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Briefly

- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 15, 2010

CHINA

Government shuts dozens of blogs

BEIJING | Dozens of blogs by some of China's most outspoken users have been shut down abruptly, while popular Twitter-like services appear to be the newest target in government efforts to control social networking.

More and more Chinese bloggers are using the newer microblogs as their primary publishing tool, using their brief, punchy message format to chat with one another and promote their longer blog posts.

However, one of the country's top four microblog sites is down for maintenance, and the other three show a "beta" tag as if they are in testing, though they have been operating for months. The companies that run the websites aren't saying why.

Chinese officials fear public opinion might spiral out of control as social networking - and social unrest - boom among China's 420 million Internet users. China maintains the world's most extensive Internet monitoring and filtering system, and it unplugged Twitter and Facebook last year.

BURMA

Former Suu Kyi aide released from jail

RANGOON | A former aide to Burma's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from prison Thursday after 14 years behind bars in the military-led country.

An official confirmed the release of Win Htein and said he will be brought from the prison in northern Burma to Rangoon, where his family lives. The official spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Win Htein, 68, had been serving a 14-year sentence on charges of providing false information to the foreign press, according to the U.S. Campaign for Burma, which lobbies against aid to the military regime.

Win Htein was released briefly in 2008 during an amnesty but was rearrested 17 hours later without explanation.

In that brief period of freedom, he gave an interview to the Democratic Voice of Burma, a Norway-based shortwave radio station and website that is run by exiled Burmese dissidents.

INDIA

Thousands protest in Kashmir

SRINAGAR | Thousands of protesters poured into the center of the main city of Indian Kashmir on Thursday after authorities lifted restrictions for the first time in five days.

The Muslim-majority region has been wracked by demonstrations since June 11, when security forces were accused of killing a 17-year-old. Since then, an additional 14 protesters and bystanders have been killed.

As violence spread, local authorities slapped rigid curfews on most of the region, arrested activists and ordered the army onto the streets to stage flag marches in the summer capital, Srinagar.

Kashmiris - mostly young men chanting "We want freedom!" and "Allah is great!" - staged sit-in protests at several places in Srinagar on Thursday, heeding a call by hard-line separatists opposed to Indian rule in the region.

Shops, schools and offices also remained closed for the fifth day.

SOUTH KOREA

Samsung calls for safety study

SEOUL | Samsung Electronics Co. said Thursday it has commissioned an independent health and safety review of its semiconductor factories in South Korea after employee illnesses and deaths raised fears of cancer risks.

The yearlong investigation will be carried out by a team of leading occupational health and safety experts "who will be given complete access to Samsung's semiconductor manufacturing facilities," the company said in a statement.

Suspicion of a possible link between cancer and high-tech manufacturing is not new, and concerns are not confined to semiconductors or Samsung. The global technology industry has been beset by lawsuits and investigations over the years.

Samsung announced its plans for the health and safety review in April but did not offer concrete details. It has been attempting to allay public anxieties after a January lawsuit against a workers' compensation agency involving six people who developed leukemia and lymphoma they claim was caused by exposure to radiation and the carcinogen benzene in Samsung's chip factories.

CHINA

Property giant 'welcomes' probe

HONG KONG | One of the giants of Hong Kong's property market said Thursday it was cooperating with a police investigation into the collapsed sale of what was billed as the world's priciest apartment.

Henderson Land Development said police had "visited" its headquarters on Wednesday to investigate the failed sale of luxury apartments at its exclusive Conduit Road tower development in the city's Mid-Levels.

The scrapped deals included what was supposed to be the world's most expensive apartment, a 6,158-square-foot duplex that Henderson said in October had sold for $56.6 million.

Critics have accused Henderson of fabricating the sales to boost property prices, but it has defended them as above-board deals that simply fell apart.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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