China ‘unblocks’ some web addresses

“In China, Internet access is fully open.” — Sun Weide, spokesman for the Beijing Olympic Games Organising Committee (BOGOC).

Riiight.

News today that China has unblocked some web addresses following a protest from the International Olympic Committee. It’s not clear whether these sites have been unblocked to everyone or only for the journalists reporting on the event.

Amnesty International, bbc.com/chinese, the Chinese Wikipedia and similar sites are reportedly among those unblocked, although CNN reports that some of these sites, while unblocked, were still “unavailable” at times.

China, stop the act already. And the IOC, well, you’re just a useless, shameful bunch of bastards who don’t dare to challenge BOGOC on this issue.

International journalists at Olympics find net access censored

Web access for international journalists already in Beijing to cover the Olympic Games is being censored, according to media reports.

In addition to sites relating to the Falungong spiritual movement, which is banned in China, some international news websites, as well as websites of human rights organisations, are blocked.

And, guess what? The IOC is backing China on this. IOC press commission chairman Kevan Gosper contradicts his own statement in the same interview when speaking to the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong: “There will be full, open and free internet access during Games time to allow journalists to report on the Olympics… but […] some of the IOC officials had negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked.”

“Full, open and free internet access” that sees “some sensitive sites blocked”?

The BBC quotes a Beijing Olympic Games Organising Committee spokesman, Sun Weide, as saying that China will provide “sufficient and convenient” net access for scribes. Why is the IOC allowing this to happen? What happened to all those empty promises?

The IOC is complicit with the Beijing government in this. Why does the IOC continue to claim otherwise?

Amnesty’s report about China

An Amnesty report about China says that human rights have gotten worse thanks to the upcoming Olympics, including increased use of “re-education through labour”.

A day later, China rejected the report, accusing Amnesty of viewing it with “tinted glasses”. Liu Jianchao at the foreign ministry in Beijing said Amnesty should “see China in a fair and objective way, and do something more constructive.”

And yet, a day after that Chinese retort, new news out of Sichuan province, which was hard hit by an earthquake earlier this year: a Chinese teacher who took photos of collapsed school buildings and put them up on the Internet has been detained, and, you guessed it, sent for “re-education through labour”.

I don’t think we can ever expect an improvement in the country unless something drastic happens.

Zhongguo Taibei? So much for not politicising the Olympics, China.

Well, so much for not politicising the upcoming Beijing Olympics. Apparently, Chinese officials want to refer to Taiwan’s Olympic delegation as “中国台北” (“Taipei China”, not dissimilar to “Hong Kong, China”), instead of the current IOC standard “中华台北” (Chinese Taipei) that has been in use since 1989.

The former — Zhongguo Taibei — implies that the island belongs to the People’s Republic, which is the line the PRC takes, while the latter — Zhonghua Taibei — refers to an ambiguous Chinese state. The Republic of China, as Taiwan calls itself, has participated in the Olympics as Chinese Taipei since 1984. Since 1989, both sides have agreed to call the island’s sportsmen and women representatives of Zhonghua Taibei.

Two weeks ago, a Chinese official sparked outrage in Taiwan — where lawmakers have threatened to boycott the Games — by saying that the use of both terms had equal validity; effectively that “Chinese Taipei” and “Taipei, China” were interchangeable. Earlier this week, a spokesman for the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office said that the PRC took the 1989 accord to mean that while Chinese Taipei was to be used in all official areas, “Taipei, China” could be used otherwise.

And only today has the issue begun to cool slightly after an official PRC news outlet, the China News Services, began referring (link in simplified Chinese)1 to the island’s delegation as being from “Zhonghua Taibei” — Chinese Taipei — after earlier (link in simplified Chinese)2 referring to it as “Zhongguo Taibei”.

Really now. The Games are supposedly meant to be non-political…so why go against the agreement?

1 The headline reads: “中华台北队高雄训练中心探营:有多位大陆教练”, with an approximate translation being “Scouting of Chinese Taipei team’s training centre in Kaohsiung reveals many mainland coaches”.
2 This headline, from eight days prior, reads: “马英九30日将为中国台北奥运代表团授旗壮行”, which roughly means “Ma Ying-jeou (President of Taiwan) to present Olympic flag to Zhongguo Taibei delegation”.

ICJ awards Pedra Branca to Singapore

The International Court of Justice has awarded sovereignty of a strategic rocky outcrop in the Singapore Strait/South China Sea called Pedra Branca to Singapore, ending a 28-year dispute over the islet. Singapore, which has maintained sovereignty for over 150 years (including under the British colonial government), had argued that it should continue to hold sovereignty.

The ICJ’s 16-member bench voted 12-4 in favour of awarding Singapore sovereignty, although they also voted 15-1 to award sovereignty over two of Pedra Branca’s outcrops, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, to the country in whose territorial waters these lie. In the case of Middle Rocks, it is Malaysia, although the waters around South Ledge, remain under negotiation pending the delineation of the maritime boundaries surrounding Pedra Branca (which Malaysia calls “Pulau Batu Puteh” — both names mean “White Rock”) and the Middle Rocks.

This is a major blow to Malaysia’s embattled Prime Minister, Mr Abdullah Badawi, who has come under a lot of pressure in recent days. It will be interesting to see how the two countries react.

Almost 15,000 dead in China quake: Xinhua

Breaking NewsAs of 1130 UTC: Nearly 15,000 people are now known to have died.

2355 UTC: CNN reports that pandas at the Wolong reserve are safe.

1245 UTC: 18,000 or more buried alive in one town alone. A panda sanctuary close to the epicentre has not yet been contacted and there are fears for the panda population, as well as staff and tourists — including foreigners, with at least 15 British tourists involved, the BBC reports.

0925 UTC: The death toll is now 11,922, according to CNN.

2330 UTC: As of 2200 UTC, Xinhua was reporting at least 10,000 deaths in Sichuan Province.

1505 UTC: Xinhua now reporting a toll of 7,651. Hundreds still trapped in collapsed buildings — including two chemical plants.

1500 UTC: Xinhua is now reporting that the death toll is at least 7,000. 50 bodies have been pulled from the earlier-mentioned collapsed school building.

1330 UTC: China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reports that 3,000 to 5,000 people are feared dead in a single county — Beichuan — alone following a Mw 7.8 earthquake that hit earlier today.

107 are already confirmed dead and 900 are trapped in a collapsed school building. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and military forces are already on their way to the affected areas. The quake was felt as far away as Beijing (950 miles from epicentre) and Bangkok, Thailand.

China’s rapid response to this disaster is in direct and stark contrast to that of the military junta in Burma, who continue to control aid into the country there following Cyclone Nargis.

Tropical Cyclone Nargis — the aftermath

Will update with latest news on the aftermath of Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Nargis, which hit Burma (Myanmar)1 last weekend.

1800 UTC Friday May 16: State media is now reporting an official death toll of near 78,000 people. Another 56,000 are missing.

1140 UTC Wednesday May 14: The tropical disturbance previously located in the Gulf of Martaban has moved over the Irrawaddy delta and could become a cyclone in the next 24 hours. However, while it will bring more rains and some gales to the delta, it will more likely make landfall in Bangladesh.

0825 UTC Tuesday May 13: Burma continues to insist that no foreign aid workers are required in the country. A new tropical disturbance has developed over and south of the Irrawaddy delta and is moving north. It is likely not to have enough time to develop into a cyclone, but will bring heavy rains to the delta.

1430 UTC Monday May 12: BBC News ticker: “LATEST: Burma says 31,938 died in this month’s devastating cyclone.”

0945 UTC Monday May 12: That U.S. aid plane has now landed in Rangoon.

0630 UTC Monday May 12: The BBC reports that the first U.S. aid flight to Burma has taken off from Bangkok. Three Doctors Without Borders (MSF) flights are also due in Burma today.

1345 UTC Sunday May 11: A cargo ship carrying enough aid for 1,000 survivors has crashed into a submerged tree and sunk in the Irrawaddy delta, dealing a blow to relief efforts. All on board survived.

1325 UTC Sunday May 11: New toll from the junta: 28,458 dead; 33,416 missing.

1250 UTC Sunday May 11: Reports that the Burmese junta has let the WFP distribute 38 tonnes of its aid which had been impounded in Rangoon upon arrival. If this is true and the junta are no longer controlling the distribution it’s good news.

0720 UTC Sunday May 11: Daily Mail journalist reports that two trucks of UN aid were driven to an abandoned pagoda and left there without distribution. Shameful.

0100 UTC Sunday May 11: The UN says that it fears only a quarter of aid has reached survivors of the cyclone. The ICRC has said it hopes seven more flights will arrive before Monday — but will they all be impounded?

1525 UTC Saturday May 10: Two more WFP aid planes have had their cargo impounded upon arrival in Rangoon. The junta continues to insist it will control aid distribution, severely hampering relief efforts. This also means that the eastern states of Burma bordering Thailand will likely see little to no aid, as there is an uprising against the junta there.

0755 UTC Saturday May 10: There’s a new official toll. The BBC is now reporting the official toll to be 23,335 dead; 37,019 missing.

0145 UTC Saturday May 10: CNN’s Dan Rivers — now out of Burma — reports that there was a massive police effort to find him while he was in the country. If the junta are now going after foreign journalists, they are wasting crucial resources and time on this instead of helping survivors. Another reason to pressure the junta more.

0130 UTC Saturday May 10: BBC reports “There are reports that a senior general over-rode requests from his officers to divert army resources to help the cyclone victims – in order to maintain security for the [constitutional referendum].” Two correspondents in the Irrawaddy delta are now reporting outbreaks of dysentery. The Burmese UN envoy now claims that his country is ready to accept help from anyone.

(Older updates after the jump)
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