- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2006


Church seeks freedom from China’s oversight

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican told China yesterday not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Roman Catholic Church, saying “social peace” in the communist country would benefit if religious freedom were guaranteed.

“As in all countries, the church in China is not asking for any privilege but only to be free in its internal organization,” said Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo.

Relations between the Vatican and Beijing reached a new low last month when Pope Benedict XVI censured China publicly for installing two bishops without the Holy See’s approval.


Birthrate plummets, intensifies concerns

TOKYO — Japan’s birthrate last year dropped to a record low of 1.25 babies per woman, the Health Ministry reported yesterday, adding to concerns over the country’s aging population and its economy.

Japan also reported a negative birthrate for the first time on record, with the number of deaths in 2005 exceeding births by 21,408.

Many women are forgoing or delaying marriage to pursue career opportunities.


Court closes U.S. charity

TASHKENT — An Uzbek court ordered the closure of a U.S. charity yesterday on charges of “depriving” 100 students of the right to an education by taking them to the United States without proper permits, the state press said.

Courts in the authoritarian state gradually have been closing down foreign charities since the West criticized its government for excessive use of force in suppressing an uprising last year.

The American Councils for International Education was the latest organization to be closed after charges that it took 100 school children to the United States last year without proper authorization.


Court delays fugitive’s extradition

TORONTO — Canada’s Federal Court yesterday stayed the deportation of one of China’s most wanted men, purported smuggling kingpin Lai Changxing.

Mr. Lai made a last-ditch appeal to remain in Canada, saying he would be tortured or executed if forced to return to his homeland.

Justice Carolyn Layden-Stevenson ordered that Mr. Lai be allowed to remain in Canada while he appeals his deportation order to China — a process likely to take months.


Fire destroys opposition center

CAIRO — A fire before dawn yesterday gutted the headquarters of a jailed Egyptian opposition leader, and his supporters blamed the government, saying it was trying to add to the woes of a man who challenged President Hosni Mubarak in elections last year.

The blaze wrecked the first floor of the center and blackened the exterior, but it caused no injuries. Police said the fire was caused by an electrical problem.

But supporters of opposition leader Ayman Nour said the government was trying to eliminate one of his last strongholds after his imprisonment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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