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China ‘can claim the South China Sea’: former Malaysian PM

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that China can claim the South China Sea, but that doesn’t mean that other countries with overlapping claims should accept it, a view that differs from the Malaysian government’s official line.  Beijing has drawn a so-called nine-dash line to demarcate its “historic claim” of 90% of the disputed waters. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also hold conflicting claims over smaller parts of the South China Sea. “OK, you can claim,” said Mahathir at the annual Future of Asia conference hosted by Nikkei Inc. in Tokyo at the weekend. “We don’t accept your claim but we don’t have to go to war against you because of your claim.” “Maybe one day you will realize that the claim means nothing,” the 98-year-old former leader said. He did not elaborate. Mahathir’s statement appears to differ from the Malaysian government’s official line. Most recently in 2023, Malaysia, together with the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, rejected China’s map that depicts its sovereignty in the South China Sea. “They claim that the South China Sea’s belonging to them, but they have not stopped ships from passing through,” he said, adding that Kuala Lumpur has been producing oil and gas in the sea but “so far they have not done anything.”  “As long as there is no stoppage of the passage of ships through the South China Sea then it’s good enough.” The former leader argued that priorities should be given to maintaining peace and fostering economic development. The 10-member Southeast Asian bloc, ASEAN, has been peaceful “compared to other regional groupings,” he said, “Until now there’s no major wars between ASEAN countries.” ASEAN could serve as “a good model” for the world where there are different ideologies but “we don’t go to war with each other.” Malaysia will hold the grouping’s rotating chair in 2025, taking over from Laos. Not taking sides When asked about China-U.S. rivalry, the veteran leader urged regional countries to stay neutral as “if we take sides, we are going to lose either the American market or the Chinese market.” He noted that China did appear to be aggressive but it was the biggest trading partner for ASEAN countries and “we cannot lose that market.”  He also warned against taking sides in the Taiwan issue, saying that there was “no necessity” to see a confrontation between China and Taiwan. Beijing considers democratically governed Taiwan a Chinese province that should be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.  Last week, China conducted a two-day “punishment” military exercise around Taiwan, believed to be in response to the inauguration of the new Taiwanese president, Lai Ching-te. Mahathir said that  China’s leader, Xi Jinping, “seems to be more ambitious and aggressive,” but China’s policies may change in  future because of changes at the top. “Leaders don’t live forever so policies may change when leadership changes,” he said.  Mahathir Mohamad, who will be 99 in July, served as prime minister from 1981 to 2003 and again from 2018 to 2020.  Incumbent Malaysian prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was also present at the Future of Asia 2024 forum and delivered a speech. In an interview with Nikkei Asia on the forum’s sidelines, Anwar said that his focus “will be the economy.” Malaysia’s position remains that disputes should be settled via engagement and the way forward is to seek peaceful resolution through negotiations, according to Anwar. Future of Asia, held by Japan’s Nikkei annually since 1995, is “an international gathering where political, economic, and academic leaders from the Asia-Pacific region offer their opinions frankly and freely on regional issues and the role of Asia in the world,” according to the company. Edited by Taejun Kang and Mike Firn.

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Episode 7a: Hollywood, we have (had?) a problem! (Or did we?)

In Honor of Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, this edition of RFA Insider brings together a panel of four Asian American RFA staffers to discuss Asian representation in U.S. media. Joining the insiders on the panel are Charlie Dharapak, RFA’s multimedia managing director, and Boer Deng, director of RFA’s Investigative team. Recording for this episode went on way longer than expected, so the decision was made to release it as two separate episodes. In the rundown, the panel each introduced Asian two Asian characters from their youths in an effort to make a top five list out of them. Eugene’s characters were Ensign Harry Kim from Star Trek Voyager (1995-2001) and Rufio from the 1991 film Hook. Amy’s were Prince Christopher from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997) and Kelly Kapoor from The Office (2005-2013). Charlie’s characters were two played by Pat Morita, Arnold from Happy Days (1974-1984) and Martin Yan, from the cooking show Yan Can Cook (1982-present according to Wikipedia). Boer said that because she was born abroad and moved to the U.S. as a child, she did not feel the need or expectation to be represented and therfore did not submit any characters to our top 5 list but acknowledged that for people who were born in the U.S., representation is important. Prior to the show, Eugene, Charlie and Amy ranked each other’s characters but not their own. The ranks were averaged. Who will come out on top? Tune in next week for Episode 7b, which will feature How its Made, and the panel will discuss their journeys as Asians in the journalism field, how their parents reacted to their choice of study or profession, given that jobs in journalism do not confer the traditional markers of success, and ways they think coverage of Asian Americans or Asia can improve.

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South Korea, China, Japan to hold trilateral talks on May 26-27 in Seoul

Leaders of South Korea, China and Japan will meet on May 26-27 in Seoul for their first trilateral talks in more than four years, South Korea’s presidential office said on Thursday. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will have bilateral talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Sunday, ahead of their three-way gathering on Monday, South Korea’s deputy national security adviser, Kim Tae-hyo, said. The summit will cover six areas of cooperation: economy and trade, sustainable development, health issues, science and technology, disaster and safety management, and people-to-people exchanges, Kim said, adding that the leaders would issue a joint statement. The leaders will also discuss regional and international issues and meet about 80 businesspeople at a dinner on Sunday and a business forum the next day, Kim said. “The summit will serve as a turning point for fully restoring and normalizing the trilateral cooperation system among South Korea, Japan and China,” he added. “It will also provide an opportunity to recover future-oriented and practical cooperation momentum that will allow the people of the three countries to feel the benefits.” The neighbors held an inaugural stand-alone trilateral summit in 2008, and were supposed to meet annually after that. But the summit has been suspended since it was last held in December 2019, in China, because of bilateral feuds and the COVID-19 pandemic. Relations between all three have been fraught for various reasons over recent years. South Korea and Japan are working to improve relations strained due to historical disputes stemming from Japan’s wartime aggression. They are also strengthening their trilateral security partnership with the United States amid growing rivalry between China and the U.S. Japan, South Korea and the United States underscored their security cooperation against North Korean threats and reinforced their commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific” during an August 2023 Camp David summit. In 2018, the year before the last summit between the three Asian neighbors, in the Chinese city of Chengdu, North Korea unexpectedly changed its aggressive stance toward the U.S. and South Korea. Seoul, in turn, eased its criticism of Pyongyang.  Japan, however, continued to prioritize pressure on North Korea, causing disagreement with Seoul over North Korea policy. By the 2019 talks, the three neighbors could only agree on a general policy of cooperating on efforts to denuclearize North Korea. China and South Korea have also clashed in recent years over a U.S. missile defense shield installed in South Korea. Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the U.S. and its allies for their “intimidation in the military sphere” of North Korea at a recent bilateral summit. In March, Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution to extend a monitoring panel for enforcing North Korean sanctions, while China abstained, blocking U.S.-led efforts to control Pyongyang’s weapons program. Edited by Mike Firn.

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In a first, Kim Jong Un’s portrait is displayed next to his predecessors

For the first time, a large portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was placed alongside portraits of his father and grandfather in a public place in what experts say is a move to boost the cult of personality surrounding him. State media released images of the three portraits adorning the facade of the Central Cadres Training School of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang during the school’s opening ceremony this week.  The three portraits were also shown above the chalkboard in one of the classrooms. Photos of the first two dynastic leaders, national founder Kim Il Sung, and his son and successor Kim Jong Il, are displayed in every public building and private home. They are treated with such respect that citizens have been praised in state media for dashing into their burning homes to rescue the portraits. A general view of the completion ceremony to mark the opening of the newly completed school of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Cadres Training School in Pyongyang, May 21, 2024. (Photo by KCNA VIA KNS/AFP) Until now, Kim Jong Un’s photo had not been displayed next to his predecessors in an official setting. It’s not yet known if this will become the norm nationwide.  Should the display of all three leaders be mandated by law, it would suggest that Kim Jong Un demands more respect than his father did. Displays of Kim Jong Il’s portrait only became mandatory upon his death in 2011, though people voluntarily hung it up while he was still living as a display of patriotism.  Kim Il Sung portraits, meanwhile, have been mandatory since the 1970s. Murals and music video The move comes amid other propaganda efforts to elevate Kim Jong Un’s status.  Just a few weeks ago, the country debuted a new music video that casts him as the “friendly father of the nation.” New murals depicting Kim have been erected nationwide over the past few years. These are all examples of the systematic idolization of Kim Jong Un carried out in stages according to Kim In-tae, a senior researcher at the South Korea-based Institute for National Security Strategy. The portrait display follows the trend of “placing Kim Jong Un at the pinnacle of North Korea’s collectivism and totalitarianism,” he told RFA Korean. By placing his photo alongside his father and grandfather, Kim is trying to inherit the legacy and revolutionary tradition of his predecessors, Hong Min, from the North Korean Research Division at the Seoul-based Korea Institute for National Unification, told RFA. “It shows that he has gone from prioritizing his predecessors and setting himself at a level lower than them to now standing as a leader of the exact same level,” said Hong, adding his prediction that the country will now start heavily promoting Kim Jong Un’s own ideological principles. The cadre school’s opening ceremony also served to cast Kim as a champion of socialism, as portraits of prominent communist ideologues Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin also were also on display, Hyun In-ae, from Seoul’s Ewha Womans University noted.    “It seems they declared to the whole world, ‘We are orthodox socialism,’” she said. “At the same time, this also signifies a declaration to the world that Kim Jong Un is the firm leader of North Korea.” Translated by Leejin J. Chung. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.

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North Korean toy store blows up on state media with ICBM-themed fireworks

A fireworks store in North Korea was featured in the country’s state media for its unique products, including fireworks shaped like intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. Experts told Radio Free Asia that the fireworks, shaped like North Korea’s Hwasong-17 ICBM, unveiled in 2020 and first test fired in 2022, are meant to instill national pride among children, and the parents who would buy them. “Our store carries fireworks that everyone loves, and that teenagers and students enjoy,” a worker at the Changgwang Fireworks Store said on the May 19 Korea Central Television broadcast.  The report showed an entire section of the store with missile-themed fireworks, including a launcher in the shape of a transporter erector launcher vehicle, or TEL. The store’s military-themed products are clearly aimed at children, as its interior includes colorful pictures of animals on the walls, and a small fenced-off play area for toddlers, flanked by two very large Hwasong-17 models and a mural depicting the missile being launched into a sky full of cartoon stars and bursting fireworks. Military themed-toys are very common in North Korea, but the country seems to want the people to be on board with dedicating resources and labor to missile and rocket development. KCTV (Korean Central TV) reported that the Changgwang fireworks store in Hwasong District, Pyongyang, North Korea, is now selling new fireworks, including models of the Hwasong ICBM, May 19 ,2024. (KCTV) In February 2023, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, was spotted wearing an ICBM-shaped necklace at a banquet commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Founding of the Korean People’s Army. In February 2024, the country forced residents to buy laminated photos of a reconnaissance satellite rocket launch to display in their homes as a constant reminder of the country’s military achievements. Instilling pride  The missile-themed displays are an attempt to foster national pride among the people, both through children and their parents, Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, told RFA Korean. “It reinforces the message that North Korea needs nuclear weapons and missiles because of the U.S. threat,” he said. “And it is a way of explaining away the dire economic conditions that North Korean people suffer from because it’s being blamed on the United States.” David Maxwell, vice president of the Center for Asia Pacific Strategy, said the displays are an effort by the authorities to try to “ reinforce the legitimacy of North Korea as a military power to show off its nuclear and missile capabilities.” “It’s an example of the prioritization of resources that the Kim family regime does,” said Maxwell. “It prioritizes enhancing the reputation of the regime over the welfare of the people, while the people suffer the worst lives of really any population in the world today.” Such militaristic children’s toys were unheard of decades ago, said Kim Su-kyung, who escaped North Korea in 1998 and resettled in the United States. “When I was young, there were no goods like this,” she said. “We used to play a military game called ‘Kill the Yankee’ during field day at school, but it seems like that has now been upgraded and made into these types of toys.” She said the public would not be receptive to these toys and would not appreciate the government’s attempts to manipulate public opinion with “useless toys.”  Translated by Claire S. Lee. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.

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Airstrike kills woman on Myanmar-Bangladesh border

A Myanmar junta airstrike near the border with Bangladesh on Tuesday killed one civilian and injured 11, residents told Radio Free Asia, the latest casualties in a region that has seen some of the country’s most intense fighting in recent weeks. Junta forces launched air attacks after insurgents from the Arakan Army assaulted the military regime’s Border Guard Force near Maungdaw town on Monday. In response, aircraft dropped three bombs on two nearby villages in Rakhine State’s Maungdaw township. Since November, the Arakan Army has captured eight townships across Rakhine State and has launched several offensives in other areas. Fighter jets bombed Shwe Baho and Baw Di Kone villages at around 4 a.m., one resident, who declined to be identified in fear of reprisals, told RFA.  “A young woman died in Shwe Baho. She is a university student and was taking refuge in the village. The whole family was fleeing the battle but they were injured,” he said. “The Arakan Army is attacking Lay Mile’s Border Guard Force, so [the junta] bombarded all areas and surrounding villages.” The dead woman, Pan Ei Pyu, 22, also worked at a social assistance group, residents said. The wounded ranged in age from 5 years to 71, residents said.  Myanmar’s junta has yet to release any information on the attack. Rakhine State’s junta spokesperson, Hla Thein, did not answer calls from RFA. Forces of the junta, which seized power in an early 2021 coup, have lost territory in several parts of the country since late last year when militia groups, formed by pro-democracy activists and allied ethnic minority insurgent groups fighting for self-determination went on the offensive. Despite making advances, the junta’s opponents have no air power, leaving them, and villages in areas in which they operate, vulnerable to airstrikes. Four civilians were killed and six were wounded between May 14 and 19 when the junta bombed villages in southern Maungdaw township, residents said. On Saturday, the Arakan Army announced it had captured all junta camps in Buthidaung, a township along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. Hours earlier, the group was accused of attacking a school with a drone where members of the Rohingya minority, a mostly Muslim community that has faced persecution for decades, were sheltering. Eighteen people were killed and more than 200 were wounded, residents said. The Arakan Army, in its Saturday statement, did not mention the Rohingya deaths, but said its forces were aiming to capture Maungdaw town, about 16 km (10 miles) west of Buthidaung township, also near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. International aid groups and local residents in Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Thandwe townships were told to evacuate by the United League of Arakan, the political wing of the Arakan Army, after it issued a warning of more attacks on junta forces on Monday. Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn. 

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Chinese agents highly active in democratic Taiwan, dissidents say

On Jan. 13, 2023, Guangdong dissident Xiao Yuhui crossed the 10-kilometer (6-mile) stretch of water from China to Kinmen, a small island that is still controlled by Taiwan, paddling across on a surfboard. But Xiao’s bid to escape the influence of the Chinese government didn’t end there. He believes the ruling Chinese Communist Party under Xi Jinping is now focusing closely on “cleaning up” opposition voices overseas, and has spotted people he believes to be Chinese agents a number of times at public events in democratic Taiwan. According to a former Chinese agent who spoke recently to Australian broadcaster ABC, this is exactly what’s going on. Former Chinese spy “Eric” told the station that he has been involved in surveillance, abductions and the silencing of targets around the world since 2008. The Spanish-based group Safeguard Defenders, which has warned the world about China’s secret police stations, its network of “consular volunteers” and its targeting of dissidents and activists overseas, has now launched a “one-stop shop” legal advice center to help fight transnational repression by Beijing. “The Chinese Communist Party kidnaps and threatens people at home, and they do the same thing overseas,” Xiao said, in response to a question about the ABC report. The sight of unidentified people he suspected were agents of the Chinese state filming and recording at pro-democracy events in Taiwan worried him enough that he now stays away from protests, rallies and other public events that are seen by Beijing as “anti-China.” He’s not the only one who’s worried, either. “Both the Taiwanese government officials and the human rights groups who have assisted me have said they hope I won’t take part in so many activities or give public interviews, which could lead to my whereabouts being exposed,” Xiao told RFA Mandarin in a recent interview. “They told me this because [China] has so many political collaborators in Taiwan,” he said. Strange behavior Li Jiabao, a former exchange student from China who applied for political asylum after speaking out against constitutional amendments allowing Xi to abandon term limits for his own job, said he has been continually targeted by authorities in China since then. One unidentified person approached Li as he took part in a documentary in 2019 about his life story and situation, demanding that the director delete all footage, he said. “[The director] didn’t even know whether he had captured the person following us or whether he was just a very suspicious sort of person,” Li said. “The man seemed very nervous and panicky, and behaved unacceptably, threatening us.” On another occasion, Li spotted someone who appeared to be following him in a park near his home. The man would watch him, but then looked at his phone if Li looked in his direction. Chinese exchange student Li Jiabao shouts ‘defend freedom of speech’ and ‘defend Taiwan’s sovereignty,’ at a protest in Taiwan’s southern port city of Kaohsiung, April 7, 2019. (Hsia Hsiao-hwa/RFA) Li noticed people exhibiting similarly strange behavior at rallies he attended in Taipei to mark the anniversaries of the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen massacre, he said. Shortly after his denunciation of Xi, someone contacted him claiming to be a journalist, and sent him emails in a bid to have him download an app to his phone. “He used a disposable account,” said Li, who later realized what had likely happened after reading media reports of Chinese agents posing as journalists. “Turns out he was phishing me.” “The main thing they want is to get access to your contacts … as well as the Telegram, Facebook and other chat records commonly used by dissidents,” he said. “They can also be used to track your location at any time, to know who you are meeting, what you did and what activities you took part in.” Money for spying Li has also been approached and offered money to spy on fellow dissidents in Taiwan, he revealed. “Someone asked me how much you can make a month in Taiwan, said I must be short of money, and told me to go and film the Falun Gong, and the next day to film dissidents, including asking them how they’re doing,” he said. “They told me just to live my life, and that they would contact me via a Hong Kong account if I thought it was too sensitive,” he said. “The Chinese want to find out if you’re willing to do stuff for them for money. I always refuse.” Xiao said the Chinese agents clearly knew of his love of photography, because he remembers being approached in October 2023 to take photos of planes taking off and landing at Taipei’s Songshan Airport, home to a Taiwanese Air Force base that runs the flying service for the president and vice president of Taiwan. “They give you some simple tasks to do and some financial support, to see if you can be bought, then more work would follow,” he said. Xiao smelled a rat at the time, and turned down the offer. Threats to family members back home are another key part of the Chinese state security police playbook, according to dissidents overseas. Li said he once received a message from his family asking if he was “being used by overseas or foreign forces.” Xiao said the authorities back home had visited his mother at her home and tried to get her to call him and find out his whereabouts and future plans. Abduction threats Sometimes, the goal is to get the target to a location where they can be handed over to the Chinese police, the former Chinese agent, who gave only the pseudonym “Eric,” told ABC. During the program, it emerged that RFA political cartoonist Rebel Pepper, whose real name is Wang Liming, was one of the targets, with Eric detailing a plot to lure Wang to Cambodia, using a Chinese-owned conglomerate that has become one of the fastest-growing companies in Cambodia – the Prince Group – to carry out the scam.  RFA has verified…

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Vietnam’s ruling party names To Lam as new state president

Vietnam’s Communist Party has named minister of public security To Lam as the new president in an unprecedented reshuffle of the country’s leadership. It also nominated Tran Thanh Man as the new chairman of the National Assembly, it said in a statement.  Party cadres at a meeting that concluded on Saturday “recommended” Lam and Man to the top positions. The National Assembly – Vietnam’s parliament – is expected to approve the appointments when it meets this week. The two men will be replacing Vo Van Thuong and Vuong Dinh Hue, who were forced to resign earlier in the year amid an anti-corruption campaign that has seen dozens of senior officials lose their jobs or be disciplined. The campaign, dubbed the “blazing furnace”, was initiated by the party’s general secretary, Nguyen Phu Trong, who sees corruption as the biggest threat to the Communist Party’s legitimacy. But some critics say it has been used as a political tool by factions in the party to eliminate competitors. Gen. To Lam, 66, has been minister of public security since April 2016 and deputy minister for six years before that. He joined the public security service in 1974 and rose through the ranks to become a general in 2019. As his successor at the ministry of public security has not been nominated, Lam appears to have retained his minister’s position for now. Lam is believed to be one of the main figures behind the “blazing furnace” campaign, having been deputy head of the party’s anti-corruption steering committee since 2021.  The general was accused of involvement in the kidnapping of Trinh Xuan Thanh, a Vietnamese fugitive, in Berlin in 2017 and Thanh’s return to Hanoi through Slovakia. The Hanoi government denied all allegations but the case led to a temporary rift in diplomatic relations between Germany and Vietnam. Lam will be the third state president in just 15 months – his predecessor Thuong was forced out in January and Thuong’s predecessor Nguyen Xuan Phuc resigned a year earlier. Tran Thanh Man, 62, currently deputy chairman of the National Assembly, is to take over from Vuong Dinh Hue, who was once considered a rising star in Vietnam’s politics and a contender for the job of general secretary. Hue stepped down this month after the party’s central inspection commission found that he had committed mistakes and wrongdoings unfit for a political leader.  During last week’s meeting, the party’s senior officials also voted to add four new members to its powerful Politburo. The new appointments are expected to restore unity within the party’s leadership but analysts warn that infighting may continue in the run up to the 14th national party congress, slated to take place in January 2026. Nguyen Phu Trong, 80, who has been the party’s general secretary since 2011, is expected to step aside at the congress, or even before that, but there’s no clear imminent successor to his position. To Lam and Pham Minh Chinh, the incumbent prime minister, are seen by Vietnam watchers as strong candidates to succeed Trong as general secretary. Edited by Mike Firn.

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China’s ‘virtual invasion’ of India and the cultural genocide of Tibet

There is no border between India and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In the northwest and northeast, India adjoins Tibet. It is not necessary for your Indian interlocutor to be a die-hard nationalist to think this way.  As a matter of fact, this is what a large number of Indians have believed since 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took power in Beijing. Their reasoning is that Tibet is a sovereign political entity occupied by the People’s Republic of China, and that it should regain independence within its historical borders. On the other hand, the CCP claims that Tibet has always been a part of China.  A Buddha statue is seen in Tawang in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, India, April 9, 2017. (Anuwar Hazarika/Reuters) Powered by this claim, one of the weapons of the PRC’s foreign offensive are geographical maps where  boundary disputes are used as tools for sinicization of Tibet. In this pursuit, the CCP is indefatigable.  On March 30, the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the PRC committed  its latest misappropriation of Indian toponyms, changing 30 placenames in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.  Eleven residential areas, 12 mountains, four rivers, one lake, one mountain pass and a piece of land were given new Chinese names in simplified Chinese ideograms, Tibetan script and pinyin rendering as well as in the Roman alphabet.  Chinese names For each of those places, geographical coordinates are also duly furnished as well as a high-resolution map. The CCP ceremoniously celebrated the event with all the technicalities needed to make it seem an important and legitimate operation.. The sinicization of toponyms in Arunachal Pradesh is only the latest offensive in an ongoing campaign that Beijing has launched in recent years.  Villagers stand in a line to cast their votes at Sera village in Arunachal Pradesh, April 9, 2014. (Utpal Baruah/Reuters) The inaugural step of the campaign took place on April 13, 2017, when the ministry officialized the change of six place names. The second move was made official on Dec. 29, 2021, and it included the change of 15 toponyms . The third came on April 2, 2023, when 11 place names were sinicized as well.  It is noteworthy that the official announcement of the first change explicitly defines it as the “first batch,” implying there was more to come. However, nowhere is it written that the new March 2024 fourth batch in this series should be constructed as being the last one. It is a bit like playing a board game. None of the newly renamed real places in Arunachal Pradesh came under the PRC’s sovereignty as a result of the contrived Chinese maps, and the occupation of sovereign Indian territory that the new toponyms seem to indicate has not happened.  Chinese logic But the CCP’s move is consciously aiming to achieve a clear psychological effect – achieved by presenting the change of names as the direct consequence of a specific logic.  The territory that India calls Arunachal Pradesh doesn’t exist as such, the CCP asserts. It is just a portion of the PRC’s sovereign territory, it maintains. So, it concludes, place names can’t be Indian and must be Chinese, and new maps must show this  to the entire world. Young Buddhist monks play between prayers at the Tawang monastery in Tawang town in Arunachal Pradesh on April 5, 2023. (Arun Sankar/AFP) The CCP’s claim that Arunachal Pradesh doesn’t exist is based on the view that the Indian state by that name is simply a part of Tibet, which, the CCP underlines, has always been an integral part of China.  According to CCP propaganda, that part of “China’s Tibet” that Delhi Indianizes under the “fake” name of Arunachal Pradesh is simply a portion of Southern Tibet, or “Zangnan,” as the Chinese regime calls it. This assertion has been continuously perpetrated by the PRC since 1950, with the annexation and then military occupation of Tibet, which was in fact, a different, independent country.  Cultural genocide The Chinese invasion of Tibet, completed with the Battle of Lhasa in 1959 and its suppression of Tibetan identity, harsh religious persecution and other serious encroachments on liberty amount to a cultural genocide, as Tibetan leaders in exile have repeatedly asserted. Playing chess with the lives of millions of people has always been the policy of the Chinese regime in Tibet. This war of maps is rooted in the disputed border lines that separate India and PRC, where de facto, agreed-upon, and legal borders have not coincided since the time of British India. This dispute was complicated by the emergence of a highly ideological and aggressive regime in China in 1949. The game of maps that the CCP plays is quite sophisticated: It alternates its claim that some Indian territories are Tibetan – therefore belonging to China – with the dismemberment of “ethnic Tibet.” Indian army soldiers walk along the line of control at the India-China border in Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh, Oct. 21, 2012. (Anupam NathAP) Thus, the sinicizing of Arunachal Pradesh is a cynical attempt to legitimize the permanent subjugation of an entire people as a fait accompli confirmed by an international border.  This curtailment  and disrespect of India’s  sovereignty shows that what the PRC wants, the PRC gets – even if it comes at the price of culturally and politically attacking a foreign nation.  For its part, India rebukes this aggression, repeating that any boundary dispute regarding Arunachal Pradesh or other bordering lines, these must be discussed with Tibet, not the PRC – because Tibet is not the PRC, and will never be.   Totalitarian arrogance may pretend to change history and reality.  It devastates societies, traditions and individual freedom, but it will ultimately fail.    Marco Respinti is director-in-charge of  Bitter Winter, an online publication that promotes religious freedom and human rights.  Aaron Rhodes is president of the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe, and author of The Debasement of Human Rights. The views expressed here are their own and do not reflect…

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About 30 Rohingya killed in clashes between Myanmar junta, insurgents

About 30 members of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority have been killed in clashes between junta forces and ethnic minority Buddhist insurgents, residents of Rakhine State said on Saturday, raising new fears that the persecuted Muslim community is being caught in the middle of increasingly bitter fighting. Twelve Rohingya civilians were killed in junta airstrikes targeting fighters from the Arakan Army, or AA, in Buthidaung township on Friday.  Later in the day, the Arakan Army bombed  a school where Rohingyas were sheltering with drones, killing 18 of them, residents said. About 200 people were wounded, a Buthidaung Rohingya resident who identified himself as Khin Zaw Moe told RFA. “People are scared. The casualties may be even higher,” he said. “The exact number is not known due to the difficulty in communicating.” Rohingyas from about 20 villages were sheltering in the high school when it was attacked, he said. It was not clear why the Arakan Army bombed the school. RFA tried to telephone the AA spokesman, Khaing Thukha, and the junta’s Rakhine State spokesperson, Hla Thein, but could not get through to either of them.  The AA, who are battling the junta for self-determination of the Buddhist ethnic Arakan community in the state, said in a statement on Saturday its forces had captured all junta bases in Buthidaung. It did not mention Rohingya civilians. Rohingya, who have been persecuted for decades in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, are getting caught up in the war between the AA and junta forces, human rights workers  say. Both sides have pressed Rohingya into their ranks and at the same time have accused Rohingya of helping their rivals. Both the AA and junta forces subjected members of the Muslim minority to violence, residents and rights workers say. Another Rohingya resident of Buthidaung said the AA burned down homes in eight neighborhoods of the town although he didn’t know how many of the homes had been destroyed. Rohingya activist Nay San Lwin told RFA that tens of thousands of Rohingyas had fled from their homes after the AA ordered them to leave the town by 10 a.m. on Saturday. Another township resident told RFA on Saturday that AA fighters had rounded up thousands of Rohingya near Buthidaung prison.  RFA was unable to confirm any of the accounts because telephone lines and internet links were down. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled from a Myanmar military crackdown in 2017, in response to a series of attacks on the security forces by Rohingya insurgents. Most of those refugees are sheltering in camps in southeast Bangladesh, where they joined hundreds of thousands who fled earlier abuses. More than half a million Rohingya remain in Rakhine State, many of them in camps for the internally displaced. Rohingya activists estimate the Rohingya population of Buthidaung to be around 200,000.  Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.

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