- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2003


British minister notes rights gains

BEIJING — British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell raised concerns about human rights and Tibet during a visit to China, but said yesterday there are signs that Beijing is moving in the right direction.

“There are a number of positive developments that give me confidence that China is very much moving in the right direction,” Mr. Rammell told reporters on the final day of a two-day visit. “In [Chinas] economic reform, there are huge changes taking place. In rule of law, I think there are very significant developments.”

He cited improvements in the rule of law, greater openness in the government’s handling of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) this year and China’s efforts to help resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.

“When we make criticisms, China does take us … seriously,” Mr. Rammell went on, “and instead of just rebutting them, seeks to explain, discuss, and sometimes, you do get movement.”


Primorsky offers to take refugees

TOKYO — A far eastern Russian governor yesterday invited North Korean refugees living in China to find a job in his region, saying he was ready to accept 200,000 refugees if they were willing to work.

“We have a plan of action,” Sergei Darkin, governor of the Primorsky Kray region, told reporters in Tokyo. “If North Korean refugees show up at the borders, we could welcome 200,000 who could come to live in our region and work in our companies,” he said.

“As a leader of the region, I am not indifferent to what is going on across our borders,” said Mr. Darkin, whose labor-short former Soviet republic on Russia’s Pacific coast borders northeastern China and North Korea.


Nauru detainees treated during fast

SYDNEY — Eleven of 24 asylum seekers on a hunger strike since Dec. 10 at their detention center in the Pacific island nation Nauru have been hospitalized, the Australian Immigration Department said at midweek.

The hunger strikers, 23 Afghans and a Pakistani, objected to their detention and began their action with four protesters sewing their lips together. Eight of the men have been returned to the detention center after being hydrated and fed in a hospital, an Immigration Department spokesman told Kyodo News.

The hunger strikers are among 284 persons, including 93 children, held in the detention center under the Australian government’s “Pacific Solution” for refugees.

Weekly notes

Singapore will work closely with neighboring Indonesia to combat international terrorism, visiting Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan said in Jakarta yesterday. Mr. Tan, who also is coordinating minister for security and defense, spoke after meeting with Indonesia’s senior security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. “Terrorism is a menace, and terrorism today is international,” Mr. Tan told reporters. Earlier yesterday, the Singaporean government announced that two more Singaporeans had been arrested for being part of the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, bringing the total to 35. … With the genocide trial of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge henchmen likely to start next year, the ultra-Maoist regime’s former President Khieu Samphan has approached a Cambodian legal rights group seeking aid and advice. Paris-educated Samphan, who lives in a remote jungle clearing on the Thai-Cambodian border, acted as the Khmer Rouge’s frontman during its four-year reign of terror in the 1970s that claimed an estimated 1.7 million lives. He is almost certain to face trial.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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