subianto, who has declared assets of $140 million and was on his third bid for the presidency, repeatedly claimed that polling firms with links to his campaign showed he was ahead.

“We reject the 2014 presidential election which is unlawful and therefore we withdraw from the ongoing process,” he said.

There were no immediate reports of violence. About 100 Subianto supporters held a peaceful protest about 300 meters (300 yards) from the Election Commission building in downtown Jakarta, chanting “Prabowo is the real president” and holding banners saying that the commission should stop cheating.

The building was surrounded by thousands of policemen to maintain security after a particularly nasty presidential campaign. It was the first election that pitted two candidates directly against each other since the Muslim majority country of 240 million emerged from the long and brutal Suharto dictatorship 16 years ago.

Supporters of both men used social media for personal attacks, and Subianto’s supporters led a smear campaign against Widodo, spreading rumors he is not a Muslim.

The commission was to formally declare the winner later Tuesday evening.

Final results showed that Widodo won 70,997,859 votes, or 53.15 percent of the nearly 133 million valid ballots cast, while Subianto won 62,576,444 votes, or 46.85 percent.

Voter turnout was 70.7 percent.

TIME Asia

Malaysia Airlines Ukraine Crash: Disaster Strikes Twice

Less than five months after MH370 mysteriously disappeared, Malaysia Airlines is reeling from a second disaster after a Boeing 777 was reportedly shot down over Ukraine on Thursday

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(HANOI, Vietnam) — Two Boeing 777s. Two incredibly rare aviation disasters. And one airline.

In what appears to be a mind-boggling coincidence, Malaysia is reeling from the second tragedy to hit its national airline in less than five months.

On March 8, a Malaysia Airlines jetliner vanished about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, spawning an international mystery that remains unsolved. On Thursday, the airline — and the nation — were pitched into another crisis after the same type of aircraft was reported shot down over Ukraine.

Ukraine said the plane was brought down by a missile over the violence-wracked eastern part of the country. Other details were only just beginning to emerge.

But what’s certain is that the struggling airline and the nation must now prepare for another agonizing encounter with grief, recriminations, international scrutiny and serious legal and diplomatic implications.

“This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said.

Amid it all, a question: Just how could disaster strike the airline twice in such a short space of time?

“Either one of these events has an unbelievably low probability,” said John Cox, president and CEO of Safety Operating Systems and a former airline pilot and accident investigator. “To have two in a just a few months of each other is certainly unprecedented.”

The first disaster deeply scarred Malaysia and left the world dumbstruck. How could a Boeing 777-200ER, a modern jumbo jet, simply disappear? Flight 370 had veered off course during a flight to Beijing and is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean far off the western Australian coast.

The search area has changed several times, but no sign of the aircraft, or the 239 people aboard, has been found. Until then, how the plane got there is likely to remain a mystery.

On Thursday, there was no mystery over the whereabouts of the Boeing 777-200ER, which went down on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 283 passengers and 15 crew members. Its wreckage was found in Ukraine, and there were no survivors.

Officials said the plane was shot down at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet.) The region has seen severe fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists in recent days.

“If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice,” Malaysia’s prime minister said.

Malaysia Airlines was widely criticized for the way it handled the Flight 370 hunt and investigation. Some relatives of those on board accused the airline of engaging in a cover-up, and there have been persistent conspiracy theories over the fate of the plane, including that it might have been shot down.

There was no immediate reason to think the two disasters to befall the airline were in any way linked.

Najib said the plane’s flight route had been declared safe by the global civil aviation body. And Cox said that to his knowledge, there was no prohibition against flying over eastern Ukraine despite the fighting on the ground.

Charles Oman, a lecturer at the department of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said it was too early to draw conclusions.

“Given the military conflict in the region, one has to be concerned that identities could have been mistaken,” he said in an email.

Malaysia Airlines was especially criticized for the way it handled the communications around the missing jetliner, which presented unique challenges because of the uncertainty facing the relatives of those on board. With the plane crashing Thursday over land and its wreckage already located, there will be no such uncertainty.

But the investigation will be just as sensitive. There will be legal and diplomatic implications depending on who was responsible.

“The airline and the Malaysian transport ministry took a lot of hits for the way they handled MH370, due to their inexperience,” Oman said. “Hopefully they will do better this time.”

The accident will surely inflict more financial damage on Malaysia Airlines. Even before the March disaster, it reported a loss of $370 million in 2013 when most of the word’s other airlines were posting an average profit of 4.7 percent. After the Flight 370 disaster, passengers canceled flights, and even though the airline is insured, it faces uncertainty over payouts to the victims’ families.

“They were in worse shape than any other airline in the world before even the first incident,” said Seth Kaplan, managing partner of industry newsletter Airline Weekly. “There’s little precedent for an airline going through what they have gone through let alone surviving it.”

TIME Asia

Typhoon Kills 38 in the Philippines, Spares Manila

Philippines Asia Storm
Residents of the slum community of Baseco evacuate to safer grounds as Typhoon Rammasun battered Manila on July 16, 2014 Bullit Marquez—AP

With last year's massive devastation and deaths from Typhoon Haiyan still in many people's minds, officials said over half a million people were evacuated after being told of danger

(MANILA, Philippines) — A typhoon that barreled through the northern Philippines left at least 38 people dead and knocked out power in entire provinces and forced more than half a million people to flee its lethal wind and rains, officials said Thursday.

Most businesses, malls and banks in the Philippine capital reopened a day after Typhoon Rammasun left the country but schools remained closed Thursday as workers cleaned up storm debris, which littered roads around Manila, slowing traffic.

The eye of the typhoon made a late shift away from Manila on Wednesday, but its peak winds of 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour and gusts up to 185 kph (115 mph) toppled trees and electric posts and ripped off roofs across the capital.

Although Rammasun packed far less power than Typhoon Haiyan, haunting memories of last year’s horrific storm devastation prompted many villagers to rapidly move.

More than 500,000 of over 1 million people affected by the typhoon fled to emergency shelters in about a dozen provinces and the Philippine capital, said Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.

Pama said at least 38 people died in the wake of the typhoon and 10 were reported missing.

Authorities said most of casualties were hit by falling trees or concrete walls or by flying debris. One volunteer firefighter who was hauling down a Philippine flag in suburban Pasig city was killed by a concrete block, said Francis Tolentino, chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

Electricity has been restored to most of the capital’s 12 million people, but large swaths of provinces southeast of Manila which bore the brunt of the typhoon still had no power, Pama said.

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said his city staged anti-disaster drills two weeks ago to prepare and was relieved that only a few residents were injured. There was relatively little flooding in the Philippine capital.

At Manila’s international airport, the left wing of a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 was damaged after powerful gusts pushed it against a bridge passageway, manager Angel Honrado said. No one was injured.

Pama said the typhoon destroyed more than 7,000 houses and damaged more than 19,000. About $1 million in infrastructure was destroyed and at least $14 million in crops and livestock were lost, he said.

Mayor Cherilie Mella Sampal of Polangui town in Albay, one of the hardest hit provinces southeast of Manila, said 10,000 of her 80,000 constituents, abandoned their homes before the typhoon, many worried after witnessing Haiyan’s deadly aftermath in the central Philippines last November.

At least 6,300 people died and more than 1,000 were left missing from Haiyan, one of the most ferocious typhoons to hit land.

Although Rammasun slightly weakened as it scythed across the country’s main northern Luzon Island, it may strengthen over the South China Sea before reaching either Vietnam or southern China, according to government forecasters.

Rammasun, the Thai term for god of thunder, is the seventh storm to batter the Philippines this year. About 20 typhoons and storms lash the archipelago on the western edge of the Pacific each year, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

___

Associated Press writer Teresa Cerojano contributed to this report.

TIME Asia

China’s Economy Continues to Defy Gravity. That May Not Be a Good Thing

A container truck drives past the container area at the Yangshan Deep Water Port,  part of the newly announced Shanghai Free Trade Zone, south of Shanghai
A container truck drives past the container area at the Yangshan Deep Water Port, part of the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone, on Sept. 26, 2013 Carlos Barria—Reuters

China announced better-than-expected growth over the second quarter. Despite optimistic official figures, there's plenty to worry about in the world's second largest economy

China announced its GDP figures for the second quarter on Wednesday and — surprise, surprise — they were better than expected. Growth clocked in at 7.5% — which just so happens to be the government’s official target. The statistics will likely give a boost to sentiment globally. Investors have been worried that a slowing China would hit the entire world economy. More buoyant Chinese growth will probably calm those jitters.

Yet China is also something of a puzzle. Somehow the economy continues to power through all sorts of issues that should be slowing it down. The all-important property sector, which accounts for some 16% of its GDP, is undergoing a major downturn. For most of the year, the government has tried to control dangerous levels of debt in the economy and clamp down on “shadow banking,” which encompasses alternative financial networks and lending practices. Tighter credit should translate into slower growth. Beijing is also supposedly on a mission to streamline bloated industries like steel by eliminating excess capacity, which, though healthy for the future prospects of the economy, should also act as a drag on short-term growth. So should President Xi Jinping’s ongoing anticorruption campaign, which in theory should be disrupting policymaking and creating uncertainty.

So how is China defying gravity once again? There is always the perennial suspicion that the numbers are inflated. Capital Economics looks at statistics that aren’t as easily manipulated as GDP, such as freight shipments and electricity output, to gauge the economy’s performance, and figures GDP has probably been expanding more like 6% in recent quarters. But economists are crediting the latest growth rate to government stimulus, carefully targeted at infrastructure and public housing, both investments the economy still needs.

This is a smart move. The Chinese government has ample ability to keep growth humming while it attempts to implement more substantial reforms. However, the reliance on stimulus also raises doubts about what might be ahead. Some economists see growth “bottoming out” and a revival continuing through the rest of the year. Others believe continued headwinds, especially the struggles of the property sector, are too strong for the government to counter — without even greater largesse. That might be on its way. New loans made in June were the highest in five years, according to research from Barclays, which suggests that the government is loosening up credit once again.

That begs the most important question facing China’s economy right now: Will Beijing sacrifice reform for growth? So far, China’s leaders have controlled their usual urge to pump up growth rates, an indication they realize the dangers lurking in the economy. Since the 2008 financial crisis, debt in China has risen to dizzying heights. A recent report from Standard & Poor’s calculated that China’s corporate sector has more debt outstanding than any other in the world. Combined with tremendous excess capacity, a risky increase in shadow banking and signs of a property bubble, the Chinese economy is rampant with problems that threaten its future. Some economists believe Beijing needs to address these ills and resist efforts to use credit and other stimulus to rev up growth — or else face a possible financial crisis.

Yet the reforms necessary to fix these problems are coming very slowly. Beijing has pledged to undertake a bold slate of measures — to liberalize interest rates and other prices, improve the performance of bloated state-owned enterprises, open protected markets to competition, strengthen the financial sector and allow private enterprise greater sway in the economy. All of these steps, if implemented, would make the Chinese economy healthier and more advanced. But so far, only the most minor of experiments have started, such as the approval of a handful of small private banks and the opening of a free-trade zone in Shanghai to tinker with more open capital flows. Even more, once the greater reforms fall into place (if they ever do), it could take years before they have an impact on the economy.

There are two ways of looking at what’s going on. One is that China’s policymakers are wisely going slow on potentially painful reforms while the economy works out some of its messiest problems in an environment of relatively stable growth. The other, less optimistic, view is that the problems rotting away at the Chinese economy are so complex and entrenched that policymakers are prioritizing continuing growth over tough reforms. In that scenario, China’s broken-down growth model will be kept alive with debt and government spending, while the fundamental change necessary to take China to the next level stalls.

I continue to be afraid of the latter. And with China the world’s second largest economy, we all should be too.

TIME Asia

Seoul: North Korea Fires Artillery Shells Into Ocean

KCNA picture shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a visit to the construction site of a terminal at Pyongyang International Airport
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pays a visit to the construction site of a terminal at Pyongyang International Airport in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on July 11, 2014. KCNA—Reuters

North Korea on Monday fired artillery shells into waters near its sea border with South Korea

Updated: July 14, 2014, 03: 10 a.m. ET

(SEOUL, South Korea) — Another day, another defiant weapons test from North Korea.

A day after launching two ballistic missiles from a base near the border with archrival South Korea, Pyongyang on Monday fired a barrage of artillery shells into waters near its sea border with the South. Officials in Seoul have confirmed nearly 100 missile, rocket and artillery tests by North Korea this year, an output seen as significantly higher than past years.

The regular test-firings of short-range projectiles, analysts say, are the latest signal that the country’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, is determined to do things differently than his father, dictator Kim Jong Il, who died in late 2011.

Analysts see no end to the test-firings in sight.

Kim Jong Un, who pushed tensions to extraordinary levels last year with threats of nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington, will likely order his military to keep the launches up, they say, until the United States and South Korea make major concessions such as scaling down their regular joint military drills that Pyongyang insists are an invasion rehearsal. That’s a major contrast to the style of Kim’s father, who sparingly used longer-range missile and nuclear tests more as negotiating cards with the outside world to win concessions.

On Monday, about 100 shells fired from land-based multiple rocket launch systems landed north of the Koreas’ maritime border. Those shells flew about 3 to 50 kilometers (1.9 to 31 miles), and South Korea didn’t return fire because no shells fell in its waters, according to South Korean defense and military officials.

The eastern sea border is clearly marked compared with the Koreas’ disputed western sea boundary, the scene of several bloody maritime skirmishes between the rivals in recent years. The Koreas exchanged artillery fire twice earlier this year near the western sea boundary.

North Korea routinely tests short-range projectiles, but the number of launches this year has been much higher than in previous years, according to South Korean officials and analysts.

The continued launches show North Korea’s leader is pushing to strengthen military capabilities because his country feels threatened by U.S.-South Korean military drills even as it pushes for talks with the allies, said Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kyungnam University.

The launches come as North Korea pressures Seoul to accept a proposed set of measures it says are meant to lower tension.

Kim Jong Un’s push for better ties with Seoul and Washington are seen by outside analysts as an attempt to help lure international aid and investment to revive the country’s moribund economy. South Korean and U.S. officials have largely dismissed the North’s overtures, saying the country must first take steps toward nuclear disarmament. North Korea is believed to have a small arsenal of crude nuclear bombs.

South Korea said earlier Monday that North Korea has agreed to hold talks at a border village on Thursday to discuss the North’s participation in the Asian Games in the South later this year.

The two Koreas have faced each other across the world’s most heavily armed border since their war in the early 1950 ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. Regular military drills between Seoul and Washington are a long-running source of tension on the Korean Peninsula, and the allies are set to conduct major annual summertime exercises in August. South Korea and the U.S. say the training is purely defensive.

TIME Pakistan

Officials: U.S. Drone Strike in Pakistan Kills 6

(DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan) — A suspected American drone fired two missiles at a compound in a troubled Pakistani tribal region on Thursday, killing six militants, two intelligence officials said.

The strike happened in the town of in Datta Khel in North Waziristan, where Pakistan army last month launched a much-awaited operation against local and foreign militants who use the region to carry out attacks in Pakistan, the officials said.

The identity of the slain men was not immediately known and the officials said they were still trying to get details. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

U.S. drone strikes are a serious source of tension between Washington and Islamabad. The Pakistani government regularly denounces the strikes as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

Thursday’s strike took place in the same region where the Pakistan army on June 15 launched a major offensive against Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaida and other militants. Datta Khel is about 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan bordering Afghanistan.

TIME China

WATCH: Large Crowds Rally in Hong Kong for Democracy

Marchers endured baking heat and heavy rain to demand more democratic rights

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Clarification added, July 2, 2014:

Almost 100,000 pro-democracy protesters marched through Hong Kong on Tuesday during an annual rally to mark the anniversary of the territory’s return to China in 1997.

Mass demonstrations have taken place annually on July 1 in Hong Kong for more than a decade. But this year the territory’s discontent has shifted significantly against mainland China — and stems from many residents’ fears that Beijing is curtailing Hong Kong’s autonomy.

“I think Beijing is trying to tighten the controls of democracy in Hong Kong. But I think it’s a type of war game,” said Gary Sik, a financial consultant from Hong Kong who took part in the demonstration.

The protest comes after an estimated 800,000 votes were cast in an unofficial referendum on how the territory’s top leader, the chief executive, should be elected. Citizens in Hong Kong are not allowed to nominate candidates for the position; candidates are chosen by an electoral college that is largely seen as sympathetic to Beijing.

And public nomination rights are what protesters like Janice Yeung, a 27-year-old secretary from Hong Kong, are pushing for.

“Just like other countries, Hong Kong is a developed city — an international city. So I think Hong Kong should decide our future by [ourselves] — and not by Beijing or any other people,” she said.

Clarification: Hong Kong police estimated the number of protesters at 100,000, while the protesters put it at several times that figure.

TIME Asia

In Hong Kong, Tens of Thousands March for Democracy

HONG KONG-CHINA-POLITICS-DEMOCRACY
Demonstrators walk on their way to join a pro-democracy rally seeking greater democracy in Hong Kong on July 1, 2014 Philippe Lopez—AFP/Getty Images

July 1 marks 17 years since the former British colony became a Chinese Special Administrative Region. Calls for popular representation are growing ever fiercer in the freewheeling metropolis

When typhoons begin to lash along Asia’s coastlines each midsummer, Hong Kong usually manages to escape serious damage, since storms in the South China Sea tend to lose their muster over the Philippines and Taiwan by the time they make landfall. Some locals will cheekily boast that the city, constructed across an archipelago and on a peninsula extending south of the Chinese mainland, is protected by an invisible dome that blocks out these tempests.

But weathering political storms may be a different story for the former British colony, now a semiautonomous territory under the controversial domain of the Beijing government. On one hand, inside this proverbial dome a vibrant society enjoying free press and rule of law has flourished alongside — or rather, within — the last superpower on earth to describe itself as a communist state. On the other, some conflicting visions of this duality have spurred a more existential political unhappiness in Hong Kong, one that some believe is approaching boiling point.

On Tuesday, up to 500,000 people are slated to march on the city’s central financial district, in what in years past has encompassed myriad domestic grievances while commemorating the official end of British rule 17 years ago. This year’s protest, however, forms the loudest testament yet to mounting opposition to just one thing: China.

“We have waited for democracy for so long, but year after year it’s been bad news,” 21-year-old Lee Kan-tat, a liberal student activist, said on Tuesday morning in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, where the march starts.

The call of the day — and, for some political dissenters, of the past five years — is for “universal suffrage.” Beijing has agreed to enact electoral reforms, most importantly the direct election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive — the territory’s highest office — by 2017, but only from a list of preapproved candidates who must be “patriotic.” Nearly 800,000 Hong Kongers voted in an unofficial plebiscite that ended on Sunday and instead called for open nominations. Beijing deemed that referendum illegal.

“The message from Hong Kong is very clear after the referendum,” added Lee, “800,000 people have spoken, and an overwhelming majority believe that the legislature should veto any reform proposal that doesn’t meet international standards.”

At present, there are 3.5 million registered voters in this Special Administrative Region, but virtually none of them have ever cast their ballot in the quinquennial elections for the Chief Executive. The position is instead appointed by a 1,200-seat election committee, whose decision ostensibly reflects both the wishes and interests of the people of Hong Kong.

Critics of the system — and there are increasingly many — scoff at this presumption. Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s hundred-plus-page de facto constitution, the majority of seats on the election committee are occupied by individuals hailing from Big Business and various professional sectors, with only a small fraction reserved for legislators directly represented by the people. Some point to this as a plainly and conspiratorially pro-China endeavor.

“The government created a system that is deliberately complicated,” says Emily Lau, the chairwoman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, with marked bitterness. “The corporations don’t want to upset Beijing — they need China to do business. So they elect pro-Chinese candidates. It’s all ‘money, money, money.’”

Within Hong Kong’s ideologically popular but politically fragmented pro-democracy camp, Lau and her party represent the moderate minority that believes some tapered form of “universal suffrage” is compatible with the current electoral system structured by the Basic Law. In other words, the existence of the election committee needn’t necessarily inhibit popular choice; what, Lau wondered aloud, if the latter had a role in determining the makeup of the former?

This isn’t to say Lau and her fellow moderates have sympathy with the pro-Beijing side. Lau, whose seat in Hong Kong’s legislature gives her an ex officio position on the election committee, has chosen to abstain from voting in past Chief Executive elections.

“It’s pointless to take part,” she says. “If you take part, you legitimize it.”

Given Beijing’s trademark stubbornness when it comes to amending Hong Kong’s constitution, Lau’s moderate stance may encourage the most pragmatic course of action. Say what you will about the Chinese government in Hong Kong, but it’s there to stay: Lau made a point to gesture outside her window to the 28-story headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army, just across the road from her office in the Legislative Council Complex.

But pragmatism doesn’t always prevail, and reactionism tends to be radical. The past five years have seen the rise of pro-democracy student groups that view a complete upheaval of the current election system as the only option, and any who oppose such a solution as traitorous to the cause of building a democratic Hong Kong.

For many of these activists, any gesture of political compromise with the Chinese government is a further sacrifice of Hong Kong’s autonomy. A civil-disobedience movement called Occupy Central threatens to paralyze the city’s main business district later this month, naturally incurring Beijing’s wrath. (Immediately after the July 1 march, a prominent students’ group is planning a rehearsal sit-in.)

“More and more young people are aware of the disappointments and failures of the Chinese central government,” says 22-year-old Johnson Yeung, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, which organizes the July 1 protests. “We believe that civil disobedience is the best means of fighting for democracy.”

This sentiment of extremism has all but hijacked the pro-democracy stage in Hong Kong, with mixed results. While the “civil disobedience” endorsed by Yeung and the thousands marching through downtown Hong Kong on Tuesday has given an unprecedented voice to the city’s discontent with Chinese rule, it also threatens to intensify the political hostility coming from Beijing that prompted the discontent in the first place.

Last month, China released a white paper condemning the intensified push for democracy in Hong Kong, calling the understanding of the “one country, two systems” policy here “confused or lopsided,” as by definition it only operates at the behest of Beijing. On Tuesday morning, a pro-democracy group burned a copy of this document in protest.

“The radical [pro-democracy] choice is loud, and potentially destabilizing,” says David Zweig, a professor of social science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “China feels its sovereignty has been infringed upon. But it has all the authority it wants — there’s nothing to stop it. It’s their territory, and they know that.”

TIME Asia

China Arrests 380 in First Month of Yearlong Antiterrorism Campaign

China Terrorism Crackdown
Armed paramilitary policemen ride on a truck during an antiterrorism oath-taking rally at the Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, China, on May 23, 2014 AP

In general, the names of those arrested are not released, and they are likely to face trial in secret

China has arrested at least 380 people in its first month of a yearlong campaign against terrorism, state-run media said on Monday.

The crackdown was triggered by a suicide attack blamed on Islamic militants that left 39 people dead in the restive western province of Xinjiang in May.

The Ministry of Public Security said in a statement that the campaign to avert the spread of religious radicalism would last until June 2015, “With Xinjiang as the center, and with cooperation from other provinces.”

China Central Television (CCTV) stated that the campaign began with the disbanding of 32 terrorist groups in the western province, confirming Beijing’s promise that “terrorists and extremists will be hunted down and punished,” AFP reported.

Along with arrests that concentrated on suspected militants in Xinjiang but spread throughout the country, police also seized 264 devices that could discharge 3.15 tons of explosives, CCTV reported.

Most of the violence in Xinjiang apparently stems from rising tensions between the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority and majority Han Chinese migrants. Human-rights groups also blame increasing economic disparity and religious discrimination against the Uighurs, although Beijing claims that the government has helped improve the local economy and infrastructure.

[AFP]

TIME southeast asia

Malaysia’s Highest Court Upholds Ban on Christians Using the Word Allah

Malaysia Allah Dispute
Muslim women sit in front of a banner reading Allah during a protest outside the court of appeal in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, on June 23, 2014 Vincent Thian—AP Photo

Disappointed Christians decried creeping Islamization as a threat to their religious freedom

Malaysia’s highest court upheld a lower court’s ruling on Monday that denied an appeal by the Catholic newspaper The Herald to use the word Allah, considered the Arabic name for God. The decision made by a seven-judge panel laid to rest a tumultuous six-year court case that catalyzed religious tension in the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation.

The case was originally brought in 2007 when the Home Ministry banned the use of Allah in the Malay-language edition of the paper, which dovetailed with a threat to withdraw its publishing permit. Church leaders insist that Allah has been used in religious literature and Malay-language Bibles to refer to the Christian God for centuries.

A 2009 appeal favored The Herald, which argued that Christians had the constitutional right to use the term — a decision that led to attacks on Christian places of worship for several years. Muslims argued that the Christian use of Allah could persuade Muslims to convert and so jeopardized national security. Following a ruling in October that reinstated the ban, Islamic authorities confiscated Bibles that used the word Allah. In January, two petrol bombs were thrown at a Malaysian church.

The federal court’s conclusive ruling on Monday was met with cheers from hundreds of Muslim activists outside the court. Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria told the courtroom that “The court of appeal was right to set aside the high-court ruling,” local papers reported.

Disappointed Christians saw the decision as a threat to their religious freedom, complaining that it was only one example of increasing Islamization being pushed by the 60% Muslim majority. The Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew told AFP that the judgment failed to “touch on the fundamental rights of minorities.”

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