From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved
"KING OF THE EAST 2020 JULY-AUGUST"

    This file is attached to http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterEight/BeastThatCameOutOfTheSea.htm from “Beast That Came Out Of The Sea” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.
Or return to the Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.
    This link will return you to King Of The East 2020 May-June or continue to King Of The East 2020 September-October.

KING OF THE EAST 2020 JULY-AUGUST


    So as 2019 has passed do we know who the "King of the East" is?
    As Bible students, we all are aware of the allusions to the "Kings of the East" in the prophetic scenario: "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared."    Revelation 16:12.
       
    The spectacular rise of China on the world scene, and achievements are spectacular, indeed.    In just one generation, they have tripled their per capita income, and lifted over 300 million people out of poverty.
    Xi Jinping is still president for life and continues to push "Belt And Road Project" fits the scenerio to fulfil prophecy to go into the Middle East at the appointed time.
    He continues to push the unconditional authority of the Communist Party, and controversial territorial claims in the South China Sea, boosted its military capabilities and unveiled a vast international logistics and transportation project called the “Belt and Road” initiative that aims to connect Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, so I believe the The King of the East has made his bed and have become the major competitor for energy and other commodities.
    As to the emergence of India in the global technological culture Idid not see much of that in 2019 to dominate the next few decades in research and development centers are sprouting everywhere and are the seedbeds of the most advanced software platforms, multimedia devices, and other next-generation innovations and India's Prime Minister is still Narendra Modi.
    China and India account for one-third of the world's population.
    Although numerous commentators try to connect these kings with the 200 million horsemen of the sixth trumpet judgment, they are not related: as Rev. 16:12 only says "way of the kings of the east might be prepared."    This tells me that it could be several countries from the Kings of the East could take that journey.
    The “two hundred million” is in Rev. 9:16 are in a Trumpet Judgment, whereas the kings of the east are in a Bowl judgment.    Furthermore, . . . it was shown that the two hundred million are demons and not men.
    As to kings from the Orient, but this is not required by the text, they are kings representing nations east of the Euphrates.    Commentators particularly of the postmillennial and the historical schools have guessed at the identity of the kings of the East and as many as fifty different interpretations have been advanced.    The very number of these interpretations is their refutation.

    As to cooperation for China and the U.S. in 2019, China threatens retaliation if tariffs increase as trade war bites and China’s Xi preaches openness.    China’s 2019 growth was seen slowing to 6.2% as trade war weighs on China’s June exports, and imports fall as trade war takes heavier toll.    China lets yuan break key 7 level for first time in decade as trade war worsens.    China’s birth rate falls to lowest ever.    China lawmakers urge freeing up family planning as birth rates plunge U.S.
    Italy's PM wants to sign “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), deal to help exports championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who aims to link China by sea and land with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, through an infrastructure network on the lines of the ancient Silk Road.    A number of European Union states have signed memorandums on the BRI with China, including Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Malta, Poland and Portugal.    If Italy signs, it would be the first members of the Group of Seven industrial powers to do so.    China Development Bank has provided over $190 billion for Belt and Road projects.
    Taiwan tells China to use peaceful means to resolve differences and Taiwan president calls for international support to defend democracy.    U.S. warships pass through Taiwan Strait amid China tensions and China’s Xi threatens Taiwan with force but also seeks peaceful ‘reunification.’    U.S., Japan, India and Philippines challenge Beijing with naval drills in the South China Sea.    And a miracle win offers Australian PM authority and government stability.    U.S. pursues sale of over $2 billion in weapons to Taiwan, which is angering China.    Premier Li says China opposes Taiwan independence.
    Afghan Taliban and the U.S. sat down to peace talks, but the Taliban talks end with no Afghan peace deal.
    U.S. sanctions are putting pressure on Iran and Iranians, and supreme leader.    Iran says it is taking initial steps to design reactor fuel, and could enrich uranium to 20 percent within four days as atomic chiefIran says it will be ready for new satellite launch.    U.S. sanctions hit Iran-backed airlines, fighters in Syria and Iranian commander threatens Israel’s destruction if it attacks, while Iran is facing the toughest economic situation in 40 years.    The president of Iran facing economic difficulty amid U.S. pressure on regime and Iran’s Rouhani says U.S. sanctions are ‘terrorist act.’    Iran’s Khamenei doubted Europe could help Tehran against U.S. sanctions.    Iran urged Palestinians to resist Trump’s pro-Israel moves.    U.S. designated elite Iranian force as terrorist organization, and Iran kept enriching uranium in despite.    Hardliners target Iran’s president as U.S. pressure grows.    Iran claims youth will witness demise of Israel and ‘American civilization.’    Iran’s Khamenei says Tehran will not abandon its missile program and will increase uranium enrichment to whatever levels it needs and will boost uranium enrichment level which will breach nuclear pact.
    Thousands march in Hong Kong against China ‘repression’ on 3/15/2019 protesters were arrested in Hong Kong over proposed China extradition law.    Hong Kong lawmakers clash over what democrats call ‘evil’ extradition bill.    Hong Kong leader presses on with extradition bill undeterred.    Huge Hong Kong protest expected in last push to scrap extradition bill    Hundreds of thousands march in Hong Kong to protest China ‘Sea of black’    Hong Kong protesters demand leader step down extradition bill    Embattled Hong Kong leader Lam suspends China extradition bill.    Black-clad, anti-extradition protesters flood streets of Hong Kong Hong Kong descends into chaos as protesters storm legislature.    In challenge to Beijing, Hong Kong activists attempt to take fight to mainland.    Anti-Chinese protests in Hong Kong turn violent.    Protesters mass in Hong Kong amid fears of growing cycle of violence.
    Trump walks away from deal with North Korea’s Kim over sanctions demand and was ending the year with new Trade deals with China as the U.S. economy is up in all items.

    Since Iran has become more of an issue during 2019 I decided to input the following again regarding Jeremiah 49:35-39 New King James Version (NKJV) PROPHESY OF ELAM to let you know what the Bible says about them and their possible future.
35Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, The foremost of their might.
36 Against Elam I will bring the four winds From the four quarters of heaven, And scatter them toward all those winds; There shall be no nations where the outcasts of Elam will not go.
37 For I will cause Elam to be dismayed before their enemies And before those who seek their life.    I will bring disaster upon them, My fierce anger,’ says the Lord; ‘And I will send the sword after them Until I have consumed them.
38 I will set My throne in Elam, And will destroy from there the king and the princes,’ says the Lord.
39 ‘But it shall come to pass in the latter days: I will bring back the captives of Elam,’ says the Lord.”
   
    Elam in the Hebrew Bible is said to be one of the sons of Shem, the son of Noah.    It is also used, for the ancient country of Elam in what is now southern Iran, whose people the Hebrews believed to be the offspring of Elam, son of Shem.    This implies that the Elamites were considered Semites by the Hebrews.
    Elam in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 10:22, Ezra 4:9;) is said to be one of the sons of Shem, the son of Noah.    It is also used (as in Akkadian), for the ancient country of Elam in what is now southern Iran, whose people the Hebrews believed to be the offspring of Elam, son of Shem (Genesis 10:22).    This implies that the Elamites were considered Semites by the Hebrews.    Their language was not one of the Semitic languages, but is considered a linguistic isolate.
    Elam (the nation) is also mentioned in Genesis 14, describing an ancient war in the time of Abram (father of the tribe, for possibles leaders over time) not Abraham, (father of many nations) involving Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam at that time, and noted that Sarai, Princess of the tribe, who became the final as Sarah.
    The prophecies of the Book of Isaiah (11:11, 21:2, 22:6) and the Book of Jeremiah (25:25) also mention Elam.    The last part of Jeremiah 49 is an apocalyptic oracle against Elam which states that Elam will be scattered to the four winds of the earth, but "will be, in the end of days, that I will return their captivity," a prophecy self-dated to the first year of Zedekiah (597 BC).
    The Book of Jubilees may reflect ancient tradition when it mentions a son (or daughter, in some versions) of 'Elam named "Susan," whose daughter Rasuaya married Arpachshad, progenitor of another branch of Shemites.    Shushan (or Susa) was the ancient capital of the Elamite Empire. (Dan. 8:2)



2020 JULY-AUGUST

7/1/2020 Australia to lock down 300,000 in Melbourne suburbs after coronavirus spike by Melanie Burton
FILE PHOTO: Disinfectant products are seen on a car whilst motorists fill out paperwork for police
as they cross back into South Australia from Victoria during the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak, in Bordertown, Australia, March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Authorities will lock down more than 300,000 people in suburbs north of Melbourne for a month from late on Wednesday to contain the risk of infection after two weeks of double-digit rises in new coronavirus cases in Australia’s second most populous state.
    Australia has fared better than many countries in the pandemic, with around 7,920 cases, 104 deaths and fewer than 400 active cases, but the recent jump has stoked fears of a second wave of COVID-19, echoing concerns expressed in other countries.
    Globally, coronavirus cases exceeded 10 million on Sunday, a major milestone in the spread of a disease that has killed more than half a million people in seven months.
    From midnight, more than 30 suburbs in Australia’s second-biggest city will return to stage three restrictions, the third-strictest level in curbs to control the pandemic.    That means residents will be confined to home except for grocery shopping, health appointments, work or caregiving, and exercise.
    The restrictions will be accompanied by a testing blitz that authorities hope will extend to half the population of the area affected, and for which borders will be patrolled, authorities said.    The measures come as curbs ease across the rest of the state of Victoria, with restaurants, gyms and cinemas reopening in recent weeks.
    Victoria recorded 73 fresh cases on Tuesday from 20,682 tests, following an increase of 75 cases on Monday.    State premier Daniel Andrews warned on Wednesday that the return of broader restrictions across city remained a possibility.     “If we all stick together these next four weeks, we can regain control of that community transmission … across metropolitan Melbourne,” Andrews said at a briefing.    “Ultimately if I didn’t shut down those postcodes I’d be shutting down all postcodes.    We want to avoid that.”
    Victoria’s spike in cases has been linked to staff members at hotels housing returned travellers for which quarantine protocols were not strictly followed.    Victorian state authorities have announced an investigation into the matter.
    “We’ve had an increase in cases but they’re almost all in a very defined geographic area,” said acting chief medical officer Paul Kelly.
    “Most of the cases are continuing to be based on family clusters … (which) have this single link back to quarantine failure in a couple of hotels in central Melbourne.    So that leads me to think this is not a widespread issue at the moment.”
    Some other Australian states and territories are preparing to open borders, but applying limits and quarantine measures to citizens of Victoria as the school holiday season gets under way.
    South Australia, the country’s fifth most populous state, has had just three new cases in the past month.    But citing the spike in coronavirus infections, on Tuesday it cancelled its scheduled reopening to other parts of the nation.
    New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state, has stopped short of closing its borders to all Victorians, but those holidaying from hotspot areas – not permitted under NSW rules – can be handed a fine of A$11,000 ($7,596) or jailed if they are detected, state authorities said. State cases rose by 14 overnight, all returned travellers in quarantine.
    The delays reopening internal borders cast doubts over a federal plan to set up “travel bubble” with neighbouring New Zealand that would allow movement between the two countries.
(GRAPHIC: World-focused tracker with country-by-country interactive – https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/COUNTRIES/oakveqlyvrd/index.html?id=australia)
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

7/1/2020 Hong Kong police arrest nearly 200 in first protest under new security law by Scott Murdoch and Yanni Chow
Pro-democracy protesters march during a demonstration near a flag raising ceremony on the
anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested nearly 200 people on Wednesday as protesters took to the streets in defiance of sweeping security legislation introduced by China that critics say is aimed at snuffing out dissent.
    Beijing unveiled the details of the much-anticipated law late on Tuesday after weeks of uncertainty, pushing China’s freest city and one of the world’s most glittering financial hubs onto a more authoritarian path.
    As thousands of protesters gathered downtown for an annual rally marking the anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to China in 1997, riot police used pepper spray and fired pellets as they made arrests after crowds spilled into the streets chanting “resist till the end” and “Hong Kong independence.”
    “I’m scared of going to jail but for justice I have to come out today, I have to stand up,” said one 35-year-old man who gave his name as Seth.
    The new law will punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, will see mainland security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and allow for extradition to the mainland for trial.
    China’s parliament adopted it in response to protests last year triggered by fears that Beijing was stifling the city’s freedoms, guaranteed by a “one country, two systems” formula agreed when it returned to Chinese rule.
    Earlier on Wednesday, police cited the law for the first time in confronting protesters.
    “You are displaying flags or banners/chanting slogans/or conducting yourselves with an intent such as secession or subversion, which may constitute offences under the … national security law,” police said in a message displayed on a purple banner.
    Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.
    But critics fear it is aimed ending the pro-democracy opposition and will crush the freedoms that are seen as key to Hong Kong’s success as a financial centre.
    The United States and its Asian and Western allies have criticised the legislation.
    Police fired water cannon to try to disperse the protesters and said they had made more than 180 arrests for illegal assembly and other offences, with some involving violations of the new law.
    A game of cat-and-mouse reminiscent of last year’s often violent demonstrations followed, with protesters blocking roads before running away from riot police charging with batons, only to re-emerge elsewhere.
    Police posted pictures on Twitter of an officer with a bleeding arm saying he was stabbed by “rioters holding sharp objects.”    The suspects fled while bystanders offered no help, police said.
    On July 1 last year, hundreds of protesters stormed and vandalised the city’s legislature to protest against a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
    Those protests evolved into calls for greater democracy, paralysing parts of the city and paving the way for Beijing’s new law.
‘BIRTHDAY GIFT’
    In Beijing, Zhang Xiaoming, executive deputy director of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, told reporters suspects arrested by a new Beijing-run security office could be tried on the mainland.
    He said the new office abided by Chinese law and that Hong Kong’s legal system could not be expected to implement the laws of the mainland.    Article 55 of the law states that Beijing’s security office in Hong Kong could exercise jurisdiction over “complex” or “serious” cases.
    “The law is a birthday gift to (Hong Kong) and will show its precious value in the future,” Zhang said, adding the law would not be applied retroactively.
(For highlights of the law, click)
    Speaking at a flag-raising ceremony to mark the handover anniversary, the city’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, said the law was the most important development since the city’s return to Chinese rule.
    “It is also an inevitable and prompt decision to restore stability,” Lam said at the harbour-front venue where 23 years ago the last colonial governor, Chris Patten, a staunch critic of the security law, tearfully handed back Hong Kong to Chinese rule.
    Some pro-Beijing officials and political commentators say the law is aimed at sealing Hong Kong’s “second return” to the motherland after the first failed to bring residents to heel.
    Luo Huining, the head of Beijing’s top representative office in Hong Kong, said at the ceremony the law was a “common aspiration” of Hong Kong citizens.
    Some pro-democracy activists gave up membership of their groups just before the law came into force into force at 11 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Tuesday, though they called for the campaign to go on from abroad.
    “I saw this morning there are celebrations for Hong Kong’s handover, but to me it is a funeral, a funeral for ‘one country two systems’,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki.
(Reporting by Yanni Chow, Twinnie Siu, Pak Yiu, Scott Murdoch, Joyce Zhou, Clare Jim, Jessie Pang, Tyrone Siu and James Pomfret in Hong Kong and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

7/1/2020 Beijing asks some U.S. media to submit information about their China operations
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian attends a news conference in Beijing, China April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that the Chinese government has asked some U.S. media outlets present in the country to submit information about their China operations.
    Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian named the Associated Press, National Public Radio, CBS and United Press International news agency as companies asked to submit the requested information in writing within seven days.
    The editor in chief of China’s Global Times newspaper said on Twitter earlier on Wednesday that Beijing will announce reciprocal curbs on U.S. media outlets in the country.
    The United States said in June it would start treating another four major Chinese media outlets as foreign embassies, following similar moves on other outlets earlier in the year.
    The United States and China have been engaged in a series of retaliatory actions involving journalists in recent months, amid increasing tensions over the coronavirus pandemic and other issues.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

7/1/2020 South Korea’s Moon calls for U.S.-North Korea summit before U.S. election by Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during a Memorial Day ceremony at the
national cemetery in Daejeon, South Korea, June 6, 2020. Lee Jin-man/Pool via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should meet again before the U.S. presidential election in November, a Seoul official told reporters on Wednesday.
    Moon’s remarks were made during a video conference with European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday, during which he said another summit between Trump and Kim would help resume stalled nuclear negotiations.
    “I believe there’s a need for North Korea and the United States to try dialogue one more time before the U.S. presidential election,” a presidential official quoted Moon as saying.
    “The issues of nuclear programmes and sanctions will ultimately have to be resolved through North Korea-U.S. talks.”
    Moon’s office had conveyed such views to Washington and the officials there are making efforts to resume the talks, the South Korean official said.
    Trump and Kim met for the first time in 2018 in Singapore, raising hopes of an agreement to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons programme.    But their second summit, in early 2019 in Vietnam, fell apart.
    Trump and Kim met again at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in June 2019 and agreed to restart negotiations, but working-level talks between the two sides in Sweden in October were broken off.
    Inter-Korean tensions flared last month after the North blew up a joint liaison office, severed hotlines and threatened military action over plans by defector groups in the South to send anti-Kim leaflets across the border.    Following weeks of heated exchanges,     Kim suspended the military plans, without specifying why.
    The moves from Pyongyang were seen aimed at recapturing the attention of Trump and making a renewed push for sanctions relief before the November election, experts said.
    On Monday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who led working-level negotiations with North Koreans, said there is still time for both sides to re-engage and “make substantial progress.”
    Biegun, however, said an in-person summit would be difficult before the November election, citing the coronavirus pandemic which has all but wiped the world’s diplomatic calendar clean.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Josh Smith and Sangmi Cha; Editing by Kim Coghill, Lincoln Feast and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

7/1/2020 Philippines confirms 999 new coronavirus infections, four more deaths
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A nurse gets a swab from a man under observation for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in a
booth set up in a hospital parking lot in Manila, Philippines, April 15, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ health ministry on Wednesday reported 999 more coronavirus infections and four additional deaths.
    In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases have reached 38,511 while deaths have increased to 1,270.
    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday retained partial restrictions in the capital Manila for another two weeks to contain the spread of the virus while reducing the pandemic’s economic damage.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty)

7/1/2020 Schools reopen across Thailand with temperature checks, masks by Jiraporn Kuhakan
Students from the Wichuthit school eat their lunch after the Thai government eased isolation measures
and introduced social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as
schools nationwide reopened in Bangkok, Thailand, July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa
    SAM KHOK, Thailand (Reuters) – Thai schools reopened on Wednesday for the first time since mid-March, with precautions in place to guard against the coronavirus, ranging from temperature checks to installing makeshift cubicles for social distancing in classrooms.
    At Sam Khok school, about 50 km (31 miles) north of Bangkok, nearly 5,000 students were told to self-quarantine at home for 15-days prior to the re-start as an extra precaution, Principal Chuchart Thiengtham said.
    “Once students arrive at school, teachers hand face masks to them because it’s mandatory to wear them,” said Chuchart, adding that face shields were also provided to pupils for additional safety during some activities.
    Students also get their temperatures checked and a facial recognition scanner automatically sends a message to parents, he said.
    In the classroom, the school has turned cardboard ballot boxes used in elections into partitions to ensure social distancing between desks.    “I feel good studying behind the box because it makes me feel safer returning to school,” said student Kanlaya Srimongkhol.
    However, 17-year-old Soponwich Thianthong said while he felt more secure the partitions could be irritating because it limited his field of vision.
    The coronavirus has killed 58 people in Thailand out of 3,173 infections, though the country has not recorded a case of local transmission for 37 days.    Thailand this week extended an emergency decree until the end of July in a bid to avoid the risk of a second wave, even as it relaxed more restrictions by also opening bars and allowing some foreigners into the country.
(Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

7/1/2020 Indonesia reports 1,385 new coronavirus cases and 58 deaths: ministry official
FILE PHOTO: Firefighters wearing protective suits spray disinfectant at the National Monument area to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) in Jakarta, Indonesia June 17, 2020, in this photo taken by Antara Foto/Wahyu Putro/via REUTERS/File Photo
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia on Wednesday reported 1,385 new coronavirus cases and 58 deaths, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said.
    The country has reported 57,770 cases and 2,934 deaths to date.
(Reporting by Nilufar Rizki; editing by Jason Neely)

7/1/2020 Blast at Tehran clinic kills 19, says state-run news agency
A man inspects a building at the site of an explosion at a medical clinic in the north of the
Iranian capital Tehran, Iran, June 30, 2020. Tasnim News Agency/Handout via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – Nineteen people were killed and six injured on Tuesday in an explosion at a medical clinic in the north of the Iranian capital Tehran, the official IRIB news agency reported, quoting state officials.
    A gas leak caused the blast, Tehran Deputy Governor Hamid Reza Goudarzi told state television.
    A video posted on social media appeared to show multiple explosions at the north Tehran site and another showed firefighters using a ladder to reach the roof of the building.
    Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the videos.
    A fire touched off by the blast has been extinguished, Jalal Maleki, the Tehran Fire Department spokesman said on state TV.
    The clinic, which had 25 employees inside at the time of the blast, primarily carries out light surgeries and medical imaging, Harirchi said.
    Last week, an explosion occurred close to a sensitive military site near Tehran which the defence ministry said was caused by a leaking tank at a gas storage facility. No deaths or injuries were reported.
(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh and Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool)

7/1/2020 Tokyo confirms 67 new cases of coronavirus infection Wednesday: NHK
Visitors practice social distancing while waiting to enter the park in the poor weather during the reopening of
Tokyo Disneyland along with Tokyo DisneySea, which closed for months due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
outbreak, at the entrance gate of Tokyo DisneySea in Urayasu, east of Tokyo, Japan July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato
    (Reuters) – Tokyo confirmed 67 new cases of coronavirus infection on Wednesday, marking the highest daily tally in the Japanese capital since the state of emergency was lifted in late May, public broadcaster NHK reported.
    It was also the sixth straight day in which Tokyo had confirmed more than 50 cases, NHK said.
(Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Tom Hogue)

7/1/2020 Thailand reports two new imported coronavirus cases in quarantine
FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective mask bikes past a temple at the Ancient City park in Samut Prakan after the government eased some
protective measures following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Thailand June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand on Wednesday confirmed two new coronavirus cases, both of which were imported from abroad, marking 37 successive days without domestic transmission.
    The new cases were Thai nationals returning from Kuwait and were found in state quarantine, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, spokesman for the government’s COVID-19 task force.
    The coronavirus has infected 3,173 people in Thailand, of which 3,059 patients have recovered.    There have been 58 deaths so far, but none for almost one month.
(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty)

7/1/2020 As Japan re-opens, a hospital grapples with coronavirus aftermath by Mari Saito and Ami Miyazaki
Seibu Hospital's medical staff take part in a PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention) simulation
training at the hospital in Yokohama, Japan, June 18, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    YOKOHAMA (Reuters) – Doctors in white coats and blue scrubs sat around a conference room table in June, looking up at a colourful slide projected on the wall.
    “How is anyone supposed to memorize this?” a doctor sitting in the back asked as Yoshihiro Masui, the director of Yokohama City Seibu Hospital’s critical care centre, checked the slides.
    The presentation, full of colour-coded flow charts, showed dozens of new safety protocols for everything from routine surgeries to dialysis.
    Weeks earlier, Seibu had been the site of one of the worst hospital coronavirus outbreaks in Japan, with some 80 people testing positive for COVID-19, including 43 staff members.    By the time the hospital contained the spread, 13 elderly patients had died.
    For most of May, the 500-bed hospital, in a port city 30km south of Tokyo, had sat empty.    After the outbreak, it halted nearly all outpatient services.    Doctors and nurses were required to spend two weeks at home, monitoring for symptoms before they could return to work.     Now, as the country emerges from a state of emergency, hospitals like Seibu face the prospect of operating in the shadow of a virus with no treatment or cure.
    “We can never have an outbreak again like the one we experienced,” said Masui, an emergency doctor who has been charged with the hospital’s coronavirus response.    “What we learned is that this can truly happen anywhere.”
‘NEW NORMAL’
    Doctors and nurses at Seibu were among the first to mobilize for the pandemic in Japan, accepting sick passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February.
    After treating dozens of coronavirus patients, a man with no fever and no other obvious symptoms was carried into the emergency room in early April.    The man was kept in a room with another patient before he was discharged to another facility.    By the time the staff learned in late April the man had the virus, it had already spread to other wings of the hospital.
    Masui says he felt responsible for the outbreak.
    “I pushed the hospital to take in suspected coronavirus patients, knowing other hospitals were turning them away,” he said during a rare break between his rounds.    “I was the one convincing the head of the hospital to take these patients in.”
    More than 18,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Japan.    The number of new coronavirus cases have fallen since mid-April and with 971 deaths, the country has so far managed to dodge the kind of catastrophic death toll seen elsewhere.
    But for medical workers, new outbreaks remain a constant threat.    The Mainichi newspaper found that 99 medical facilities have reported infections.
    New safety precautions to guard against the coronavirus can make life-saving measures more difficult.
    Kentaro Sato, a 29-year old doctor in the emergency room, spent two weeks at home after he rushed to resuscitate a child who suddenly went into cardiac arrest.
    “I knew I had to put on a gown beforehand but I thought, this is a kid, and I have to do something to help,” said Sato, who learned later the patient had a fever and was suspected of having COVID-19. Before the test came back negative, Sato spent days fretting he may have spread the virus to colleagues and other patients.
STAYING AFLOAT
    For months before its outbreak, the hospital had taken in patients rejected or referred by other hospitals.    Once, Seibu admitted a coronavirus patient who had been rejected from nearly 100 hospitals in Tokyo, said Fumiaki Sano, the deputy director of the hospital.
    “Now, I wonder if we had maybe taken on too much,” Sano said in his office overlooking the trees in the parking lot.    After news of the outbreak spread, the hospital received a torrent of angry calls from nearby businesses.    Some nurses were shunned by neighbours when they heard they were caring for coronavirus patients.
    Since resuming operations on June 8, the hospital has seen 450 patients a day.    Anyone who requires an overnight stay is first tested for the virus and placed in an isolated ward for the duration of their stay.    The hospital is admitting only 60 patients at a time, keeping most of its wards sitting empty.
    “We can’t stay afloat like this,” Sano says, adding that the hospital had lost more than half of its revenue for outpatient services in May.
    At the entrance of the hospital, elderly patients waited in line to have their temperature checked.    Staff in face shields, masks and plastic gloves guarded the hospital’s automatic doors, asking each patient to answer a dozen questions before letting them in.
    Inside, in a darkened hallway far from the busy hospital lobby, a letter from Sano addressed to staff hung on a notice board.
    “I am sure many of you, like me, are feeling anguish, worry, regret, and agony,” he wrote.    “But we have patients waiting for us to reopen and we have a duty to provide the necessary medical care to our community.”
(Reporting by Mari Saito and Ami Miyazaki. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

7/1/2020 China passes sweeping HK security law, heralding authoritarian era by Meg Shen and Yew Lun Tian
Police officers ask people to leave during a protest after China's parliament passes a
national security law for Hong Kong, in Hong Kong, China June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – Beijing on Tuesday unveiled new national security laws for Hong Kong that will punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for China’s freest city.
    As the law came into force, authorities were set to throw a security blanket across the heart of the city’s financial centre on Wednesday after activists vowed to defy a police ban and rally against the measures.
    Local media said up to 4,000 officers would be deployed to stamp out any protests.
    China’s parliament passed the detailed legislation earlier on Tuesday, giving Beijing sweeping powers and setting the stage for radical changes to the global financial hub’s way of life.
    Beijing had kept full details shrouded in secrecy, giving Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people no time to digest the complex legislation before it entered into force at 11 p.m. (1500 GMT) on June 30.
    The timing was seen as a symbolic humiliation for Britain, coming just an hour before the 23rd anniversary of when Hong Kong’s last colonial governor, Chris Patten, a staunch critic of the law, tearfully handed back Hong Kong to Chinese rule.
    Amid fears the law will crush the city’s freedoms, prominent activist Joshua Wong’s Demosisto and other pro-democracy groups said they would dissolve.
    “The punitive elements of the law are stupefying,” Simon Young, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong’s law school and a barrister, told Reuters.
    “Let us hope no one tries to test this law, for the consequences to the individual and the legal system will be irreparable.”
    The legislation pushes Beijing further along a collision course with the United States, Britain and other Western governments, which have said it erodes the high degree of autonomy the city was granted at its July 1, 1997, handover.
    Britain and some two dozen Western countries urged China to reconsider the law, saying Beijing must preserve the right to assembly and free press.
    “The United States will not stand idly by while China swallows Hong Kong into its authoritarian maw,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
    He said the United States would stand with the people of Hong Kong and “respond to Beijing’s attacks on freedoms of speech, the press, and assembly, as well as the rule of law.”
    Washington, already in dispute with China over trade, the South China Sea and the coronavirus, began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law on Monday, halting defence exports and restricting technology access.
    China, which has rejected criticism of the law by Britain, the European Union, Japan, Taiwan and others, said it would retaliate.
    Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, in a video message to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, urged the international community to “respect our country’s right to safeguard national security.”
    She said the law would not undermine the city’s autonomy or its independent judiciary.
    Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.
    As the law was passed in Beijing, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong held a drill which included exercises to stop suspicious vessels and arrest fugitives, according to the Weibo social media account of state-run CCTV’s military channel.
‘OVERPOWERING’
    In their most severe form, crimes will be punishable with life in prison. Punishments otherwise largely go up to 10 years.     Properties related to crimes could be frozen or confiscated.
    The security legislation will supersede existing Hong Kong laws where there is a conflict and mainland Chinese authorities could exercise jurisdiction over some major cases.
    Interpretation powers belong to the Chinese parliament’s top decision-making body.
    Judges for security cases will be appointed by the city’s chief executive.
    According to the law, a new national security agency will be set up for the first time in Hong Kong and will not be under the jurisdiction of the local government.    Authorities can carry out surveillance and wire-tap people suspected of endangering national security, it said.
    Those asking foreign countries to sanction, blockade or take other hostile action against Hong Kong or China could be guilty of colluding with foreign forces.
    Authorities shall take necessary measures to strengthen the management and servicing of foreign countries’ and international organisations’ branches in Hong Kong, as well as foreign media and NGOs in the city, the law says.
    “We can all start again,” pro-Beijing heavyweight Maria Tam, a member of China’s National People’s Congress, told reporters.
    Activists and pro-democracy politicians said they would defy a police ban on a rally on the handover anniversary on Wednesday.
    “We will never accept the passing of the law, even though it is so overpowering,” said Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai.
    A majority in Hong Kong opposes the legislation, a poll conducted for Reuters in June showed, but support for the protests has fallen to only a slim majority.
    Dozens of supporters of Beijing popped champagne corks and waved Chinese flags in celebration in front of government headquarters.
    “I’m very happy,” said one elderly man, surnamed Lee.
    “This will leave anti-China spies and people who brought chaos to Hong Kong with nowhere to go.”
(Additional reporting by Clare Jim, Yanni Chow, Carol Mang, Joyce Zhou, Tyrone Siu, Jessie Pang, James Pomfret, Greg Torode and Anne Marie Roantree in Hong Kong; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel and Giles Elgood)

7/1/2020 Congress debates refugee status for Hong Kong citizens
Protesters against the new national security law gesture with five fingers, signifying the “Five demands – not one less”
on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China from Britain in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
    House lawmakers have taken the first steps towards providing a refugee status to certain groups of Hong Kong citizens.    During a recent Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, congressmen from both major parties condemned China’s new national security law and claimed it will erode the city’s autonomy.
    “This is a battle between democracy and dictatorship, between liberty and tyranny, between freedom and oppression,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).
    Lawmakers have called on President Trump to take actions to counter Beijing and help the people of Hong Kong.
    “When we heard you sing our national anthem and when we saw you carrying our American flag, we knew that you were telling us we are not two people, but one both united in our belief in freedom and democracy for all,” stated McCaul.    “It is a battle that the world must win.”
    Congress is now expected to mirror the latest step by the British parliament, who recently granted immigration status to millions of Hong Kong residents.
Police detain a protester after being sprayed with pepper spray during a protest in Causeway Bay before
the annual handover march in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also denounced the newly imposed Chinese security law.    On Wednesday, he claimed China’s decision to impose such a harsh law against Hong Kong will destroy the nation’s autonomy.    He added President Trump intends to treat Hong Kong like the mainland due to the legislation ending the nation’s special status.
    The secretary noted these actions are reversible, but said it doesn’t appear that China has plans to do so.    Pompeo went on to say Tuesday’s ruling has already gone into effect and hundreds of Hong Kong residents have been arrested for speaking freely.
    “Free Hong Kong was one of the world’s most stable, prosperous and dynamic cities.    Now, it’ll be just another communist run city, where its people will be subject to the party elites’ whims.    It’s sad.” – Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State
    He also pointed out this is not the only promise they’ve broken in the last few years.    He cited violated agreements with the World Health Organization and the United Nations as examples.
    Pompeo has called the legislation an insult to all nations and reiterated the U.S. is committed to protecting the human rights of all Chinese people.

7/2/2020 Hong Kong police arrest stabbing suspect after security law protests by Donny Kwok and Yanni Chow
Chinese national flags are seen on the ground during a march against national security law at the anniversary
of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain, in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police arrested a 24-year-old man at the city’s airport early on Thursday on suspicion of stabbing an officer during protests against a new national security law imposed by Beijing on the financial hub.
    The arrest followed the latest protests on Wednesday in which police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested more than 300 people as demonstrators defied the sweeping security legislation introduced by China to snuff out dissent.
    There were no signs of protests on Thursday.
    Police posted pictures on Twitter from Wednesday’s disturbances showing on officer with a bleeding arm saying he was stabbed by “rioters holding sharp objects.”    The suspects fled while bystanders offered no help, the police said.
    A police spokesman said the arrested man was surnamed Wong but could not confirm whether he was leaving Hong Kong or working at the airport.
    Media, citing unidentified sources, said the suspect was on board a Cathay Pacific flight to London due to depart just before midnight.    A witness said three police vehicles drove towards a gate as a Cathay Pacific plane was preparing to take off and about 10 riot police ran up the bridge to the aircraft.
    The suspect held an expired British National Overseas passport, a special status which provides a route to citizenship, the source told the Cable TV station.
    Cathay Pacific did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying posted on Facebook on Wednesday that a bounty of HK$500,000 ($64,513) would be offered to anyone helping catch the fugitive.
    China’s parliament adopted the security law in response to protests last year triggered by fears that Beijing was stifling the city’s freedoms and threatening its judicial independence, guaranteed by a “one country, two systems” formula agreed when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Beijing denies the accusation.
    Hong Kong and Beijing officials have said the law is vital to plug holes in national security defences exposed by the protests, pointing to the city’s failure to pass such laws by itself as required under its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.    Another unfulfilled constitutional requirement for Hong Kong is to introduce universal suffrage, the protesters’ main demand.
DIPLOMATIC TENSION
    The new law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. It will also see mainland security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and allows extradition to the mainland for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.
    Ten of the arrests made on Wednesday involved violations of the new law, police said, with most of the 360 or so others involved illegal assembly and other offences.
    In the latest diplomatic tension over the law, China said Britain would bear all consequences for any offer to Hong Kong citizens of a path to settlement.
    China also denounced the United States after the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would penalize banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement the national security law in Hong Kong.
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the United States “must stop advancing the bill, let alone sign it or implement” it. [L1N2E82R1]
    Democratically ruled and Chinese-claimed Taiwan advised its citizens to avoid unnecessary visits to or transit through Hong Kong, Macau or mainland China.    Britain and Canada have also updated their travel advisories for Hong Kong, warning their citizens of detention risks.
    Apparently seeking to allay fears that judges for national security cases would be cherry-picked by Hong Kong’s unpopular, pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma said they would be appointed on the basis of judicial and professional qualities, rather than politics.
    Hong Kong’s independent judiciary, one of many freedoms guaranteed when it returned to Chinese rule, has long been considered key to its success as a global financial hub.
(Additional reporting by Anne Marie Roantree and Clare Jim; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

7/2/2020 At least 113 killed as Myanmar jade mine collapse buries workers
Rescue workers carry a dead body following a landslide at a mining site in Phakant, Kachin State City,
Myanmar July 2, 2020, in this picture obtained from social media. MYANMAR FIRE SERVICES
DEPARTMENT/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
    (Reuters) – A landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar killed at least 113 people, with more feared dead, authorities said on Thursday, after a heap of mining waste collapsed into a lake, triggering a wave of mud and water that buried many workers.
    The miners were collecting stones in the jade-rich Hpakant area of Kachin state when the “muddy wave” crashed onto them, after heavy rain, the fire service department said in a Facebook post.
    Rescue workers recovered 113 bodies, the department said, but more were missing.
    “Other bodies are in the mud,” Tar Lin Maung, a local official with the information ministry, told Reuters by phone, “The numbers are going to rise.”
    Deadly landslides and other accidents are common in the poorly regulated mines of Hpakant, which draw impoverished workers from across Myanmar, but this is the worst in more than five years.
    About 100 people were killed in a collapse in 2015, which strengthened calls to regulate the industry.
    Media have reported scores of people killed in the area in recent years, many of them freelance “jade pickers” who scour tailings – the residue from mining – for stones that have been missed by larger operators.
    Video footage on social media showed frantic miners racing uphill to escape as a towering pile of black waste cascaded into a turquoise lake, churning up a tsunami-like wave of mud.
    Photos showed rows of dead bodies laid out on a hill, covered by tarpaulin.
    Maung Khaing, a 38-year-old miner from the area who witnessed the accident, said he was about to take a picture of the precarious waste mound that looked set to collapse when people began shouting “run, run!.”
    “Within a minute, all the people at the bottom (of the hill) just disappeared,” he told Reuters by phone.    “I feel empty in my heart.    I still have goose bumps … There were people stuck in the mud shouting for help but no one could help them.”
    Than Hlaing, a member of a local civil society group helping in the aftermath of the disaster, said those killed on Thursday were freelancers scavenging the waste left by a larger mining company.    She said about 100 people were still missing and 30 had been hospitalized.
    The government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to clean up the industry when it took power in 2016, but activists say little has changed.
    Official sales of jade in Myanmar were worth 671 million euros ($750 million) in 2016-17, according to data published by the government as part of an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
    But experts believe the true value of the industry, which mainly exports to China, is much larger.
    Than Hlaing said a local official had warned people not to go to the mine on Thursday because of the bad weather.
    “There’s no hope for the families to get compensation as they were freelance miners,” she said, “I don’t see any route to escape this kind of cycle.    People take risks, go into landfills, as they have no choice.”
(Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Sam Holmes, Kim Coghill and Giles Elgood)

7/2/2020 China urges coronavirus testing capacity ramp-up in preparation for potential outbreaks
FILE PHOTO: A medical worker in protective suit collects swabs from construction workers for nucleic acid tests following a new
outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China June 25, 2020. Picture taken June 25, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s local governments and medical institutes should ramp up and reserve coronavirus testing capacity in preparation for increased demand amid potential outbreaks, national health authorities said on Thursday.
    Local authorities should have emergency response plans to be able to swiftly expand nucleic test capacity, the National Health Commision said in a guideline on its website.
    Nucleic acid test results should be delivered within six hours for patients at fever clinics and within a day for those who volunteer to be tested, according to the guideline.
(This story has been refiled to correct date in the lede)
(Reporting by Roxanne Liu, Judy Hua and Ryan Woo in Beijin; editing by John Stonestreet)

7/2/2020 Japan’s capital sees biggest rise in coronavirus cases in two months
FILE PHOTO: Passengers wearing protective masks make their way amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
outbreak at a subway station in Tokyo, Japan June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo confirmed 107 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, its highest daily tally in two months, but Japan’s chief cabinet secretary said there was no need to reintroduce a state of emergency.
    The Japanese capital, with 14 million people, had initially sought to hold new daily cases at fewer than 20 after the government lifted the state of emergency on May 25, only to see its tally consistently exceed 50 over the past week.
    Tokyo’s daily count last rose above 100 on May 2. On Wednesday, it confirmed 67 new cases.
    Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said about 70% of cases on Thursday were among people in their 20s and 30s.
    “It’s really unpleasant that it is increasing somewhat.    I’d like to ask all Tokyo residents and everyone at businesses for their cooperation to prevent that,” she said.
    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters he didn’t think there was a need for a fresh state of emergency.
    “We’ll continue to pay attention to the infection situation in the area with a sense of urgency, and work to both prevent spreading of infection and support economic activity,” he said.
    Officials have also said the medical system can handle existing infections and that increased testing partly explains the rise in confirmed cases.
    Despite more cases in Tokyo, Japan, with about 19,000 cases and 976 deaths, has reported a lower overall rate of infection than many countries.
    More than 10.7 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and over 515,000 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
    This week, Tokyo said it would move away from numerical targets in favour of more reliance on expert advice to rein in the virus and avert more economic damage.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Naomi Tajitsu and Daniel Leussink; Editing by Robert Birsel, Shri Navaratnam and Nick Macfie)

7/2/2020 In record daily jump, Indonesia reports 1,624 new coronavirus cases
A healthcare worker in protective gear collects a swab sample to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from
a civil servant at a traditional textile market in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported 1,624 coronavirus infections on Thursday in its biggest jump in new cases since the epidemic began, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said.     This brings the total number of infections to 59,394.
    The country also reported 53 new deaths, taking cumulative COVID-19 fatalities to 2,987.
(Reporting by Nilufar Rizki; Writing by Fathin Ungku; editing by John Stonestreet)

7/2/2020 Other deaths spike in Indian city ravaged by coronavirus by Sumit Khanna
FILE PHOTO: File picture of a health worker using an infrared thermometer to measure the temperature of a labourer at a construction site
in the Indian city of Ahmedabad to guard against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on April 30, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo
    AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) – A large Indian city badly hit by the coronavirus has recorded a sharp rise in deaths not attributed to the outbreak, according to official data and burial records, highlighting how the pandemic has affected general healthcare.
    The spike in deaths in Ahmedabad, the most populous city in western Gujarat state, is due to patients with serious illnesses either not able to go to hospitals or being afraid to visit them because of the virus, doctors said.
    The numbers contain “ominous signals” for the rest of the country, said Dr Rajib Dasgupta, a professor of community health at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.
    India has the world’s fourth biggest outbreak of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus, with over 600,000 confirmed cases and 17,800 deaths, and some of its largest cities are still reeling from rising infections.
    Authorities say over 1,400 people have died because of the coronavirus so far in Ahmedabad, one of India’s worst-hit cities with more than 20,000 confirmed cases.
    But the indirect death toll may be even higher.
    Twenty-four Hindu crematoriums and four of the largest Muslim graveyards in the city have reported 3,558 deaths in April and 7,150 deaths in May – a spike compared to 2,784 and 2,706 deaths reported by them in April and May last year, respectively.
    State government data for Ahmedabad district, which includes the city limits, shows 839 deaths because of COVID-19 during April and May this year.
    Jayanti Ravi, the health secretary of Gujarat state, however said she wasn’t aware of any significant rise in deaths in the city of more than 5.6 million people.
    “We have collected the data related to actual births and deaths registered across the state and it is not showing such a big deviation,” she told Reuters when asked about the spike.
    India’s federal health ministry and Ahmedabad’s municipal commissioner did not respond to questions from Reuters.
    Dr Mona Desai, president of the Ahmedabad Medical Association that represents over 9,000 doctors, said some of those who died may have been COVID-19 positive.
    But more fatalities were likely to have occurred because patients did not seek timely treatment fearing they might become infected by the virus, she said.
    “Many patients went to hospital only when their condition deteriorated, but then it was too late to do anything,” Desai said.
LOCKDOWN CLOSES PRIVATE CLINICS
    Doctors also said that a closure of some private health facilities during a weeks-long lockdown that began in late March made it difficult for many patients to seek treatment.
    Dasgupta, from Jawaharlal Nehru University, said: “Excess deaths during the COVID surge phase has been in evidence in other countries too on account of the inability to access medical care for other time-sensitive emergencies.”
    There was growing evidence that routine healthcare had been disrupted in India also, he said, adding that mortality data from high-incidence areas would provide more details.
    Data from the Hindu crematoriums in Ahmedabad shows that the number of bodies cremated rose by 19% in April and 145% in May compared to the same months last year, with the first half of June also registering a marked increase.
    The data was provided by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation under a right to information application.
    Ahmedabad’s Muslim graveyards have seen an even sharper rise – data from four of the largest graveyards shows that the number of bodies buried increased by 131% in April and 396% in May, compared to the same months last year.
    “People are scared of getting hospitalized because of the coronavirus outbreak,” said Rizwan Kadri, chairman of Ahmedabad Sunni Muslim Wakf Committee, which oversees five burial grounds.
(Additional reporting and writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

7/2/2020 India’s coronavirus cases cross 600,000 amid easing of lockdowns by Rajendra Jadhav and Zarir Hussain
Migrant workers and their families, who had left during a lockdown, walk at a platform after they returned
from their home state of Uttar Pradesh, after authorities eased lockdown restrictions that were imposed to
slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ahmedabad, India July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave
    MUMBAI/GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) – India’s coronavirus infections surpassed 600,000 on Thursday, with 17,834 deaths, as authorities battled to contain the pandemic while easing lockdown rules, officials and the health ministry said.
    Fresh challenges to protect people from the virus emerged for disaster management officials in the northeast state of Assam amid torrential rainfall, where floods and landslides killed 57 people this week and more than 1.5 million were forced to flee their homes.
    Assam’s health minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, said the state had started testing aggressively to identify coronavirus cases among villagers forced to take shelter in community halls, schools and government buildings.
    “We were isolating new coronavirus hotspots; the situation is very critical,” Sarma told Reuters.
    The increase in infections presents a severe challenge for India’s strained medical capacity and overburdened health system.
    The fear of being quarantined in poorly maintained government facilities has discouraged people from getting tested, experts say, leading to fresh cases of COVID-19 even after the government imposed the world’s longest lockdown.
    An easing phase called “Unlock 2” was announced on Monday, allowing more economic activities to resume.
    But the western state of Maharashtra reported a record jump of 5,537 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, prompting authorities to again impose a stringent lockdown in areas around the financial capital, Mumbai, forcing people to stop commuting in a city largely dependent on public transport.
    The state accounts for more than a fifth of total infections in the country and nearly half of the deaths, has reported total to 180,297 infections including 8052 deaths so far.
(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)
(Writing by Rupam Jain, Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Gerry Doyle)

7/2/2020 Fire breaks out at Iranian nuclear facility, no casualties reported, officials say by Parisa Hafezi
A view of a damage building after a fire broke out at Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility, in Isfahan, Iran,
July 2, 2020. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – A fire broke out at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility but there were no casualties and the site is operating as usual, Iranian officials said on Thursday.
    The Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP), Iran’s main uranium enrichment site, is one of several Iranian facilities monitored by the United Nations nuclear watchdog.
    Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation initially reported that “an incident” had occurred at the facility in the central province of Isfahan.    It later published a photo showing a shed at ground level had been partly burned
.
    “There is some damage to the shed which we are investigating.    It was inactive and there was no radioactive material in it and there were no personnel,” the organisation’s spokesman, Behrouz Kamalvandi, told state TV.
    “There has been no interruption in the work of the enrichment site and no damage to the site.”
    The governor of Natanz city, Ramazanali Ferdosi, said the incident caused a fire but he gave no further details about the cause, the Tasnim news agency reported. Experts from the Atomic Energy Organisation are investigating.
    Some experts did not rule out the possibility of sabotage given the importance of the Natanz nuclear site.
    “Considering that this so-called incident happened just a few days after the explosion near the Parchin military base, the possibility of a sabotage cannot be ruled out,” a former Iranian nuclear official told Reuters.
    “Also Natanz enrichment facility has been targeted in the past by a computer virus,” he said, referring to an attack in 2010 by the Stuxnet computer virus that damaged centrifuges and is widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel.
    Last Friday an explosion occurred east of Tehran near a sensitive military complex which the authorities said was caused by a tank leak in a gas storage facility in a public area.
    Western security services believe Tehran carried out tests relevant to nuclear bomb detonations more than a decade ago at the Parchin military and weapons development base.    Iran has denied it carried out such tests.
    Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions in a deal reached between Tehran and six world powers in 2015.
    But Tehran has gradually reduced its commitments to the accord since U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed and intensified sanctions that have battered Iran’s economy.
    The deal only allows Iran to enrich uranium at Natanz facility, with just over 5,000 of first-generation IR-1 centrifuges.
    Israel has backed Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy on Tehran aimed at forcing it to agree a new deal that puts stricter limits on its nuclear work, curbs its ballistic missile program and ends its regional proxy wars.
    Iran says it will not negotiate as long as sanctions remain in place.
    The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is policing the nuclear deal and carries out inspections in Iran, said it was aware of reports about Natanz.
    “We currently anticipate no impact on the IAEA’s safeguards verification activities,” it said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Vienna, Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

7/2/2020 Factory in Afghanistan reopens to provide COVID-19 patients with free oxygen by OAN Newsroom
A man works in an oxygen factory in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday June 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
    An old Afghanistan factory has been repurposed to help coronavirus patients. During the pandemic, Najibullah Seddiqi reopened his oxygen factory to give free oxygen to those with COVID-19.
    With the help of 12 employees, he has been donating nearly 300 oxygen cylinders every day. He has also sold around 700 cylinders to hospitals.
    Out of the six oxygen suppliers in Kabul, Seddiqi’s factory is the only one that provides free refills.    He has said he will keep his factory open as long as the pandemic lasts.
A man works in an oxygen factory in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday June 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
    “I saw a man crying for his dead wife, who died of coronavirus due to lack of oxygen,” explained the business owner.    “That moment, I took the decision to reopen my factory after seven years of closure.”
    A spokesperson for the Afghan Health Ministry confirmed Seddiqi’s factory is putting an end to oxygen shortages at nearby hospitals.

7/3/2020 Hong Kong man accused of terrorism in first use of new China security law by Jessie Pang and Anne Marie Roantree
Supporters raise white paper to avoid slogans banned under the national security law as they support
arrested anti-law protester outside Eastern court in Hong Kong, China July 3, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – A man carrying a “Liberate Hong Kong” sign as he drove a motorcycle into police at a protest against the territory’s Chinese rulers became on Friday the first person charged with inciting separatism and terrorism under a new security law.
    Beijing imposed the legislation on the former British colony earlier this week despite protests from Hong Kongers and Western nations, setting China’s freest city and a major financial hub on a more authoritarian track.
    Critics say the law – which punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison – is aimed at crushing dissent and a long-running campaign for greater democracy.
    Police say 23-year-old Tong Ying-kit rammed and injured some officers at an illegal protest on Wednesday.    A video online showed a motorbike knocking over several officers on a narrow street before the driver falls over and is arrested.
    Tong, who was hospitalised after the incident, was charged less than 24 hours after the city government said the slogan he was carrying – “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” – connotes separatism or subversion under the new law.
    The rallying cry appears on placards, T-shirts, and post-it notes stuck to walls around Hong Kong.
    China’s parliament adopted the security law after sometimes violent protests last year triggered by fears Beijing was stifling freedoms, guaranteed by a “one country, two systems” formula agreed when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong say the law aims at a few “troublemakers” and not wider rights that underpin the city’s role as a gateway for capital flows in and out of China.
    But international anxiety is growing after authorities arrested 10 people under the new law within 24 hours of it taking effect.    The European Union (EU) has put Hong Kong high on its agenda while the United Nations’ rights office expressed alarm over arrests.
I’M NOT SCARED
    At another court, dozens gathered in solidarity with a man charged for stabbing a policeman in the arm during Wednesday’s disturbances.    They held up blank pieces of paper to show fears for free speech.
    “I’m not scared.    Come what may,” said a 25-year-old protester who gave his name only as Wilson.
    On Wednesday’s 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule, police arrested about 370 people, with 10 cases involving violations of the new law.
    In a further ominous sign for activists, a Communist Party cadre prominent during a 2011 clampdown on land rights protesters in a south China village is to head a newly-empowered national security office in Hong Kong, official news agency Xinhua said.
    Zheng Yanxiong, 57, most recently served as secretary general of the Communist Party committee of Guangdong province, bordering Hong Kong.
    Leaked footage during the 2011 dispute showed him berating villagers and calling foreign media “rotten.”
    The new legislation gives the security office greater enforcement action and powers to take suspects onto the mainland, as well as granting privileges for agents, including that Hong Kong authorities cannot inspect their vehicles.
    Some activists have been keeping a low profile or leaving.
    Demosisto, a pro-democracy group led by Joshua Wong, disbanded hours after the legislation was passed, while prominent group member Nathan Law left the city.
    “The protests in Hong Kong have been a window for the world to recognise that China is getting more and more authoritarian,” Law told Reuters.
    Hong Kong’s publicly-funded public broadcaster RTHK, which has felt the pressure of government scrutiny, appeared to take heed of the law, reproducing the slogan as “L*******#HongKong” in a comment on Twitter, to the scorn of some social media users.
(Reporting by Jessie Pang, Anne Marie Roantree, Donny Kwok and Clare Jim in Hong Kong and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

7/3/2020 Pakistani foreign minister tests positive for COVID-19
FILE PHOTO: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi gestures while speaking during an interview with Reuters
at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, Pakistan March 1, 2020. REUTERS/Saiyna Bashir/File Photo
    ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Friday he had tested positive for COVID-19, days after holding high-profile meetings including one with U.S. special representative on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad.
    “This afternoon I felt a slight fever and immediately quarantined myself at home,” Qureshi said on Twitter. He said he felt healthy and would carry on his duties from home.
    In the last few days, Qureshi has had contact with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in parliament and in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
    Qureshi also met Khalilzad on Wednesday when the U.S. special representative travelled to Pakistan to discuss progress on the Afghan peace process.
    Pictures released from those meetings showed Qureshi and others wearing face masks.
    The U.S. State Department did not comment.
    Pakistan has reported 221,896 cases of the coronavirus and 4,451 deaths.    The country has continued to see around 4,000 new cases on a daily basis, despite daily testing numbers falling.
    A number of high officials have tested positive for COVID-19 in Pakistan, including Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed and the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Asad Qaiser.
(Reporting by Gibran Peshimamin Islamabad; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Matthew Lewis)

7/4/2020 North Korea says no need to sit down with U.S. for talks
FILE PHOTO: Hyon Song Wol, head of the North Korean Samjiyon art troupe takes a photo of Vice Minister
of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-Hui (C) ahead of the welcoming ceremony of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un
(not pictured) at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam March 1, 2019. Luong Thai Linh/Pool via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea does not feel the need to have talks with the United States, which would be nothing more than “a political tool” for Washington, a senior North Korean diplomat said on Saturday, ahead of a U.S. envoy’s visit to South Korea.
    Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said negotiations would not work out between Washington and Pyongyang and there will be no change in North Korea’s policy.
    “We do not feel any need to sit face to face with the U.S., as it does not consider the DPRK-U.S. dialogue as nothing more than a tool for grappling its political crisis,” Choe said in a statement carried by state-run KCNA news agency.
    DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s formal name.
    U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun is due to visit South Korea next week to discuss stalled talks with North Korea.
    South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should meet again before the U.S. elections in November, which would help resume the stalled nuclear negotiations.
    Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, told reporters in New York on Thursday that the president might seek another summit with Kim as an “October Surprise” ahead of the election.
    Trump and Kim Jong Un met for the first time in 2018 in Singapore.
    They met again in Vietnam in 2019, but the talks fell apart when Trump said Kim had failed to offer enough nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles in exchange for lifting international sanctions.
    At their third meeting, in June 2019 at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, the two agreed to restart negotiations. Working-level talks between the two sides in Sweden in October were broken off.
(Reporting By Jane Chung in Seoul; Editing by William Mallard)

7/4/2020 U.S. sends carriers to South China Sea during Chinese drills – WSJ
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is seen during its visit to Hong Kong, China November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Yuyang Wang
    (Reuters) – The United States is sending two aircraft carriers into the South China Sea at the same time as China is conducting military exercises in the contested waterway, the Wall Street Journal reported.
    The USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz would be in the South China Sea from Saturday, the U.S. news outlet quoted the strike group commander as saying.
    “The purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability,” Rear Admiral George M. Wikoff was quoted as saying.
    He said the exercises were not a response to those being conducted by China, which the Pentagon criticised this week as “counter-productive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability.”
    China dismissed the U.S. criticism of its drills on Friday and suggested the United States was to blame for increasing tensions.
    Wikoff did not give the location of the U.S. exercises.    The Wall Street Journal said they would be conducted by the two carriers and four other warships and would include round-the-clock flights.
    China announced last week it had scheduled five days of drills starting July 1 near the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by both Vietnam and China.
    Vietnam and the Philippines have also criticised the planned Chinese drills, warning they could create tension in the region and impact Beijing’s relationship with its neighbours.
    The United States accuses China of miniaturising the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbours who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.
    China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year.
(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by William Mallard)

7/4/2020 India coronavirus cases hit record high amid monsoon rains by Zeba Siddiqui
A priest and a labourer wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at a crematorium, amid the spread of
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi, India, July 3, 2020. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – India recorded its highest singe-day spike of coronavirus cases on Saturday, with over 22,000 new cases and 442 deaths, as infections rose in the western and southern parts of the country amid heavy monsoon rains.
    The western state of Maharashtra, home to the densely packed financial capital Mumbai, has the country’s highest total, recording 6,364 fresh cases of the virus on Saturday and 198 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
    India has the fourth-most confirmed cases in the world, exceeding 640,000 on Saturday, according to health ministry data.    It follows the United States, Brazil and Russia.
    Officials in Mumbai warned residents to stay away from the coast, as heavy rains were predicted for the next 48 hours.    The monsoons typically cause waterlogging in many parts of the city and could scuttle coronavirus containment efforts by causing a further rise in infection numbers, experts say.
    In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the second worst-hit state in India, the number of cases crossed 100,000.
    India had imposed one of the world’s harshest lockdowns in March to control the virus spread, but it has been eased in phases in recent weeks to restart economic activity. Epidemiologists warn India’s peak could still be weeks or months away, suggesting the country’s already severely overburdened healthcare system will come under further stress.
(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)
(This story corrects that India has the fourth-highest infection total, not third-highest, in the third paragraph)
(Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui in Mumbai; Editing by William Mallard)

7/4/2020 Hong Kong officials disappointed at Canada’s move to suspend extradition pact
FILE PHOTO: Anti-national security law protesters march at the anniversary of Hong Kong's
handover to China from Britain, in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Senior officials in Hong Kong said on Saturday they were “very disappointed” at Canada’s decision to suspend its extradition treaty with the Chinese-ruled city and again slammed Washington for “interfering” in its affairs.
    Beijing imposed a new national security law this week on the former British colony, despite protests from Hong Kong residents and Western nations, setting China’s freest city and a major financial hub on a more authoritarian track.
    “The Canadian government needs to explain to the rule of law, and explain to the world, why it allows fugitives not to bear their legal responsibilities,” Hong Kong’s security chief, John Lee, told a radio programme on Saturday.
    Lee was very disappointed and strongly opposed Canada’s move, he added, as it let politics override the rule of law.
    The comments followed Canada’s statement on Friday that it was suspending the treaty with Hong Kong in the wake of the new law and could boost immigration from the city.
    Canada would also bar the export of sensitive military items to Hong Kong, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.
    On Saturday’s programme, Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng said she was disappointed and expressed extreme regret over Canada’s move, adding that she thought it could probably violate international law.
    On Friday, a Hong Kong government spokesman described as “totally unacceptable” a bill passed by the U.S. Senate to penalize banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement the new law.
    “We reiterate that any ‘sanctions’ imposed under the act will not create an obligation for financial institutions under Hong Kong law,” the spokesman said in a statement.
    He urged the United States to immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong’s internal matters, adding that Beijing, as well as the city’s government, could take counter-measures when needed.
(Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

7/4/2020 Thousands rally across Australia in Black Lives Matter protests
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters gathered on Saturday in cities across Australia, shouting slogans in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and aiming to raise awareness of the mistreatment of indigenous people.
    Rallies in the cities of Brisbane, Darwin and Perth drew a smaller turnout than a month ago, however, amid calls for a halt from authorities concerned about the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
    Bogaine Spearim, one of the organisers, said the protests were a continuation of global protests unleashed by the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody in the U.S. city of Minneapolis in late May.
    “No police officer or prison guard has ever been criminally charged with murder and sent to prison, so that’s why we are here for justice,” added Spearim, an organiser of the Brisbane demonstration.
    Television broadcast images of protesters shouting, “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land” and, “No justice, no peace, no racist police
    A protest is planned in Sydney on Sunday, a month since the first Black Lives Matter rallies in Australia.
(This story has been refiled to fix reporting credit)
(Reporting by Stefica Nicol Bikes; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

7/4/2020 Tokyo seeks travel curbs as new infections tops 100 for third day, says NHK
FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask walks in a shopping district, amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Saturday urged residents of the Japanese capital not to travel beyond its borders as new coronavirus infections topped 100 for a third day, public broadcaster NHK reported.
    Tokyo confirmed 131 new cases of infections of the coronavirus on Saturday, NHK said.
    Cases in Tokyo have risen to a two-month high, driven by the spread of the virus in the capital’s night spots. Of Saturday’s tally, 100 were people in their 20s and 30s, Kyodo news agency said, citing Koike.
    Tokyo on Friday reported 124 new cases, up from 107 the day before, partly due to increased testing among night-life workers in the Shinjuku and Ikebukuro districts.
    Despite the three-day string of high infections, Japan Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the government was not planning to reintroduce a state of emergency, telling a news conference it is looking at overall conditions, including the capacity of medical system, when deciding the need for the emergency.
    Curbs on movement pushed the world’s third-biggest economy into a recession in the first quarter, with a deeper contraction expected in the April-June period.
    Japan’s infection rates remain far below those of many other countries, but the recent rise in cases and the possibility ofrenewed restrictions have put authorities and businesses on edge.
(Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by William Mallard)

7/4/2020 Iran imposes new curbs as coronavirus toll rises
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is seen wearing a face mask during a meeting,
in Tehran, Iran, July 4 2020. Official Presidential website/Handout via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – Iranians who do not wear masks will be denied state services and workplaces that fail to comply with health protocols will be shut for a week, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday as he launched new measures to try to curb the coronavirus.
    Iran has been battling the spread of the coronavirus, with the total number of cases hitting 237,878 on Saturday and a further 148 deaths bringing the country’s toll to 11,408, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state television.
    Wearing masks becomes mandatory from Sunday in covered public places, Rouhani said on state television after tougher curbs were imposed in cities and towns in five provinces where the outbreak is rising after an easing of lockdowns from mid-April.
    “Government employees should not serve people who do not wear masks and employees who do not wear them should be considered absentees and sent home,” said Rouhani.
    And a government website published photos of Rouhani, who is rarely seen wearing a mask, with a face covering.
    Those infected have a “religious duty” to notify others, Rouhani said, adding: “Keeping your infection a secret violates the rights of other people.”
    The government has been trying to convince a reluctant public to accept masks and a week-long campaign by state television has been warning viewers that “Corona is not a joke.”
    One TV presenter at the end of every newscast puts on her mask and says: “There is no one in my immediate three metres, but I wear a mask outside the studio.    You, too, wear one.”
    State media reported on Saturday that 19 Iranian football players from the national Esteghlal and Foolad Khuzestan clubs had tested positive for the coronavirus.
    Iran’s armed forces has reduced their two-month basic combat training by a month until further notice because of the increased spread of the coronavirus.
(Editing by Alexander Smith)

7/4/2020 Thousands rally across Australia in Black Lives Matter protests
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters gathered on Saturday in cities across Australia, shouting slogans in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and aiming to raise awareness of the mistreatment of indigenous people.     Bogaine Spearim, one of the organisers, said the protests were a continuation of global protests unleashed by the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody in the U.S. city of Minneapolis in late May.
    “No police officer or prison guard has ever been criminally charged with murder and sent to prison, so that’s why we are here for justice,” added Spearim, an organiser of the Brisbane demonstration.
    Television broadcast images of protesters shouting, “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land” and, “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”
    A protest is planned in Sydney on Sunday, a month since the first Black Lives Matter rallies in Australia.
(This story has been refiled to fix reporting credit)
(Reporting by Stefica Nicol Bikes; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

7/4/2020 Polls close in tightly contested Australian by-election
FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a joint press conference held with New Zealand
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Admiralty House in Sydney, Australia, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Polling closed on Saturday in an Australian by-election being seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s handling of bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, with a tight contest expected.
    The result in the bushfire-hit electorate of Eden-Monaro will not affect the balance of power in Australia’s parliament, but it may be a barometer of opinion on Morrison, whose popularity fell over his handling of the devastating fires but seems to have improved with his response to the new coronavirus.
    “It will be a close call,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told reporters at a polling booth in Tumut in the sprawling Eden-Monaro electorate on the south coast of New South Wales state.    “I’m not quite sure whether the actual result will be known tonight.”
    Kristy McBain of the centre-left Labor Party and Fiona Kotvojs of Morrison’s conservative party are vying for the seat of an opposition lawmaker who retired due to ill-health.
    Morrison’s popularity slumped earlier this year, particularly in Eden-Monaro which was badly damaged by bushfires, after he took his family on holiday to Hawaii as blazes raged across the country.
    He later won plaudits, however, for the government’s aggressive action to limit the spread of the pandemic.    The policies are credited with helping Australia record about 8,300 infections and 104 deaths – well below many other countries.
    The next federal election is due by mid-2022.
(Reporting by Colin Packham and Swati Pandey; Editing by William Mallard)

7/4/2020 Iran threatens retaliation after what it calls possible cyber attack on nuclear site
A view of a damage building after a fire broke out at Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility, in Isfahan, Iran, July 2, 2020. Atomic Energy
Organization of Iran/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran will retaliate against any country that carries out cyber attacks on its nuclear sites, the head of civilian defence said, after a fire at its Natanz plant which some Iranian officials said may have been caused by cyber sabotage.
    The Natanz uranium-enrichment site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
    Iran’s top security body said on Friday the cause of the “incident” at the nuclear site had been determined, but “due to security considerations” it would be announced at a convenient time.
    Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation initially reported an “incident” had occurred early on Thursday at Natanz, located in the desert in the central province of Isfahan.
    It later published a photo of a one-storey brick building with its roof and walls partly burned.    A door hanging off its hinges suggested there had been an explosion inside the building.
    “Responding to cyber attacks is part of the country’s defence might.    If it is proven that our country has been targeted by a cyber attack, we will respond,” civil defence chief Gholamreza Jalali told state TV late on Thursday.
    An article issued on Thursday by state news agency IRNA addressed what it called the possibility of sabotage by enemies such as Israel and the United States, although it stopped short of accusing either directly.
    “So far Iran has tried to prevent intensifying crises and the formation of unpredictable conditions and situations,” IRNA said.    “But the crossing of red lines of the Islamic Republic of Iran by hostile countries, especially the Zionist regime and the U.S., means that strategy … should be revised.”
SUSPICIONS
    Three Iranian officials who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said they believed the fire was the result of a cyber attack, but did not cite any evidence.
    One of the officials said the attack had targeted a centrifuge assembly building, referring to the delicate cylindrical machines that enrich uranium, and said Iran’s enemies had carried out similar acts in the past.
    In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, which is widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel, was discovered after it was used to attack the Natanz facility.
    Lukasz Olejnik, a Brussels-based independent cybersecurity researcher and consultant, said that incident did not necessarily say much about what transpired on Thursday.
    “Events taking place more than 10 years ago, and once, in themselves cannot form any evidence about things happening today,” Olejnik, who formerly worked as scientific adviser on cyberwarfare at the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in an email.
    He added that talk of a cyberattack was “way too premature” and that invoking the specter of digital sabotage “might be a convenient explanation for natural events, or incompetence.”
    Two of the Iranian officials said Israel could have been behind the Natanz incident, but offered no evidence.
    Asked on Thursday evening about recent incidents reported at strategic Iranian sites, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters: “Clearly we can’t get into that.”
    The Israeli military and Netanyahu’s office, which oversees Israel’s foreign intelligence service Mossad, did not immediately respond to Reuters queries on Friday.
    The IAEA said on Friday the location of the fire did not contain nuclear materials, and that none of its inspectors was present at the time.
    “The Agency has been in contact with relevant Iranian authorities to confirm there will be no impact on its safeguards verification activities, which are expected to continue as before,” an IAEA statement said, adding that Iran had told it the cause of the fire was not yet known.
    Natanz is the centrepiece of Iran’s enrichment programme, which Tehran says is only for peaceful purposes.    Western intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe it had a coordinated, clandestine nuclear arms programme that it halted in 2003.
    Tehran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons.     Iran curbed its nuclear work in exchange for the removal of most global sanctions under an accord reached with six world powers in 2015, but has reduced compliance with the deal’s restrictions since the United States withdrew in 2018.
(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Vienna and Raphael Satter in Washington; Writing by Michael Georgy, Parisa Hafezi and Mary Milliken; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Chris Reese)

7/4/2020 U.S. pushes ahead with Taliban peace deal by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this Feb. 29, 2020 file photo, U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, left, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group’s top
political leader sign a peace agreement between Taliban and U.S. officials in Doha, Qatar. (AP Photo/Hussein Sayed,file)
    The U.S. envoy to Afghanistan has signaled Washington’s Taliban peace deal, which was signed in February, will now move forward.    On Twitter, Zalmay Khalilzad revealed the status of the deal following his week-long tour, which included stops in Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Qatar where Taliban headquarters are located.
    According to him, both the U.S. and the terrorist group have “agreed developing plans in support of peace can never start too early.”
    Khalilzad added the peace deal will offer many economic benefits.    He further suggested joint projects involving Qatar and Pakistan could involve trade and infrastructure.
FILE – In this March 1, 2020 file photo, supporters of Pakistani religious group rally to celebrate
the signing agreement between United States and Taliban, in Quetta, Pakistan. (AP Photo/Arshad Butt,file)
    The latest push for peace comes amid uncertainty about the Taliban.    The New York Times recently reported Russia offered bounties to the group’s militants to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.
    Democrats have called for immediate action to be taken in light of these reports.
    “I don’t think there’s anybody on this podium who does not believe that the Russians remain involved in a negative way in Afghanistan,” stated Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
    However, both the White House and GOP lawmakers have denied the report.    They have claimed the intelligence it cited has not been corroborated.
    “What’s unfortunate is that we are having this discussion because of the New York Times deciding to run with this erroneous information about the president being briefed, which was not true,” stated Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.    “The erroneous information that there was a conclusion, when in fact there was not a conclusion.”
FILE – In this April 9, 2019, file photo, Afghans watch a civilian vehicle burnt after being shot by
U.S. forces following an attack near the Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)
    In the meantime, President Trump has stressed he wouldn’t be afraid to pull the Taliban peace agreement if the group breaks its promises.
    “If bad things happen, we’ll go back,” he said.    “We’ll go back so fast, we’ll go back with a force like nobody’s ever seen.”
    Both the Taliban and Russia have denied the alleged bounties plot.

7/4/2020 Iran rial slides to new low as coronavirus, sanctions weigh
FILE PHOTO: A man counts Iranian rials at a currency exchange shop, before the start of the U.S.
sanctions on Tehran, in Basra, Iraq November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The Iranian rial fell to a new low against the U.S. dollar on the unofficial market on Saturday, as the economy comes under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic and U.S. sanctions.
    The dollar was offered for as much as 215,500 rials, softening from 208,200 on Friday, according to foreign exchange site Bonbast.com.    The economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad’s website gave the dollar rate as 215,250, compared with 207,500 on Friday.
    In May 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a multilateral deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear programme and reimposed sanctions that have since battered the economy.
    A drop in oil prices and a slump in the global economy have deepened the economic crisis in the country, which also has the highest death toll in the Middle East from the pandemic.
    The rial’s decline has continued despite assurances from Iranian Central Bank Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati last week that the bank had injected hundreds of millions of dollars to stabilise the currency market.
    The rial lost about 70% of its value in the months after May 2018 as Iranians snapped up dollars, fearing Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and sanctions could shrink vital oil exports and severely impact the economy.
    The official exchange rate is 42,000 rials per dollar and is used mostly for imports of state-subsidised food and medicine.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

7/5/2020 India to reopen Taj Mahal with social distancing, masks by Neha Arora
FILE PHOTO: A member of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel stands guard inside the empty premises of the historic Taj Mahal
during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19, in Agra, India, April 2, 2020. REUTERS/Sunil Kataria/File Photo
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Visitors to the Taj Mahal will have to wear masks at all times, keep their distance and not touch its glistening marble surfaces when India’s 17th-century monument to love reopens on Monday after a three-month COVID-19 shutdown.
    Only 5,000 tourists will be allowed in a day, split into two groups, a far cry from peak levels of 80,000 a day who would swarm the mausoleum built in the northern city of Agra by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, in a 22-year effort.
    “All centrally protected monuments & sites shall be bound by the protocols like sanitization, social distancing & other health protocols,” the federal tourism ministry said in a tweet.
    Authorities are reopening the Taj and other monuments, such as New Delhi’s historic Red Fort, just as India’s coronavirus infections are rising at the fastest pace in three months.
    On Sunday, the health ministry reported a record single-day spike of 24,850 new cases and more than 600 deaths, pushing the overall case tally to 673,165, closing in on Russia, the third-most affected country globally.
    But the government has been lifting a vast lockdown of India’s 1.3 billion people that has left tens of thousands without work and shuttered businesses.
    While international flights remain suspended, domestic travel has been opened up, and the government is hoping visitors will start to trickle back to some popular destinations.
    Agra, one of India’s first big clusters of the virus, remains the worst-affected city in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state.
    “All around the Taj are containment zones,” said a local district administration official, requesting anonymity, ahead of the monument’s planned reopening.
    Containment zones, areas identified as most affected by the virus, remain under strict lockdown, with restricted access and movement of only essential goods and services.
    “We don’t expect visitors here because clusters around the Taj, including shops and hotels are closed,” the official said.
(Reporting by Neha Arora; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and William Mallard)

7/5/2020 Mainland China reports eight new coronavirus cases, two in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks are seen at the Sanlitun shopping area, following the outbreak
of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beijing, China July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China recorded eight new coronavirus cases for July 4, up from with three a day earlier, the national health authority said on Sunday, while city officials in Beijing said nearly all the cases in a recent outbreak in the capital were mild.
    Of the new cases, six were imported and two were in Beijing, which has been scrambling to quash an outbreak traced to a massive wholesale market in the city early last month.
    In Beijing, 47% of the 334 confirmed cases since June 11 were staff at the Xinfadi market, Pang Xinghuo, a senior Beijing disease control official, told a media briefing on Sunday.
    Of all the cases in the city since then, 98% were “mild and normal,” she said.
    Xu Hejian, spokesman of the capital city told the briefing the new coronavirus situation in Beijing was “stabilising” and “controllable,” but transmission risks remain.
    Also on Sunday, China reported seven new asymptomatic patients, up from four a day earlier.
    As of Saturday, mainland China had 83,553 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said.    China’s death toll from the COVID-19 remained 4,634, unchanged since Mid-May.
(Reporting by Min Zhang and Tony Munroe; Editing by William Mallard)

7/5/2020 Democracy activists’ books unavailable in Hong Kong libraries after new law
FILE PHOTO: Anti-national security law protesters march at the anniversary of Hong Kong's
handover to China from Britain, in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Books by prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy figures have become unavailable in the Chinese-ruled city’s public libraries as they are being reviewed to see whether they violate a new national security law, a government department said on Sunday.
    The sweeping legislation, which came into force on Tuesday night at the same time its contents were published, punishes crimes related to secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with punishments of up to life in prison.
    Hong Kong public libraries “will review whether certain books violate the stipulations of the National Security Law,” the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which runs the libraries, said in a statement.
    “While legal advice will be sought in the process of the review, the books will not be available for borrowing and reference in libraries.”
    A search for books by young activist Joshua Wong or pro-democracy politician Tanya Chan on the public libraries website showed the books, including “Unfree Speech,” co-authored by Wong, either unavailable or under review.
    “The national security law … imposes a mainland-style censorship regime upon this international financial city,” Wong tweeted on Saturday, adding his titles “are now prone to book censorship.”
    The national-security legislation has been criticised by pro-democracy activists, lawyers and foreign governments who fear it would be used to stifle dissent and undermine freedoms the former British colony was promised when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    The day after the law came into effect, one man was arrested for carrying a Hong Kong independence flag.
    On Friday, the local government declared the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” illegal.    And a man who had driven a motorcycle into police officers during a protest and carried a flag with that message was charged with terrorism and inciting secessionism.
    Local and Beijing officials have repeatedly said the legislation would not curb freedom of speech or the media, nor any other rights in the city.    The new law, they said, only targets a few “troublemakers.”
    It is unclear how many books are under review.    Two titles by Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning political dissident Liu Xiaobo were still available, according to the online search.
(Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by William Mallard)

7/5/2020 Indonesia reports highest daily tally of coronavirus deaths
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker in protective gear looks down while preparing a test for the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) at a traditional textile market in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported 82 new coronavirus deaths on Sunday in its highest daily tally, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto said, taking the toll to 3,171.
    Infections rose 1,607, for a total of 63,749 cases, he added.
(Reporting by Nilufar Rizki, Heru Asprihanto; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

7/5/2020 Tokyo confirms 111 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, NHK says
A man wearing a protective face mask walks past a torii gate of a shrine, amid the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo,?? Japan, July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo confirmed 111 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, the fourth straight day that the tally of fresh cases has exceeded 100, public broadcaster NHK said.
    Tokyo reported 131 new cases the previous day, prompting Governor Yuriko Koike, who is widely expected to win Sunday’s gubernatorial election, to urge residents to avoid non-urgent trips out of the capital and embrace working from home.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

7/5/2020 U.S. sends carriers to South China Sea during Chinese drills by Matthew Tostevin
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is seen during its
visit to Hong Kong, China November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Yuyang Wang
    (Reuters) – Two U.S. aircraft carriers were conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea on Saturday, the U.S. navy said, as China also carried out military drills that have been criticised by the Pentagon and neighbouring states.
    China and the United States have accused each other of stoking tension in the strategic waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from the new coronavirus to trade to Hong Kong.
    The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises in the South China Sea “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the navy said in a statement.
    It did not say exactly where the exercises were being conducted in the South China Sea, which extends for some 1,500 km (900 miles) and 90% of which is claimed by China despite the protests of its neighbours.
    “The purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability,” Rear Admiral George M. Wikoff was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the exercises.
    Wikoff, commander of the strike group led by the Ronald Reagan, said the exercises were not a response to those being conducted by China, which the Pentagon criticised this week as “counter-productive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability.”
    China dismissed the U.S. criticism of its drills on Friday and suggested the United States was to blame for increasing tensions.
    U.S. carriers have long carried out exercises in the Western Pacific, including in the South China Sea, according to the U.S. navy.     At one point recently, the United States had three carriers in the region.
    China announced last week it had scheduled five days of drills starting July 1 near the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by both Vietnam and China.
    Vietnam and the Philippines have also criticised the planned Chinese drills, warning they could create tension in the region and impact Beijing’s relationship with its neighbours.
    The United States accuses China of trying to intimidate Asian neighbours who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year.
    The U.S. statement said the naval exercises gave commanders the flexibility and capabilities “that only the U.S. Navy can command
(Reporting by Matthew Tostevin; Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by William Mallard)

7/6/2020 Hong Kong details new powers under controversial China law by Anne Marie Roantree
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Hong Kong National Security Adviser Luo Huining (first row 2nd left); Chief Secretary for
Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung (first row 2nd right), Financial Secretary Paul Chan (first row L), Secretary for
Justice Teresa Cheng (first row R), (2nd row from L-R) Deputy Commissioner of Police (National Security) Edwina Lau,
Commissioner of Customs and Excise Hermes Tang, Secretary for Security John Lee, Commissioner of Police Tang Ping-keung,
Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang and Director of the Chief Executive's Office Eric Chan Kwok-ki pose for a group photo
before the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's first meeting,
in this picture released by the Hong Kong Information Services Department July 6, 2020. Hong Kong Information Services Department/Handout via REUTERS
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong released additional details of China’s new national security law for the former British colony on Monday, saying security forces had overriding authority to enter and search properties for evidence and stop people from leaving the city.
    Hong Kong returned to China on July 1, 1997, under a “one country, two systems” formula guaranteeing wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary.
    But under China’s new legislation, crimes of secession and sedition will be punishable by up to life in prison, stoking concerns of a much more authoritarian era in a city which has been racked by anti-China protests for the past year.
    While Beijing and Hong Kong authorities have insisted the law will only target a minority of what they call “troublemakers,” diplomats, business groups and rights activists have said it is the latest example of Beijing’s tightening grip on the city.
    Beijing imposed the legislation on Hong Kong, a major financial and trade hub, despite protests from Hong Kongers and Western nations.
    The details of the new legislation stated that authorities will have the power to enter and search places for evidence.    They can also restrict people under investigation from leaving Hong Kong.
    It may also allow for confiscation of the proceeds related to any offence endangering national security.    It will require foreign and Taiwan political organisations and agents to provide information on activities concerning Hong Kong.
    Critics say the law – which punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison – is aimed at crushing dissent and a long-running campaign for greater democracy which has drawn huge crowds on to the streets.
    Some protests have erupted into violence between police and demonstrators.
    In London on Monday, the Chinese ambassador accused Britain of gross interference and making irresponsible remarks over Beijing’s imposition of the legislation.
    Britain has described the security law as a “clear and serious” violation of the 1984 Joint Declaration under which it handed back its colony to China 13 years later.
    Ambassador Liu Xiaoming said there might be many consequences if Britain treated Beijing as an enemy or with suspicion.
    “We want to be your friend.    We want to be your partner.    But if you want to make China a hostile country, you will have to bear the consequences,” he said.
(Reporting by Anne Marie Roantree; Writing by Nick Macfie and Angus MacSwan)

7/6/2020 Hong Kong court denies bail to first person charged under new law
Supporters of Tong Ying-kit, the first person charged under the new national security law, greet a prison
van outside West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts in Hong Kong, China July 6, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – A Hong Kong court denied bail on Monday to the first person charged with inciting separatism and terrorism under the city’s new national security law after he carried a sign saying “Liberate Hong Kong” and drove his motorbike into police.
    Tong Ying-kit, 23, was arrested after a video posted online showed him knocking over several officers at a demonstration last Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on its freest city.
    The city’s government has said the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”, connotes separatism or subversion under the new law, stoking concern over freedom of expression in the former British colony.
    Tong, who was unable to appear in court on Friday as he was being treated in hospital for injuries sustained in the incident, appeared in court in a wheelchair.
    In rejecting bail, Chief Magistrate So Wai-tak referred to Article 42 of the new law, which states that bail will not be granted if the judge has sufficient grounds to believe the defendant will continue to endanger national security.
    The case was adjourned until Oct. 6 and Tong was remanded in custody.
    Critics say the law – which punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison – is aimed at crushing dissent and a long-running campaign for greater democracy.
    Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said it is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect the rights and freedoms that underpin the city’s role as a financial hub.
    Also on Monday, prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong pleaded not guilty to inciting others to participate in an unlawful assembly during anti-government protests last year.
    Fellow activist Agnes Chow pleaded guilty to a similar charge.    Their case has been adjourned to Aug. 5.
    Wong and Chow, who were both granted bail last year, led a pro-democracy group called Demosisto that they dissolved hours after Beijing passed the national security law.
    The United States, Britain and others have denounced the new legislation, which critics say is the biggest step China has taken to tighten its grip over the city, despite a “one country, two systems” formula meant to preserve its freedoms.
(Reporting By Jessie Pang and Pak Yiu; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Robert Birsel)

7/6/2020 China says could take more action against Canada, says Ottawa and allies ‘kicking against the pricks’
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian attends a news conference
in Beijing, China April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Files
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Monday it reserved the right to take more action after Canada suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and said efforts to pressure Beijing were “doomed to fail like kicking against the pricks.”
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made the remarks about the potential for more action during a daily briefing. China, locked in a dispute with Canada, has charged two Canadians with espionage and blocked canola imports.
    The Chinese embassy in Canada issued a statement on Monday urging Ottawa “to correct its mistakes” and stop meddling in China’s internal affairs.    It said “erroneous measures introduced by a handful of western countries” would have no impact on the security legislation.
    “Their attempt to exert pressure on China under the pretext of Hong Kong-related issues is completely against the trend of time, and doomed to fail like kicking against the pricks,” it said.
    “Kicking against the pricks” is an English expression meaning “to hurt oneself by struggling against something in vain,” according to the Collins dictionary.
    Canada acted on Friday in response to new national security legislation for Hong Kong, which China condemned as interference in its internal affairs.
    Separately, China warned its citizens on Monday to exercise caution in traveling to Canada, citing “frequent violent actions” by law enforcement.
    The dispute erupted in late 2018 after Canadian police detained Huawei Technologies Co’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on a U.S. arrest warrant.    She is still being held pending possible extradition to the United States.
    Last week Canada advised its citizens they could face an increased risk of arbitrary detention in Hong Kong and possible extradition to mainland China.
(Reporting by Huizhong Wu and David Ljunggren; writing by Se Young Lee and David Ljunggren, Editing by Catherine Evans and Dan Grebler)

7/6/2020 Vietnam reports 14 new COVID-19 cases, all imported
FILE PHOTO: Women wear protective masks as they chat on a street during the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hanoi, Vietnam April 15, 2020. REUTERS/Kham
    HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam’s health ministry on Monday reported 14 new coronavirus infections, all among Vietnamese citizens held in quarantine upon their arrival from overseas.
    The Southeast Asian country has been 81 days without a domestically transmitted infection due to successful programmes to contain the virus.    It has yet to report any deaths from the coronavirus and has confirmed 369 cases in total, over 90% of which have recovered.
(Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Editing by Martin Petty)

7/6/2020 China slams U.S. as it joins global arms trade treaty at U.N by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: Zhang Jun, China's Ambassador to the United Nations speaks at a Security Council meeting about Afghanistan
at United Nations Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – China on Monday joined a global arms trade treaty spurned by the United States, taking a swipe at U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration by accusing it of bullying, unilateralism and undermining efforts to combat global challenges.
    China’s U.N. ambassador, Zhang Jun, said he had deposited China’s instrument of accession to the treaty, which regulates a $70 billion global cross-border trade in conventional arms and seeks to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers.
    China, which announced its plans in September, becomes the 107th party to the pact, approved by the U.N. General Assembly in 2013.    Then-U.S. President Barack Obama signed it, but it was opposed by the National Rifle Association and never ratified by the U.S. Senate.
    Trump said in April last year that he intended to revoke the status of the United States as a signatory.    In July 2019, the United States told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Washington did not intend to become a party to the treaty and that it had no legal obligations from its 2013 signature.
    Without naming the United States, but amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington, Zhang said in a statement that a “certain country … walked away from international commitments, and launched acts of unilateralism and bullying.”
    “This has brought huge uncertainties to the global strategic balance and stability, and seriously undermined the joint efforts of all countries to tackle global challenges,” he said, adding that “major powers need to … set an example by contributing to safeguarding the international order, the rule of law, the role of the U.N. and multilateralism.”
    The U.S. mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Zhang’s remarks.     China was the fifth-largest global arms exporter between 2014 and 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, although China itself does not publish figures for how many arms it exports.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Peter Cooney)

7/7/2020 Hong Kong security law is not “doom and gloom,” city leader says
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends a news conference ahead of
national security legislation, in Hong Kong, China June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s national security law imposed by Beijing last week was not “doom and gloom” for the city, its leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday, adding it was untrue to say she was not privy to any of its details before they were announced.
    The sweeping legislation punishes what China describes broadly as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison.
    It came into force at the same time it was made public just before midnight last Tuesday, with police arresting about 10 people for related offences the next day.
    Speaking at her regular weekly news conference, Lam said she knew some details of the legislation before it was made public, but she had not seen the complete draft.    She said the law would restore Hong Kong’s status as one of the safest cities in the world after sometimes violent pro-democracy protests last year.
    “Compared with the national security laws of other countries, it is a rather mild law.    Its scope is not as broad as that in other countries and even China,,” Lam said, without naming the countries.
    The legislation has been criticised by nations such as Britain and the United States, and rights groups, for undermining freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” agreed as part of the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, and for giving mainland security agencies an enforcement presence in Hong Kong for the first time.
    Its final power of interpretation lies with authorities in mainland China, where human rights groups have reported arbitrary detentions and disappearances. China has been clamping down on dissent and tightening censorship.
    Both Hong Kong and Chinese government officials have said the law was vital to plug gaping holes in national security defences, exposed by the city’s failure to pass such laws by itself as required under its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
    Lam said cases involving the new mainland agency in Hong Kong will be “rare” and that national security was a “red line” that should not be crossed.
    If reporters in Hong Kong could guarantee they would not breach the new law, she could guarantee they would be allowed to report freely in the city, Lam said.
    Late on Monday, Hong Kong released additional details of the law, saying security forces had overriding authority to enter and search properties for evidence and stop people from leaving the city.
(Reporting by Yanni Chow and Clare Jim; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Kim Coghill)

7/7/2020 North Korea says it won’t sit down with U.S. as envoy due in South Korea by Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of
North Korea in Geneva October 2, 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Picture
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has no intention to sit down with the United States and urged South Korea to “stop meddling,” a senior diplomat said on Tuesday, just as a U.S. envoy was due to visit Seoul in an effort to renew stalled nuclear talks with Pyongyang.
    Kwon Jong Gun, director general for U.S. affairs at Pyongyang’s foreign ministry, accused South Korea of misinterpreting an earlier North Korean statement dismissing an “untimely rumour” about another summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.
    North Korea said on Saturday it does not feel the need for a new summit, days after South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who had offered to mediate between Kim and Trump, suggested the two leaders meet again before the U.S. elections in November.
    “It is just the time for (South Korea) to stop meddling in others’ affairs but it seems there is no cure or prescription for its bad habit,” Kwon said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
    “Explicitly speaking once again, we have no intention to sit face to face with the United States.”
    Trump and Kim met for the first time in 2018 in Singapore, raising hopes for a negotiated end to Pyongyang’s nuclear programmes.    But their second summit, in 2019 in Vietnam, and subsequent working-level negotiations fell apart.
    Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said Kwon’s statement reflected lingering inter-Korean tensions and Pyongyang’s view that nuclear issues should be discussed only with Washington.
    “It also suggested that North Koreans would ditch the past concept of negotiations where the South played a broker role, and won’t return to the table without major U.S. concessions,” Yang said.
    U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who led the talks with the North Koreans, is due to arrive in Seoul later on Tuesday for talks with Seoul officials over ways to revive the negotiations.
    Biegun said last week there is time for both sides to re-engage and “make substantial progress,” but the coronavirus pandemic would make an in-person summit difficult before the U.S. presidential elections on Nov. 3.
    Last month, North Korea abruptly raised tensions with South Korea and blew up a joint liaison office, just on its side of the border, before just as suddenly suspending plans for unspecified military actions.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Chris Reese, Howard Goller and Lincoln Feast.)

7/7/2020 Voting amid coronavirus crisis, Singaporeans question need for foreigners by Tom Westbrook and Aradhana Aravindan
FILE PHOTO: Workers hang up electoral poster for ruling People's Action Party ahead of the general election in Singapore June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – For many Singaporeans, voting on Friday under the cloud of the coronavirus pandemic, a big election issue is job prospects and whether their rich little island needs so many foreigners taking better-paid roles.
    No-one expects a change of government on this Southeast Asian rock of stability.    The People’s Action Party has been in power since independence in 1965, and has always commanded an overwhelming parliamentary majority, even when its vote has slipped.
    But this election will be a test of both people’s confidence in the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, and its next generation of leaders, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong – son of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew – plans to step down within a few years.
    Even small shifts in support for the pro-business PAP can prompt policy changes, and the coronavirus crisis has rekindled a national debate over outsiders’ share of the city-state’s prosperity.
    Opposition gripes about foreigners holding top-tier professional roles has resonated with voters, analysts say. And a spate of reports about foreigners breaking lockdown rules, and having their work passes revoked, has fueled resentment.
    “The COVID-19 outbreak has brought out the issue of foreigners even more starkly,” said Nicholas Fang, founder of Singapore consultancy Black Dot Research.
    Analytics firm Meltwater found the issue catching voters’ attention on social media, with only pensions and living costs being mentioned more often than “foreign talent.”
BOGEYMAN
    Eugene Tan, a professor at Singapore Management University (SMU) and ex-member of parliament, said the image of the well-paid foreigner has become a “bogeyman” in the political debate.
    “It is an issue with deep emotive appeal,” he said.    “The question is whether voters can balance that…with an objective, rational examination of whether we can do without foreign manpower.”
    Eight of ten opposition parties advocated reform of hiring policies to favour locals in their manifestos.
    Yet, business groups fear curbs on recruitment could hurt growth in one of the world’s most open economies.
    “Without foreigners, the large corporations may not necessarily be able to function and invest in Singapore like they always did,” said Latha Olavatth, senior director for Asia-Pacific at global migration services firm Newland Chase.
MATTER OF PERCEPTION
    About 29% of Singapore’s 5.7 million people are non-residents, having steadily increased from around 10% in 1990, according to population statistics.
    Most foreigners are low-paid domestic helpers or manual labourers, but it is the number in so-called professional, managerial, executive and technician (PMET) roles that irks Singaporeans with ambitions for their well-educated children.
    “We have got to stop this foolishness of continuing to bring in foreign workers, especially foreign PMETs,” Chee Soon Juan, a Singapore Democratic Party leader, said during a televised debate last week.
    It hit a nerve.    The PAP’s Vivian Balakrishnan shot back saying the local PMET workforce was nearly seven times larger than the foreign PMET workforce, that it was growing, and that recent job losses had fallen most heavily on foreigners.
    “What more do you want us to do?,” Balakrishnan, the foreign minister, asked.
    When similar issues flared during the 2011 election, the PAP polled a record-low 60% of the vote and tightened international hiring rules to address voters’ sensitivities.
    “For me and my friends, one of our top concerns are employment opportunities,” said, Xuan Na a 21-year-old student about to enter her final year.    “We are worried that we won’t be able to land a proper job.”
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook, Aradhana Aravindan and Joseph Campbell; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

7/7/2020 Australia’s second largest city heads back into coronavirus lockdown by Colin Packham and Sonali Paul
People wearing protective face masks wait to enter an Apple store on the first day of New South Wales' further
eased coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Sydney, Australia, July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    SYDNEY/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Lockdown measures were reimposed in Australia’s second biggest city on Tuesday, confining Melbourne residents to their homes unless undertaking essential business for six weeks, as officials scramble to contain a coronavirus outbreak.
    The decision, which affects around 4.9 million people, was announced just hours before the busy border between Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, and New South Wales is scheduled to close for the first time in a century.
    From midnight on Wednesday, everyone in Melbourne will be required to stay home unless travelling to work, studying, shopping for food or attending medical appointments. Restaurants, cafes and bars will be able to provide takeaway service only, gyms and hair salons closed, household gatherings limited to two people and the current school vacation extended.
    Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the restrictions were onerous but necessary.
    “I would, with the greatest of respect, put it to you getting this virus and dying from it is very onerous too,” he said during a televised media conference.
    Victoria was responsible for 191 of the 199 new cases reported nationally on Tuesday, the biggest one-day rise since early April.    The spike has worried officials, even though the national total of almost 8,800 cases and 106 deaths is far below many other countries.
    “We have to be clear with each other that this is not over,” Andrews said.    “And pretending that it is because we all want it to be over is not the answer.    It is indeed part of the problem.    A very big part of the problem.”
    Andrews had over the weekend reinstated strict social-distancing orders in more than 30 Melbourne suburbs and put nine public housing towers into complete lockdown because of the recent outbreak. [L8N2EE06H]
    Hundreds of police officers and army troops were being deployed to enforce the closure of Victoria’s border with New South Wales from midnight on Tuesday.
    The state line is highly porous, stretching hundreds of kilometres.    It is heavily used daily by commuters, school children and road freight.
    People caught crossing the border without permission via any of the 55 roads, or several river and wilderness crossings, will face penalties including a fine of A$11,000 ($7,700) and six months imprisonment.
    A second region in Victoria, where recent COVID-19 cases have been detected and which is home to 44,000 people, will face lockdown restrictions similar to Melbourne.
    The border closure and reintroduction of restrictions in Melbourne deal a blow to Australia’s hopes for quick economic recovery as it approaches its first recession in nearly three decades, driven by social distancing restrictions imposed in March. BORDER CONTROL
    For businesses on the border, which last closed during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919, it also poses an immediate logistics headache.
    Daily travel permits will be granted to people who live in border towns and cities but with the closure just hours away, the application system was still being developed.
    Kevin Mack, the mayor of Albury, a border town on the NSW side, said with an estimated 50,000 car movements across the state line every day “it will be a nightmare for everyone.”
    “About a quarter of my staff like me live in NSW, and cross that border every day to come to work,” said Paul Armstrong, who runs a petrol station in Wodonga, a border town on the Victorian side.    “I don’t know if they are going to be able to get in.”
    Outside of the border towns, Victoria residents will be able to apply for a permit, but will need to prove a special need for their travel.    Freight transporters will be free to cross the border without a permit, but will be subjected to random stops.
(Reporting by Colin Packham and Sonali Paul in Melbourne, additional reporting by Renju Jose; editing by Jane Wardell)

7/7/2020 In Tokyo, a temple offers pandemic-hit Vietnamese workers a safe haven by Sakura Murakami
Vietnamese volunteers prepare packages of food and protective masks for Vietnamese people in need and living in Japan,
amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at a Buddhist temple which has turned into a shelter
for young Vietnamese migrant workers in Tokyo, Japan, May 2, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    TOKYO (Reuters) – A few hours after sundown last week, Thi Tu Luong dragged her suitcase down a side street in Tokyo’s business district, looking for the temple that would take her in for the night.
    Luong, a 22-year old Vietnamese worker, had just been fired from her job at a hotel in a hot springs town north of Tokyo.
    After a few minutes of walking the street, she saw Jiho Yoshimizu, who runs a support group for Vietnamese workers, waving her in from the entrance of a concrete building.
    The three-storey Buddhist temple, Nisshinkutsu, has become a haven for young Vietnamese migrant workers, one of the groups hardest-hit by the economic slump that followed the novel coronavirus outbreak in Japan.
    “I felt abandoned,” said Luong, shortly after she arrived at the temple.    “I’m just really grateful I can be here.”
    Lured by higher wages but often burdened by debt to recruiters, Vietnamese are the fastest-growing group of foreigners in Japan.    They numbered 410,000 in 2019, up 24.5% from the previous year.
    In ordinary times, nuns at the temple would offer prayers for the deceased, but with the coronavirus upending the economy, they now spend their time making care packages for Vietnamese scattered across the country.
    Inside the temple, young Vietnamese workers whose lives are in limbo study Japanese, cook Vietnamese food, look for work or book flights home.
    “We do everything.    We take care of people from when they’re inside the womb to when they’re inside an urn,” said Yoshimizu, who heads the Japan-Vietnam Coexistence Support Group, a nonprofit based out of the temple.
    The temple became known to Vietnamese circles after it took in Vietnamese workers who were left homeless after the 2011 earthquake in northern Japan.
    As Yoshimizu’s reputation spread in the community, she started receiving messages from young Vietnamese – including women seeking abortions, workers who were abruptly dismissed with nowhere to go, and labourers fleeing abusive employers.
    In 2019, Yoshimizu handled about 400 cases, but since April that number has spiked.    She now receives between 10 and 20 messages a day, all pleas for help from Vietnamese across Japan.
    “I’ve lost count,” she said, sitting next to a phone that beeps and rings ceaselessly with calls and messages from labour brokers, employers, and desperate Vietnamese workers.
    “No one else in Japan right now can provide this kind of support,” she said.
    When Luong was fired without warning and told to leave her dorm, she turned to Yoshimizu for help.
    “I have no job, no place to stay right now. Please, please help me,” Luong messaged Yoshimizu.    “Can I come to the temple today?
    Luong graduated from a vocational school in March and started a job in mid-April at a high-end hotel in Nikko, a tourist destination known for its temples.
    But she wasn’t given any work and spent her days in a dorm room with nothing to do. Luong said she was paid about 30,000 yen ($279.04) in May and was not sure if she had been paid in June.    The hotel did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
    Many Vietnamese workers arrive in Japan as students or trainees, making them dependent on their employers and therefore vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
    Yoshimizu spoke in parliament last month to urge the government to do more to support Vietnamese students who do not have employment insurance.
    “The current government’s coronavirus policy is focused on helping the Japanese first,” Yoshimizu said.
($1 = 107.51 yen)
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Stephen Coates)

7/7/2020 China launches political policing task force: state media
FILE PHOTO: A Chinese flag flutters above the Chinese national emblem at the Great Hall of the People after the opening
session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China May 22, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China has launched a special taskforce to ramp up political policing to maintain social stability, said the official Procuratorial Daily, the latest move to rein in dissent over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus and protests in Hong Kong.
    The taskforce should “crack down on all kinds of infiltration, subversion, sabotage, violent terrorist activities, ethnic separatist activities, and extreme religious activities,” according to the undated notes from a meeting of the taskforce published in the paper on Monday.
    The news of the taskforce came on the same day that a Beijing law professor who has been an outspoken critic of China’s ruling Communist Party and President Xi Jinping was taken away by authorities.
    The main responsibility of the taskforce is to safeguard China’s political system.    “Political security is related to national safety and people’s well-being,” according to the notes.
    Referencing the fight against coronavirus, the notes said a government can only guarantee its people’s safety if it maintains a stable political environment.
    The taskforce is part of the “Build a Peaceful China” coordination group set up in April and led by Guo Shengkun, China’s top law enforcement official.
    It’s launch comes after China’s parliament passed national security legislation for Hong Kong at the end of June which punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
    Hong Kong has been rocked by large, and sometimes violent, pro-democracy protests since mid-2019.
    The new security laws have been criticised by pro-democracy activists, lawyers and foreign governments who fear it would be used to stifle dissent and undermine freedoms the former British colony was promised when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    The day after the law came into effect, one man was arrested for carrying a Hong Kong independence flag.
(Reporting by Engen Tham and Wang Jing; Editing by Michael Perry)

7/7/2020 New security law starts to break down Hong Kong’s pro-democracy economy by Yanni Chow and Carol Mang
FILE PHOTO: Memo papers with protest slogans are seen outside a "yellow" restaurant, a business that supports the pro-democracy
movement, after the new national security law legislation in Hong Kong, China July 3, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – As soon as Hong Kong’s new national security law came into force last week, Ivan Ng removed all the protest-themed paintings, posters and flags from the list of items for sale at his Onestep Printing shop.
    Sandra Leung at Wefund.hk, which sells protest-themed artwork and accessories, said she has suspended sales of protective gear worn by protesters, flags with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong,” and other items carrying popular chants.
    Jeffrey Cheong, owner of Hair Guys Salon, said he closed his shop down for a few days last week to remove pro-democracy decorations.
    Ng, Leung and Cheong are three of the 4,500 or so small businesses in Hong Kong’s “yellow economy,” which supports pro-democracy protesters and vice versa.    That circle of support is showing signs of weakening in the face of the new law.
    “We took down all the protest-related products right after the law was implemented, because the law doesn’t have very clear boundaries of (what constitutes) subversion,” Ng said.    In the past week, he said his overall sales are down as much as 80%.
    Leung said she had withdrawn items for sale she described as “sensitive,” such as gas masks used by protesters and items with anti-police slogans.
    The new law prohibits what China describes broadly as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison for offenders.    It came into force late last Tuesday, about an hour before the 23rd anniversary of China taking back control of the former British colony.
    The Hong Kong government went further on Friday, declaring the popular protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times” illegal.    Public libraries have started to review books written by pro-democracy activists to see whether they violate the new law. LENNON WALLS GO     Hong Kong and Beijing authorities insist the city retains a “high degree of autonomy” but critics say the law effectively brings Hong Kong under the control of China’s Communist Party and violates China’s promise to safeguard Hong Kong’s freedom for 50 years after the 1997 handover.
    Some businesses told local media they had been visited by the police who warned them that pro-democracy decorations were against the new law. Hong Kong police declined to disclose details of any such visits.    In a statement to Reuters, a police representative said the objective of any enforcement action was not to target flags or slogans, but to “interdict people’s behavior on inciting and/or abetting others for the commission of secession or subversion.”
    With or without police visits, many shops run by pro-democracy sympathizers have in the past week taken down their so-called Lennon Walls, the mosaics of colored Post-it notes with protest messages left by customers, named after the John Lennon Wall in communist-controlled Prague that was covered with Beatles lyrics and messages of political grievance.
    The absence of these eye-catching features will make it harder to spot which shops support the pro-democracy movement. The same is true on the web.
    An online platform called “Eat With You” that compiles lists of yellow shops and blue shops – whose owners are perceived to be pro-Beijing – deactivated last week.    Another, hkshoplist.com, has taken down the reasons why it listed shops as yellow.
    Some are finding new ways to stay in touch with their pro-democracy customers, such as putting up mosaics of blank Post-its and replacing posters with plain A4 sheets of paper.
    One shop selling ice cream and drinks has taken down protest-themed decorations and updated its menu with fake patriotic slogans, hoping customers will appreciate the satire.    “We must drink for the members of the Communist Party and people who love our country!” and “Special drinks for socialism with Chinese characteristics!” are two examples.
    “The national security law is suppressing our freedom of speech,” said Selina Leung, 26, the manager of the shop called Talk 2 DeCream.    “Rather than violating the law, we are trying to have fun during this hardship.”
(Reporting by Yanni Chow and Carol Mang in Hong Kong; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Bill Rigby)

7/7/2020 Pakistan unveils domestically produced ventilators by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this Nov. 9, 2019 file photo, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses during the inauguration ceremony
of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan. Khan accused the United States on Thursday, June 25, 2020, of having
“martyred” al-Qaida leader and the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary,file)
    Pakistan’s prime minister has unveiled over a dozen domestically made ventilators.    On Monday, Imran Khan revealed the country’s first locally manufactured and developed ventilators meant to help treat critically ill coronavirus patients.
    So far, only about 15 of the ventilators have been produced. However, there is reportedly a capacity to produce around 300 units per month.
    The country’s federal minister of science and technology, Fawad Chaudhry, said he hopes in the next half decade that Pakistan will not have to rely on any foreign medical imports.
    “God willing, in the next three years we will start saving $1 billion for imports and I am hoping that in five years Pakistan will not have to import any medical equipment from abroad,” Chaudhry explained.
    This comes as Pakistan has reported more than 230,000 coronavirus cases.
A health worker holds a sample at a testing and screening facility for the new coronavirus,
in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, Saturday, July 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

7/8/2020 China to impose visa restrictions on U.S. citizens over Tibet
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian speaks at a news conference
in Beijing, China April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Wednesday it will impose visa restrictions on U.S. citizens who have engaged in what it called egregious behaviour over Tibet, in an apparent retaliation against U.S restrictions on some Chinese officials.
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters that Beijing would allow no foreign interference in Tibetan affairs.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, citing what he called human rights abuses by the Chinese government in Tibetan areas, said on Tuesday the United States would restrict visas for some Chinese officials because Beijing obstructs travel to the region by U.S. diplomats, journalists and tourists.
(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

7/8/2020 China converts Hong Kong hotel into new national security office by Yanni Chow and Donny Kwok
Water filled barriers are seen surrounding the Metropark Hotel Causeway Bay Hong Kong, believed to be used by the temporary
national security office, as workers place a national emblem at midnight, in Hong Kong, China July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – China opened its powerful national security office in Hong Kong on Wednesday, turning a hotel near a city-centre park that has been one of the most popular venues for pro-democracy protests into its new headquarters.
    The office, which operates beyond the scrutiny of local courts or other institutions, will oversee the Hong Kong government’s enforcement of the sweeping national security legislation that Beijing imposed on the city last week.
    The legislation gives its agents, operating openly in the global financial hub for the first time, enforcement powers.
    It allows them to take suspects across the border for trials in Communist Party-controlled courts and gives them special privileges, including that Hong Kong authorities cannot search or detain them, or even inspect their vehicles.
    It was unclear how many mainland agents will be stationed in the former Metropark Hotel, a 266-room, 33-storey building in the shopping and commercial district of Causeway Bay, near Victoria Park.
    At the opening ceremony, chief of the security office Zheng Yanxiong said he would enforce the law strictly “without infringing on the legitimate rights and interests of any individual or organisation.”
    Luo Huining, head of China’s Liaison Office in the city, Beijing’s top representative office, said the office was “the gatekeeper of national security” and people who loved China and Hong Kong welcomed it.
    “Those with ulterior motives and who are anti-China and seek to destabilise Hong Kong have not only stigmatised the office, but also smeared the legal system and rule of law in the Chinese mainland in an attempt to stir up unnecessary worries and fears among Hong Kong residents,” Luo said.
RED LINE
    The new security law has pushed China’s freest city onto a more authoritarian path and drawn condemnation from some Western governments, lawyers and rights groups.
    It punishes acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.    Police have arrested at least 10 people, including a 15-year-old, under it for suspected threats to China’s national security.
    Critics fear it will crush coveted freedoms in the Chinese-ruled city, while supporters say it will bring stability after a year of sometimes violent protests that plunged the former British colony into its biggest crisis in decades.
    Hong Kong and Beijing officials insist rights and freedoms would remain intact, but say national security is a “red line.”    The new security legislation has already started to change life in Hong Kong.
    Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday banned school students from singing “Glory to Hong Kong,” the unofficial anthem of the pro-democracy protest movement.
    Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said students should not participate in class boycotts, chant slogans, form human chains or sing songs that contain political messages, referring specifically to the popular protest anthem.
    Books by some pro-democracy activists and politicians have been removed from public libraries.    The “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times” slogan is now illegal. Activists have disbanded their organisations or fled.    Shops have removed protest-themed products and decorations.
    Chief Executive Lam has said the security law was mild compared with that of other countries, without naming them, but pro-democracy advocates say its contents are vague and worry about Beijing authorities having final interpretation rights.
    In a reflection of the widespread unease over the legislation, major U.S. internet companies including Facebook , Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Zoom have announced they have suspended the processing of requests for user data from the Hong Kong authorities while they study it.
    The United States has begun removing Hong Kong’s special status in U.S. law as Washington no longer deems the global financial hub sufficiently autonomous from mainland China.
(Reporting by Donny Kwok, Yanni Chow and Anne Marie Roantree; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

7/8/2020 China challenges U.S. to cut nuclear arsenal to matching level
Fu Cong, head of arms control department of Chinese foreign ministry, speaks at a news conference in Beijing, China July 8, 2020. REUTES/Shubing Wang
BEIJING (Reuters) – China would “be happy to” participate in trilateral arms control negotiations with the United States and Russia, but only if the United States were willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal to China’s level, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Wednesday.
    Washington has repeatedly called for China to join in trilateral negotiations to extend New START, a flagship nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia that is due to expire in February next year.
    Fu Cong, head of the arms control department of Chinese foreign ministry, reiterated to reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that China has no interest in joining the negotiation with former Cold War-era superpowers, given that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is about 20 times the size of China’s.
    “I can assure you, if the U.S. says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese level, China would be happy to participate the next day,” he said.    “But actually, we know that’s not going to happen.”
    Fu asserted that for the United States, asking China to participate in trilateral negotiations is “nothing but a ploy to divert attention” and an excuse for the United States to walk away from the New START extension.
    “The real purpose is to get rid of all restrictions and have a free hand in seeking military superiority over any adversary, real or imagined,” said Fu.
    Fu maintained China is not “shying away from the international nuclear disarmament process” and is prepared to discuss within the framework of the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members all issues related to the reduction of nuclear risks.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Lincoln Feast.)

7/8/2020 Australia looking to restrict return of citizens amid coronavirus outbreak by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham
Vehicles drive past public housing towers, locked down in response to an outbreak of the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19), in Melbourne, Australia, July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia will likely slow down the return of its citizens from abroad, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday, as it grapples with a fresh outbreak of the coronavirus that has led it to isolate its second most populous state.
    The border between Victoria and New South Wales, the busiest in the country, was closed overnight and around 4.9 million residents in the Victorian capital of Melbourne will return to partial lockdown at midnight following a spike in COVID-19 cases in the city.
    “The rest of the country knows that the sacrifice that you’re going through right now is not just for you and your own family, but it’s for the broader Australian community,” Morrison said during a televised media conference.
    “I can imagine the frustration … we don’t have control over the virus as such, but we do have control over how we respond.”
    With the Victoria shutdown putting pressure on other states, Morrison said he would take a proposal on Friday to the national cabinet created to deal with the pandemic, seeking to slow down the return of Australian citizens and permanent residents by reducing the number of repatriation flights.    The two groups have been the only arrivals allowed since Australia closed its international border in March.
    Neighbouring New Zealand has already taken that step, announcing on Tuesday that its national airline will not take new inbound bookings for three weeks to reduce the burden on overflowing quarantine facilities.
    There has been growing public concern in Australia about security lapses that have led to returnees spreading the virus, despite undertaking quarantine on arrival.    Victoria has begun an inquiry into how the state went from the brink of eradicating the virus to soaring infection numbers.
    The state reported 134 new infections in the 24 hours to Wednesday morning, down from the previous day’s record 191 but well over the low single digit daily increases of the other states and territories.
    Of the new cases, 75 were occupants of nine public housing towers that were earlier this week placed under the country’s strictest lockdown so far.    Around 3,000 residents have been banned from leaving the buildings, which are under police guard, for five days.     All residents are being tested for COVID-19.
BORDER CONTROL
    At the border with NSW, cars banked up on both sides as police checkpoints caused delays of more than an hour for drivers.    The state line is heavily trafficked by daily commuters who live and work on either side.
    “I got a permit but with all the checks, my commute across was heavily delayed,” Amanda Cohn, who crosses the border from her home in NSW each day to reach the Victorian hospital where she works, told Reuters by telephone.    “Plenty of others need to get across and they don’t have a permit.”
    Authorities had hastily set up a system to issue travel permits for a select group, mostly commuters in border towns, but a website created to dispense passes crashed soon after its launch on Tuesday evening with officials saying more than 44,000 people applied.    Officials reassured that regular commuters could instead show residential and employment documentation.
    Victoria’s only other internal border, with South Australia, has been closed since mid-March.
    In Melbourne, renewed lockdown measures will kick in at midnight for at least six weeks, closing down cafes, bars, restaurants and gyms, and confining residents to their homes except for essential business.
    The Australian economy will take an economic hit of up to A$1 billion ($700 million) per week from the border closure and Melbourne lockdown, federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.
    Nationwide, Australia has reported about 9,000 COVID-19 cases and 106 deaths from the virus, a level that remains low compared to other nations.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye, Colin Packham and Renju Jose; Editing by Jane Wardell)

7/8/2020 U.S. envoy plays down expectations for North Korea meet, but ready to talk by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun stands with South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young during
their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul, South Korea, July 8, 2020. Chung Sung-Jun/Pool via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun rejected on Wednesday reports that he was seeking to meet North Korean officials during a visit to South Korea this week but reiterated that the United States is open to resuming talks.
    The U.S. point man for North Korea, Biegun was in Seoul for meetings with South Korean officials, overshadowed by North Korea’s insistence that it has no intention of returning to denuclearisation negotiations as long as the United States clings to “hostile policies.”
    Biegun briefly met South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha before holding formal talks with Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young and chief nuclear negotiator Lee Do-hoon.
    The discussions covered a range of issues, including responses to the novel coronavirus and the sharing of the costs of the U.S. military deployment in South Korea, but North Korea dominated the agenda, South Korean officials said.
    Biegun’s visit had sparked speculation about a last-ditch effort to revive the North Korea talks ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, but he played down expectations for new meetings.
    “Let me absolutely be clear, we did not request a visit,” Biegun told a news conference after meeting Lee.
    “This visit this week is to meet with our close friends and allies, the South Koreans.”
    But Biegun said he was ready to resume talks at any time the North Koreans designate.
    “We look forward to continuing our work for a peaceful outcome of the Korean peninsula, I believe this is very much possible,” he said, noting that U.S. President Donald Trump had given his full support.
    Biegun reiterated that the United States was willing to be flexible and reach a “balanced agreement” with North Korea, should it decide to return to talks, Lee said.
    Biegun is also likely to meet Suh Hoon, Moon’s new national security adviser who, as spy chief, was instrumental in facilitating summits between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a South Korean official said.
‘OLD WAY OF THINKING’
    Talks with North Korea have since stalled, and its officials, including a top diplomat Biegun met in negotiations, Choe Son Hui, say they have no intention of sitting down with the United States.
    Biegun, in a separate statement released by the U.S. Embassy, said Choe was “locked in an old way of thinking, focused on only the negatives and what is impossible, rather than thinking creatively about what is possible.”
    Biegun said earlier he did not focus on the North’s statements but instead was guided by the “vision” outlined by Trump and Kim at their meetings.
    The two leaders met for the first time in 2018 in Singapore, raising hopes for a negotiated end to North Korea’s nuclear programme.    But their second summit, in 2019 in Vietnam, and subsequent working-level negotiations fell apart.
    Trump said on Tuesday he was open to another meeting with Kim and thought it might be helpful, Voice of America reported, citing a transcript of an interview Trump gave to Gray Television, due to be aired on Sunday.
    Kim has been maintaining a low profile in recent months, making far fewer public appearances than usual, according to analysts who monitor his movements.
    On Wednesday, North Korean state media reported Kim had marked the anniversary of the death of his grandfather, North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il Sung, by visiting his mausoleum in Pyongyang.
    Biegun has previously played down the likelihood of another summit between Trump and Kim, saying the coronavirus made that unlikely before the election.
    North Korea’s rejection of new talks means Biegun’s visit is more likely to focus on coordination between the two allies, rather than seizing some opening for diplomacy, said John Delury, a North Korea expert at Yonsei University in Seoul.
    “I don’t see signals from North Korea that they are looking for engagement,” he said.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel)

7/8/2020 India arrests South Korean CEO, 11 others for gas leak at LG Polymers by Sudarshan Varadhan
FILE PHOTO: Municipal workers decontaminate outside of the LG Polymers Plant following
a gas leak at the plant in Visakhapatnam, India, May 8, 2020. REUTERS/R Narendra
    CHENNAI (Reuters) – Indian police have arrested 12 LG Polymers officials, including its South Korean Chief Executive Sunkey Jeong, an officer said on Wednesday, two months after a gas leak at the company’s south Indian chemical plant killed 12.
    The arrests were made under a case of culpable homicide filed against the company, a unit of South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd, and its officials, stemming from the leak that occurred in the early hours on May 7 in the port city of Visakhapatnam, the city police commissioner Rajiv Kumar Meena said.
    “A total of twelve members including the CEO and two directors were arrested on Tuesday evening,” Meena said, adding that among those arrested were two directors, one of whom was a South Korean.
    LG Polymers said it had nothing to share in an email responding to a Reuters request for a comment on the arrests.
    Toxic styrene gas leaked from the chemical plant choking many people who were sleeping.
    This week, a government-appointed committee recommended that the plant should be shifted away from human habitation and called for action against the top employees.    It said LG Polymers had been negligent and warning systems were not working.
    The company had ignored potentially hazardous chemical reactions at the plant in April before the leak, when it was working with reduced staff due to a coronavirus lockdown, the committee said.
    The temperature inside the oldest of the three storage tanks holding styrene monomer, a liquid used in making polystyrene products, rose to more than six times the permitted level, after which it evaporated, the committee found.
    LG Chem Ltd said on Monday it had co-operated with the investigation and would respond to the probe result and take corresponding measures.
    The police case included counts of culpable homicide, negligent handling of poisonous substances and causing hurt and endangering public life.
    Meena said the charges could draw prison terms of up to eight years if proven in court.
(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Robert Birsel and Christian Schmollinger)

7/8/2020 At least 126 killed as Myanmar jade mine collapse buries workers
Rescue workers carry a dead body following a landslide at a mining site in Phakant, Kachin State City,
Myanmar July 2, 2020, in this picture obtained from social media. MYANMAR FIRE SERVICES DEPARTMENT/via
REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
    (Reuters) – A landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar killed at least 126 people, with more feared dead, authorities said on Thursday, after a heap of mining waste collapsed into a lake and buried many workers under mud and water.
    The miners were collecting stones in the jade-rich Hpakant area of Kachin state – the centre of Myanmar’s secretive jade industry – when the “muddy wave” crashed onto them, after heavy rain, the fire service department said in a Facebook post.
    By late afternoon rescue workers had recovered 126 bodies, the department said, but more were missing.
    “Other bodies are in the mud,” Tar Lin Maung, a local official with the information ministry, told Reuters by phone. “The numbers are going to rise.”
    Deadly landslides and other accidents are common in the poorly regulated mines of Hpakant, which draw impoverished workers from across Myanmar in search of gems mostly for export to China.    But Thursday’s accident was the worst in over five years.
    About 100 people were killed in a 2015 collapse which strengthened calls to regulate the industry.    Another 50 died in 2019.
    Many of those killed are freelance “jade pickers” who scour tailings – the residue from mining – for gemstones overlooked by larger operators.    One good piece of jade, worth tens of thousands of dollars, could transform their lives.
    Video footage on social media showed frantic miners racing uphill to escape as a towering pile of black waste cascaded into a turquoise lake, churning up a tsunami-like wave of mud.
    Photos showed rows of dead bodies laid out on a hill, covered by tarpaulin.
    In a statement posted online on Thursday evening, the armed forces commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, said military officers would continue the rescue efforts.
‘RUN, RUN’
    Maung Khaing, a 38-year-old miner from the area who witnessed the accident, said he was about to take a picture of the precarious waste mound he felt looked set to collapse when people began shouting “run, run!
    “Within a minute, all the people at the bottom (of the hill) just disappeared,” he told Reuters by phone.    “I feel empty in my heart.    I still have goose bumps…There were people stuck in the mud shouting for help but no one could help them.”
    Than Hlaing, a member of a local civil society group helping in the aftermath of the disaster, said those killed were freelancers scavenging the waste left by a larger mining firm.
    She said about 100 people were still missing and 30 had been hospitalized.
    A local official had warned people not to go to the mine on Thursday because of the bad weather, she said.
    “There’s no hope for the families to get compensation as they were freelance miners.”
    The government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to clean up the industry when it took power in 2016, but activists say little has changed.
    Official sales of jade in Myanmar were worth 671 million euros ($750 million) in 2016-17, according to data published by the government as part of an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
    But rights group Global Witness says the trade is worth billions of dollars a year, funds it says fuel armed conflict between government troops and ethnic Kachin rebels fighting for greater autonomy for the region.
    In a statement, the group called Thursday’s accident a “preventable tragedy” and said the Suu Kyi’s administration had failed to implement promised reforms to curb “illicit and rapacious mining practices.”    A government spokesman did not answer phone calls by Reuters seeking comment.
(Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Sam Holmes, Kim Coghill and Giles Elgood)

7/8/2020 Hong Kong bans protest anthem in schools as fears over freedoms intensify
FILE PHOTO: Secondary school students form a human chain near a school campus to protest against a teacher's
release over 'her political beliefs' as they said, in Hong Kong, China June 12, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday banned school students from singing of “Glory to Hong Kong,” the unofficial anthem of the pro-democracy protest movement, just hours after Beijing set up its new national security bureau in the Chinese-ruled city.
    New security legislation imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing requires the Asian financial hub to “promote national security education in schools and universities and through social organisations, the media, the internet.”
    The school anthem ban will further stoked concerns that new security laws will crush freedoms in China’s freest city, days after public libraries removed books by some prominent pro-democracy figures from their shelves.
    Authorities also banned protest slogans as the new laws came into force last week.
    The sweeping legislation that Beijing imposed on the former British colony punishes what China defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison.
    Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung, responding to a question from a lawmaker, said students should not participate in class boycotts, chant slogans, form human chains or sing songs that contain political messages.
    “The song ‘Glory to Hong Kong’, originated from the social incidents since June last year, contains strong political messages and is closely related to the social and political incidents, violence and illegal incidents that have lasted for months,” Yeung said.    “Schools must not allow students to play, sing or broadcast it in schools.”
    Earlier on Wednesday, China opened its new national security office, turning a hotel near a city-centre park that has been one of the most popular venues for pro-democracy protests into its new headquarters.
    Both Hong Kong and Chinese government officials have said the new law is vital to plug gaping holes in national security defences exposed by the anti-government and anti-China protests that rocked the city in the past year.
    They have argued the city failed to pass such laws by itself as required under its mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law.
    Critics of the law see it as a tool to crush dissent, while supporters say it will bring stability to the city.
    In a statement last month, China’s Hong Kong Liaison Office, Beijing’s top representative office in the city, blamed political groups “with ulterior motives” for “shocking chaos" in Hong Kong education.
(Reporting by Twinnie Siu and Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Michael Perry)

7/9/2020 In echo of Mao era, China’s schools in book-cleansing drive by Huizhong Wu
A translated version of A. A. Milne's "Winnie the Pooh", a book of poems by Chinese late
chairman Mao Zedong, and translated versions of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" and "1984"
(bottom to top) are seen in this illustration picture taken July 6, 2020. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration
    BEIJING (Reuters) – As schools reopened in China after the COVID-19 outbreak, they have thrown themselves into a nationwide exercise to remove books deemed politically incorrect, deepening Chinese President Xi Jinping’s push to instil patriotism and ideological purity in the education system.
    A directive from the Ministry of Education last October called on elementary and middle schools to clear out books from their libraries including “illegal” and “inappropriate” works.    Now teachers have removed books from schools in at least 30 of mainland     China’s 33 provinces and municipalities, according to a Reuters review of social media posts, publicly available school and local government documents, and interviews with teachers.
    From western Gansu province to Shanghai, the review of publicly announced measures pointed to books being cleared by the hundreds of thousands.
    Censorship in China has been intensifying under Xi, but analysts say this is the first national campaign aimed at libraries in decades.    It comes as government employees in Hong Kong last week removed books by pro-democracy activists from public libraries to see whether they violate a new national security law.
    “This is the first movement targeted at libraries since the Cultural Revolution,” said Wu Qiang, a political analyst based in     Beijing and former political science lecturer at Tsinghua University.    In the late 1960s, zealous teenagers driven by Mao Zedong carried out a nationwide campaign targeting libraries and destroying or burning what they could get their hands on, as part of a wider destruction of traditional culture.
    This campaign is more selective, and directed from the top, with schools putting groups of teachers in charge of interpreting the order.    The books removed have mainly been out-of-date, shabby or pirated texts, but the drive has also covered those which, while they may be legally available, are sensitive.
    The ministry directive did not list titles, but said illegal books are those “that damage the unity of the country, sovereignty or its territory; books that upset society’s order and damage societal stability; books that violate the Party’s guidelines and policies, smear or defame the Party, the country’s leaders and heroes.”
    Inappropriate books are “not in line with the socialist core values; that have deviant world views, life views and values” or are books “promoting religious doctrines and canons; promoting narrow nationalism and racism.”
    Neither the Ministry of Education nor the State Council Information Office, which acts as a spokesperson for the central government, responded to requests for comment.
    One middle-school teacher in a rural area told Reuters their school had removed traditional comic-like picture books called lianhuanhua, or “linked images,” popular in China until the 1990s; books about Christianity; books about Buddhism; and notably, copies of “Animal Farm” and “1984” – George Orwell’s classic novels about authoritarianism which have been available in China for decades.
    The teacher, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a small group of staff were led by their librarian in an after-hours operation in late April to inspect and remove the books.
    Each night in sessions of up to five or six hours over seven days, they flicked through thousands of titles, selected about 100 that met guidelines issued by the local government and removed them, filling in a form to report their actions.
    “Of course, these books, the students don’t really look at them anyway,” the teacher said.    “So if we had to get rid of some, we would start with this.”
    Some schools and counties have taken to social media such as Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform that is subject to official censorship, to broadcast their participation.
    “Book inspection and clean-up is meticulous but tedious work, shouldering the heavy responsibility of watering the flowers of the motherland,” announced a Weibo post in May by Xianlai school in Jiangxi province, above a picture of a woman in a floral dress sorting books on a shelf.
    “Our school has taken concrete action to cultivate a virtuous youth, and has raised the quality of our library books one step further.”
    The Xianlai school principal did not answer a phone call from Reuters.
    School phone numbers are not publicly available in China.
    Reuters tried to call more than 100 other schools across the country to inquire about the removal campaign; 44 of the numbers were functioning.    Of those, officials at 23 declined to comment or hung up.    There was no response from the rest.
    It is unclear how the books will be disposed of, teachers say.    For now, they have been sealed up and put into local storage.
    The titles are being replaced with new books from a 422-page list published in the directive by the Ministry of Education.    Suggestions include the “Communist Manifesto and the new era,” the poems of Mao Zedong, and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” the influential 19th-century abolitionist novel of slavery in America.
    Censorship in China is a continuously shifting line. One of the books on the approved list is “Winnie the Pooh,” the children’s classic about a boy and his teddy bear.    In the past, online posts that likened Pooh’s appearance to that of President Xi have been censored, and in 2018, China turned down Walt Disney Co’s request to allow screenings of a movie featuring Pooh.
IDEOLOGICAL PERILS
    Xi, who came to power in 2012, has led a campaign to strengthen the Communist Party and reaffirm its ideology.    In 2013, the Party issued a directive known as Document No. 9, naming seven ideological perils from the West that were endangering Chinese society, including terms such as “universal values,” “constitutionalism,” “civil society,” and “democratic politics,” that had become more commonly used and debated in China.     First, according to a summary of his speech published in a Party journal, he said the nation should “deeply understand and strengthen the fundamental requirement for the Party’s total leadership of education.”
    Initially, universities were the focus: Since 2017, many higher education institutions have been tasked with placing Xi’s ideology, which he has branded “Xi Jinping Thought,” at the core of their curricula, and the government has tasked universities to start research centres for it.
    Later, the drive broadened to younger minds.    In 2018, the government launched a campaign to expunge unapproved foreign content from compulsory education textbooks used in the first nine years of school.
    The ministry’s notice from October called on schools to carry out an “inspection and cleaning programme” of books.    It said three types should be rejected: illegal books, inappropriate books and books with poor appearance or no value.
    It also called on schools to perfect a mechanism of managing a library’s catalogue so any incoming book is inspected.    If a problem arises, both the person who recommends the book to students and the one who decides to use it must be held responsible, it said.
    “Contending for the youth’s brains is one of the most important things for the Party,” said Wu, the political analyst in Beijing.
    Young protesters in Hong Kong last year have shown why China is so determined to keep a tight control of the education of young people.
    People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, has said Hong Kong’s education was “poisoned.”    State media has run multiple editorials in recent months attacking the city’s tradition of civic education.    The party, said Sun Peidong, a professor with Shanghai’s Fudan University, thinks: “why that protest happened so brutally is because of the lack of patriotic education in Hong Kong.”
BURNING BOOKS
    The western province of Gansu was among the first to remove offending material.     In December, a picture of two women burning books in front of a library in Zhenyuan, a small Gansu county, went viral online. The book-burning incited public criticism on Weibo.     Some posts said China was “burning books and burying Confucian scholars,” an edict supposedly issued by China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang, more than 2,000 years ago to destroy works he regarded as politically dangerous.     Gansu had issued a province-wide notice to follow the Ministry of Education’s directive in late October, but Reuters could not determine if the Gansu librarians were part of the campaign targeting schools.    The county government said at the time that by burning the books, the women had not followed regulations.
    Schools have not boasted of book burnings since.    But schools and local governments in four regions publicly stated how many books they removed, totalling more than 60,000 for that small sample, Reuters found.
    For example:
    Anning city in southwestern Yunnan province removed a total of 16,365 volumes, including 1,835 “inappropriate” volumes and 14,530 books that were “of poor appearance or had no value,” according to a social media post by the local government.
    In the city of Zhoushan, near Shanghai, 100 schools cleaned out 11,871 books that had “old and outdated content that is not suitable for students to read, or had a poor appearance and no preservation value,” according to an education periodical published by the provincial government.
    In Xixia county, in central Henan province, schools cleaned out a total of 6,000 books that were “inappropriate or had a poor outer appearance,” and 22,700 that had no value, local media reported.
    Many school libraries, especially in rural areas, are small and do not have many sensitive books, teachers say. However, their shelves are often filled with old or pirated books.
    Some of these were falling apart, one teacher in Gansu province said. His school in a rural village removed about 80 volumes.    After completing the work, he said, they put the books away in storage.
CULTURAL REVOLUTION
    Although “1984” and “Animal Farm” were removed from a rural school, they are still available from stores and online in China.
    The school clear-out also has included lianhuanhua picture books from the time of the Cultural Revolution, the rural teacher said.
    At one stage, the comic books from that era engaged in political criticism, targeting figures like Mao’s rivals and Confucius, whose writings Xi has resurrected. But the Cultural Revolution has become a more sensitive subject in recent years.
    For instance the Fudan University professor Sun, an expert on the history of the period who now lives in Paris, said she has faced increasing censorship since 2015.    In 2019, she stopped teaching her long-time class about the era and quit the history department.
    The authorities “don’t want the ordinary people of China, especially the younger generation of China to know” about it, Sun said.
    The head of the history department said Sun chose to resign, citing personal reasons.
(Edited by Sara Ledwith)

7/9/2020 Angering China, Australia suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong, extends visas by Kirsty Needham
FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a state memorial honouring victims of the Australian
bushfires at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, February 23, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia said on Thursday it was suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in response to a new security law imposed there and announced measures to attract businesses from the Asian financial hub, provoking an angry response from Beijing.
    Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the law introduced last week in Hong Kong was a fundamental change of circumstances and Australia would suspend the extradition agreement.
    “There will be citizens of Hong Kong who may be looking to move elsewhere, to start a new life somewhere else, to take their skills, their businesses,” Morrison said, outlining changes to visa programmes.
    Morrison said Hong Kong students, graduates and workers in Australia on temporary visas will have the opportunity to stay and work for an extra five years and apply for permanent residency after that time.
    Future student visas would also be offered for five years, however Morrison said they were “not expecting large numbers of applicants any time soon.”
    Speaking in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Morrison’s government should change course and stop interfering in Chinese affairs, warning that China, the biggest customer for Australian exports, reserved the right to take retaliatory action.
    Two-way trade between the countries was worth A$235 billion last year.    And the Chinese embassy in Canberra warned earlier that unless Australia stopped meddling “it will lead to nothing but lifting a rock only to hit its own feet.”
WELCOMING TALENT
    There are 10,000 Hong Kong citizens in Australia on student visas or temporary work visas, with a further 2,500 outside Australia and 1,250 applications on hand, according to the government.    Hong Kong applicants would be prioritised under Australia’s Global Talent Scheme and business visa programme.
    “There is so much talent in Hong Kong,” said Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge.    “There are great businesses in Hong Kong.    And we know that many individuals now might be looking elsewhere, because they do want to be in a freer country, they want to be in a democratic country.”
    Australia offered asylum to some 42,000 Chinese students who were in Australia after a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests Tiananmen Square in 1989.
    Imposed after months of mass protests that sometimes resulted in violent clashes between police and pro-democracy supporters, Hong Kong’s new security law punishes acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
BUSINESS PITCH
    Morrison also made a pitch for international financial services, consulting and media businesses with regional headquarters in Hong Kong to relocate to Australia, saying his government would proactively encourage that.
    He said measures would be accommodated within Australia’s existing caps on permanent resident visas, and Hong Kong citizens could also apply to the humanitarian and refugee visa programme.
    Hong Kong student Dennis Chan, who attends university in New South Wales and is a spokesman for community group Australia-Hong Kong Link, welcomed the stance taken by Australia.
    But, he said some graduates were worried they weren’t covered, as many had returned to Hong Kong and were on bridging visas, unable to return to Australia because of COVID-19.
    “People who protested in Hong Kong are facing difficulties leaving Hong Kong to come to Australia,” he told Reuters.
    Australia changed its travel advisory for Hong Kong, where around 100,000 Australians live and work, to say “reconsider your need to remain in Hong Kong” if they are concerned about the new law.
    Canada last week announced it would suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in the wake of the legislation and could boost immigration from the former British colony.
    New Zealand said it was also reviewing its relations with Hong Kong, and would review extradition arrangements, controls on exports of strategic goods and travel advice.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Lincoln Feast and Simon Cameron-Moore)

7/9/2020 Indonesia posts worst daily rise in COVID-19 cases after outbreak among military cadets
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker wearing protective gear walks through a traditional market as swab samples are collected from
vendors to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported its biggest single-day rise in coronavirus infections on Thursday, with almost half of the 2,657 new cases detected at a military training centre in West Java.
    So far, the world’s fourth most populous country has recorded 70,736 cases.    Public health researchers suspect that due to the limited scope of testing so far, the actual case total could be far higher, though the government denies this, and has told people not to panic.
    There were 58 new coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, bringing the official total to 3,417, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto told a news conference.
    Partial data for 20 of Indonesia’s 35 provinces gathered by volunteer group Kawal Covid-19 from local governments websites, however, showed there were a further 6,847 deaths of people who had not been tested but showed acute symptoms.
    The central government does not include such cases, as untested patients could have died from other causes.
    Yurianto attributed the increasing new cases to people not wearing masks as Indonesia eased lockdowns to help revive the economy.
    He told reporters that a significant new cluster had emerged at a military training centre in West Java, where 1,262 cadets and trainers have tested positive for the disease.
    “We implore the people to stay calm, not panic, because it’s being taken care of professionally according to international standards,” he said.
    According to Yurianto, 13,732 people showing acute symptoms were under close medical observation, but had yet to be tested.    Another 38,498 were being monitored for having come in contact with the virus.
    President Joko Widodo told a meeting during a visit in Central Kalimantan province on Thursday that the country needs to control both the public health crisis and economic fallout.
    “We need to manage the gas and the brakes.    We can’t hit the gas on the economy but let the (COVID-19 outbreak) ratchet up.”
    Indonesia’s gross domestic product may have shrunk by as much as 5.1% on-year in April-June from the blow of the coronavirus pandemic, but will likely expand in subsequent quarters, its finance minister said on Thursday.
(Reporting by Stanley Widianto, Fanny Potkin, and Maikel Jefriando; writing by Fanny Potkin, Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Mark Heinrich)

7/9/2020 Japan, Australian leaders share concern over East, South China Seas
FILE PHOTO - The Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison shakes hands with the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe
during a bilateral meeting ahead of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 27, 2019. Du XiaoyI/Pool via REUTERS
    TOKYO/SYDNEY (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, shared serious concerns over various moves in the East and South China Seas in their video meeting on Thursday, a Japanese government spokesman said.
    Asked at a media briefing if the two leaders’ concerns expressed in the meeting were directed to China, Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Naoki Okada declined to elaborate.
    Australia too did not single out any particular country, though the meeting comes after several incidents involving China.
    “They expressed serious concern about recent negative developments in the South China Sea, including the continuing militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous and coercive use of coastguard vessels and ‘maritime militia’,” an Australian government statement read.
    In April, Vietnam lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the disputed South China Sea.
    China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, within a U-shaped “nine-dash line” on its maps that is not recognised by its neighbours, several of whom have overlapping claims.
    The United States has accused China of pushing its presence in the South China Sea while other claimants are pre-occupied with the coronavirus pandemic.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Alex Richardson)

7/9/2020 Coronavirus infections rise above 250,000 in Iran
FILE PHOTO: A member of emergency medical staff wearing protective suit, sits in an ambulance while transferring a patient with coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) to Masih Daneshvari Hospital, in Tehran, Iran March 30, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Ali Khara via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s total number of coronavirus cases has reached 250,458 and a record 221 people died of the disease over the past 24 hours, raising the overall death toll to 12,305, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.
    Iran, the Middle East country hardest hit by the pandemic, has suffered a new spike in the number of daily infections and deaths in recent weeks as lockdown measures have been relaxed to help the economy revive.
    President Hassan Rouhani launched new measures on Saturday to try to curb the renewed spread. He said Iranians who do not wear masks will be denied state services and workplaces that fail to comply with health protocols – including social distancing – will be shut for a week.
    Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in the Islamic Republic, have been shown wearing masks on state media websites in recent days.
(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

7/9/2020 U.S. State Department OKs Possible $23 Billion Sale Of F-35s To Japan
FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Air Force pilot takes off in his Air Force F-35A aircraft from the 388th and 428th
Fighter Wings to participate in a combat power exercise, after he formed up in an
"elephant walk" exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, U.S. January 6, 2020. REUTERS/George Frey
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department said on Thursday it had approved the possible sale of 105 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets to Japan at an estimated cost of $23 billion.
    The Japanese request included 63 F-35A and 42 F-35B aircraft, 110 Pratt and Whitney F135 engines, and related equipment, it said, and implementation of the proposed sale, including technical support and training, would take 25 years.
    “It is vital to U.S. national interest to assist Japan in developing and maintaining a strong and effective self-defense capability,” the State Department said, adding that the proposed sale would not change the military balance in the region.
    F-35 jets are made at a Lockheed Martin factory in Fort Worth, Texas, but allies assemble jets for themselves at two final assembly and check out facilities in Japan and Italy.
    In March, the Pentagon said Mitsubishi Heavy Industries <7011.T> was closing the Japanese plant for one week due to concerns about the coronavirus.
(Reporting by Mike Stone; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

7/10/2020 WHO Advance Team On Way To China To Set Up Probe Into Virus Origin
FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured on the headquarters of the World Health Orgnaization (WHO) ahead of a meeting of the Emergency
Committee on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Geneva, Switzerland, January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – An advance team from the World Health Organization (WHO) has left for China to organise an investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus which sparked the pandemic, a spokeswoman said on Friday.
    The two WHO experts, specialists in animal science and epidemiology, will work with Chinese scientists to determine the scope and itinerary of the investigation, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a U.N. briefing. “They are gone, they are in the air now, they are the advance party to work out the scope,” she said.
    The WHO will have no role in an independent panel, announced on Thursday, to review the global handling of pandemic, Harris said, adding: “From now on it is completely hands off
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Michael Shields)
[ITS ABOUT TIME YOU LOOKED AT THIS AND IF THE CHINESE PREVENT YOU FROM ACCESS TO INVESTIGATE THEN THAT SHOULD TELL YOU THAT TRUMP IS RIGHT AND THEY ARE GUILTY AND TEDROS NEEDS TO GO AND HOPEFULLY YOU DID NOT SEND HIM TO CHINA TO INVESTIGATE OR EVEN SO WILL CHINA PULL OUT ALSO AND YOU LOSE THEIR MEASLY 30 MILLION A YEAR.].

7/10/2020 Singaporeans Vote In Shadow Of Pandemic And Recession by Jessica Jaganathan, Fathin Ungku and Anshuman Daga
Personnel prepare ballot boxes at a polling station during Singapore's general election in Singapore July 10, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singaporean voters fretted over the risks of COVID-19 as they queued in masks to cast their ballots on Friday, amid an uptick in new infections and prospects of the city-state’s economy entering its worst-ever recession.
    In power since independence in 1965, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) is widely expected by analysts to carry Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to another comfortable, and probably final victory.
    Lee, the son of Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, has held the premiership since 2004.    Aged 68, Lee has already flagged his intention to step aside in coming years, but he wanted a fresh mandate to steer the country out of the coronavirus crisis.
    As the prime minister queued up to cast his vote, a video widely shared on social media showed his wife tapping him on the shoulder to remind him to socially distance when he strayed too close to the person in front.
    At polling stations round the city, election officials clad in face shields enforced distancing rules and took voters’ temperatures as they entered polling booths.
    “This is a very dangerous time to hold an election even though many precautions were taken,” said Mayank Goel, 21, a biomedical engineering student after voting.
    Some Singaporeans had voiced doubt whether it was worth risking going to polling stations, though voting is mandatory in on the small Southeast Asian island that has become wealthy by being a banking, trade and transport hub for the region.
    Since easing its lockdown last month, the number of new daily cases in Singapore has crept back into double figures, excluding the migrant workers living in dormitories where infection rates have been far higher.
    And opposition parties had criticised Lee for calling the election, warning that it could hit public health and distract from government efforts to tackle the virus.
    Social distancing rules constrained campaigning, and there were no party rallies allowed.
QUICKER WITHOUT GLOVES
    Singapore has one of the lowest COVID-19 fatality rates in the world and initially earned widespread praise for its efforts.    But subsequent mass outbreaks in cramped migrant worker dormitories stained that early success, and persuaded the government to keep schools and businesses closed for longer.
    Seen as a measure of approval for both the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis and the next generation of leaders, the poll results will be closely watched as even small shifts in the PAP’s popularity can lead to major policy changes.
    When concerns around immigration and jobs flared in 2011, the PAP polled a record-low 60% of the vote and tightened international hiring rules to address voters’ sensitivities.
    Those concern have come to the fore again as the country emerges from lockdown to face its deepest recession.
    Singapore is not the first country in Asia to hold elections during the pandemic – South Korea held parliamentary elections in April.
    But with just 2.65 million voters in Singapore, election organisers counted on a fast, hygienic vote to minimise risks.
    Voters were given a recommended time slot to vote.    Inside the polling stations, they had to self-scan identity cards and sanitised their hands before receiving a ballot paper.
    While officials had hoped it would take voters no more than five minutes to cast their ballot, some people said they waited for up to an hour as lines formed initially outside some polling stations.
    Delays persuaded the election authority to drop a requirement for voters to wear gloves, and by around mid-morning the lines had receded.
    Sample counts are expected soon after polling closes at 8 p.m. (1200 GMT) with final results due in the early hours of Saturday.    A record 11 parties are contesting.
    “Economy is not doing well so we need more voices and exchange of ideas (in parliament),” said entrepreneur Jay Phang, 60.
(Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan, Anshuman Daga, Fathin Ungku, Tom Westbrook, Christian Schmollinger, John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

7/10/2020 Hong Kong To Suspend All Schools Due To Spike In Coronavirus Cases
FILE PHOTO: Students attend to take the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams, following the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Hong Kong, China, 24 April 2020. Jerome Favre/ Pool via REUTERS
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s Education Bureau on Friday announced the suspension of all schools from Monday after a spike in locally transmitted coronavirus cases that has fuelled fears of a renewed community spread in the city.
    Schools in the Asian financial hub have been mostly shut since February with many having switched to online learning and lessons by conference call.    Many international schools are already on summer break.
    The city reported 42 new cases on Thursday, of which 34 were locally transmitted, marking the second consecutive day of rising local infections.,br>     Some of the recent cases involved students and parents, said Education Secretary Kevin Yeung.
    The total number of cases in the city since late January now stands at 1,366.    Seven people have died.
(Reporting by Clare Jim and Anne Marie Roantree; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

7/10/2020 China Says It Will Hit Back Against New U.S. Sanctions Over Uighur Rights by Daphne Psaledakis, Alexandra Alper and Matt Spetalnick
FILE PHOTO: Chen Quanguo, Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, speaks
at the meeting of Xinjiang delegation on the sidelines of the National People's Congress (NPC),
at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China said on Friday it would take “reciprocal measures” against the United States after Washington imposed sanctions on senior Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority.
    Beijing described the new U.S. sanctions as “deeply detrimental” to mutual relations, already strained by differences over China’s handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak and its tightening grip on Hong Kong.
    Washington imposed sanctions on the autonomous region of Xinjiang’s Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, a member of China’s powerful Politburo, and three other officials.
    A senior U.S. administration official described Chen as the highest ranking Chinese official that the United States has sanctioned.
    The decision is “no joke,” the U.S. official said.    “Not only in terms of symbolic and reputational affect, but it does have real meaning on a person’s ability to move around the world and conduct business.”
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing the U.S. decision was a serious interference in Chinese affairs.
    “In light of these wrong actions, China will impose reciprocal measures on U.S. officials and organizations that have displayed egregious behaviour on human rights in relation to Xinjiang affairs,” Zhao said.
    “We urge the U.S. to correct this wrong decision.    If the U.S. continues to proceed, China will take firm countermeasures.”
    Washington’s sanctions were imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the U.S. government to target human rights violators worldwide by freezing any U.S. assets, banning U.S. travel and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them.
    Sanctions were also imposed on Zhu Hailun, deputy secretary of the regional legislative body, the Xinjiang’s People’s Congress; Wang Mingshan, the director and Communist Party secretary of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau; and the former party secretary of the bureau, Huo Liujun.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was also barring Chen, Zhu, Wang and their immediate families, and other unnamed Chinese Communist Party officials, from traveling to the United States.
EXILE GROUP WELCOMES SANCTIONS
    The World Uyghur Congress, the main exile group, welcomed the move and urged the European Union and other countries to follow suit.
    U.S. Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who sponsored legislation signed by President Donald Trump in June that calls for sanctions over the repression of Uighurs, told Reuters the move was “long overdue” and that more steps were needed.
    The Associated Press reported last month that China was trying to slash birth rates amongst Uighurs with forced birth control.    China denounced the report as fabricated.
    Despite Trump’s public remarks about Beijing, former national security adviser John Bolton alleged in his recent book that Trump said Chinese President Xi Jinping should go ahead with building detention camps in Xinjiang and sought Xi’s help to win re-election in November.
    Trump said in an interview last month he had held off on tougher sanctions on China over Uighur human rights because of concerns that such measures would have interfered in trade negotiations with Beijing.
    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had also raised objections to the Treasury sanctions, especially against a Politburo member, out of concerns they could further damage U.S.-China relations, according to a person familiar with the matter.
    “The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world,” Mnuchin said in a statement.
    Peter Harrell, a former U.S. official and sanctions expert at the Center for a New American Security, said Thursday’s move may signal a continued shift of “paying more attention to human rights abuses in China … after several years of relative neglect.”
    Chen is widely considered the senior official responsible for the security crackdown in Xinjiang.    United Nations experts and activists estimate more than a million Muslims have been detained in camps in the Xinjiang region.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Tim Ahmann, Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Mary Milliken, Marguerita Choy, Richard Chang adn Timothy Heritage)

7/10/2020 Talk Softly And Follow The Rules, Tokyo Nightclubs Told As Coronavirus Rears Head Again by Kaori Kaneko
FILE PHOTO: Nightlife district of Kabukicho, Tokyo, Japan, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Matthew Childs/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Hosts and hostess in Japanese nightclubs need to abide by rules and follow advice on how to interact with customers to stop the coronavirus spreading in nightlife districts, where infections have surged again, Japanese officials said on Friday.
    The call came as Tokyo reported a record daily high of 243 new infections on Friday.
    Infections in the capital have been creeping up since the government lifted a state of emergency about a month ago, with the Kabukicho red-light district becoming a major source of cases.
    “We need to take steps quickly,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who leads Japan’s pandemic response, told reporters.
    Clusters were found among Kabukicho’s many host clubs, where young men entertain women customers over drinks, and also at the female equivalent hostess or “cabaret” clubs.
    Outbreaks have also been found in similar clubs in Ikebukuro’s red-light district, as well as in some cafes where women dress up as maids to entertain customers in the Akihabara electronics town.
    “Infections are coming out of host and cabaret clubs and it’s important to take firm measures there,” Nishimura said.    “We need to make sure they thoroughly follow guidelines.”
    Nishimura said customers should be provided with enough space with good ventilation and avoid speaking loudly. He will meet experts and nightlife district officials later on Friday to decide on other measures.
    The current coronavirus situation in Tokyo was different to April, when the government imposed a state of emergency telling people stay at home and businesses to close.
    Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who will also join the meeting, said the metropolis would step up efforts to educate nightlife workers, including with a new video that will be available on its website next week.
    At a media briefing, Koike showed a clip of the video in which a young host sits at a night club in one frame asking a doctor in the opposite frame, via video chat, what kind of symptoms young people could expect if they contracted the virus.
    “In this way, they can pose whatever questions they have directly to a doctor and get easy-to-understand explanations,” she said, with questions ranging from how to safely greet customers to where to go to take a test.
    Japan has had about 20,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 980 deaths.
(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko, Chang-Ran Kim and Junko Fujita, Writing by Chris Gallagher, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

7/10/2020 Undeterred By Coronavirus, China Takes Influence Campaign Online To Win Taiwan Hearts by Yimou Lee
FILE PHOTO: The party flag for the Chinese Unity Promotion Party and China's national flag
are seen at Lin Guo-cingÕs office in Tainan, Taiwan, April, 9, 2019. File Photo
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – As the coronavirus pandemic all but halts travel across the Taiwan Strait, China is taking its campaign pushing for “reunification” with Taiwan to the virtual world of live broadcasts, online conferences and video-making competitions.
    The intensifying efforts to win hearts and minds in democratic Taiwan come amid widespread support on the island for anti-government protests in Hong Kong and opposition to a new Chinese-imposed security law for the city.
    Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial issue, with Beijing claiming the self-ruled island as its own, to be brought under its control by force if needed.
    While many Taiwanese trace their ancestry to mainland China and share cultural similarities with Chinese, most don’t want to be ruled by autocratic China.
    Beijing has long sought to win over Taiwan, where defeated Nationalist forces fled in 1949 at the end of the Chinese civil war.    Cut-price summer programmes for young Taiwanese, find-your-roots tours and other schemes push the message Taiwan would be better off under Beijing, and has nothing to fear.
    With normal travel links suspended, China has turned to the internet to continue this campaign.
    In June, dozens of Taiwan families joined a gala in the southern Chinese city of Fuzhou via video call to celebrate the traditional Dragon Boat Festival.
    Chinese state media described the event as an effort to boost “ancestral identity of Taiwan youth” and “express wishes for everlasting love across the Taiwan Strait.”
    A video-making contest to “break down barriers created by the virus” is now being advertised to Taiwan high school students.
    “The epidemic has cut off the mountains from the seas, but cannot cut off the longing for home,” an online poster on the competition wrote, which was co-hosted by a Chinese Communist Party youth group based in Fujian province, on the other side of the strait from Taiwan.
TAIWAN UNNERVED
    The moves have unnerved security agencies in Taiwan.
    One agency described them as part of a “new campaign model” to guide political ideology and sow discord towards Taiwan’s government, according to an internal security report reviewed by Reuters.
    A second internal security report reviewed by Reuters said the move online made it harder for Taiwan authorities to trace who was involved and could bring a “new national security crisis.”
    “They have been instructed to expand efforts for live broadcasts and video conferences,” a Taiwan security official investigating the matter told Reuters.    “They want to increase the favourable impression towards China.”
    Security officials say the virtual campaigns are initiated by Chinese state agencies including the Taiwan Affairs Office and the United Front Work Department, which is in charge of co-opting overseas Chinese and non-communists.
    Social media platforms including TikTok and Instagram have been used to “lure interactions” with Taiwan youth, a third security report says.
    A TikTok spokeswoman declined to comment.    Facebook, which owns Instagram, did not respond to requests for comment.
    China’s Taiwan Affairs Office told Reuters in a statement that amid the pandemic it was a “natural choice” to engage with Taiwan’s people online.
    But Taiwan’s government was seeking to “stigmatise normal exchanges between compatriots across the strait,” the office said, labelling it a “despicable” move aimed at Taiwan’s independence.
    Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council told Reuters people need to stay cautious to avoid “falling into the Chinese Communist Party’s trap” as China’s campaigning “takes a new form.”
    But the move might not be as effective as physical exchanges, which China is likely to restart once travel resumes, security officials said.
    “It’s harder to convince people without actually seeing what’s on offer,” a second security official said.
    Some evidence suggests the campaign is not succeeding.
    About 27% of people on the island support Taiwan’s formal independence, a record high, in contrast to 0.7% who want to join with China, according to a July poll by Taipei’s National Chengchi University. The majority of those polled preferred to maintain the status quo.
    “They have made a lot of effort with the virtual campaign,” the first official said.    “But most people in Taiwan are clear-headed.”
(Reporting by Yimou Lee; additional reporting by Ryan Woo, Yang Yingzhi and Brenda Goh in Beijing; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

7/10/2020 It’s Going To Happen Again,” Says Former New Zealand PM Clark Tasked With WHO COVID-19 Review by Praveen Menon
FILE PHOTO: Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, attends a
meeting of the commission in Mexico City, Mexico September 21, 2018. Picture taken September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril
    WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s former prime minister Helen Clark warned if the world remained “flat-footed” in its response to pandemics it faces future economic, social and political crisis, after she was appointed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to lead a review of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    WHO announced late on Thursday that Clark and Liberia’s former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will lead a panel scrutinising the global response.
    WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called both women “strong-minded, independent leaders,” aiming to underscore their freedom in assessing his agency’s and governments’ COVID-19 responses.
    The COVID-19 outbreak originated in China in late 2019 and has infected a reported 12.16 million people globally and 550,242 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
    The United States has accused China of not being open with the rest of the world in the early stages of the outbreak.    Beijing has rejected the charge and has fiercely rejected calls for an inquiry, describing the efforts as U.S.-led propaganda against China.
    After accepting the role, Clark said the job could only be described as “exceptionally challenging.”
    In an interview with local broadcaster TVNZ on Friday, Clark said this was the sixth time in 17 years that the WHO has declared a public health emergency.
    “This is going to happen again.    If the world is as flat-footed in response as it has been to this we are in serious ongoing economic, social, political crisis,” Clark told TVNZ.
    She said there would be a lot of consultation about appointing panel members.
    “But there’s also a very real job to do, which is to look at how the WHO has been able to lead.    Does it have the right mechanisms?    What actually happened here? And there’s a lot of politics in that,” she said.
    She said she will be working from her home in Auckland for the foreseeable future while delivering the project.
    New Zealand is among only a handful of countries to virtually eliminate the virus, with no known cases of community transmission in the South Pacific island nation, and the economy back to pre-pandemic normalcy.
    Clark has praised New Zealand’s response to the virus.
    Clark, New Zealand’s leader from 1999 to 2008, lost out four years ago to Antonio Guterres to lead the United Nations.    She previously led the U.N. Development Programme and serves on a WHO panel on childhood obesity.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Michael Perry)

7/10/2020 U.S. Army Chief Of Staff Signs “Strategic Vision” Pact With Thailand
U.S. Army Chief of Staff General James C. McConville and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, wearing face masks, speak
during their meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, July 10, 2020. Thailand Government House/Handout via REUTERS
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – U.S. Army Chief of Staff General James McConville met with Thailand’s prime minister and its army chief on Friday, in the first high-level visit by a foreign delegation to Thailand since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted international travel.
    McConville met with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and also Thai army chief Apirat Kongsompong and signed a Strategic Vision Statement, a U.S. Embassy statement said, as Washington looks to reassure allies about its commitment to the region.
    The text of the statement was not released, but the embassy said McConville and Apirat “discussed modernisation, interoperability, joint training, and doctrine.”
    The United States has sought to counter China’s influence in Southeast Asia, most recently by sending two aircraft carriers to the South China Sea while the Chinese military conducted drills near islands that are also claimed by Vietnam.
    Thailand is Washington’s oldest ally in Asia, but relations were strained by a 2014 military coup led by then-army chief Prayuth that ousted an elected civilian government.
    The United States scaled back some military exchanges with Thailand, and Bangkok responded by forging a closer ties with China.
    But ties improved after last year’s general election that officially restored civilian rule while keeping Prayuth on as a civilian leader, resulting in arms deal for U.S.-made armored personnel carriers and light attack helicopters last year.
    Prayuth on Friday also acknowledged $2 million in U.S. aid to help Thailand to cope with the coronavirus, according to a news release from his office.
    The U.S. delegation visited under a special arrangement to follow strict coronavirus safety measures that required members to wear face masks.
    Thailand has gone six weeks without confirmed community transmission of coronavirus, while the United States marked a new daily record of more than 60,000 new cases on Thursday.
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Martin Petty)

7/10/2020 North Korean Leader’s Sister Says Another Summit Unlikely But “A Surprise Thing May Still Happen” by Sangmi Cha and Josh Smith
FILE PHOTO: A person walks past a banner showing North Korean and U.S. flags ahead of the
North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 25, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    SEOUL (Reuters) – Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader, said another summit with the United States would only be useful for Washington at this point, adding her country had no intention of “threatening the U.S.,” according to state media.
    Kim said in her personal opinion, there is unlikely to be another summit between leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump this year but “a surprise thing may still happen,” news agency KCNA reported on Friday.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday he was “very hopeful” about resuming talks with North Korea about denuclearisation and appeared to leave open the possibility of another summit between the countries’ leaders.
    Kim Yo Jong’s comments came a day after the U.S. point man for North Korea, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, wrapped up a three-day visit to Seoul where he rejected speculation he was seeking to meet North Korean officials during his trip, but said the United States was open to talks.
    Recent North Korean statements have rejected the idea of new talks, and Kim reiterated Pyongyang’s objections to what it sees as hostile and self-serving policies of the United States.
    “We would like to make it clear that it does not necessarily mean the denuclearisation is not possible,” Kim Yo Jong said.    “But what we mean is that it is not possible at this point of time.”
    Her comments were couched in a somewhat softer tone than previous statements, and she even noted she had received special permission to view recordings of the recent Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations in the United States.
    “We do not have the slightest intention to pose a threat to the U.S…. Everything will go smoothly if they leave us alone and make no provocation on us,” she said.
    Kim said it was unclear if mixed messages of engagement and pressure from Trump and his aides are an “intentional scheme or a result of the President’s loose grip of power.”
    She said her brother had instructed her to pass on greetings to Trump and send him wishes for success in his work.
    But even if the relationship between the leaders is good, Washington will return to being hostile and North Korea needs to shape its policies in preparation for leaders other than Trump, Kim said.
    Kim Jong Un and Trump exchanged threats and insults in 2017 as North Korea rapidly advanced its missile and nuclear weapons technology, before ties warmed in early 2018.
    The two leaders have met three times, but failed to find a compromise over the North’s nuclear weapons programme, or the international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha and Josh Smith; Editing by Leslie Adler, Tom Brown and Lincoln Feast.)

7/10/2020 Singapore’s Ruling PAP Cedes Ground To Opposition In Pandemic Poll by Tom Westbrook, John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan
Workers’ Party supporters celebrate the results of the general election in Singapore July 11, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) extended its unbroken rule in Friday’s election, but its vote share slipped near a record low as opposition parties made historic inroads in a ballot held under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Having held power since independence in 1965, the PAP had been widely expected to win and carry Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to what is likely his last victory before retirement as national leader.
    The PAP secured 83 out of 93 seats in parliament.    But the main opposition Workers’ Party won the other 10, the most ever held by opposition lawmakers, while the PAP’s popular vote fell to 61%, down from 70% in 2015.
    Even small shifts in the PAP’s popularity can lead to major policy changes, and PM Lee struck a downbeat tone in an early morning press conference on Saturday.
    “We have a clear mandate but the percentage of the popular vote is not as high as I had hoped for,” Lee said.
    “The results reflect the pain and uncertainty that Singaporeans feel in this crisis… This was not a feel-good election.”
    In a city-state with tight rules around speech and assembly and a lopsided political power balance, opposition supporters took the result as a landmark show of strength.
    Streets in the Workers’ Party stronghold district swelled with supporters honking horns, cheering and waving party flags – some seemingly paying little heed to social distancing rules.
    “The results have surpassed the expectations even of some in the opposition,” said Loke Hoe Yeong, author of First Wave, a book on the history of the Singapore opposition.
    “It also looks like voters are voicing their disapproval of the PAP calling a general election in the midst of the pandemic.”
JOBS FEARS TO THE FORE
    The PAP’s two-thirds majority affords them a free hand to pass legislation and amend the constitution, but its leaders will also be under pressure to address the slip in support.
    When concerns around immigration and jobs flared in 2011, the PAP polled a record low 60% of the vote and tightened international hiring rules to address voters’ sensitivities.
    Those concerns have come to the fore again as the country emerges from lockdown to face its deepest recession.
    Lee, the son of Singapore’s founding leader, Lee Kuan Yew, called the election to seek a fresh mandate to guide the country through a health crisis that has crushed the small but open economy.
    Singapore is not the first country to hold elections during the pandemic – South Korea and Serbia have also held polls – but opposition parties had pushed back on the plan saying it endangered voters and hindered their campaigning.
    “They think that they’ve done well dealing with the pandemic,” said Muhammad, a 33-year-old construction safety manager amongst ebullient Workers’ Party supporters.    “They haven’t,” he said.
    Singapore has one of the lowest COVID-19 fatality rates in the world and initially earned widespread praise for its efforts.    But subsequent outbreaks in cramped migrant worker dormitories stained that early success, and persuaded the government to keep schools and businesses closed for longer.
    Lee, 68, who has held the premiership since 2004, retained his seat easily.    He had previously flagged his intention to step aside in coming years, but said on Saturday he would stay on to see through the COVID-19 crisis.
    Meanwhile, his deputy and earmarked successor, Heng Swee Keat, won his seat with a slim 53% of the vote in what analysts said was a key test of his public support.
(Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan, Anshuman Daga, Fathin Ungku, Tom Westbrook, Christian Schmollinger, John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Kevin Liffey and Nick Macfie)

7/10/2020 Millions Of Australians Back In Lockdown Amid Melbourne Virus Outbreak by Colin Packham and Byron Kaye
Vehicles drive past public housing towers, locked down in response to an outbreak of the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Melbourne, Australia, July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
(This July 7 story corrects to remove quote on commuting delay that was erroneously attributed)
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, went back into lockdown at midnight on Wednesday, forcing five million Australians to stay home for all but essential business for the next six weeks to contain a flare-up of coronavirus cases.
    State police were patrolling the city and setting up checkpoints on major roads to stop people heading out to regional areas and spreading the virus from what is now Australia’s pandemic epicentre, with 860 active cases.
    “The window for police discretion is very small and is closing as the threat to public health and safety created by those breaching the Chief Health Officer’s directions is too great,” Victoria police said in a statement.
    Cafes, bars, restaurants and gyms which only recently reopened had to shut again.    Police had no comment on whether anyone has been stopped or fined since midnight.
    The renewed lockdown follows the closure of Australia’s busiest state border, between Victoria and the most populous state New South Wales, on Tuesday night.
    “The rest of the country knows that the sacrifice that you’re going through right now is not just for you and your own family, but it’s for the broader Australian community,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
    Morrison said he would take a proposal to state and territory leaders on Friday to slow down the number of Australian citizens and permanent residents returning home from overseas.    The two groups have been the only arrivals allowed since Australia closed its international border in March.
    New Zealand announced on Tuesday its national airline will not take new inbound bookings for three weeks to reduce the burden on overflowing quarantine facilities.
    In Australia, red flags have been raised by potential quarantine breaches that the Victorian state government believes led to returnees spreading the virus.
    Melbourne is the capital of Victoria state, which reported 134 new infections on Wednesday, down from the previous day’s record 191 but well over the low single digit daily increases elsewhere in the country.
    Fears of a broader second wave were underscored by an official report of three new COVID-19 cases in the national capital, Canberra.    Two of the infected people had returned from Melbourne last week and the third was their housemate.
    In Sydney, authorities were scrambling to track down 48 passengers who were allowed to disembark a flight from Melbourne overnight without being checked for COVID-19 symptoms.
    The resurgence of the virus and imposition of new containment measures will make it tougher for the government to get the economy back on its feet as it sinks into its first recession in three decades.    Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the border closure and Melbourne lockdown would cost the economy up to A$1 billion ($700 million) per week.
BORDER CONTROL
    Ahead of the lockdown, police checkpoints at the Victoria-NSW border caused delays of more than an hour for drivers, many of them daily commuters who live and work on either side.
    “I got a permit but with all the checks, my commute across was heavily delayed,” Amanda Cohn, who crosses the border from her home in NSW each day to reach the Victorian hospital where she works, told Reuters.    “Plenty of others need to get across and they don’t have a permit.”
    Victoria’s only other internal border, with South Australia, has been closed since mid-March.
    Among the new COVID-19 cases in Melbourne on Wednesday were 75 occupants of nine public housing towers that were placed into complete lockdown last week, barring their 3,000 residents from leaving for five days.
    Nationwide, Australia has reported about 9,000 COVID-19 cases and 106 deaths from the virus.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye, Colin Packham, Renju Jose and Sonali Paul; Editing by Jane Wardell and Kim Coghill)

7/11/2020 Hong Kong Opposition Kicks Off Primary Elections Under Shadow Of Security Law
FILE PHOTO: A Star Ferry boat crosses Victoria Harbour in front of a skyline of buildings during sunset, as a
meeting on national security legislation takes place in Hong Kong, China June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s opposition camp set up polling booths across the Chinese-ruled city on Saturday for primary elections aimed at selecting democracy candidates who stand the best chance of success in Legislative Council elections in September.
    The primaries come less than two weeks after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the Asian financial hub, stoking concerns that wide-ranging freedoms not seen in mainland China will be crushed.
    The law punishes what China describes broadly as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison and allows mainland security agents to operate officially in Hong Kong for the first time.
    On the eve of the primaries, police searched the office of independent pollster Robert Chung, whose Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) helps organise the election, raising concerns among activists of interference in the poll.
    “The primary election is our first time to let Beijing know Hong Kongers never bow down to China,” said pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong ahead of the opening of polling booths at noon (0400 GMT).
    “We urge the world to put Hong Kong under the global spotlight.”
    While the primaries are only for the opposition camp, observers are watching closely as they say the turnout at the election will serve as a litmus test of broader opposition to the national security law.
    The election seeks to bolster the chance for democracy candidates to achieve a 35-plus majority in the 70-seat legislature in polls on September 6, potentially giving them power to block government proposals.
    Hong Kong’s opposition camp secured a landslide victory in district council elections in November, riding on support for an anti-government protest movement triggered by a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial.
    Protests that escalated in June last year and evolved into calls for greater democracy have fizzled since police arrested more than 300 people on July 1, the day after Beijing introduced the national security law.
(Reporting By Yanni Chow and Yoyo Chow; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

7/11/2020 Australia’s Victoria State Logs Another Day Of High Coronavirus Infections by Byron Kaye
FILE PHOTO: A solitary man runs along a waterway after lockdown restrictions were implemented in response to an
outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Melbourne, Australia, July 10, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s second most-populous state reported one of its highest daily increases in coronavirus infections on Saturday and warned the numbers would get worse before they got better as its capital city began its first weekend of a six-week lockdown.
    The state of Victoria logged 216 new cases, down from a record 288 the previous day but still one of the biggest daily increases of any part of the country.
    “We will see more and more additional cases.    This is going to be with us for months and months,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised news conference.
    “Nobody is enjoying being locked at home.    It is frustrating, it is challenging, but the strategy will be successful if we all play our part.”
    Victoria, home to a quarter of the country’s 25 million people, has also become the first state to ask people to wear masks with the order directed at residents of Melbourne.
    The other seven states and territories, which reported just 11 new cases between them on Saturday, have banned travellers from     Victoria amid concern that community transmission was causing a second wave of the virus.
    Authorities had previously attributed most new cases to people returning from overseas.
    The country’s deputy chief medical officer, Nick Coatsworth, said it was to soon to say whether the community transmission had spread from Victoria to other states.
    “We are all on high alert,” he said.    “It is fair to say that the next couple of days are critical.”
    Australia has avoided the high COVID-19 casualty numbers of other countries after closing its borders and going into nationwide lockdown in March, with some 9,300 infections and 107 deaths.
    There were seven new cases in neighbouring New South Wales, the most-populous state, including a man who had visited a Sydney pub that has been linked to two other infections, authorities said.    A pop-up testing clinic was set up at the pub so patrons who were there on the same night could be tested.
    Australia on Friday gave provisional approval to Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir as the first treatment option for virus, joining the United States and the European Commission.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by William Mallard and Edwina Gibbs)

7/11/2020 Singapore Ruling Party, Stung By Poll Setback, Faces Succession Questions by Aradhana Aravindan and Anshuman Daga
FILE PHOTO: Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrives at a People's Action Party branch office,
as ballots are counted during the general election, in Singapore July 11, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su/
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore’s ruling party, stung by its worst ever election results, on Saturday signalled a possible delay to its meticulous succession plans, and analysts foresaw other policy changes that could affect the international business hub.
    The People’s Action Party secured 83 of 93 parliamentary seats in Friday’s election – a resounding win by international standards – and its share of the popular vote dropped near a record low, while the opposition won an unprecedented 10 seats.
    The results showed “a clear desire for a diversity of voices,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told an early morning news conference.    “Singaporeans want the PAP to form the government but they, and especially the younger voters, also want to see more opposition presence in parliament.”
    Stability and predictability define Singapore’s politics, dominated by the PAP since independence in 1965, proving crucial in developing the city-state into a global finance hub and regional trading centre.
    But analysts said the unexpected setback for Lee’s party likely means tighter rules on foreign employment and other changes to social policies to assuage concerns raised by opposition parties.
    “Policymakers will have a tighter line to walk on foreigners in the labour force and to double-up efforts on the economic wellbeing of lower-income groups,” said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Private Banking.
    In 2011, when the PAP polled a record low 60% of the popular vote, it tightened international hiring rules to address voters’ sensitivities.    Voters in Friday’s election had also expressed concern about their job prospects and whether their wealthy, small island needs so many foreigners in top paid roles.
NEXT GENERATION LACKED ‘PULL POWER’
    The election results cast a pall over Lee’s plans to seek a mandate for the next generation of leaders as he prepared to step down.
    Analysts said the strong Workers’ Party showing, which prompted wild celebrations in the small hours of Saturday morning in stronghold seats, could make Lee’s eventual handover more contested.
    His designated successor, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, scraped through with 53% of the vote in his constituency in the first real test of his popularity.
    “This was not a strong endorsement of the new leaders,” said Bridget Welsh, honorary research associate at the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute Malaysia.    Heng, 59, “lacked national pull power in the campaign,” as did many other next-generation leaders, she said.
    The prime minister, who took a gamble by calling the election in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, said he would now “see this crisis through,” a statement analysts took to mean he may put his retirement plans on hold.
    The 68-year-old son of Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, who is only the nation’s third premier since independence, had said he was preparing to hand over the reins to a new generation of leaders in coming years.
    With an overwhelming parliamentary majority, the PAP rarely has to court public opinion on policy or government plans.    Heng had been selected by his peers as a future leader in a secretive process compared to how cardinals pick a pope.
    The PAP’s setback “reopens questions about who is next,” said Chong Ja Ian political scientist and visiting scholar at the Harvard-Yenching Institute.    “No one knows for sure, but these questions are sure to arise.”
(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and Anshuman Daga in Singapore; Editing by William Mallard)

7/11/2020 Tokyo Confirms 206 New Cases Of Coronavirus Infections – NHK
FILE PHOTO: Ambulance workers wearing protective suits leave the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship, as the vessel's passengers continue to be
tested for coronavirus, at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo officials confirmed 206 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, public broadcaster NHK reported, as Japan’s capital struggles with a resurgence in cases after the government lifted a state of emergency.
    The total marks the third straight day of more than 200 cases and follows a record high of 243 new cases reported on Friday.    Coronavirus cases have surged particularly in Tokyo’s Kabukicho red-light district.
(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

7/11/2020 Philippines Confirms 12 New Coronavirus Deaths, 1,387 More Cases
Passengers wearing personal protective equipment for protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) queue at the check-in counters of
Emirates airline, in Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 9, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ health ministry on Saturday reported 12 new coronavirus deaths and 1,387 additional infections.,br> In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths have increased to 1,372 while confirmed cases have reached 54,222.    The Philippines has reported record daily high infection numbers on three of the past eight days.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales)

7/11/2020 Indonesia Reports 1,671 New Coronavirus Cases – Health Ministry Official
FILE PHOTO: Healthcare workers in protective gear sit inside an ambulance as they leave after collecting swab samples to be tested
for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a traditional textile market in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
    AKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported 1,671 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total count to 74,018, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto told a televised news briefing.     Fatalities from the virus rose by 66 on Saturday, bringing the total tally to 3,535, he said, while 34,719 people have recovered.
(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

7/11/2020 Iran Will Develop Oil Industry Despite U.S. Sanctions – Zanganeh Says
FILE PHOTO: Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh arrives at the OPEC headquarters in Vienna, Austria December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran is determined to develop its oil industry in spite of U.S. sanctions imposed on the country, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said in a televised speech on Saturday.
    “We will not surrender under any circumstances … We have to increase our capacity so that when necessary with full strength we can enter the market and revive our market share,” said Zanganeh.
    The minister was speaking before the signing of a $294-million contract between the National Iranian Oil Company and Persia Oil & Gas, an Iranian firm, to develop the Yaran oilfield that is shared with neighbouring Iraq’s Majnoon field.
    The agreement aims to produce 39.5 million barrels of oil from the Yaran oilfield in Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran, the Iranian Oil Ministry’s news agency SHANA said.
    Hit by reimposed U.S. sanctions since Washington exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal in 2018, Iran’s oil exports are estimated at 100,000 to 200,000 barrels per day, down from more than 2.5 million bpd that Iran shipped in April 2018.
    The Islamic Republic’s crude production has halved to around 2 million bpd.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi. Editing by Jane Merriman)

7/11/2020 U.S. Warns Citizens Of Heightened Detention Risks In China
FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near The Bund, before U.S. trade delegation meet their
Chinese counterparts for talks in Shanghai, China July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song
    BEIJING (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department warned American citizens on Saturday to “exercise increased caution” in China due to heightened risk of arbitrary law enforcement including detention and a ban from exiting the country.
    “U.S. citizens may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime,” the State     Department said in a security alert issued to its citizens in China, adding that U.S. citizens may face “prolonged interrogations and extended detention” for reasons related to state security.
    “Security personnel may detain and/or deport U.S. citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government,” it added, without citing specific examples. The state department also did not say what prompted the security alert.
    The security alert comes as bilateral tensions intensify over issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic, trade, the new Hong Kong security law and allegations of human rights violations against Uighurs in the Xinjiang region.
    Washington and Beijing recently exchanged visa bans against each other’s officials, underscoring the deteriorating relations.
    The Chinese foreign ministry could not be immediately reached for comment outside of business hours on Saturday.    Beijing called on Wednesday a similar warning issued by Australia about the risk of arbitrary detention in China “completely ridiculous and disinformation.”
(Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Yew Lun Tian; writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Toby Chopra)

7/11/2020 China’s Southern Jiangxi Province Declares Highest Flood Alert
FILE PHOTO: Rescue workers evacuate with an inflatable boat students stranded by floodwaters at a school, amid
heavy rainfall in Duchang county, Jiangxi province, China July 8, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS
    BEIJING (Reuters) – The southern Chinese province of Jiangxi issued its highest flood warning on Saturday, predicting a big overflow from a lake that joins the Yangtze River as torrential rain continued to batter much of the country, state media said.
    The provincial government raised its flood-control response level to I from II, the People’s Daily said, the top of China’s four-tier scale, signalling disasters such as dam collapses or extraordinary simultaneous floods in several rivers.
    With downpours continuing to wreak havoc across swathes of China, several other cities along the Yangtze have issued their highest-level flood warnings, with parts of the river threatening to burst its banks because of the incessant rain.
    The Jiangxi authorities expect severe regional flooding in Poyang, state television said, which is China’s largest freshwater lake and joins the Yangtze near the city of Jiujiang.
    The level of the lake was rising at an unprecedented pace and had reached 22.65 metres by 9 p.m. Saturday (1300 GMT), above the record high set in 1998 and well over the alert level of 19.50 metres, the CCTV said.
    Jiangzhou county, an island in the middle of Asia’s longest river at the end of the lake, issued a call on social media for everyone from the town aged 18 to 60 to return and help fight the flood, citing a severe lack of hands to reinforce dams.
    As of 5 p.m. on Saturday, flooding had affected 5.2 million people in Jiangxi province since Monday, with 432,000 people evacuated.    It had also damaged 4.56 million hectares of crops and toppled 988 houses, leading to direct losses of 6.5 billion yuan ($929 million), CCTV reported.
    China’s emergency management ministry said it had diverted assault boats, tents, folding beds and blankets to the province.
    China’s national observatory renewed its yellow alert for rainstorms on Saturday, warning of heavy weekend rain in places including Sichuan and Chongqing in the southwest, the central province of Hubei and Hunan province in the south.
    Authorities in Jiangsu province in the Yangtze Delta issued orange flood alerts on Saturday – the second-highest – saying huge, long-lasting volumes of water would pour from the river.
(Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Ryan Woo; Editing by David Clarke)

7/11/2020 Floods, Landslides Kill 40 In Nepal, Many Missing by Gopal Sharma
People gather near the bridge that is damaged due to the flood at Raghu Ganga River in Myagdi, Nepal July 11, 2020. REUTERS/Santosh Gautam
    KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Heavy rains triggered flash floods and landslides that killed at least 40 people and displaced thousands in western Nepal, officials said on Saturday.
    Twenty people were killed and at least 13 others were missing in Myagdi district, 200 km (125 miles) northwest of the capital Kathmandu, where several houses were destroyed on Friday, district administrator Gyan Nath Dhakal said.
    “Rescuers are looking for those who are still missing in Myagdi,” Dhakal said, adding that 50 people had been plucked to safety using helicopters.    “Eleven people who were injured in the landslides have been moved to nearby hospitals,” he said.
    In neighbouring Kaski district, seven people were killed, said a second government official in the tourist town of Pokhara.
    Another seven were killed in Jajarkot district in the far west.
    “We are searching for eight people who are still missing,” said Kishore Shrestha, a senior police official, said.
    Six people were killed in Gulmi, Lamjung and Sindhupalchowk in central Nepal.
    In the southern plains bordering India, the Koshi river, which causes deadly floods in the eastern Indian state of Bihar almost every year, was flowing above the danger level, police said.
    Landslides and flash floods are a common occurrence in mountainous Nepal during the June-September monsoon every year.
(Editing by Rupam Jain and Christina Fincher)

7/11/2020 Iran’s President Calls For Ban On Weddings, Wakes To Halt Virus Spread
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a video conference call with Russia's President Vladimir Putin
and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, in Tehran, Iran, July 1, 2020. Official Presidential website/Handout via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called on Saturday for big gatherings such as weddings and wakes to be banned to stem a rise in coronavirus infections, but insisted the country’s economy had to stay open.
    Shortly after Rouhani’s televised speech, a police official in Tehran announced the closure of all wedding and mourning venues in the capital until further notice.
    Iran has been gradually relaxing its lockdown since mid-April, but has recently reported a sharp rise in the infection rate.
    The death toll on Saturday rose by 188 over the previous 24 hours to 12,635, while the total number of diagnosed cases reached 255,117, up by 2,397 during the same period, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state TV.
    “We must ban ceremonies and gatherings all over the country, whether it be wakes, weddings or parties,” Rouhani said.
    “Now is not the time for festivals or seminars,” he said, adding that even university entrance exams may have to be suspended.
    Rouhani and other officials have blamed the rise in infections partly on wedding parties, wakes and other public gatherings.
    An advisor to Iran’s Coronavirus Task Force warned that if appropriate measures were not taken, between 50,000 and 60,000 people could die from the pandemic.
    “The second wave, which will occur in the fall, will be much more deadly,” said the advisor, Hossein Qenaati, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.
    While struggling to curb the spread of COVID-19, Iranian authorities are concerned that tougher measures could wreck an economy already reeling under U.S. sanctions.
    “The easiest option is to shut down everything,” Rouhani said.    “But then people will pour into the streets because of hunger and unemployment.”
(Editing by Christina Fincher)

7/12/2020 Australia’s Victoria State Marks Week Of Triple-Digit Coronavirus Cases by Lidia Kelly
A worker dressed in personal protective equipment disposes of rubbish outside a public housing tower, reopened the previous night after being
locked down in response to an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Melbourne, Australia, July 10, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s Victoria state marked a week of triple-digit increases in new coronavirus infections on Sunday, while a community outbreak in neighbouring New South Wales (NSW) has put the state on high alert.
    Victoria reported 273 new cases of the coronavirus and another COVID-19 death on Sunday, while NSW had nine cases linked to an outbreak at Sydney pub. Both states account for more than half of Australia’s population of 25 million.
    Australia has avoided the high COVID-19 casualty numbers of other nations with swift and strict measures, recording so far just under 10,000 coronavirus cases, or about a sixth of the daily cases seen in the United States in recent days.
    But as the country has gradually eased social distancing curbs, a spike in community-transmitted cases led to Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, being put under a fresh six-week lockdown on Thursday.
    “I know we are asking a lot of Victorians, but we simply have no choice but to acknowledge the reality that we face and to do what must be done, and that is to follow those rules, to only go out when you need to,” Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference.
    Sunday’s increase partly reflects increased testing, with Victoria conducting more than 30,000 tests daily.    A man in his 70s died over the weekend of COVID-19, Andrews said, taking the national toll to 108.
    NSW, which has significantly eased social distancing rules as of July after new cases fell to low single digits, has asked more than 1,000 people who recently visited a pub in south-west Sydney to self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19 after a growing cluster has been linked to the pub.
    Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended a rugby match on Saturday in Sydney, raising some concerns.    Asked whether it was a wise decision, Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said Morrison attended the game in a safe manner.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

7/12/2020 Indonesia Reports 1,681 New Coronavirus Cases – Health Ministry Official
A policeman, part of a large-scale task force enforcing social restrictions amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, walks with a face mask
outside a church on the first day of its reopening, in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported 1,681 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total count to 75,699, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto told a televised news briefing.
    Fatalities from the COVID-19 rose by 71 on Sunday, he said, bringing the , the highest in East Asia outside China.
(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Editing by William Mallard)

7/12/2020 Tokyo Confirms 206 New Cases Of Coronavirus Infections On Sunday – NHK
FILE PHOTO: Ambulance workers wearing protective suits leave the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship,
as the vessel's passengers continue to be tested for coronavirus, at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal
in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo officials confirmed 206 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, public broadcaster NHK reported, as Japan’s capital struggles with a resurgence in cases after the government lifted a state of emergency.
    The total marks the fourth straight day of more than 200 cases.
(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by William Mallard)

7/12/2020 Iran Agency Says Chain Of Errors Caused Ukrainian Plane Crash
FILE PHOTO: People place candles as they commemorate victims of the Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 plane
disaster, in front of the Iranian embassy in Kiev, Ukraine February 17, 2020. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation blamed a misalignment of a radar system and lack of communication between the air defence operator and his commanders for the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January that killed 176 people aboard.
    Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight with a ground-to-air missile on Jan. 8 shortly after the plane took off from Tehran,in what Tehran later acknowledged as a “disastrous mistake” by forces who were on high alert during a confrontation with the United States.
    A mistake in aligning the radar system had caused human error.    An operator had forgotten to re-adjust the direction on the radar system after moving to a new position, an error that contributed to misreading the radar’s data,” an interim report on the Civil Aviation Organisation (CAO) website said.
    The CAO report, which was published on late Saturday, said the missile battery that targeted the passenger plane had been relocated and “was not properly reoriented.”
    The downing occurred at a time of high tension between longtime foes Iran and the United States.    Iran was on alert for attacks after it fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing on Jan. 3 of its most powerful military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad airport.
    “A failure occurred after the relocation of one of the air defence units of Tehran? … It occurred because of a human error,” the CAO report said, adding that the plane was detected by the system as a target approaching Tehran.
    The operator of the air defence system “lacked awareness of the relocation of the air defence unit,” and fired the two missiles without authorisation from the command centre, the report said.
    “When the first missile was fired, the passenger plane was flying at a normal altitude and trajectory,” the report added.
    Last month, Iran said the black boxes of the Boeing 737-800 airliner will be sent to France, to be analysed starting July 20.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Frances Kerry)
[THE BLAME IS ON YOUR LEADERS OR THE IRAN REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS WHO WERE FIRING MISSILES INTO IRAQ AT THE UNITED STATES FACILITIES AND YOUR OBSESSION CAUSED YOUR ERROR TO SHOOT DOWN AND KILL 176 PERSONS AND 140+ OF THEM WERE YOUR OWN IRANIANS ON THE AIRPLANE WHICH MAKES YOU LOOK AS STUPID AS YOUR ARE IN YOUR HATRED THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB LET YOU KNOW THAT FOR SURE AS NOT ONE AMERICAN WAS HARMED AND EVEN HERE YOU ARE TRYING TO GIVE A WISHY WASHY EXCUSE FOR WHY IT HAPPENED AND NO WHERE DID YOU STATE WHAT PUNISHMENT THE OPERATOR WILL GET UNLESS HE WAS FOLLOWING THE ORDERS FROM YOU.].

7/12/2020 Over 600,000 Hong Kongers Cast ‘Protest’ Vote Against New Security Laws by Jessie Pang and James Pomfret
People wearing face masks following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak line up to vote in the primary election
aimed at selecting democracy candidates for the September election, in Hong Kong, China July 12, 2020. REUTERS/Lam Yik
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s opposition camp said on Sunday that over 600,000 citizens in the Chinese-ruled city cast ballots over the weekend in primaries it cast as a symbolic protest vote against tough national security laws imposed by Beijing.
    The unofficial poll will decide the strongest pro-democracy candidates to contest elections in September to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.    Then, they aim to seize majority control for the first time from pro-Beijing rivals by riding a wave of anti-China sentiment stirred by the law, which critics say has gravely undermined Hong Kong’s freedoms.
    While the primaries are only for the opposition camp, the level of participation is seen as a guide to popular opinion in the city of 7.5 million people, a major financial hub.
    “A high turnout will send a very strong signal to the international community, that we Hong Kongers never give up,” said Sunny Cheung, 24, one of a batch of aspiring young democrats out lobbying and giving stump speeches.
    “And that we still stand with the democratic camp, we still support democracy and freedom.”
    Defying warnings from a senior Hong Kong official that the vote might fall foul of the national security law, residents young and old flocked to over 250 polling stations across the city, manned by thousands of volunteers.
    Long queues formed, with people voting via their mobile phones after having their identities verified.
SEE THE COURAGE
    Organisers said 592,000 people had voted online, and 21,000 had cast paper ballots at the end of two full days of polling, – more than expected, and representing around a third of voters who backed the democrats in an election last year.
    “Even under the shadow of the national security law, there were still 600,000 people coming out,” said an organiser, Au Nok-hin.    “You can see the courage of the Hong Kong people in this … Hong Kongers have created another miracle.”
    The new law punishes what China describes broadly as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison and allows mainland security agents to operate officially in Hong Kong for the first time.
    Despite this tactical vote to maximise their chances, some pro-democracy activists fear authorities may yet try to stop some candidates from running in September’s election.
    “They can arrest or disqualify any candidate they don’t like under the national security law without a proper reason,” said Owen Chow, a young democratic “localist” candidate.
    At a time when Hong Kong authorities have barred public marches and rallies for months on end amid coronavirus social restrictions, and arrested individuals for shouting slogans and holding up blank sheets of paper, the vote was seen as a crucial and rare window for populist expression.
    “I can really feel that young people haven’t given up yet, even though we are facing a very depressing future,” said Prince Wong, 22, a candidate in the New Territories West district.
    “It helps me become more determined to fight.”
(Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Catherine Evans)

7/13/2020 China Trades Sanctions With U.S. Over Uighur Muslims
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing for
Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX), on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 5, 2020. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China announced sanctions against U.S. officials including two senators on Monday in retaliation against Washington’s sanctions against senior Chinese officials over Beijing’s treatment of minority Uighur Muslims.
    Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying disclosed what she called “corresponding sanctions” against U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, U.S. Representative Chris Smith, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
    The commission monitors human rights and the development of the rule of law in China and submits an annual report to President Donald Trump and Congress.
    “The U.S. actions seriously interfere in China’s internal affairs, seriously violate the basic norms of international relations and seriously damage Sino-U.S. relations,” she told reporters during a daily briefing.
    “China will make further responses based on how the situation develops.”
    Hua did not elaborate on what the sanctions entail, but Washington’s measures against Chinese officials, including the Communist Party secretary of the troubled western region of Xinjiang, include freezing of U.S. assets, U.S. travel and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them.
    U.N. experts and activists say at least a million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims are held in detention centres in Xinjiang. China describes them as training centres helping to stamp out terrorism and extremism and give people new skills.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Alex Richardson and Nick Macfie)

7/13/2020 Japan, U.S. Discuss Jump In Coronavirus Cases At U.S. Military Bases
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircrafts are seen at the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station
in Ginowan on Japan's southernmost island of Okinawa March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan and the United States are sharing information about coronavirus infections at U.S. military bases after an outbreak provoked ire in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, a top Japanese official said on Monday.
    Of the 62 individuals Okinawa confirmed had tested positive from Tuesday to Sunday, 39 were at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, 22 at Camp Hansen and one at Camp Kinser.    Later on Monday, TV Asahi said 32 more cases were confirmed at Futenma.
    “We will cooperate appropriately on this matter,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news briefing.
    “Japan and the United States are sharing information about the activity history of the infected military individuals.”
    Okinawa hosts the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan, whose alliance with Washington is central to its security.
    But many Okinawans associate the bases with problems from crime to accidents, and want the Marines to reduce their presence there or leave altogether.
    At the weekend, Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said it was “extremely regrettable” that a large number of infections had occurred in a short time, adding that Okinawans were “shocked” by the news.
    “I can’t help but have strong doubts about the U.S. military’s measures to prevent infections,” he said, adding that there were reports of personnel leaving base for beach parties and visits to night life districts around Independence Day on July 4.
    On its Facebook page for Pacific bases, the Marine Corps said it was prohibiting off-base activity for all installations across Okinawa, except essential needs such as medical appointments approved by a commanding officer.
    “We are trying to limit as much contact (with local people) as we can, as we look to contact tracing of infected personnel,” a U.S. military spokesman said.
    Excluding the bases, Okinawa’s infections stand at 148, with seven deaths, the prefecture’s website shows.    Nationwide, Japan has recorded nearly 22,000 cases and 1,000 deaths.
(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)
(Reporting by Takashi Umekawa and Chris Gallagher; Additional reporting by Tim Kelly; Writing by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

7/13/2020 Australian Pub Cluster Adds To Second-Wave Coronavirus Fears by Colin Packham
FILE PHOTO: An essential worker sanitises surfaces after lockdown restrictions were implemented in response to an outbreak
of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Melbourne, Australia, July 10, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders/File Photo
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s most populous state reported 14 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with a growing cluster at a pub used by freight drivers travelling the country adding to fears of a second national wave of the virus.
    The new cases in New South Wales come after neighbouring Victoria state last week forced about 5 million people back into lockdown after a surge of new coronavirus cases.
    Australia has avoided the high COVID-19 casualty numbers of other nations with swift and strict measures, recording fewer than 10,000 coronavirus cases in total, or about a sixth of the daily cases seen in the United States in recent days.
    However, authorities are worried about rising cases of community transmission.
    This accounted for 8 of the 14 new cases in New South Wales in the last 24 hours, while the rest were people who have returned from overseas and are already in hotel quarantine or have returned from Victoria.
    The bulk of these community transmission cases were people who recently visited a pub in southwest Sydney, the Crossroads Hotel, taking the cluster to 13 in all.
    “The concern is that this hotel is used by freight drivers who are transporting essential supplies across the country,” Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
    “They are not being tested.”
    In Victoria state, authorities on Monday reported 177 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the eighth consecutive day of triple digit rises in COVID-19 cases, but down from 273 cases the previous day.
    “It may not be our peak yet,” Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters in Melbourne.    “I would like to see a week of decreasing numbers.”
    Scientists, meanwhile, have begun trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed at the University of Queensland.     Volunteers were due to receive the first vaccine dose on Monday morning.    Preliminary results of the trial are expected to be released by the end of September, the university said.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; editing by Richard Pullin)

7/13/2020 Philippines Reports 65 New Coronavirus Deaths, 836 More Infections
FILE PHOTO: A "no mask, no entry" reminder for take-away customers and delivery riders is posted outside a restaurant to prevent the spread of the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ health ministry on Monday reported 65 more novel coronavirus deaths and 836 additional infections.
    In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths have reached 1,599, while confirmed infections rose to 57,006, more than triple when President Rodrigo Duterte eased the quarantine measures in the capital in June to revive the economy.
    Earlier on Monday, in an announcement delayed from Sunday, the country posted its biggest daily rise in deaths due to the virus at 162.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davies)

7/13/2020 China Raises Flood Alert To Second Highest Level
FILE PHOTO: People swim near a pavilion partially submerged in floodwaters on the banks of the Yangtze
River, following heavy rainfall in Wuhan, Hubei province, China July 8, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS
    BEIJING/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – China raised its flood response alert on Sunday to the second highest level as heavy rain battered regions along the Yangtze River, with the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Jiangxi among the worst hit, state media reported.
    Flooding in the Poyang county of Jiangxi pushed water levels of Lake Poyang, China’s biggest freshwater lake, to above 22.52 metres (74 feet), a historical high and well above the alert level of 19.50 metres (64 feet).
    By Saturday evening, provincial military authorities had dispatched thousands of soldiers to help bolster nearly 9 km (6 miles) of the lake’s banks, state television said.
    China has a four-tier flood control emergency response system, with level one representing the most severe.
    So far this year, some 141 people have died or gone missing in the floods, which have ravaged 3.53 million hectares (8.72 million acres) of farmland and flattened 28,000 homes.    Economic losses total 82.23 billion yuan ($11.75 billion), state news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday.
    According to the Ministry of Water Resources, 212 rivers have exceeded alerting levels since early July, with 19 of them rising to historical highs.
    China has blamed unusual weather conditions, including humidity carried from the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, as the immediate cause, but it has also said long-term changes in climate patterns have made it more vulnerable.
(Reporting by Liangping Gao in Beijing and Chen Aizhu in Singapore; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Frances Kerry)

7/13/2020 Hong Kong Reports 52 New Coronavirus Cases As Local Transmissions Spike
FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a face mask walks past a shuttered shop space covered in rental advertisements,
after the border between Shenzhen and Hong Kong was shut due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
outbreak, in Hong Kong's northern town of Sheung Shui, China May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Pak Yiu/File Photo
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong recorded 52 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, including 41 that were locally transmitted, health authorities said, as worries over an escalating third wave of infections in the global financial hub grow.
    Since late January, the Chinese-ruled city has reported more than 1,500 cases and seven deaths.
(Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Alex Richardson)

7/13/2020 Indonesia Reports 1,282 New Coronavirus Cases, 50 Deaths
FILE PHOTO: A man crosses a road during morning rush hour in Jakarta, Indonesia, after the government eased
restrictions following the coronavirus outbreak, July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Indonesia reported 1,282 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the total count to 76,981, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto told a televised news briefing.
    Deaths from the COVID-19 rose by 50 on Monday, he said, bringing the total in the Southeast Asian nation to 3,656, the highest in East Asia outside China.
(Reporting by Nilufar Rizki and Stanley Widianto; Editing by Alex Richardson)

7/13/2020 At Least 11 Dead, Dozens Wounded In Taliban Suicide Car Bomb, Shooting by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this May 27, 2016 file photo, Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in
the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan. (AP Photos/Allauddin Khan, File)
    The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb in Afghanistan.    The Monday explosion was followed by a gun battle between attackers and Afghan forces.
    The attack left at least eleven dead and more than 60 wounded in the northern Afghanistan providence of Samangan.    Officials said the bomber was targeting the Intelligence Service Department in the provincial capital of Aybak.
    “Unfortunately, 11 National Directorate of Security (intelligence service) personal were martyred; one of them was a woman, 10 others were men and also 63 people were wounded,” stated Sediq Azizi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.    “Most of the wounded people are in good condition; only two of them were in critical condition and have been transported to Mazari Sharif Hospital.”
    The Taliban and government forces have continued to trade blame for the recent violence amid calls for direct peace talks.

7/13/2020 Hong Kong Leader Says Pro-Democracy ‘Protest’ Vote Might Have Violated New Security Laws by Jessie Pang and James Pomfret
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, wearing a protective mask, speaks during a news conference over global
outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Hong Kong, China July 13, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Monday that an unofficial city-wide election conducted by the pro-democracy camp over the weekend might have violated new national security laws by “subverting state power.”
    The weekend election drew more than 600,000 votes, in what democrats described as a symbolic protest vote against tough new laws imposed by Beijing on the freewheeling former British colony.
    The vote at around 250 polling stations was held to decide the strongest pro-democracy candidates to contest key Legislative Council elections in September.
    The city’s opposition camp is aiming to seize majority control in the 70-seat legislature for the first time from pro-Beijing rivals by riding a wave of anti-China sentiment stirred by the law, which critics say has gravely undermined Hong Kong’s freedoms.
    The city returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a guarantee of wide-ranging autonomy.
    The new law punishes secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison and allows mainland Chinese security agents to operate officially in Hong Kong for the first time.
    Lam told reporters that if the democrats’ aim to gain a legislative majority was to obstruct government policies, “then it may fall into the category of subverting the state power.”    She didn’t elaborate.
    One of the organisers of the election, Benny Tai, told reporters that the results of the poll had been leaked ahead of an official announcement.    But he said there had been no personal data breach of the voters.
    Last Friday, Hong Kong police raided the office of the independent pollster helping with the election, and officers copied some information from computers there.
    Hong Kong’s Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said in a statement late on Monday that it had received public complaints that the weekend poll may have “jeopardised the integrity of the electoral process.”
    It added it was now conducting an investigation and might later refer the case to law enforcement agencies.
    The preliminary results showed several incumbent democratic lawmakers like Ted Hui and Eddie Chu taking the most votes in some districts.
    But a group of aspiring young democrats, or “localists,” also performed strongly, reflecting a potential changing of the guard as the democrats gear up for the September poll.
    “It’s just the beginning,” one candidate, Sunny Cheung, a runner-up in one district putting him on the democratic ticket for September, told Reuters.
I will try to persuade more people to support us,” he added, saying localists like himself were gaining more mainstream support.
(Reporting by Jessie Pang and James Pomfret; Editing by Nick Macfie)

7/13/2020 Indian Royal Dynasty Keep Control Of One Of World’s Richest Temples by Suchitra Mohanty and D.Jose
FILE PHOTO: A view of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, capital of the
southern Indian state of Kerala, February 20, 2012. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo
    NEW DELHI/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM (Reuters) – India’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld the right of a former royal dynasty to run the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple, one of the world’s richest places of worship, after the state government tried to take it over when the family patriarch died.
    When one of the vaults of the towering centuries-old Hindu temple in Thiruvananthanpuram in Kerala state was opened in 2011, it was found to hold diamonds by the sackful along with tonnes of gold coins and jewellery – a hoard estimated at over $20 billion.
    The Kerala High Court had ruled that year, after public interest petitions, that the Travancore family must give up its custodianship of the temple following the death of its head, Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the last ruling Maharaja of Travancore, in 1991.     But on Monday, the Supreme Court reversed that decision.
    “We allow the appeal of the royal family of Travancore. Death does not effect Shebaitship (management and maintenance of the deity) of the Travancore Family,” justices U.U. Lalit and Indu Malhotra said in their order.
    Several Hindu temples in India have wealth running into billions of dollars as devotees donate gold and other precious objects as gifts to spiritual or religious institutions that run hospitals, schools and colleges.
    "The Supreme Court said a new committee that the royal family will set up to run the temple, some seven stories high and replete with ornate carvings, will have the right to decide what to do with the temple’s wealth, including the contents of another ancient vault yet to be opened.    A large number of devotees had prayed for us.    The judgement is their victory,” Gauri Lakshmi Bai, a member of the family, told reporters in Thiruvananthanpuram.
(Writing by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Kevin Liffey)

7/13/2020 Indonesian President Sees New COVID-19 Peak In August-September – Antara
FILE PHOTO - Indonesia's President Joko Widodo takes a look at the emergency hospital handling of COVID-19
in Kemayoran Athletes Village, to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in
Jakarta, Indonesia March 23, 2020 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Hafidz Mubarak A/ via REUTERS
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – President Joko Widodo said the coronavirus outbreak in Indonesia is expected to peak in August or September, the state news agency Antara reported on Monday, two to three months later than earlier projected.
    “Based on data the peak is (now) estimated to be in August or September, that’s the latest estimate I received, but if we don’t do something the numbers could be different,” Widodo said as cited by Antara.
    A government adviser had said in April that COVID-19 cases were likely to peak in May or June, with the number of infections expected to reach around 95,000.
    Widodo said he was pushing his ministers to work harder to control the spread of the virus, which had infected 76,981 people in the Southeast Asian country as of Monday, with 3,656 fatalities, the highest in East Asia outside China.
    A significant new cluster of infections emerged last week at a military training centre in West Java, where 1,262 cadets and trainers have tested positive for the disease.
    Last month Widodo said he was ready to reshuffle ministers or even disband government agencies that he feels have not done enough to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
    Meanwhile, the government is considering sanctions for people who are violating health protocols such as not wearing masks in public places.
(Reporting by Maikel Jefriando; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

7/13/2020 One In Three South Korean COVID-19 Patients Improve With Remdesivir
FILE PHOTO: An ampule of Ebola drug Remdesivir is pictured during a news conference at the University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE) in Hamburg, Germany,
April 8, 2020, as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues. Ulrich Perrey/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    SEOUL (Reuters) – One in three South Korean patients seriously ill with COVID-19 showed an improvement in their condition after being given Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral remdesivir, health authorities said.
    More research was needed to determine if the improvement was attributable to the drug or other factors such as patients’ immunity and other therapies, they said.
    Remdesivir has been at the forefront of the global battle against COVID-19 after the intravenously administered medicine helped shorten hospital recovery times in a U.S. clinical trial.
    Several countries including South Korea have added the drug to the list of treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.    There is no approved vaccine for it.
    In its latest update on the drug, Gilead said on Friday an analysis showed remdesivir helped reduce the risk of death in severely ill COVID-19 patients but cautioned that rigorous clinical trials were needed to confirm the benefit.
    The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Saturday results from a first group of 27 patients given remdesivir in different hospitals.
    Nine of the patients showed an improvement in their condition, 15 showed no change, and three worsened, KCDC deputy director Kwon Jun-wook told a briefing.
    The result had yet to be compared with a control group and more analysis was needed to conclude remdesivir’s benefit, Kwon said.
    In June, South Korea asked Gilead to supply enough of its drug to treat more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients in preparation for a possible second wave of infections.
    South Korea has been battling small but persistent outbreaks of the new coronavirus, with 62 new cases reported as of Sunday, bringing the country’s total to 13,479 cases with 289 deaths.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Miyoung Kim, Robert Birsel)

7/13/2020 Secy. Pompeo Opposes Obama-Era Expiration Clause In Iran Arms Embargo by OAN Newsroom
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department
in Washington, Wednesday, July 8, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Pool via AP)
    Mike Pompeo is ramping up pressure on the United Nations to extend its arms embargo on Iran’s Ayatollah regime, which is due to expire later this year.
    The secretary of state posted his recent video address on Twitter Sunday in which he said the Ayatollahs can’t be trusted due to their known history of illicit trade in weapons.
    Pompeo cited a report by the UN secretary general as the reason enough to maintain the embargo on Iran beyond its expiration date.
    The UN embargo were agreed upon as part of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, but the deal has since fallen apart due to the Ayatollah’s questionable nuclear endeavors.
    Iran is now pushing the UN to lift the weapons restrictions on October 18, 2020 as agreed with Barack Obama five-years ago.    In order to achieve that goal, Iran is leading a two-pronged assault against the U.S.    The first assault unraveled on the diplomatic front at the UN.
    “A permanent member of the Security Council is punishing law abiding states and private citizens for not violating a council resolution,” stated Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.
    Iran’s official stance on the matter appears to be gaining popularity in the Islamic circles within the U.S. For example, Houston-based Shi’ite preacher Shamshad Haider recently endorsed the Ayatollah regime
.
    Statements like this are mostly ignored by mainstream media as they continue to portray the standoff with Iran as just another foreign policy matter.
    In reality, however, U.S. Intelligence has warned the Ayatollah regime is leading a massive diplomatic and propaganda effort to alienate America’s allies and weaken the U.S. from within.
    Some leaders and groups, both in European capitals and in America’s inner cities, are apparently buying into Iranian narratives.
    Pompeo, however, reiterated that both the U.S. and the UN have hard evidence of the Ayatollah’s violations of international law.    He added that all this goes to show the Iranian regime poses a threat to global peace and stability, which is a threat even greater than before.
    “Don’t just take it from me or from the U.S., listen to the countries in the region from Israel to Gulf,” said the secretary of state.    “Extend the arms embargo.”

7/14/2020 U.S. Rejects China’s Claims In South China Sea, Adding To Tensions by Humeyra Pamuk, Arshad Mohammed and Yew Lun Tian
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a news conference at the State
Department in Washington, U.S., July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/Pool
    WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States on Monday rejected China’s claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea, drawing criticism from China which said the U.S. position raised tension in the region, highlighting an increasingly testy relationship.
    China has offered no coherent legal basis for its ambitions in the South China Sea and for years has been using intimidation against other Southeast Asian coastal states, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
    “We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them,” said Pompeo, a prominent China hawk within the Trump administration.
    The United States has long opposed China’s expansive territorial claims on the South China Sea, sending warships regularly through the strategic waterway to demonstrate freedom of navigation there.    Monday’s comments reflect a harsher tone.
    “The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Pompeo said.
    The U.S. statement supports a ruling four years ago under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that invalidated most of China’s claims for maritime rights in the South China Sea.
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian condemned the U.S. rejection of China’s claim.
    “It intentionally stirs up controversy over maritime sovereignty claims, destroys regional peace and stability and is an irresponsible act,” he said at a regular briefing.
    “The U.S. has repeatedly sent large fleets of sophisticated military planes and ships to the South China Sea … The U.S. is the troublemaker and destroyer of regional peace and stability.”
    China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it.
    About $3 trillion worth of trade passes through the waterway each year.    China has built bases atop atolls in the region but says its intentions are peaceful.
MORE CONFIDENT?
    Analysts said it would be important to see if other countries adopted the U.S. stance and what, if anything, Washington might do to reinforce its position and prevent Beijing from creating “facts on the water” to buttress its claims.
    “The Southeast Asian claimants, especially Vietnam, will feel more confident in asserting their jurisdictional rights under UNCLOS,” said Ian Storey, senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.
    The Philippines strongly supported a rules-based order in the South China Sea and urged China to comply with the four-year-old arbitration ruling, its defense minister, Delfin Lorenzana, said.
    Taiwan welcomed the U.S. statement.
    “Our country opposes any attempt by a claimant state to use intimidation, coercion, or force to resolve disputes,” Taiwan foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters.
    The relationship between the United States and China has grown increasingly tense recently over various issues including China’s handling of the novel coronavirus and its tightened grip on Hong Kong.
    China routinely outlines the scope of its claims in the South China Sea with reference to a so-called nine-dash line on its maps that encompasses about nine-tenths of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer waters.
    “This is basically the first time we have called it illegitimate,” Chris Johnson, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said of Pompeo’s statement.
    “It’s fine to put out a statement, but what you going to do about it?
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Arshad Mohammed, Matt Spetalnick, Daphne Psaledakis. Additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing, Ben Blanchard in Taipei, and Karen Lema in Manila; Editing by Leslie Adler and Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel)

7/14/2020 Asia Ramps Up Coronavirus Curbs As New Clusters Erupt by Colin Packham and Naomi Tajitsu
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker wearing protective gear takes swab from a man for a rapid antigen test to tackle the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at a check-up point on a bus terminal in Ahmedabad, India, July 13, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo
    SYDNEY/TOKYO (Reuters) – Australian states tightened borders and restricted pub visits on Tuesday, while Disney prepared to close its Hong Kong theme park and Japan stepped up tracing as a jump in novel coronavirus cases across Asia fanned fears of a second wave of infections.
    Many parts of Asia, the region first hit by the coronavirus that emerged in central China late last year, are finding cause to pause the reopening of their economies, some after winning praise for their initial responses to the outbreak.
    Australia largely avoided the high numbers of cases and casualties seen in other countries with swift and strict measures, but a spike in community-transmitted cases in Victoria state and a rise in new cases in New South Wales has worried authorities.
    South Australia cancelled plans to reopen its border to New South Wales on July 20, while Queensland introduced a mandatory two-week quarantine for people who have visited two areas in Sydney’s western suburbs.
    New South Wales, which has seen several dozen cases linked to the outbreak in Victoria, said pubs will be limited to 300 people, responding to an outbreak centred at a large hotel in southwestern Sydney.
    “Indoor activity, where people aren’t seated is a huge health risk.    It increases the chance of transmission,” state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.
    Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, is in the second week of a six-week lockdown WRONG DIRECTION
    The number of coronavirus infections around the world hit 13 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, climbing by a million in just five days.
    The pandemic has now killed more than half a million people in six-and-a-half months.
    The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the pandemic would worsen if countries failed to adhere to strict precautions.
    “Let me be blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction, the virus remains public enemy number one,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing on Monday.
    In the Northern Hemisphere, countries are racing to get a handle on outbreaks before winter, which could bring a renewed surge.
    A second wave of infections in Britain this winter could kill up to 120,000 people over nine months in a worst-case scenario, according to health experts.
    Hong Kong, which suffered remarkably few cases in the first wave of the pandemic, will impose strict social distancing measures from midnight on Tuesday, the most stringent yet in the Asian financial hub.
    Hong Kong recorded 52 new cases on Monday, including 41 that were locally transmitted, health authorities said. Since late January, Hong Kong has reported 1,522 cases and media reported an eighth death on Monday.
    “The recent emergence of local cases of unknown infection source indicates the existence of sustained silent transmission in the community,” the Hong Kong government said.
    Walt Disney Co said it is temporarily closing its Hong Kong Disneyland theme park from Wednesday.
    China, which has contained a cluster in Beijing in recent weeks, loosened border restrictions between Macau and the neighbouring province of Guangdong, sending shares of Macau casino operators surging.
TOKYO TRACING
    In Tokyo, health officials were trying to locate more than 800 members of an theatre audience after 20 people including cast members of a recent performance tested positive for the coronavirus.
    Japan, which has not seen an explosive outbreak, is pushing ahead with its easing of restrictions, with plans to reopen a runway at one of its biggest airports, even as infections persist in big cities, rural areas and on U.S. military bases.
    India’s tech capital of Bengaluru begins a new, week-long lockdown on Tuesday after a surge in cases following the easing of restrictions.    From about 1,000 cases on June 19, when the city was believed to have escaped the worst thanks to contact tracing, it has gone up to nearly 20,000.
    Health experts say the movement of people following the lifting of a nationwide lockdown in June has led to Bengaluru falling back. Other cities, including Pune and Aurangabad, have reimposed curbs in recent days.
    The Philippines this week recorded the biggest daily rise in coronavirus deaths in Southeast Asia and part of Manila will return to lockdown affecting 250,000 residents.    A presidential spokesman said restrictions in other parts of the capital were unlikely to be relaxed.
    Indonesian President Joko Widodo has resisted pressure to lock down due to concern about the economy, despite the highest death toll from virus in East Asia outside China.
    Now, the governor of Jakarta is reported to be considering tightening some of the relatively mild restrictions in place after a spike in cases in the capital.
    Even Thailand, which has had no locally transmitted cases reported for six weeks, has stepped up border security over concern about a second wave of infections after the arrests of thousands of illegal migrants in the past month.
(Reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney, Naomi Tajitsu in Tokyo, Farah Master in Hong Kong, Karen Lema in Manila, Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok, Agustinus Beo Da Costa in Jakarta and Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Robert Birsel)

7/14/2020 Record Floods Raise Questions About China’s Three Gorges Dam by David Stanway
FILE PHOTO: A view from the Three Gorges dam over the Yangtze River in
Yichang, Hubei province August 9, 2012. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – As China counts the costs of its most punishing flood season in more than three decades, the role played by the massive and controversial Three Gorges Dam – designed to help tame the Yangtze river – has come under fresh scrutiny.
    Amid some of the heaviest rainfall on record, the Chinese government says the world’s biggest hydroelectric plant has reduced flood peaks, minimised economic losses and slashed the number of deaths and emergency evacuations.
    But critics say the historically high water levels on the Yangtze and its major lakes prove the Three Gorges Dam isn’t doing what it was designed for.
    “One of the major justifications for the Three Gorges Dam was flood control, but less than 20 years after its completion we have the highest floodwater in recorded history,” said David Shankman, a geographer with the University of Alabama who studies Chinese floods.    “The fact is that it cannot prevent these severe events.”
    Ye Jianchun, China’s vice-minister of water resources, said at a Monday briefing the “detailed scheduling” of water discharges from reservoirs, particularly the Three Gorges, had been effective in controlling floods this year.
    He said 64.7 billion cubic metres of floodwater has been stored in 2,297 reservoirs, including 2.9 billion cubic metres at Three Gorges.
    The company running the Three Gorges Project also said on Saturday that downstream water discharges had been halved since July 6, “effectively reducing the speed and extent of water level rises on the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze.”    The total amount of stored floodwater had now reached 88% of the reservoir’s total capacity, it added.
    But parts of the Yangtze, its tributaries and major lakes like the Dongting and Poyang have hit record levels anyway.
    Fan Xiao, a Chinese geologist and long-standing critic of giant dam projects, said the storage capacity at Three Gorges amounts to less than 9% of average floodwater.
    “It can only partially and temporarily intercept the upstream floods, and is powerless to help with floods caused by heavy rainfall in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River,” he said.
Fan said Three Gorges and other major dam projects could even make flooding worse by altering the flow of sedimentation down the Yangtze.    The project’s need to generate electricity has also undermined flood control, he said.
    “When people only consider using reservoirs to solve flood-control problems, they often overlook or even weaken the natural ability of rivers and their lakes to regulate floods,” he said.
    Shankman said that the Three Gorges Dam helps alleviate flooding during normal years, but that it was always likely to be vulnerable to more extreme weather, a problem that is exacerbated by shrinking flood plains downstream.
    “The Three Gorges Dam reservoir does not have the capacity to significantly affect the most severe floods,” he said.
    “Floodwater storage along the middle Yangtze is less because of stronger levees that are less likely to fail,” he added.    “Both of those things are at play here.    This was predictable.”
(Reporting by David Stanway. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

7/14/2020 Afghanistan Faces ‘Catastrophe’ As COVID-19 Cases Grow: Red Crescent
FILE PHOTO: Volunteers distribute brochures that contain medical tips to passengers amid concerns about the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread, on the outskirts of Jalalabad, Afghanistan May 11, 2020.REUTERS/Parwiz
    KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan faces “catastrophe” as growing COVID-19 cases stretch a health infrastructure already severely weakened by decades of war, the Afghan Red Crescent Society said on Tuesday.
    Some 34,740 coronavirus cases and 1,062 deaths from the respiratory pandemic have been officially reported in Afghanistan, according to government figures.
    “Afghanistan is on the edge of potential health, social and economic catastrophes caused by COVID-19 as the disease places a crippling burden on one of the 10 most fragile states in the world,” the Red Crescent Society said in a statement.
    “The real toll of the pandemic on the Afghan population is expected to be much higher and remains under-reported due to limited testing and weak health systems,” it added.
    Red Crescent Secretary General Nilab Mobarez said acute protective equipment shortages and difficulties in accessing remote regions were hampering its COVID-19 response.    But it was expanding mobile health teams and adding thousands of community volunteers to try and detect and prevent the disease, which it said it expected to spread over coming weeks.
    Afghanistan’s health department said it was concerned that less than a third of those confirmed to have the disease were women, which officials believed was due to a lack of female access to healthcare in a deeply conservative society.
    “The Ministry of Health is concerned about women’s access to health services, especially now that we are at the height of the corona crisis…What we have done is to hire more female staff, and we have separated (out) wards for women in hospitals,” health ministry deputy spokeswoman Masouma Jafari said.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Orooj Hakimi and Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

7/14/2020 Philippines To Use Police In House-To-House Searches For COVID-19 Cases by Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales
FILE PHOTO: A police officer checks a jeepney passenger's body temperature at a checkpoint placed amidst the lockdown of the country's capital
to contain the spread of coronavirus, in the outskirts of Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine authorities and police will carry out house-to-house searches for COVID-19 patients to prevent wider transmission, a minister said on Tuesday, amid soaring death and infection numbers and some areas returning to a stricter lockdown.
    Interior Minister Eduardo Año urged the public to report cases in their neighbourhoods, warning that anyone infected who refused to cooperate faced imprisonment.
    The tough approach comes during a week where the Philippines recorded Southeast Asia biggest daily jump in coronavirus deaths and saw hospital occupancy grow sharply, after a tripling of infections since a tough lockdown was eased on June 1 to allow more movement and commerce.
    “We don’t want positive patients to stay home in (self) quarantine especially if their homes don’t have the capacity,” Ano told a news conference.
    “So what we will do … is to go house-to-house and we will bring the positive cases to our COVID-19 isolation facilities.”
    The strategy is a departure from previous advice for positive cases with mild symptoms to self-isolate.
    Justifying the searches, Ano cited a 2019 law on disease reporting and surveillance.    Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said tracking down positive cases was necessary because some had absconded.
    The plan will likely alarm human rights groups battling what they say is impunity for abusive police who have systematically targeted poor communities in a bloody war on drugs, as noted in a recent United Nations report. Police have rejected that.
    Police are accused of being heavy handed during the pandemic, including arrests for minor infringements and reports by activists of children killed while violating curfews.
    “How is the government going to ensure that the rights of Filipinos are respected and protected with this new approach?” said Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director.
    “Given that Philippine law enforcers have some of the most checkered COVID responses in the world in terms of human rights, this certainly raises fears.”
    Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    There have been 57,545 Philippine coronavirus infections, of which 1,603 were deaths.
(Editing by Martin Petty)

7/14/2020 China Says U.S. Warnings Over Xinjiang Hurt Global Supply Chain
FILE PHOTO: China's Commerce Minister Zhong Shan attends a news conference at the State Council Information Office,
following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beijing, China, May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s commerce ministry said on Tuesday that the United States’ “warning” to U.S. companies working in the western Xinjiang region had destabilised the global supply chain.
    The U.S. State Department told top American companies including Walmart Inc , Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc this month that there were risks in maintaining supply chains associated with what it described as rights abuses in Xinjiang.
    China’s commerce ministry said the U.S. move had also affected the global economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
    China would take necessary measures to defend the legal rights of Chinese firms, the ministry said in its statement.
(Reporting by Roxanne Liu in Beijing and Meg Shen in Hong Kong)

7/14/2020 India’s Tech Hub, Other Towns Back In Lockdown Amid COVID-19 Surge by Sachin Ravikumar and Abhirup Roy
A health worker in personal protective equipment (PPE) walks holding an umbrella on a rainy day during a check up
campaign for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India, July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas
    BENGALURU/MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s high-tech hub of Bengaluru will go back into a coronavirus lockdown for a week on Tuesday after a surge of infections, threatening to derail government efforts to revive a stuttering economy.
    Places of worship, public transport, government offices and most shops will close again from the evening, and people will be confined to their homes, only allowed out for essential needs.
    Schools, colleges and restaurants will remain shut, authorities said.
    Bengaluru, home to some of the world’s biggest IT firms such as Infosys , had only about 1,000 coronavirus cases in mid-June and was seen to have fared better than other parts of India in terms of testing and contact tracing.
    But infections had grown to nearly 20,000 by Monday, something health experts blamed on the lifting of restrictions in June when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, worried about the economy, ended a nationwide lockdown that had thrown millions of people out of work.
    Bengaluru began seeing a surge in infections from late June as both testing and the movement of people picked up, Hephsiba Korlapati, a senior official in the city’s COVID-19 response team, told Reuters.
    In all, India has 906,752 cases of the novel coronavirus with 28,498 new infections reported on Tuesday, according to data from the federal health ministry, the third highest total in the world behind Brazil and the United States.
    While cases in the main cities of Mumbai and Delhi account for most of the tally, infections are picking up in smaller cities, forcing authorities to re-impose curbs.
    The western city of Pune, which is also an industrial and tech hub, began a 10-day shutdown on Monday while cities as far flung as Shillong in the remote northeast to Srinagar, the main city of Kashmir in the far north, imposed new curbs on movements to contain the virus.
    Jitendra Singh, a junior union minister in charge of the prime minister’s office, quarantined himself on Tuesday after Ravinder Raina, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) president in Jammu and Kashmir, tested positive for COVID.
    Singh visited the region with Raina and several members of the BJP after a party worker was killed last week by militants.
    Twenty-four BJP workers also tested positive in Patna, capital of the eastern state of Bihar, according to its chief minister, who imposed a 16-day strict lockdown in the state.
    The curbs raised questions about prospects for India’s growth, according to Japan’s biggest brokerage and investment bank Nomura.
    “We also find growing evidence that after the initial normalisation in activity, mobility trends have started to plateau and fall lately,” Nomura said in a note.
    “This implies that growth could remain below pre-pandemic peaks for a prolonged period of time.”
(Reporting by Abhirup Roy and Sachin Ravikumar; Additional reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Robert Birsel)

7/14/2020 Japan Traces New Coronavirus Outbreak To Tokyo Theatre Boy-Band Show
A woman wearing a face mask makes her way at the Kabukicho district, amid the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, July 14, 2020.REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo health officials appealed on Tuesday for more than 800 theatregoers to get tested for the novel coronavirus after a production starring Japanese boy-band members was found to be the source of at least 20 cases.
    The Tokyo government said it was focussing on a 190-seat theatre in Shinjuku, a busy entertainment area and home to one of Asia’s biggest red-light districts which has been the centre of a recent spike in infections.
    Japan is pushing ahead with opening up parts of the country, with plans to reopen a runway at one of the country’s biggest airports, even as infections persist in the capital as well as some rural areas and U.S. military bases.
    “It’s crucial that we maintain caution and prevent the further spread of infections, while at the same time pursue economic activity,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
    The latest cluster has been traced to Theatre Moliere, which staged a play for six days starring mainly up-and-coming boy-band members earlier this month.
    The Tokyo government said it learned of the first infection among a cast member on July 6, after which testing found 20 related cases by late Monday.    It called on all audience members who attended the performance to get tested.
    The producers of the play, “Werewolf,” released a statement on Monday also asking audience members to seek health advice.
    “Following a large number of infections seen among our spectators, we have been informed that all 800 spectators who came to see the performance have been identified as high-risk contacts,” Rise Communications said on its website.
    As Tokyo struggles to contain virus infections, travel routes to and from the city continue to open up. Narita International Airport, one of the two main airports serving the capital, is planning to re-open its second runway ahead of a public holiday next week, public broadcaster NHK reported.
    Tokyo reported 143 new cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday.    Overall, Japan has reported around 23,000 infections and nearly 1,000 related deaths.
    While Japan has avoided more disastrous outbreaks seen in other countries, it faces a deep recession instead of enjoying a tourism boom that was expected with the now-postponed Olympics.
    A recent Tokyo survey by the Asahi Shimbun daily showed that 59 percent believe the Games should be postponed again or cancelled, underscoring the public’s worries about the pandemic.
    The Asahi on Tuesday reported that the Japanese government was considering easing entry restrictions for athletes.
(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu and Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Stephen Coates)

7/14/2020 Editing History: Hong Kong Publishers Self-Censor Under New Security Law by Sarah Wu and Joyce Zhou
Bao Pu, founder of New Century Press, speaks during an interview with Reuters
at his office in Hong Kong, China July 9, 2020. REUTERS/Joyce Zhou
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – In the last two weeks, Hong Kong publisher Raymond Yeung has hastily made changes to a draft paper copy of a book entitled “To Freedom,” replacing the word “revolution” with “protests,” tweaking a banned slogan and cutting passages that advocate independence for the Chinese-ruled city.
    The changes were hard to make, he told Reuters, but impossible to avoid since China passed a national security law on June 30, making the broadly defined crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces punishable by up to life in prison.
    “This is really painful,” Yeung said as he flipped through pages of the collection of essays by 50 protesters, lawyers, social workers and other participants in the pro-democracy demonstrations that shook Hong Kong last year.
    “This is history.    This is the truth,” he said, holding up the book with blue sticky flags on many pages to mark changes made because of the new law.
    Just as demand for political books was surging in Hong Kong after a year of protests, Hong Kong’s once unbridled and prolific independent publishers are now censoring themselves in the face of the new law.
    Hong Kong authorities say freedom of speech remains intact, but in the past two weeks public libraries have taken some books off the shelves, shops have removed protest-related decorations and the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times” has been declared illegal.
    “To Freedom” is the first political book Yeung has taken on as a part-time publisher.    After Beijing introduced the security law, the book’s original printer bailed, and two other printers declined, he said.    Another printer agreed to take it anonymously, but wants to get a better sense of how the law is implemented first.
    The Hong Kong Trade Development Council, which organizes the annual Hong Kong Book Fair, told exhibitors not to display what it called “unlawful books” at this week’s planned fair, but did not explain further.
    The council postponed the fair at the last minute on Monday due to a recent spike in cases of the new coronavirus.    It did not specify a new date for the event, which draws about 1 million visitors.
    Three non-governmental pro-Beijing groups had teamed up to urge people to report stalls at the fair selling material promoting Hong Kong independence, a subject that is anathema to the Chinese government.
    “Every citizen has a duty to report crime,” said Innes Tang, the chairman of PolitiHK Social Strategic, one group behind the campaign.    “We are not the police.    We are not the ones to say where the red line is.”
DANGEROUS READING
    Jimmy Pang, a veteran local publisher who has participated in every fair since it began in 1990, called 2020 “the most terrifying year” because of the security law and the economic downturn that was already hurting publishers.
    He said the law has prompted publishing houses and writers to halt projects while printers, distributors, and bookstores have turned down sensitive books.
    For example, Breakazine, a local Christian publication, said it suspended the distribution of its mid-July issue called “Dangerous Reading” while seeking legal advice for navigating the security law.
    “Everyone is avoiding risks by suffering in silence,” said Pang, a spokesman for 50 exhibitors at the fair.
    Last year, a unit of Pang’s Sub-Culture Ltd published Chan Yun-chi’s “6430,” a book of interviews with surviving pro-democracy protesters in the run-up to the 30th anniversary of the bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, a subject heavily censored on the mainland.
    “In the future, there will be no sensitive books related to politics,” he said.
    Bao Pu, the son of Bao Tong, the most senior Chinese Communist Party official jailed for sympathizing with Tiananmen protesters, founded New Century Press in 2005 in Hong Kong to publish books based on memoirs and government documents and other sources that often differ from the official versions of events in China and could not be published on the mainland.
    His customers were mostly mainland visitors, a lucrative niche in Hong Kong until China began to tighten border controls a decade ago, making it harder to bring back books to the mainland.
    Given the drop off in demand, Bao said he no longer plans to publish such books in Hong Kong.    But he urged other publishers to avoid self-censorship.
    “If everybody does that, then the law would have much more impact on freedom of speech,” he said.
(Reporting by Sarah Wu in Hong Kong; Editing by Marius Zaharia and Bill Rigby)

7/14/2020 Hong Kong To Impose Most Severe Social Distancing Restrictions
Passengers wear surgical masks in an MTR train, following the outbreak of the
coronavirus (COVID-19) in Hong Kong, China July 13, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong will impose strict new social distancing measures from midnight Tuesday, the most stringent in the Asian financial hub since the coronavirus broke out, as authorities warn the risk of a large-scale outbreak is extremely high.
    The Chinese-ruled city recorded 48 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, including 40 that were locally transmitted, health authorities said.    Since late January, Hong Kong has reported over 1,500 cases and eight deaths. [P8N2EJ00R]
    “Half of the reported cases today have unknown sources.    It is very worrying because the cases can spread easily in the community,” said Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, a senior health official.
    The new social distancing measures make face masks mandatory for people using public transport and restaurants will no longer provide dine-in services and only offer takeaway after 6 pm.
    Both are new rules that were not implemented during the city’s first and second coronavirus waves earlier this year. If a person does not wear a mask on public transport, they face a fine of HK$5,000 ($645).
    Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Monday the government would limit group gatherings to four people from 50 – a measure last seen during a second wave in March.
    Twelve types of establishments including gyms and places of amusement must shut for a week.
    The government said it is very concerned about the high number of imported cases and planned to impose further measures on travellers from high-risk places, including securing mandatory negative test results before arrival.
    Lam said the measures were the result of a three-way tug of war between considerations related to public health, economic impact and social acceptability and that the city may need to co-exist with the virus for a period of time.
    Ahead of new measures, some supermarkets imposed restrictions on items including rice, face masks and toilet paper, local media reported.    Panic stricken residents had emptied shelves in major supermarkets across the city in February as fears escalated over the coronavirus.
    More than 13.02 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 569,336 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
    Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.
(Reporting by Donny Kwok and Twinnie Siu; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Michael Perry & Simon Cameron-Moore)

7/14/2020 Thailand Changes Entry Rules After New COVID-19 Cases Spark Second Wave Fear by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat
FILE PHOTO: An empty arrivals hall is pictured at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International airport amid
the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Thailand, June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s government tightened regulations for the entry of foreigners on Tuesday, after two new imported coronavirus cases with possible exposure to the public raised concern about a second wave of infections.
    Thailand has been 50 days without confirmed local transmission of the coronavirus, but two cases among foreigners this week has led to the self-isolation of more than 400 people and fears on social media of a new contagion.
    Those isolated may have been exposed to a 43-year-old crewman of an Egyptian military plane in eastern Rayong province and a 9-year-old girl and family member of a Sudanese diplomat in Bangkok.
    Both were exempt from the mandatory 14-day state-supervised quarantine required for returnees.
    The government acknowledged that regulations for diplomats and air crewmen, who were among a few categories of foreigners allowed to enter since March with self-isolation requirements, have been too lax.
    “This should not happened, I am really sorry that it did and I want to apologise to the public,” said Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
    Concern spread among Thais online that a second wave of infections and a new lockdown could follow in a country fast returning to normalcy after restrictions were eased.
    Two schools were closed in Bangkok on Tuesday and at least 10 shut in Rayong province, where the Egyptian had arrived last Wednesday and spent time at a mall before leaving on Saturday.
    Shopping areas and streets were quiet in Rayong and according to media, about 90% of hotel bookings canceled.
    All diplomats and family members, who were previously allowed to self-isolate in their residences, must now be quarantined under government supervision.
    Short-term visit by businessmen and state guests who were allowed to enter as of July 1 have been suspended.    Coronavirus tests given to those who may have been exposed to the two cases.
    Thailand’s coronavirus tally since January is 3,227 infections and 58 deaths.
(Editing by Martin Petty)

7/14/2020 Philippines Confirms Six New Coronavirus Deaths, 634 Cases
FILE PHOTO: Passengers wearing masks for protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) wait for a jeepney with plastic barriers
inside to maintain social distancing, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 3, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ health ministry on Tuesday reported six new coronavirus deaths and 634 additional infections, the lowest daily increase in cases in nearly two weeks.
    In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths had increased to 1,603, while confirmed cases had reached 57,545.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davies)

7/14/2020 Indonesia Reports 1,591 New Coronavirus Infections, 54 New Deaths
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker collects a swab sample from a civil servant to be tested
for the coronavirus in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Indonesia reported 1,591 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the total count to 78,572, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto told a televised news briefing.
    Fatalities from the COVID-19 rose by 54 on Tuesday, he said, bringing the total in the Southeast Asian nation to 3,710, the highest in East Asia outside China.
(Reporting by Nilufar Rizki and Stanley Widianto, editing by Louise Heavens)

7/14/2020 Hong Kong Reports 48 New Coronavirus Cases
People wearing face masks following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak walk out of a train at a
subway station near the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort in Hong Kong, China July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Lam Yik
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong reported 48 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, including 40 that officials said were transmitted locally, ahead of new social distancing measures due to come into force at midnight.
    Tuesday’s toll was slightly lower that Monday’s 52 new cases but remained broadly in line with a recent sharp increase in the city.
    Since late January, the global financial hub has reported more than 1,500 cases and eight deaths.
(Reporting by Twinnie Siu and Donny Kwok; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

7/14/2020 Beijing’s Hong Kong Office Warns Pro-Democracy Poll Could Violate New Security Law
FILE PHOTO: Riot police patrol at a shopping mall during a protest after China's parliament passes a
national security law for Hong Kong, in Hong Kong, China June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Beijing’s top representative office in Hong Kong has warned that pro-democracy opposition’s primary elections at the weekend could violate a new national security law, exacerbating concerns over a crackdown on the former British colony’s democracy movement.
    Preliminary results showed a group of young democrats, or “localists,” performed strongly in the elections that drew more than 600,000 votes, reflecting a potential change of guard to a more radical grouping likely to rile authorities in Beijing.
    The primary polls are aimed at selecting democracy candidates who stand the best chance of success in September elections for the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s governing body.    Final results are due later on Tuesday.
    “The goal of organiser Benny Tai and the opposition camp is to seize the ruling power of Hong Kong and … carry out a Hong Kong version of ‘color revolution’,” a spokesman for the Liaison Office said in a statement just before midnight on Monday.
    Luo Huining, the head of the Liaison Office, will have oversight over the implementation of the contentious security law that will also allow mainland security agents to be officially based in China’s freest city for the first time.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was gravely concerned by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s warning that the primary elections may have violated new national security law.
    He said Washington, which has responded to the legislation by starting to roll back the special status Hong Kong has enjoyed in U.S. law, would be watching developments closely as the Sept. 6 legislative council elections approach.
    Pompeo congratulated the opposition for the primary election and added: “Their enthusiasm clearly demonstrates their desire to make their voices heard in the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to suffocate the territory’s freedoms.”
    Critics of the security law fear it will crush the wide-ranging freedoms promised to Hong Kong when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, while supporters say it will bring stability to the city after a year of sometimes violent anti-government protests.
    The security law punishes what Beijing broadly defines as subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
    It has drawn condemnation from Western nations, with the European Union saying on Monday it is working on measures to punish Beijing for the move, including a possible review of EU governments’ extradition treaties’ with the financial hub and offering more visas to its citizens.
    The law has also seen countries such as Britain and Canada caution citizens over an increased risk of arbitrary detention in Hong Kong and possible extradition to mainland China where they could face trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.
    Australia last week said it was suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong due to the security law and was offering students, graduates and workers in Australia on temporary visas the opportunity to stay and work for an additional five years.
    Finland said on Monday the Nordic country’s extradition treaty with Hong Kong should not be applied as the security law means people could be transferred to mainland China.
    The U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression said on Monday he was “extremely concerned” about the future of Hong Kong following the adoption of the new national security law.
(Reporting By Jessie Pang and James Pomfret in Hong Kong, Robin Emmott in Brussels, Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Michael Perry and Alistair Bell)

7/14/2020 Pompeo Says U.S. Gravely Concerned By Lam Warning On Hong Kong Primary Elections
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference
at the State Department in Washington, U.S., July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/Pool
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said the United States was gravely concerned over Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s warning that the territory’s pan-democratic primary elections may have violated China’s new national security law.
    In a statement, Pompeo said Washington will be watching developments in Hong Kong closely as the legislative council elections there on Sept. 6 approach.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

7/15/2020 Firebrand Democrats Poll Strongly In Hong Kong, Election Organiser Quits Over Beijing Pressure by Jessie Pang and Yanni Chow
FILE PHOTO: Newly-elected lawmaker Au Nok-hin walks after swearing in at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Young firebrand activists polled strongly in Hong Kong pro-democracy primaries in initial results released on Wednesday, but one election organiser stepped down after Beijing warned the vote may violate a new national security law.
    Former democracy lawmaker Au Nok-hin helped organise the weekend poll that saw more than 610,000 people vote in what was widely seen as a symbolic protest against the sweeping legislation imposed on the city by Beijing.
    “Withdrawal is the only choice (I have, to) … protect myself and others,” Au said in a Facebook post.
    The primary polls were aimed at selecting democracy candidates to stand in September elections for the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s governing body.
    Results from the primaries so far show 16 candidates from the “resistance” or “localist” camps were elected, outshining the traditional democrats who secured 12 votes.
    The strong performance of the younger generation reflects a potential change of guard to a more radical grouping likely to rile authorities in Beijing.
    The remaining results are expected later on Wednesday.
    Some voters are frustrated with Hong Kong’s more moderate traditional democracy groups at a time when Beijing is tightening its grip on the city with a new security legislation seen by many as the latest attempt to crush freedoms.
    The democrats are gearing up for elections on Sept. 6, when they hope to secure a majority in the 70-seat legislature for the first time.
    In comments that critics said were aimed at instilling fear in the community, Beijing’s top office in the city, the Hong Kong Liaison Office, the Chinese government agency Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and the city’s leader Carrie Lam have all said the primaries could violate the new national security law.
    While a spokesman for the Liaison Office said the pro-democracy camp’s bid for a legislative majority was an attempt to carry out a ‘color revolution’ in Hong Kong, referring to populist uprising in other parts of the world.
    “For those who do not recognise democracy, or do not agree with democratic values, it is difficult to understand the meaning of the primary election,” said Benny Tai, another organiser of the pro-democracy polls.
    The new security law punishes what Beijing broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison and sees Chinese intelligence agents operating officially in the city for the first time.
    Critics of the law fear it will crush wide-ranging freedoms promised to Hong Kong when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, while supporters say it will bring stability to the city after a year of sometimes violent anti-government protests.
    Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested the vice chairman of the city’s Democratic Party, Lo Kin-hei, on charges of unlawful assembly related to anti-government protests in November, he wrote on his Facebook page. He was released on bail.
    Hong Kong police said they charged five males aged 21 to 70 with unlawful assembly, without giving names and they will be mentioned in court on Aug. 21.
    The moves come as U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law to punish China for what he called “oppressive actions” against the former British colony.
    “Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China,” Trump said.
    China said on Wednesday it would impose retaliatory sanctions on U.S. individuals and entities after Trump signed a law penalising banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement the new Hong Kong national security law.
    In another blow to the city’s international status, the New York Times said it would shift part of its Hong Kong office to Seoul, as worries grow that security law would curb media and other freedoms in the city.
(Additional reporting by Aleksander Solum; Writing by Farah Master and Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Michael Perry)

7/15/2020 Young Hong Kong Democrats Seek New Political Order Under Shadow Of Beijing by Jessie Pang and James Pomfret
FILE PHOTO: Pro-democracy activists Tiffany Yuen Ka-wai and Joshua Wong attend a campaigning during
primary elections aimed for selecting democracy candidates, in Hong Kong, China July 11, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – The national security law Beijing foisted on Hong Kong has drawn red lines across many aspects of life in the city, but a vanguard of young democrats is intent on shaking up the political order and gaining mass support.
    Young firebrands stormed to big wins in several Hong Kong districts that held primary elections for the democracy camp on the weekend, outshining some veteran democrats.
    Backed by throngs of volunteers, several dozen so-called localists took to the streets to campaign for their unofficial primary poll to select the strongest pro-democracy candidates for a city legislative election in September.
    “We believe the traditional way adopted by the old politicians is not useful and quite pointless during this era,” said Sunny Cheung, 24, who turned down a chance to study for a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University to “resist the evil regime.”
    Clad in black with white sneakers while handing out flyers outside a metro station, Cheung said his generation had been energised by anti-government protests and embraced “resistance.”
    The localists – a term for those who do not see themselves as Chinese and focus on saving the former British colony’s freedoms – tend to adopt a more assertive stance than traditional democrats.
    While many localists talk publicly about resistance, they don’t speak about independence for Hong Kong, which could see them fall foul of the new security law and face up to life in prison.
    On Tuesday, China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office condemned the weekend poll as “illegal manipulation” and a “blatant challenge” to the security law.
    Former democracy lawmaker Au Nok-hin stepped down on Wednesday as organiser of the election due to Beijing’s remarks, although he reiterated the poll was legal.
    Of the more than 610,000 people – or about 8% of the city’s population – who participated in the poll – up to three quarters of them in several districts backed the localist or “resistance” camp, according to organisers.
‘ERA OF CHANGE’
    The democrats are hoping to secure a majority in the city’s 70-seat legislature for the first time, riding a wave of anti-Beijing sentiment.
    “I hope that the new generation can respond to the angry roar of the times and resist in the Legislative Council with new methods and ideologies,” said incumbent democratic lawmaker Helena Wong, 61, who was muscled out of contention in the primaries.
    Veteran democrats and assembly members like James To, Lam Cheuk-ting, Gary Fan and Alvin Yeung performed poorly, with their moderate call for democracy no longer appealing to young voters.
    “I don’t trust the traditional democrats anymore.    They failed to bring any change,” said one student.
    Many localists are followers of Edward Leung, a former pro-independence activist and philosophy student who became a de facto leader of their movement.
    Leung was jailed in 2016 for six years on a riot charge.
    “Edward Leung has become the spiritual leader of Hong Kongers.    He inspired me and many others,” said Owen Chow, 23, who campaigned over the weekend with a loud hailer rigged to a BMW convertible sports car.
    “We’ve entered an era of change.”
    The security law criminalises what Beijing defines as terrorism, secession, foreign collusion and subversion, while authorising Chinese security agents to enforce laws in the city.
    Beijing and Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government say it is needed to restore stability and safeguard prosperity.
    A large number of disqualifications when nominations open on Saturday could stoke fresh protests, political analysts warn.
    “Many argue that this is the darkest age of Hong Kong,” said Cheung.
    “We can only try to incrementally do something.    We don’t know which path can be 100% effective.    We’re not sure about anything, actually.    We have to try everything.”
(Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Robert Birsel)

7/15/2020 Health Experts Put Tokyo On Highest Coronavirus Alert by Ju-min Park and Chang-Ran Kim
A man wearing a face mask makes his way at the Kabukicho district, amid the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Health experts put Tokyo on the highest alert for coronavirus infections on Wednesday, alarmed by a recent spike in cases to record levels, while the governor of the Japanese capital said the situation was “rather severe.”
    The resurgence of the virus in Tokyo could add to the growing pressure on policymakers to shore up the world’s No.3 economy, which analysts say is set to shrink at its fastest pace in decades this fiscal year due to the pandemic.
    “It is a fact that the number of patients is going up quite a bit and exceeding peaks,” said Norio Ohmagari, director of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine Hospital, noting that the infection rate in Tokyo was at stage “red” – the highest of four levels in the metropolis’ system.
    Infections among young people and asymptomatic cases are rising, Ohmagari said at a meeting with Tokyo officials.
    Governor Yuriko Koike repeated her calls for Tokyo residents to be vigilant, saying: “My understanding is that we’re in a rather severe situation now.”
    The Tokyo government will respond accordingly to the expert views, Koike said, ahead of a media conference later in the day.
    Fearing a second wave of infections spreading from the capital, local municipalities and opposition lawmakers also urged the central government to suspend a major “Go To” travel aid campaign that aims to boost domestic tourism.
    Leaders of some rural towns say that driven by the campaign, travel in and out of high-risk regions like Tokyo may lead to widespread community transmissions.
    The pandemic in Japan will turn into a “man-made” disaster should the travel programme go ahead, Soichiro Miyashita, mayor of the city of Mutsu in Aomori Prefecture, has cautioned.
    But Japan’s economy minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura, said the government will cautiously proceed with the campaign, which includes discounts for shopping and food.
    “Obviously we will consider the thoughts of many of our people, while monitoring the situation ahead,” Nishimura, who leads the government’s coronavirus policy, told parliament.
    The programme, among the government’s top initiatives to stimulate economic activity and set to start this month, has also come under fire over costs as it subcontracts back-office work to a private contractor.
    In Tokyo, daily virus cases exceeded 200 in four of the past seven days, touching an all-time high of 243 last Friday as testing among nightclub workers in its red-light districts showed rising infections among people in their 20s and 30s.
    Governor Koike reiterated that people should avoid restaurants that lack proper infection control measures.
    Health experts noted Tokyo hospitals were getting crowded as the number of patients doubled from the previous week.
    Tokyo’s latest cluster has been traced to a theatre with at least 37 cases in Shinjuku, a busy entertainment area and home to one of Asia’s biggest red-light districts which has been the centre of a recent spike in infections.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Ju-min Park; Editing by Richard Pullin and Himani Sarkar)

7/15/2020 Philippines Confirms 11 New Coronavirus Deaths, 1,392 Cases
A man gets the body temperature of passengers before entering a bus for protection against the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19), in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ health ministry on Wednesday reported 11 new coronavirus deaths and 1,392 additional infections.
    In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths had risen to 1,614, while confirmed infections reached 58,850.
    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is due to decide whether or not to maintain partial restrictions in the capital, set to expire on Wednesday, to slow the spread of the virus as some hospitals reach critical care capacity.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davies)

7/15/2020 Death Toll Rises In Azerbaijan-Armenia Border Clashes by Nvard Hovhannisyan and Nailia Bagirova
FILE PHOTO: A security guard walks past an Azeri (L) and Armenian flag at the opening
of talks in Geneva, Switzerland, October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) – Seven Azeri soldiers and a civilian and four Armenian servicemen were killed on Tuesday in the third day of border clashes between countries that fought a war in the 1990s over the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region.
    The international community worries about clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan in part because of the threat to instability in the South Caucasus, a region that serves as a corridor for pipelines taking oil and gas to world markets.
    Azerbaijan and Armenia both said exchanges of fire that began on Sunday had continued into Tuesday, and each accused the other of ceasefire violations and shelling.
    An army major-general and a colonel were among seven Azeri servicemen killed, Azeri deputy defence minister Kerem Veliyev said, adding: “Devastating blows were inflicted on the enemy.”
    Armenia’s Defence Ministry said four of its servicemen, including a major and a captain, had been killed in skirmishes.    Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anna Naghdalyan said the city of Berd had been shelled near the border but Armenian forces had “destroyed the Azeri bases” that fired on it.
    Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics, have long been in conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh.    But the latest clashes occurred around the Tavush region in northeast Armenia, some 300 km (190 miles) from the enclave.
    Russia urged the two sides to cease fire and show restraint, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Moscow was ready to act as a mediator.
    NATO called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to take all necessary measures to prevent further escalation, according to James Appathurai, the U.S.-led alliance’s special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia.
    President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would stand against any attack on Azerbaijan, with which it has strong historical and cultural ties and is involved in joint energy projects.
    “It is our binding duty to mobilise all our political, diplomatic, social relations in our region and our world in this direction,” he told a news conference.
    Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence in the enclave during a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
    Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia continue to accuse each other of shooting attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier.
(Additional reporting by Andrey Kuzmin in Moscow, Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi, Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Timothy Heritage/Mark Heinrich/Catherine Evans)

7/15/2020 President Trump: We Convinced U.K. To Ban Huawei by OAN Newsroom
Visitors wearing masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus look at the latest products
at a Huawei store in Beijing on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
    President Trump said he’s behind an international push to ban Chinese tech company Huawei.    During a speech at the White House Tuesday, he said he was “responsible” for the recent ban against the telecom giant in the U.K.
    Officials from the British Digital and Culture Ministry announced they were prohibiting companies from purchasing new equipment from Huawei.    The ban cited the country’s uncertainty regarding their ability to “guarantee the security of future Huawei equipment.”
    “We confronted untrustworthy Chinese technology and telecom providers,” stated the president.    “We convinced many countries…and I did this myself for the most part…not to use Huawei because we think it’s an unsafe security risk, it’s a big security risk.”
    The U.K.’s decision came after President Trump signed an executive order in May in which he declared Huawei a threat to U.S. communication networks.
    Chinese officials have condemned both bans and have denied any inappropriate relationship between the Chinese government and the tech company.

7/16/2020 China Slams U.S. Response To Hong Kong Security Law As ‘Gangster Logic’ by Jessie Pang and Yanni Chow
FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near The Bund, before U.S. trade delegation meet
their Chinese counterparts for talks in Shanghai, China July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – China accused the United States of “gangster logic” after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law in response to Beijing’s imposition of new security legislation on the former British colony.
    Beijing’s Liaison Office in the Asian financial hub said the move would only damage U.S. interests while having little impact on Hong Kong.
    “Unreasonable meddling and shameless threats by the United States are typical gangster logic and bullying behaviour,” the office said in a statement late on Wednesday.
    The Beijing-drafted law punishes what China broadly defines as subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
    Critics of the law fear it will crush the wide-ranging freedoms promised to the territory when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, while supporters say it will bring stability after a year of sometimes violent anti-government and anti-China unrest.
    This week, a younger, more defiant generation of Hong Kong democrats secured the most votes in unofficial “primary” elections in the city in what many saw as a protest vote against the security law.
    The vote was organised by the pro-democracy camp to pick candidates for a Sept. 6 election for the 70-seat Legislative Council, or mini-parliament.
    Beijing warned the vote may have violated the new law.    On Wednesday, former Hong Kong lawmaker Au Nok-hin said he was pulling out as an organiser of the weekend vote amid Beijing’s accusations.
    On Thursday, another organiser, Andrew Chiu of the Democratic Party, said his work was done and he would no longer help coordinate the Legislative Council election campaign.
    “After carefully considering different views … I would like to withdraw from the coordination work,” Chiu said in a Facebook post.
    Earlier on Thursday, police arrested a 17-year-old for unlawful assembly and 19-year-old man for obstructing police on July 1, when hundreds were arrested in protests against the national security law.
    The 19-year-old tried to help the 17-year-old escape arrest by a policeman who was stabbed in the skirmish.    The man accused of stabbing the officer was caught at the airport that night.
    Last week, police arrested seven people for assisting him.
‘HYPOCRITICAL’
    Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order to end preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong, allowing him to impose sanctions and visa restrictions on Chinese officials and financial institutions involved in the imposition of the law.     China has threatened retaliatory sanctions of its own, and summoned the U.S. ambassador to protest.     The Hong Kong government said on Wednesday it would support any action Beijing chose to take against the United States.
    “It is hypocritical for the U.S. to introduce measures to attack China by creating issues in (Hong Kong) under the pretext of human rights, democracy and autonomy out of its own political considerations,” a government statement said.
    Four members of a pro-establishment party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, staged a protest at the U.S. Consulate on Thursday demanding the United States “stop interfering in Chinese internal affairs.”
    Trump has not ruled out sanctions on top Chinese officials to punish China for its handling of Hong Kong, a White House National Security Council spokesman said on Wednesday.
    Among names being pushed by some China hawks is Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, according to a person familiar with the matter.
    Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law, now in London, said on Wednesday he felt safe but described the extra-territorial reach of national security laws imposed by China as “scary” and urged Britain to do more to help.
(Additional reporting by Carol Mang ; Writing by Farah Master and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry, Stephen Coates and Nick Macfie)

7/16/2020 China Foreign Ministry Says Pompeo Welcome To Visit Xinjiang
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, accompanied by State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, arrives to speak
at a news conference at the State Department in Washington, D.C., U.S., July 15, 2020. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China reiterated on Thursday that it does not seek to challenge or replace the United States and called on Washington to view China objectively and return to reason in its policies towards Beijing.
    Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters during a briefing that if the United States thinks that everything China does is a threat; such attitude would become self-fulfilling.
    Hua also invited U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to come to China and visit Xinjiang to see for himself that there are no human rights violations against the region’s Uighur Muslim minority.
(Reporting by Cate Cadell; writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Alex Richardson)

7/16/2020 Singapore’s Rulers Fret Over Generational Shift In Big Election Win by John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan
FILE PHOTO: Opposition Workers' Party supporters celebrate the results of the
general election in Singapore on July 11, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A resounding election win for Singapore’s perennial rulers has been tainted by concerns about a generational voter shift that could in time weaken the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) unyielding grip on power.
    The PAP won all but ten of 93 seats in parliament and 61% of the popular vote – a landslide by international standards – but its share of the vote dropped nine points from the last election in 2015.
    Surveys released this week said a youth backlash was reinforced by disaffection from middle-aged voters, who were not expected to rock the boat given the dire economic outlook and job uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    This has prompted analysts to consider whether a long-term decline in the PAP’s support is underway – a trend that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and others have warned could unnerve foreign investors drawn to Singapore’s political stability.
    “The results indicate a tentative generational shift,” said Eugene Tan, a former nominated member of parliament.    “Unless the PAP responds with humility and empathy, one-party dominance will wither.”
    Seats won by the opposition have grown steadily over the last two decades, as has its popular vote, with the exception of the 2015 election held after the death of Singapore’s modern day founder Lee Kuan Yew.
    For a graphic, click here: https://tmsnrt.rs/3dFIStm
    In the wake of Friday’s election, senior PAP figures promised “soul-searching,” while editorials in pro-government media called for a change to the PAP’s paternalistic approach and combative political tactics, and a leadership with stronger links to the people.
    “The young people have significantly different life aspirations and priorities…This will have to be reflected in our political process and in government policies,” Prime Minister Lee said after the election results.
DISAFFECTED VOTERS
    There are many unique characteristics of the Singapore electoral system that favour the larger and better-resourced ruling party, notably group constituencies where teams of candidates contend for multiple seats.
    The capture by the main opposition Workers’ Party of two of these constituencies last week has been held up as an example of the PAP losing touch with young voters.    In one of them, Sengkang, a relatively-youthful voter base picked a slate of mainly new candidates, including Singapore’s youngest ever elected MP at 26, over experienced political office holders.
    A survey of voter intentions published by Blackbox Research on Thursday showed that the Workers’ Party was most popular among Generation Z, those aged 21-25.
    Separate surveys by the Straits Times newspaper showed that young voters swapped to the opposition due to issues ranging from opposition pledges to reduce immigration to perceptions that the PAP’s targeting of opposition figures was high-handed.
    But Blackbox said the biggest vote shift was towards the new Progress Singapore Party (PSP), headed by an ex-PAP stalwart, which narrowly missed out on seats but garnered 10% of ballots.    PSP was most popular among those aged 25-59, while the PAP was favoured by those aged 60 and above.
    “The PSP appeared to do better with disaffected former PAP voters,” Blackbox said.
    Opposition voter Selvan Paramasivam, a 31-year-old investment analyst, said as older voters lose their influence in elections to a younger, social media-savvy citizenry, a consensus is forming around the need for “a substantial alternative voice in parliament.”
    And despite warnings about foreign investors, this mood for change received only a muted reaction from financial markets compared to a similarly-unexpected slump in the PAP’s vote share in 2011.
    “This may have to do with the point that most commentators feel that the election was a good one reflecting the Republic’s political maturity transition to a more diverse parliament,” said Leong Sook Mei, a market researcher at MUFG Bank.
(Reporting by John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan; Additional reporting by Tom Westbrook, Jessica Jaganathan and Anshuman Daga; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

7/16/2020 Malaysian Court Grants Temporary Freeze On $340 Million 1MDB Money In UK
FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the funds flagship
Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, March 1, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris
    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – A Malaysian court on Thursday granted an interim order to stop Saudi energy firm PetroSaudi International (PSI) from using more than $340 million in funds in Britain, which Malaysian prosecutors believe was siphoned from state fund 1MDB.
    U.S. and Malaysian authorities say about $4.5 billion was stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in an elaborate scheme that spanned the globe and implicated former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and U.S. bank Goldman Sachs , among others.
    Najib has denied wrongdoing. In February, three units of Goldman Sachs pleaded not guilty in a Malaysian court to charges of misleading investors regarding $6.5 billion in bond sales the U.S. investment bank helped raise for 1MDB.
    High court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali imposed a temporary freeze on the funds in Britain held by PetroSaudi, which has links to the Saudi royal family, pending the outcome of an Aug. 28 hearing on an application by Malaysian prosecutors seeking an order to prohibit the company and four others from accessing it.
    The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which filed the application under anti-money laundering legislation, said it would extend the interim order to British authorities via mutual legal assistance to ensure the assets remain frozen until the court comes to a decision on the case.
    The Free Malaysia Today news site quoted a lawyer for the MACC, Muhammad Nizamuddin Abdul Hamid, as saying Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) had advised Malaysian authorities to seek a Malaysian court order so the NCA could enforce it there.
    Others named in the application were PSI co-founder Tarek Obaid; PetroSaudi Oil Services (Venezuela) Limited; Clyde & Co LLP, which is holding $500 million of PetroSaudi funds in escrow; and an account under the name Temple Fiduciary Services, which Malaysian prosecutors say allegedly belongs to Tarek.
    Lawyers representing Tarek and PetroSaudi Oil Services opposed the order in court.
    They declined to comment on their clients’ position on the case when approached by reporters outside the court.
    Co-founded by Najib in 2009, 1MDB entered what would ultimately become a failed joint-venture with PetroSaudi to develop oil fields that year, with $1 billion paid up front by the Malaysian fund.
(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Robert Birsel)

7/16/2020 Socially Distant Geisha Struggle To Survive In Coronavirus Shadow by Elaine Lies
Mayu adjusts Koiku's kimono, both of who are geisha, as Koiku wears a protective face mask to pose for a photograph, before working
at a party being hosted by customers, where they will entertain with other geisha, at Asada, a luxury Japanese restaurant,
during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, June 23, 2020. "My father really didn't understand geisha,
he thought it was like the sex trade. He opposed me so violently I thought it would tear the family apart", said Mayu. "After six
years I just gave up and left", she added. "When he saw our first performance, and how hard we work, he came backstage
and went to his knees and bowed really low ... Now he's a huge fan." REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    TOKYO (Reuters) – – Ikuko, the “big sister” of Tokyo’s Akasaka geisha district, came to the capital to seek her fortune in 1964, the year Tokyo first hosted the Olympics.    But the novel coronavirus pandemic has made her fear for her centuries-old profession as never before.
    Though the number of geisha – famed for their witty conversation, beauty and skill at traditional arts – has been falling for years, Ikuko and her colleagues were without work for months due to Japan’s state of emergency and now operate under awkward social distancing rules.
    “There were more than 400 geisha in Akasaka when I came, so many I couldn’t remember their names.    But times changed,” Ikuko, now 80, said.
    These days, only roughly 20 remain, and there aren’t enough engagements to take on new apprentices – especially now.
    Coronavirus-induced austerity has slashed expense accounts, and many people remain wary of spending hours in the elegant but closed traditional rooms where geisha entertain.
    Engagements are down 95 percent, and come with new rules: no pouring drinks for customers or touching them even to shake hands, and sitting 2 metres apart. Masks are hard to wear with their elaborate wigs, so they mostly don’t.
    “When you sit close, you can talk with feeling, your passion comes through,” Ikuko said, wearing a black silk kimono patterned with irises.    “When you’re two metres apart, conversation breaks down.”
    Geisha aren’t the only Japanese artists in danger.    Performers of “jiutamai,” an ancient women’s dance, as well as makeup artists, wig stylists and kimono dressers, confessed to worry the coronavirus could further imperil their niche professions.
    “Every single one of my events has been cancelled,” said Mitsunaga Kanda, who has spent decades doing elaborate makeup for geisha and dancers.
    “We touch their skin and their face, all over, and while we don’t talk we’re very close – something we’re very aware of now,” added Kanda, donning a mask and face shield to work on dancer Tokijyo Hanasaki.
A FADING PROFESSION
    Though the ancient capital of Kyoto is best known for geisha, Tokyo has six geisha districts of its own.    But discouraged by the rigour of geisha life with its hours of artistic practice, fewer now join.
    Akasaka had 120 geisha 30 years ago.    Now all of Tokyo has only some 230.
    Lessons and kimono are expensive, with pay dependent on popularity.    And some skills, such as the witty conversation that make older geisha like Ikuko especially popular, can only be gained through time.
    “Our income has been down to zero,” Ikuko said.    “I have a bit of wherewithal, but it’s been very hard for the younger ones.    The geisha association has helped with rent.”
    All geisha, as freelancers, can also apply for 1 million yen in government subsidies, which she believes most did.
    “I was just full of anxiety,” said fellow geisha Mayu, 47.    “I went through my photos, sorted my kimonos."
    “The thought of a second wave is terrifying.”
    Still, every effort is being made.
    “We arrange things in the largest room possible,” said Shota Asada, owner of the luxurious restaurant where the geisha entertain.    “Anything to keep this culture alive.”
CHANGE FOR SURVIVAL
    Michiyo Yukawa, an ex-geisha who owns an Akasaka bar and hosts occasional geisha events, thinks geisha may need to adapt so that more ordinary people can appreciate their charm.
    “They have a special beauty,” she said.    “They’ve gone through training other people haven’t, they spend a lot of money on this – and it’s made them special. Having this disappear would be sad.”
    Ikuko fears an extended pandemic could prompt some geisha to quit.
    “Now is the worst of the worst,” she said.    “How are we going to get through? It’ll take all of our body and soul.”
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

7/16/2020 India Coronavirus Cases Near One Million, Driven By Surge In Rural Areas by Zeba Siddiqui
A worker cleans the seats during a routine cleaning of Navina cinema hall that was closed following the outbreak
of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kolkata, India, July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – The number of coronavirus cases in India neared one million on Thursday as infection numbers rose in the countryside, pushing authorities to reinstate lockdowns across several states.
    India reported a record 32,696 new cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to 968,876 with 24,915 deaths, according to data from the federal health ministry.
    The country of 1.3 billion people is behind only the United States and Brazil in the number of confirmed infections and there is no sign yet of the curve flattening.    India’s testing rate is also among the lowest in the world in relation to its population.
    While major cities such as Delhi and Mumbai were among the initial hotspots of the virus in India, newer cases are emerging in rural areas where healthcare infrastructure is much weaker.
    A fresh lockdown was imposed on Thursday in the largely-rural eastern state of Bihar, where cases have been rising after thousands of migrant workers returned from cities following a strict lockdown to contain the virus spread.
    “While the world’s attention has been focused on the unfolding crisis in the United States and South America, a concurrent human tragedy is fast emerging in South Asia,” John Fleming, the Asia Pacific head of health at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in a statement.
    “We now need to urgently turn our attention to this region,” Fleming said, citing dire forecasts that predict thousands of more cases in India in the coming months.
    Indian authorities, however, have touted their efforts to contain the virus.    “Despite being such a largely populated nation, we can perhaps claim to have performed better than any other country,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday, citing a fatality rate of 2.57% and recovery rate of 63.25%.
(For an interactive graphic on state-wise daily coroanvirus cases in India, click here: https://tmsnrt.rs/2CASYPg)
(Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

7/16/2020 Taiwan Holds Drills To Beat Back Invasion Amid China Tensions by Ann Wang
Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) Thunderbolt-2000 fires rockets during the live-fire, anti-landing Han Kuang
military exercise, which simulates an enemy invasion, in Taichung, Taiwan July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
    TAICHUNG, Taiwan (Reuters) – Taiwan’s air, sea and land forces conducted live-fire exercises simulating the repulsion of an invading force on Thursday, with President Tsai Ing-wen saying it showed their determination to defend the democratic and Chinese-claimed island.
    F-16 and domestically made Ching-kuo fighter jets launched strikes and tanks raced across inland scrub, firing shells to destroy targets on the beach.    About 8,000 personnel took part in drills, held on a coastal strip near Taichung in central Taiwan.
    The drills, dubbed “Han Kuang,” are Taiwan’s main annual exercises.    This year’s come as China has stepped up its military activity around the island, including flying fighters and bombers close to what Beijing calls its “sacred territory.”
    “The Han Kuang exercises are a major annual event for the armed forces, evaluating the development of combat abilities.    Even more, it lets the world see our determination and efforts to defend the country’s territory,” Tsai told the troops.
    Tsai, who won re-election by a landslide in January, pledging to stand up to China, has made military modernisation a priority.    Taiwan unveiled its largest defence spending increase in more than a decade last year.
    “As I have said, national security does not rely on bowing and scraping but on solid national defence.    All our officers and soldiers are the core of that,” she added.
    Although Taiwan’s military is well-trained and well-equipped with mostly U.S.-made hardware, China has huge numerical superiority and is adding advanced equipment such as stealth fighters and new ballistic missiles.
    China sees Taiwan part of “one China” and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.
    Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship. Beijing routinely denounces Washington’s support for the island.
    China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan, saying Tsai is pushing for the island’s formal independence – a red line for Beijing.    She says Taiwan is already an independent state called the Republic of China, its official name.
(Reporting by Ann Wang; Writing by Ben Blanchard. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

7/16/2020 Japan’s Domestic Tourism Campaign Faces Uncertainty As Coronavirus Spikes In Tokyo by Christopher Gallagher
Passersby wearing protective face masks are seen on the street amid the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato
    TOKYO (Reuters) – A multi-billion-dollar Japanese campaign to boost domestic tourism faced uncertainty on Thursday as coronavirus cases grew in Tokyo, with government ministers and experts looking at ways to stop the virus being spread from the capital.
    Minister of Transport Kazuyoshi Akaba told reporters he was proposing implementing the “Go To” campaign but without travel to and from the capital, where new cases of the coronavirus are causing alarm.
    “I would like to hear what our experts think about starting it on July 22 with Tokyo residents, or the city as a destination, not included,” Akaba told reporters.
    The concerns in Japan highlight a conundrum facing countries around the world over how to balance reviving economies battered by the coronavirus while safeguarding public health.
    Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura was also due to meet the experts to discuss the tourism campaign a day after Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike questioned its timing and methods.
    Japan has not seen the kind of explosive spread of the coronavirus that has killed tens of thousands in other countries. But Tokyo has raised its coronavirus alert to the highest level after a series of new cases.
    Tokyo on Thursday reported a record 286 new cases, the government said.
    The government’s top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, said Japan had 19,000 hospital beds and plenty of medical supplies to cope with the outbreak.
    He also noted the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus on Japan’s regions with most foreign tourists banned from entering the country.
    “We hope the Go To campaign supports tourism and the food and beverage industry and brings about a social and economic recovery so that the regions can escape this severe situation,” Suga told a news conference.
‘THINK AGAIN’
    The campaign will see travellers get subsidies of as much as 50% to boost tourism-reliant economies outside major population areas.
    Nishimura said earlier he wanted to hear the opinions of the experts on containment measures, such as preventing big gatherings and ensuring ventilation on transport.
    The government is keen to avoid a return to the stay-at-home restrictions that helped contain the virus but hurt the economy, putting it on course to shrink at its fastest pace in decades this fiscal year.
    Opposition lawmakers and others have raised concern that with infections in Tokyo running at their highest level since the outbreak began, city folk could spread the virus through regions that have been relatively lightly hit.
    “I don’t see why it can’t be delayed a bit, or it could be limited to certain regions,” said Ryuta Ibaragi, governor of Okayama in the west of the country, which has had just 29 infections out of Japan’s total tally of 23,000 cases.
    “Based on the current situation with infections, I really want them to think again about the timing and method for implementing” the campaign, Koike said on Wednesday.
    Underscoring the plight of the travel industry, overseas visitors to Japan totalled just under 4 million in the first half of the year, data showed on Wednesday, just a tenth of the government’s full-year target of 40 million.
(Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko, Chang-Ran Kim and Tim Kelly; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell, Robert Birsel)

7/16/2020 Philippines Reports 29 New Coronavirus Deaths, 2,498 Infections
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker takes blood sample from a passenger at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
drive-thru testing center in Manila, Philippines, July 15, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ health ministry on Thursday reported 29 new coronavirus deaths and 2,498 additional cases, the country’s the biggest daily rise in confirmed infections in more than a week.
    In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths had increased to 1,643, while confirmed infections reached 61,266.
    President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday retained partial quarantine measures in the capital Manila for two weeks until the end of July, but warned that stricter curbs would be reinstated if the rise in new cases and deaths did not slow.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davies)

7/16/2020 Indonesia Reports 1,574 New Coronavirus Infections, 76 New Deaths
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker collects a swab sample from a civil servant to be tested for
the coronavirus in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported 1,574 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 81,668 its health ministry said.
    Indonesia also reported 76 new coronavirus deaths, taking the overall death toll to 3,873, ministry official Achmad Yurianto told a televised news briefing.
(Reporting by Nilufar Rizki; Writing by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Martin Petty)

7/16/2020 Hong Kong Reports 63 Locally Transmitted Coronavirus Cases
FILE PHOTO: Passengers wear surgical masks in an MTR train, following the outbreak of the
coronavirus (COVID-19) in Hong Kong, China July 15, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong authorities reported 63 locally transmitted coronavirus cases on Thursday, stoking further concern about a third wave of infections in the global financial hub.
    Including imported cases, the number of new cases in the past 24 hours was 67, taking the tally since late-January to 1,656 patients, ten of whom have died.
(Reporting by Meg Shen and Donny Kwok; Editing by Alex Richardson)

7/17/2020 U.S. Targets All Chinese Communist Party Members For Possible Travel Ban: Source by Matt Spetalnick
FILE PHOTO: The flags of China, U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party are displayed in a flag stall at
the Yiwu Wholesale Market in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, China, May 10, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is considering banning travel to the United States by all members of the Chinese Communist Party and their families, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday, a move that would worsen already tense U.S.-China relations.
    Senior officials discussing the matter have begun circulating a draft of a possible presidential order, but deliberations are at an early stage and the issue has not yet been brought to President Donald Trump, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    The discussions, first reported by the New York Times, center on whether to deny visas to tens of millions of Chinese in what would be one of Washington’s toughest actions yet in a widening feud with Beijing that some have likened to a new Cold War.
    Such a ban, if implemented, could hit the ruling Communist Party from the highest levels down to its rank-and-file and would be certain to draw retaliation against Americans who travel to China.    This could include not only diplomats but also business executives, potentially harming U.S. interests in China.
    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said earlier such action by the United States, if true, would be “pathetic.”
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stopped short of confirming it was under consideration but said: “We’re working our way through, under the president’s guidance, about how to think about pushing back against the Chinese Communist Party.”
    White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters: “We keep every option on the table with regard to China.”     Relations between the world’s two largest economies have sunk to the lowest point in decades as they clash over China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, its tightening grip on Hong Kong, its disputed claims in the South China Sea, trade and accusations of human rights crimes in Xinjiang.
    U.S. officials across multiple agencies are involved in the process, which includes consideration of whether to block Communist Party members’ children from attending American universities, said the source, who has been briefed on deliberations.
    The fact that such a sweeping ban is being discussed shows the lengths to which Trump’s aides may be prepared to go as they make the tough-on-China theme a thrust of his campaign for re-election in November.
    Trump and prospective Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden have competed to outdo each other on which can take the strongest stand against China.
    Trump’s aides have made the Communist Party a main target for what they call Beijing’s “malign” activities.    But Trump has held off on direct criticism of Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he has praised as a friend.
    Among the options is to base such a visa moratorium on immigration laws used by the Trump to justify his 2017 travel ban from a group of predominantly Muslim countries, according to the person familiar with the discussions.
    Trump could also have authority to make exceptions for certain individuals or categories, the source said.
    One difficulty would be determining which Chinese nationals are party members, since U.S. authorities do not have full lists, the source said.
(This story corrects typo in first paragraph)
(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick, additional reporting by Makini Brice, Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom in Washington and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Tom Brown and Jonathan Oatis)

7/17/2020 India Tops A Million Coronavirus Cases As Pandemic Hits Villages by Zeba Siddiqui
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker wearing protective gear takes a swab sample from a man for a rapid antigen test, amidst the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak, outside a tea stall at a bus terminal in Ahmedabad, India, July 15, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – India on Friday became the third country in the world to record more than one million coronavirus cases, behind only the United States and Brazil, as infections spread further out into the countryside and smaller towns.
    For India’s population of around 1.3 billion, experts say a million cases are still low and the number will rise significantly in the coming months as testing is expanded.
    India recorded 34,956 new infections on Friday, taking the total so far to 1.004 million, with 25,602 deaths from COVID-19, federal health ministry data showed.    That compares to some 3.6 million cases in the United States and 2 million in Brazil – both countries with populations under 400 million.
    Epidemiologists say India is still likely months away from hitting its peak of cases, suggesting the country’s already overburdened healthcare system will come under further strain.
    “In the coming months, we are bound to see more and more cases, and that is the natural progression of any pandemic,” said Giridhar Babu, epidemiologist at the nonprofit Public Health Foundation of India.
    “As we move forward, the goal has to be lower mortality… A critical challenge states will face is how to rationally allocate hospital beds,” he said.
    The last four months of the pandemic sweeping India have exposed severe gaps in the country’s healthcare system, which is one of the most poorly funded and has for years lacked enough doctors or hospital beds.
    The Indian government has defended a strict lockdown it imposed in March to contain the virus spread, saying it helped keep death rates low and allowed time to beef up the healthcare infrastructure.    But public health experts say shortages remain, and could hit hard in the coming months.
    “As a public health measure, I don’t think the lockdown had much impact.    It just delayed the virus spread,” said Dr. Kapil Yadav, assistant professor of community medicine at New Delhi’s premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
    The million cases so far recorded likely left out many asymptomatic ones, he said.    “It’s a gross underestimate.”
    Millions of migrant workers, left stranded in the cities by the lockdown in March, took long journeys home on foot, some dying on the way while others left without work or wages.
    Several states including Bihar in the east, to which many of the migrants returned, have witnessed a surge in cases in recent weeks as the lockdown has been eased to salvage a sagging economy.
    Babu estimates India won’t see a single nationwide peak.    “The surges are shifting from one place to another, so we cannot say there will be one peak for the whole country.    In India, it’s going to be a sustained plateau for some time and then it will go down.”
(Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui in Mumbai. Additional reporting by Chandini Monnappa, Derek Francis and Abhirup Roy; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and William Mallard)

7/17/2020 China’s Wuhan Declares Red Alert As Floods Disrupt Supply Chains by David Stanway
Residents stranded by floodwaters line up to get on a boat to evacuate the flood-hit village
in Poyang county, Jiangxi province, China July 16, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Large parts of central and eastern China were reeling on Friday from the worst floods in decades, as disruption mounted for key supply chains, including crucial personal protective equipment for fighting the coronavirus, and economic damage piled up.
    The central Chinese city of Wuhan and the provinces of Anhui, Jiangxi and Zhejiang declared red alerts on Friday as heavy rain swelled rivers and lakes.
    Wuhan, on the banks of the Yangtze river where the novel coronavirus emerged late last year, warned residents to take precautions as water levels fast approached their maximum guaranteed safety level.
    The giant Three Gorges reservoir, which has been holding back more water to try to ease downstream flood risks, is more than 10 metres higher than its warning level, with inflows now at more than 50,000 cubic metres a second.
    The Poyang lake in Jiangxi province, which is formed from the overspill of the Yangtze, is 2.5 metres higher than its warning level.    It has expanded by more than 2,000 square kilometres during thus flood season, and parts of the surrounding town have been inundated.
    Further east, the Tai lake near Shanghai has also declared a red alert after its water level rose to nearly a metre higher than its safe level.
    The summer rainy season brings floods to China almost every year but the impact of the disruption they cause is being felt further afield as Chinese goods become more important in supply chains of items such as personal protective equipment (PPE).
    “It’s just creating another major roadblock here in terms of PPE getting into the United States – it is the worst of times for it to happen but that’s what we’re dealing with right now,” said Michael Einhorn, president of Dealmed, a U.S. medical supply distributor, which sources disposable lab coats and other products from Wuhan and nearby regions.
    “We cannot get product out for over a week, which is a very long time in our business,” he said, adding that the delays could last another two or three weeks.
    Economic activity in parts of China, especially construction and steel and cement demand, continues to be hurt by the flooding, analysts say, suggesting some loss of momentum after a stronger than expected bounce in the second quarter from the coronavirus crisis.
    “We estimate recent floods in Yangtze River regions could lead to a gross drag of 0.4-0.8 percentage points on third-quarter GDP growth,” analysts at Morgan Stanley said in a note to clients on Friday.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Robert Birsel and Gerry Doyle)

7/17/2020 Buildings Collapse In Heavy Rain In India’s Mumbai, Killing Eight
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and fire brigade personnel look for survivors trapped in the debris after part of
a residential building collapsed following heavy rains in Mumbai, India, July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – Heavy rains lashing India’s financial capital of Mumbai have caused the collapse of a multi-storey building, killing six people and injuring several, authorities said.
    The dilapidated six-storey structure in the city’s south was home to five or six families who stayed on after residents were advised to evacuate as it was under repairs, eyewitnesses told television channels.
    Two people were declared dead on Thursday evening, with disaster response officials pulling four more bodies from debris during the night, fire and police officials said.
    Several people had been trapped under the debris with many more stranded in the portion left standing after the collapse, causing instability, city fire chief P.S. Rahangdale said.
    “The risk of secondary collapse can’t be ruled out,” he added.
    Another building collapsed in the western suburb of Malad earlier, killing two, including a child, and injuring several.
    Every year, heavy downpours in Mumbai bring down some rain-sodden small and large structures deemed too dangerous to live in.
    Intense rains over the previous few days prompted weather officials on Thursday to upgrade to ‘red’ from ‘orange’ an alert called for the city and surrounding areas.
(Reporting by Swati Bhat; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

7/17/2020 Fighting Again In Taiwan Parliament Over Disputed Nomination
Lawmakers from Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) scuffle with lawmakers from the main opposition
Kuomintang (KMT) party, who have been occupying the Legislature Yuan, in Taipei, Taiwan, July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Fighting erupted inside and outside of Taiwan’s parliament again on Friday over the disputed nomination by     Tsai Ing-wen of a senior aide to a top government watchdog post, which the main opposition party has labelled cronyism.
    The Kuomintang (KMT) has mounted a noisy campaign against the nomination of Chen Chu to head the Control Yuan, an independent government watchdog.
    The KMT, soundly beaten by Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in elections in January, this week occupied parliament’s main chamber for three days, trying to thwart Chen from taking the post.
    Several KMT lawmakers knocked down voting booths inside the chamber to block DPP legislators from casting ballots over the nomination.    KMT has accused the DPP of cheating in part of the vote on nomination this week.
    The voting on Friday went ahead despite shouting and protests from KMT lawmakers, who held banners reading “invalid vote.”
    About 100 KMT supporters outside parliament fought with police and some tried to break through barricades, calling on the DPP to withdraw the nomination.
    “Rejection to cronyism. Withdraw the nomination,” KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang told supporters on the back of a truck outside the parliament.
    Taiwan is a boisterous, sometimes unruly democracy.    Punch-throwing and rowdy protests are not uncommon in parliament.
    The DPP has a large parliamentary majority, and has been angered by the targeting of Chen, who was jailed in 1980 for helping lead pro-democracy demonstrations against the then-KMT government when Taiwan was a dictatorship.
    The KMT, under its youthful new leader, Chiang, has been trying to reinvent itself since its election defeat, having failed to shake off DPP accusations they were too pro-China.
    The party traditionally favours closer ties with China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory.
    The KMT faces a further challenge next month in a mayoral by-election in the major southern metropolis of Kaohsiung, traditionally a DPP stronghold.
    Kaohsiung’s previous KMT mayor was thrown out of office in a recall vote in June.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ann Wang; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

7/17/2020 As Australian COVID-19 Cases Surge, State Bans ‘Dancing, Mingling’ At Weddings by Colin Packham
FILE PHOTO: Healthcare workers assist a resident in putting her mask on outside of a public housing tower,
reopened the previous night after being locked down in response to an outbreak of the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19), in Melbourne, Australia, July 10, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders/File Photo
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s Victoria state on Friday reported a record daily increase in COVID-19 cases while neighbouring New South Wales said it was banning dancing, singing and mingling at weddings as authorities struggle to contain a new wave of infections.
    Victoria, which has forced nearly 5 million people in the country’s second most populous state into a partial lockdown for more than a week, said it has found 428 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, most from community transmission.     Such is the size of the Victoria outbreak, Australia on Friday posted its second biggest one-day rise in new COVID-19 infections, with 438 cases.
    It was largest 24-hour spike since late March, when most cases detected in Australia were people returning from overseas.
    The findings stoked expectations Victoria will be forced to implement tougher restrictions on its residents, which in turn will damage Australia’s national economy.
    “We are in the fight of our lives,” Victoria state’s Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos told reporters in Melbourne.
    Australia has recorded just over 11,000 cases of COVID-19.
    The death toll rose to 116 after the death of three people in Victoria on Friday, still well below many other countries.
    Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government will provide any assistance needed, as he urged against panic.    “We would not have expected to see the results of the lockdown measures put in place in Victoria as yet,” Morrison told reporters.
NO DANCING, NO MINGLING
    The surge in COVID-19 cases in Victoria, however, has stirred concerns of a national second wave, with state Premier Daniel Andrews urging all state residents to wear masks when outside.
    Previously only those around the state capital, Melbourne were asked to cover their face.
    “These are large numbers today, that is disturbing,” Australia’s acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told reporters in Canberra.
    “Be patient… we are starting to get on top of the situation in Victoria.”
    Neighbouring states have closed internal borders closures and renewed social distancing restrictions.
    New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state, said it has found eight cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, mostly from community transmissions believed to have emanated from Victoria.
    NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said new restrictions will be imposed from next week.
    Funerals and places of worship will be allowed no more than 100 people.    Venues must also ensure they have 4 square metres of space per patron.
    Weddings in the state will be capped 150 people, Berejiklian said, and they must remain seated.
    “No dancing, no singing, no mingling,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
DAN-MADE DISASTER
    Less than a month ago, Australia was widely heralded as a global leader in combating COVID-19.
    But security lapses in Victoria led to people returning from overseas spreading the virus, prompting an inquiry into how the state went from the brink of eradicating the virus to soaring infection numbers.
    State Premier Andrews is under mounting pressure, with one of Australia’s biggest selling tabloid newspapers running a front page with the headline: “Dan-made disaster.”
    The surge in COVID-19 cases dents any hope of a quick economic rebound in Australia.
    Damaged by national social distancing restrictions imposed in March, Australia is on course for its first recession in nearly three decades, while unemployment has hit a 22-year high, data showed on Thursday.
    Australia’s hopes to begin a “travel bubble” with neighbouring New Zealand also appear to be delayed.    Australia and New Zealand had hoped to open their borders to each other in September.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

7/17/2020 India’s Coronavirus Cases Cross 1 Million
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker wearing protective gear takes swab from a man for a rapid antigen test to tackle the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at a check-up point on a bus terminal in Ahmedabad, India, July 13, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s cases of novel coronavirus crossed the million mark, the health ministry data showed on Friday, as infections spread out into the smaller towns and the countryside following the lifting of a vast lockdown.
    Only the United States and Brazil have a higher number of cases.    India’s total deaths stood at 25,602 the health ministry said.
(Reporting by Chandini Monappa and Derek Francis; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

7/17/2020 Philippines To Allow Some Foreigners To Enter Country From August
FILE PHOTO: Passengers wearing personal protective equipment for protection against the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) queue at the check-in counters of Emirates airline, in Ninoy Aquino International
Airport in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 9, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines will allow the entry of foreign nationals with long-term visas into the country from August 1, the presidential spokesman said on Friday, as the country gradually relaxes some coronavirus restrictions in a bid to support the economy.
    Foreigners with valid and existing visas would need to undergo quarantine upon arrival, said Harry Roque, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte.
    Long-term visa holders refer to foreigners living and working in the country, Roque told Reuters.
    Applications for new entry visas will not be accepted and returning Filipinos will have priority on inbound flights given existing caps on airport capacity, the task force said.
    The Bureau of Immigration banned the entry of foreigners into the country in March to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.    Only Filipinos as well as foreign diplomats were allowed to enter.
    The Philippines has reported 61,266 cases of the virus and 1,643 related deaths.    It ranks second in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia in terms of the number of infections and deaths.br> (Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davies)

7/17/2020 Australia’s Victoria Sets Record For New COVID-19 Cases Second Day In A Row
FILE PHOTO: A sanitation worker cleans a bench outside the single remaining public housing tower under a lockdown in response
to an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Melbourne, Australia July 10, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders/File Photo
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s second-most populous state of Victoria on Friday reported a record increase in daily new coronavirus cases for the second straight day.
    Victoria recorded 428 new daily infections, Premier Daniel Andrews said, a day after logging its previous high of 317 new cases.    It also reported three new deaths.
    The state has been isolated from the rest of the country for more than a week following a fresh outbreak of the disease.    The 4.9 million residents in state capital Melbourne have been ordered to stay home except for essential business.
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Tom Hogue)

7/17/2020 Iran Vows To ‘Deal Decisively’ With Further Protests
Still image from a video shows people protesting over economic hardship, on the streets of Behbahan, Iran July 16, 2020. REUTERS TV/via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran promised on Friday to deal “decisively” with further protests over economic hardship, a day after security forces fired teargas to disperse demonstrators in the southwestern city of Behbahan.
    Iran’s clerical rulers have tried to prevent a revival of last November’s anti-government protests, when over 1,000 people are believed to have been killed in the deadliest street violence since the 1979 Islamic revolution.    Tehran says 225 people were killed, including members of the security forces.
    On Tuesday, the judiciary said the death sentences of three men involved in that unrest had been upheld, sparking a surge of online protests.
    In a statement on Friday, the police urged people to “vigilantly refrain from any gathering that could provide a pretext for the counter-revolutionary movement,” accusing “enemies” of whipping up discontent.
    “The police force has an inherent and legal duty to deal decisively with these desperate moves,” the statement added.
    Videos posted on social media from inside Iran on Thursday showed protesters chanting, “Fear not, fear not, we are in this together!.”    Some chanted slogans against top officials.
    Videos posted on Twitter showed a heavy presence of security forces in several cities.    Reuters was unable to verify the videos, or reports of arrests.
    “People are angry.    The economy is so bad that we cannot survive,” an Iranian man said by phone from Tehran on Thursday, asking not to be named due to security concerns.
    Last year’s unrest began with protests over economic hardship but turned political, with demonstrators demanding top officials step down.
    The economy, already hard hit by U.S. sanctions that have choked off its oil exports, has deteriorated further in recent months as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
    There were calls on social media for demonstrations across the country on Friday to protest against the three death sentences.
    Iran has consistently blamed the United States and Israel for domestic unrest.
(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

7/17/2020 Explainer: What’s Behind Rising Tensions In The South China Sea? by James Pearson
FILE PHOTO: A view of the flight deck of USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), flagship of the U.S. Navy's
7th Fleet, is seen at Changi Naval Base in Singapore May 9, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo
    HANOI (Reuters) – The United States this week hardened its position on the South China Sea, where it has accused China of attempting to build a “maritime empire” in the potentially energy-rich waters, despite regional concerns.
    The rivals have accused each other of stoking tension in the strategic waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from the new coronavirus to trade to Hong Kong.
    A statement from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on July 13 was the first time the United States had called China’s claims in the sea unlawful and accused Beijing of a “campaign of bullying.”
    But heated rhetoric has also been on the rise in the region, where Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam challenge China’s claim to about 90% of the sea.
REGIONAL TENSIONS
    Vietnam, frequently at loggerheads with China over the issue, is this year chairing the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
    At a June 26 summit in Hanoi, Vietnam and the Philippines – China’s most vocal challengers over the sea – warned of growing regional insecurity amid concern that Beijing was advancing territorial claims under the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    As China held military drills in the South China Sea this month, Vietnam said Beijing’s actions were “detrimental” to its relationship with the Southeast Asian bloc.    The United States simultaneously deployed two aircraft carriers to the area for what it said were pre-planned exercises.
    In a blustery response to the Chinese drills, Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin said China “will be met with the severest response, diplomatic and whatever else is appropriate,” if the exercises encroached on Philippine territory.
    That followed a surprise move by President Rodrigo Duterte – who had courted Beijing since taking office in 2016 – to suspend his decision to scrap a two-decade-old troop deployment agreement with the United States.
TROUBLED WATERS
    China illustrates its claims with a vague, U-shaped “nine-dash line” that includes swathes of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, as well as the Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands.    It also overlaps the EEZs of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
    A tribunal at The Hague, based on a suit brought by the Philippines, ruled in 2016 that China has no “historic title” over the waters, and that its line was superseded by the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
    Last year, Chinese and Vietnamese vessels became embroiled in a months-long standoff in Vietnam’s EEZ where a Chinese research vessel conducted a sweeping seismic survey of waters overlapping Vietnamese oil blocks.
    In May, the same Chinese research vessel was involved in another month-long standoff with Malaysian ships in Malaysia’s EEZ, close to where a drillship contracted by Malaysian state oil firm Petronas had been operating.
    Chinese incursions happened 89 times between 2016 and 2019, Malaysia’s government said on Tuesday.
    Indonesia has also begun to take a tougher stance.    In January, Jakarta summoned China’s ambassador and dispatched air and sea patrols after Chinese vessels entered Indonesia’s EEZ around the northern Natuna islands.
    The tensions have already affected Vietnamese oil production in the area, including operations controlled by Russia’s Rosneft and Spain’s Repsol.
    “We’re already seeing reduced appetite for oil and gas investment in Vietnam,” said Andrew Harwood, research director at consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie.
    “Escalating tensions will not improve the situation.”
(Reporting by James Pearson; Additional reporting by Karen Lema in Manila; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Nick Macfie)

7/17/2020 U.S. Aircraft Carriers Return To South China Sea Amid Rising Tensions by James Pearson
FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz receives fuel from the Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS
Tippecanoe during an underway replenishment in the South China Sea July 7, 2020. U.S. Navy/Christopher Bosch/Handout via REUTERS.
    HANOI (Reuters) – For the second time in two weeks, the United States has deployed two aircraft carriers to the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy said on Friday, as China and the United States accuse each other of stoking tensions in the region.
    The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan carried out operations and military exercises in the contested waterway between July 4 and July 6, and returned to the region on Friday, according to a U.S. Navy statement.
    “Nimitz and Reagan Carrier Strike Groups are operating in the South China Sea, wherever international law allows, to reinforce our commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, a rules based international order, and to our allies and partners in the region,” Rear Admiral Jim Kirk, commander of the Nimitz, said in the statement.
    The presence of the carriers was not in response to political or world events, the statement added, but relations between Washington and Beijing are currently strained over everything from the new coronavirus to trade to Hong Kong.
    Heated rhetoric has been on the rise in the region, where Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam challenge China’s claim to about 90% of the sea.
    China held military drills in the sea earlier this month, drawing strong condemnation from both Vietnam and the Philippines, at the same time as the two carriers first crossed the waterway for what the U.S. Navy said were pre-planned exercises.
    The U.S. Navy says its carriers have long carried out exercises in the Western Pacific, including in the South China Sea, which extends for some 1,500 km (900 miles).    At one point recently, the United States had three carriers in the region.
    About $3 trillion of trade passes through the South China Sea each year.    The United States accuses China of trying to intimidate Asian neighbours who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.
(Reporting by James Pearson; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

7/18/2020 In Hong Kong, Young Democrats Raring To ‘Resist’ As Nomination Period Kicks Off For Crucial Election by James Pomfret and Jessie Pang
FILE PHOTO: People enjoy the sunset view with a skyline of buildings during a meeting on national
security legislation, in Hong Kong, China June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/ File Photo
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong formally kicked off a two-week registration period for candidates to run in a key legislative election in September, amid fears authorities might try to disqualify an assertive young generation of democrats.
    The citywide poll will be a crucial battleground for the city’s democratic opposition to try to reclaim some political influence in the wake of tough national security laws China imposed on June 30.
    These laws have been decried by critics, including the United States, as a death knell for the city’s freedoms and autonomy from China.
    Chinese and Hong Kong officials, however, say the laws will bring stability to the financial hub after a restive year, and only affect a very small minority of “troublemakers.”
    A vanguard of young democrats are raring to get on the ballot, having stormed to big wins in an unofficial “primary” election earlier this month.
    These young firebrands, or “localists,” who often embrace a more confrontational anti-China stance, have appealed more broadly to younger, disaffected voters who no longer believe the moderate rhetoric of veteran democrats.
    “For every candidate in the pro-democracy camp, we must unify at this time, to avoid attacking ourselves and to consolidate our strength to challenge the tyranny,” Sam Cheung, one young democratic hopeful, said on Facebook.
    Overshadowing their prospects, however, is the risk of disqualification.
    In the past four years, authorities have barred 18 democrats from running in local elections, including prominent activist Joshua Wong, according to a report by the rights group Civil Rights Observer.
    Critics say the disqualifications – on grounds including a dissenting ideology, or support for Hong Kong independence – are meant to curb the ascendancy of this new crop of democrats.
    At least six young candidates were barred from the previous legislative poll in 2016, including pro-independence leader Edward Leung, who has since been jailed on a rioting charge.
    Given the heightened political tensions after last year’s often violent anti-government protests, mass disqualifications of candidates could stoke fresh social unrest, though replacement candidates are also poised to jump in if need be.
    Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise of a high degree of autonomy and broad freedoms including “the right to stand for and take part” in elections.
    The imposition of the national security law, however, grants China wide-ranging new powers to clamp down on civil society and dissenting voices in the city, and to over-ride local laws to take jurisdiction over certain big and complex cases.
    Should the democrats make history and seize 35 seats or more in the 70-seat chamber for the first time, they could stymie the city’s annual budget and deepen oversight of government policy.
    “For me, taking part in this election is essentially to resist,” said localist, Ventus Lau.
    Under the new security legislation, all candidates for local elections must swear allegiance to Hong Kong and pledge to uphold Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
    Some have refused to make such a pledge, though others say it’s more important to get on the ballot.
    Around 4.47 million of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents are eligible to vote on September 6.
(Reporting by James Pomfret. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

7/18/2020 Indonesia Overtakes China With Highest Coronavirus Cases In East Asia by Tabita Diela
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia overtook China on Saturday as the country with the most confirmed coronavirus cases in East Asia with 84,882 infections, and authorities said the actual infection rate could be higher due to undetected cases.
    Data from the country’s COVID-19 task force showed 1,752 new coronavirus infections on Saturday and 59 fatalities, taking the coronavirus-related death toll to 4,016.
    China, where the first cases of the coronavirus were reported late last year, has had 83,644 cases as of Friday, with 4,634 deaths.
    “There are possibility of undetected positive cases without symptoms,” said task force spokesman Achmad Yurianto, adding that authorities would continue to prioritise contact tracing.
    Epidemiologists have criticised the government for imposing milder restrictions than its neighbours to control the pandemic and for the limited scope of testing.
    Some restrictions were eased in early June, even as cases continued to rise, to allow for resumption of some economic activity.
    Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan this week delayed further loosening of curbs, including postponing the reopening of cinemas.    The capital city reported 346 new cases on Saturday, its highest daily increase, with eight new fatalities.
    The country’s most populous province, West Java, will begin awho are not wearing face masks in public places starting July 27, its Governor Ridwan Kamil said on Twitter.
(Reporting by Tabita Diela; Additional reporting by Yuddy Cahya; Editing by Gayatri Suroyo and Frances Kerry)

7/18/2020 Australia PM Delays Parliament As Coronavirus Spreads by Lidia Kelly
FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a joint press conference held with New Zealand
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Admiralty House in Sydney, Australia, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday delayed the opening of parliament for several weeks as the new coronavirus continued spreading through the country’s two most populous states.
    Morrison asked the speaker of the parliament to cancel a two-week session due to start on Aug. 4, out of concern about the COVID-19 pandemic.    The request was seen as a formality as the speaker is a member of Morrison’s Liberal Party and the opposition Labor Party accepted the call.
    Lawmakers are to meet at the next planned session on Aug. 24.
    “The government cannot ignore the risk to parliamentarians, their staff, the staff within the parliament and the broader community,” Morrison said in a written statement, adding he acted based on the advice of medical authorities.
    Victoria state reported 217 new infections after a record 428 cases on Friday.    Neighbouring New South Wales, the most populous state, which has also been struggling to contain a new wave of infections, saw 15 new cases.
    Victoria forced nearly five million people into a partial lockdown for six weeks on July 9, as expectations of harsher social-distancing restrictions were growing with the virus continuing to spread.
    Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews left open the possibility of further curbs, urging people not to leave their houses except for work, exercise or essential shopping.
    “The likelihood of a longer lockdown, the likelihood of even more restrictions – that really does rest with individuals and families and members of the Victorian community embracing the spirit of the rules and erring on the side of caution,” Andrews said at a televised briefing.
    Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government will issue further income support to tackle deteriorating confidence across the country, in addition to an existing A$70 billion ($49 billion) in wage subsidies.
    “There’s a lot of uncertainty in the economic environment, and the Victorian situation is a significant setback,” Frydenberg told The Age newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.
    “It’s diminished confidence beyond the Victorian border, and the recovery is a confidence game.    So, maintaining business and household confidence is going to be critical.”
    The government is expected to announce details of the support measures on Thursday, before sending them for a vote to the parliament.
    In March, all parliamentary sittings were cancelled until August.    But as Australia appeared to be succeeding in controlling its outbreak in the following months, some sittings took place, including a one-day special session to vote on the initial wage subsidy scheme.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)

7/18/2020 Philippines Defends Anti-Terror Law Before U.S. Congress
FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during his fourth State of the Nation Address at the
Philippine Congress in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ foreign ministry has told the U.S. Congress that political freedoms and human rights will be respected as concerns linger over an anti-terrorism law that takes effect on Saturday.
    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte early this month signed a stricter anti-terrorism bill, condemned by critics and rights groups as a weapon to target opponents and stifle free speech.
    “The Philippines remains committed to the protection of civil and political liberties as well as human rights,” its embassy in Washington said in a letter to 50 U.S. representatives dated July 16 and made available to the media on Saturday.
    “The Anti-Terrorism Act itself strongly mandates that human rights be absolute and protected at all times,” it added.
    Duterte has defended the law, saying law-abiding citizens should not fear as it targets terrorists including communist insurgents.
    The legislation creates a council appointed by the president, which can designate individuals and groups as terrorists and detain them without charge for up to 24 days.    It also allows for surveillance and wiretaps, and punishments that include life imprisonment without parole.
    Lawyers have questioned the law before the Supreme Court, saying the legislation could be abused to target administration opponents and suppress peaceful dissent.
    “What the law signifies is the Philippine government’s strong resolve to combat terrorism and to implement a more effective and comprehensive approach to such a serious threat that knows no borders,” the embassy said, adding that the previous anti-terror bill, signed in 2007, resulted in the conviction of only one person.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

7/18/2020 Rouhani Says 25 Million Iranians May Have Been Infected With Coronavirus
FILE PHOTO: An Iranian woman and her son wearing a protective face mask walks the street, following the outbreak
of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tehran, Iran, June 28, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that some 25 million Iranians may have been infected with coronavirus, as Iran reimposed restrictions in the capital and elsewhere.
    The figure, from a report Rouhani cited in a televised speech, was far higher than Saturday’s official figure for infections of 271,606, and corresponds to more than 30% of Iran’s 80 million population.
    Rouhani’s office said the number of infections was based on an “estimated scenario” from a health ministry research report.
    Iran has been the Middle East country hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with infections and deaths rising sharply since restrictions were eased, beginning in mid-April.
    “Our estimate is that so far 25 million Iranians have been infected with this virus and about 14,000 have lost their lives,” Rouhani said.
    He added that “there is the possibility that between 30 and 35 million more people will be at risk,” but did not elaborate on what he meant.
    More than 200,000 people have been hospitalised, he said, adding the ministry expected that another 200,000 might need hospital treatment in the coming months.
    An official at the government’s coronavirus task force said the 25 million people mentioned by Rouhani were “mildly affected patients who … did not need to seek medical advice,” the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.
    The Health Ministry reported 188 deaths in the previous 24 hours to take Iran’s total to 13,979.
    Authorities on Saturday reimposed restrictions for a week in the capital Tehran, including banning religious and cultural functions, closing boarding schools, cafes, indoor pools, amusement parks and zoos.
    From Sunday, 22 cities and towns in the southwestern Khuzestan province will be under a three-day lockdown, the province’s governorate announced on Saturday.
    That will include Behbahan, where police on Thursday fired tear gas into a crowd protesting over economic hardships.
(Editing by Jason Neely and Clelia Oziel)

7/18/2020 Thai Protesters Call For Government To Resign by Panu Wongcha-um
A protester holds a sign during a protest demanding the resignation of the government, defying the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions on
large gatherings in one of the largest demonstrations since a 2014 army coup in Bangkok, Thailand July 18, 2020. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Around 2,500 Thai protesters on Saturday evening demanded the resignation of the government and the dissolution of parliament, defying a coronavirus ban on gatherings in one of the largest street demonstrations since a 2014 military coup.
    People at the student-led rally near Bangkok’s Democracy Monument cited a litany of complaints against the year-old civilian government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former army chief who ousted an elected government six years ago.     Organisers issued three demands: the dissolution of parliament, an end to harassment of government critics, and amendments to the military-written constitution that critics say virtually guaranteed victory for Prayuth’s party in elections last year.
    “How can we be OK with the lack of democracy like this?” student activist Tattep Ruangprapaikit told the crowds.
    There were also some veiled public references at the protest to the powerful Thai monarchy, despite a law forbidding criticism of the king.    Such references would once have been unthinkable.
    Police were on standby but did not move to stop the protest.    The monument was cordoned off with signs reading: “No entry without permission.    Maintenance in progress.”
    The protests started with student groups, but during the evening hundreds more arrived to join, swelling the numbers to about 2,500, according to organisers and estimates by reporters on the scene.
    Organisers said they would disperse at 8 a.m. on Sunday but would return to the streets in two weeks if their demands were not met.
    Public opposition to Prayuth has been growing in recent months.
    Since last year’s election, a court has dissolved the second-largest opposition party, giving his ruling coalition firmer control in parliament.
    Prayuth also saw several cabinet members resign on Thursday over internal disputes.
    Prayuth’s Palang Pracharat Party campaigned on a vision of traditional Thai culture and loyalty to King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
    Thailand is officially a constitutional monarchy, but insulting the king is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and many conservatives view the monarchy as sacrosanct.
    Some signs and speeches at Saturday’s protest made veiled references to the monarchy.
    “This is our country, but whose home is in Germany?” said one of the student leaders on a small stage set up on the street.
    King Vajiralongkorn has an estate in Germany, where he spends much of the year.
    A protest sign read “Lost faith is definitely not a crime!!! #Thiwakorn,” in a reference to a separate protest in Thailand’s northeast on Friday in support of a man who was committed to a psychiatric hospital after he wore a T-shirt saying he had lost faith in the monarchy.
    Another banner said “The People’s Party Isn’t Dead” – a reference to the political party whose revolution ended absolute royal rule in 1932.
    Prayuth last month publicly warned political activists not to risk their futures by criticising the monarchy.
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Frances Kerry)

7/18/2020 Indonesia Overtakes China With Highest Coronavirus Cases In East Asia by Tabita Diela
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker wearing protective gear walks through a traditional market as swab samples are collected from
vendors to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia overtook China on Saturday as the country with the most confirmed coronavirus cases in East Asia with 84,882 infections, and authorities said the actual infection rate could be higher due to undetected cases.
    Data from the country’s COVID-19 task force showed 1,752 new coronavirus infections on Saturday and 59 fatalities, taking the coronavirus-related death toll to 4,016.
    China, where the first cases of the coronavirus were reported late last year, has had 83,644 cases as of Friday, with 4,634 deaths.
    “There are possibility of undetected positive cases without symptoms,” said task force spokesman Achmad Yurianto, adding that authorities would continue to prioritise contact tracing.
    Epidemiologists have criticised the government for imposing milder restrictions than its neighbours to control the pandemic and for the limited scope of testing.
    Some restrictions were eased in early June, even as cases continued to rise, to allow for resumption of some economic activity.
    Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan this week delayed further loosening of curbs, including postponing the reopening of cinemas.    The capital city reported 346 new cases on Saturday, its highest daily increase, with eight new fatalities.
    The country’s most populous province, West Java, will begin fining people who are not wearing face masks in public places starting July 27, its Governor Ridwan Kamil said on Twitter.
(This story has been refiled to fix garbled phrase in final paragraph)
(Reporting by Tabita Diela; Additional reporting by Yuddy Cahya; Editing by Gayatri Suroyo and Frances Kerry)

7/18/2020 Iran Has Sent Black Boxes Of Downed Plane To France: Official
FILE PHOTO: General view of the debris of the Ukraine International Airlines, flight PS752, Boeing 737-800 plane
that crashed after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran
January 8, 2020 is seen in this screen grab obtained from a social media video via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – Iran has sent the black boxes from a Ukrainian airliner that it had accidentally downed in January to France for analysis, a Foreign Ministry official said on Saturday.     Some 176 people were killed when the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s most powerful military force, fired missiles at the Ukraine International Airlines mistaking it for a hostile target while on high alert during a confrontation with the United States.
    “The black boxes were transported to Paris yesterday by officials of the Civil Aviation Authority and a judge,” Mohsen Baharvand, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for international and legal affairs, was quoted as saying by the the semi-official ILNA news agency.
    He said France will begin reading the flight recorders on Monday and praised the French government for its “very good cooperation with the Iranian delegation.”
    France’s BEA air accident investigation agency is known as one of the world’s leading agencies for reading flight recorders.
    The fate of the cockpit voice and data recorders was the subject of an international standoff after the plane was shot down on Jan. 8, with Ukraine demanding access.
    In an interim report last week Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation blamed a misalignment of a radar system and lack of communication between the air defence operator and his commanders for the downing.
(Editing by Frances Kerry)

7/18/2020 Iran’s Rial Hits New Low On Unofficial Market; Virus, Sanctions Weigh
FILE PHOTO: A man displays the Iranian currency at Ferdowsi square in Tehran, Iran July 2, 2020.
Picture taken July 2, 2020. Mohamadreza Nadimi/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The Iranian rial fell to a new low against the U.S. dollar on the unofficial market on Saturday and has now seen its value fall by almost half in 2020 as the economy comes under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic and U.S. sanctions.
    The dollar was offered for as much as 255,300 rials, up from 242,500 on Friday, according to foreign exchange site Bonbast.com.    The economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad’s website gave the dollar rate as 252,300, compared with 241,300 on Friday.
    The currency has lost nearly 48% of its value in 2020, more than half of that in the past month, as a drop in oil prices and a slump in the global economy have deepened the economic crisis in the country, which also has the highest death toll in the Middle East from the pandemic.
    The official exchange rate – used mostly for imports of state-subsidised food and medicine – is 42,000 rials per dollar.
    In May 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a multilateral deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear programme and reimposed sanctions that have since battered the economy.
    President Hassan Rouhani, who has partly blamed the rial’s drop on the failure of exporters to repatriate their foreign currency earnings, instructed the central bank on Friday to redouble its efforts to enforce rules on returning export earnings, state media reported.
    In the months after May 2018 the rial’s value tumbled as Iranians snapped up dollars, fearing Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and sanctions could shrink Iran’s vital oil exports and severely impact the economy.    The currency recouped some of its losses in late 2018.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

7/19/2020 Australia’s Victoria Requires Masks For Melbourne Hit By COVID-19 by Lidia Kelly
FILE PHOTO: Victoria Police officers meet outside a public housing tower, locked down in response to an outbreak
of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Melbourne, Australia, July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – People in Melbourne must now wear masks when leaving their homes as Victoria, Australia’s second most-populous state, marked two weeks of triple-digit increases in new coronavirus infections on Sunday.
    Melbournians not wearing face coverings will be fined A$200 ($140), said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews.
    Victoria, which has forced nearly 5 million people into a partial six-week lockdown on July 9, reported 363 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, after 217 cases the previous day.
    “We’re going to be wearing masks in Victoria and potentially in other parts of the country for a very long time,” Andrews told a televised briefing.
    “There’s no vaccine to this wildly infectious virus,” he said.    Masks are “a simple thing, but it’s about changing habits, it’s about becoming a simple part of your routine.”
    Australia has recorded about 11,800 coronavirus cases, a fraction of what has been seen in other countries or even some U.S. states, but an outbreak of community transmission in Victoria has been growing, prompting authorities to impose stricter social distancing measures.
    “Community transmission is difficult and challenging,” Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt told a televised briefing.    “That remains our single greatest threat.”
    Three deaths from the COVID-19 disease were reported in Victoria on Sunday, bringing the total to 38 and raising Australia’s death toll to 122.
    Victoria became the first state in Australia, a country of a loose federal system, to require masks for part of its population.
    New South Wales (NSW), the most populous state that had moved to relax its social distancing guidelines earlier this month, has since moved to restrict again some social mingling as cases have been growing.
    On Sunday, NSW reported 18 new infections, its highest in three months.    The transmission rate in the state is higher than in Victoria, causing concerns.
    “People are urged to avoid non-essential travel and gatherings,” NSW Deputy Chief Health Officer Jeremy McAnulty said in a video statement.
    “Of particular concern is transmission in venues such as hotels and restaurants, the gym and social gatherings.”
    About 60 people in Sydney face a fine of $1,000 each after attending a party Saturday night and breaking the public health guidelines of no more than 20 visitors to a home, police said.
(Editing by William Mallard and Jacqueline Wong)

7/19/2020 Mainland China Reports 16 New Coronavirus Cases Including 13 In Xinjiang
FILE PHOTO: A general view of Urumqi, Xinjiang Province, China May 21 2017. REUTERS/Sue-Lin Wong/File Photo
    BEIJING (Reuters) – Mainland China reported 16 new cases of the novel coronavirus as of the end of July 18, up from 22 reported a day earlier, the Chinese national health authority said on Sunday.
    Of the new infections, 13 were found in Urumqi, the capital of China’s far western region of Xinjiang.    The other three, recorded in the southern province of Guangdong and eastern province of Shandong, were imported infection involving travellers from overseas, according to the National Health Commission (NHC) and Xinjiang local health commission.
    The confirmed case in Shandong was an employee from state oil company China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, or Sinopec, working in Kuwait, the Qingdao Municipal Health Commission in Shandong said on Sunday.
    Another eight Sinopec employees travelling from Kuwait on Friday were also diagnosed as asymptomatic patients by the Qingdao health authority.
    On Saturday, mainland China recorded a total of 42 new asymptomatic cases, including 18 new asymptomatic patients in Urumqi.
    The far western city went into “wartime mode” on Saturday, launching an emergency response plan after the city reported a spike in new coronavirus cases.
    As of Saturday, mainland China had 83,660 confirmed coronavirus cases, the national health authority said.    The death toll remained at 4,634.
(Reporting by Muyu Xu and Tom Daly; Editing by William Mallard and Jacqueline Wong)

7/19/2020 Hong Kong Tightens Coronavirus Restrictions As Cases Hit Record by Carol Mang and Jessie Pang
FILE PHOTO: People wear surgical masks at a wet market following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
at Sham Shui Po, one of the oldest districts in Hong Kong, China July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong tightened coronavirus restrictions on Sunday, with non-essential civil servants told to work from home from this week, as the global financial hub reported a record number of daily cases.
    Earlier on Sunday, an event by pro-democracy politicians to mark the one-year anniversary of an attack in a train station by an armed mob was stopped by police in riot gear for breaking coronavirus measures already in place that restrict group gatherings to four people.
    Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told a news conference the city recorded more than 100 cases in the past 24 hours, the most since the pandemic took hold in late January, taking the tally close to 2,000 patients, 12 of whom have died.
    “The situation is very serious and there is no sign of it coming under control,” Lam said.
    Amusement parks, gyms and 10 other types of venues will remain closed for another seven days, while a requirement for restaurants to only provide takeaway after 6pm was extended.    Face masks will be mandatory in indoor public areas.
YUEN LONG ANNIVERSARY
    Police in riot gear halted an event in the northern district of Yuen Long, where pro-democracy politicians planned to mark the anniversary of the attack on demonstrators and bystanders by more than 100 men with pipes and poles on July 21 last year, in which 45 people were injured.
    The Yuen Long attack was one of the most violent scenes of last year’s pro-democracy protests, which plunged the global financial hub into its deepest crisis since it returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
    At the time, police were criticised for not responding quickly enough to calls for help, and for not arresting any alleged culprits at the scene.    They later made several arrests and said the assailants had links to organised criminal gangs, or triads.
    A small number of protesters marked the anniversary chanting slogans in a shopping mall.
(Reporting by Carol Mang and Jessie Pang; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

7/19/2020 Baloch Families Seek Answers From Pakistan As More Disappear Amid Insurgency
Relatives display pictures of people who have gone missing in Pakistan's restive province of Baluchistan
as they walk towards Islamabad, in Rawalpindi February 27, 2014. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood
    KARACHI/QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) – For over 11 years relatives of people who disappeared in the murk of a separatist insurgency in southwestern Pakistan have gathered outside the Press Club of Quetta wanting to know who took their fathers, husbands and sons.
    The daily sit-in protest in the provincial capital of Balochistan began on June 28, 2009 after a doctor, Deen Muhammad, was abducted by “unknown men.”
    Relatives suspect Muhammad, like many other missing ethnic Balochs, was snatched by Pakistani security forces hunting separatists, who for decades have waged a campaign for greater autonomy or independence.
    Sometimes less than a dozen join the daily protest, other days many more, but Muhammad’s two daughters have been among the regulars since they were eight and ten years old.
    “Our little hands were holding pictures of our father back then; now we have grown up and we still have no clue if he is alive,” Sammi Baloch, now 21, told Reuters by telephone from Quetta.
    Even when the weather is too extreme in Quetta to hold protest, a sit-in is observed by Balochs in front of the press club in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and a melting pot for different ethnic groups.
    The insurgency in Balochistan, a sparsely populated, mountainous, desert region bordering Afghanistan and Iran has sometimes waned and sometimes intensified over the years.
    But for all the durability of the Baloch struggle, the conflict has seldom drawn international attention.    It grabbed headlines however, in late June when a group of young Baloch militants launched an attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi.
    On Tuesday, three soldiers were killed and eight wounded in an area known for attacks by Baloch fighters.    But beyond giving the grinding casualty toll, the veil of secrecy over the conflict is seldom lifted, and foreign journalists are often discouraged from visiting Balochistan.
    Multiple calls, texts and emails to Pakistan’s human rights ministry, the military and Balochistan’s provincial government, seeking comment for this story went unanswered.
    The military did issue a statement last year sympathising with families of missing Balochs, while saying that some may have joined militant groups and “not every person missing is attributable to the state.”
    Pakistan has repeatedly blamed India for fanning militancy in Balochistan, a charge New Delhi has consistently denied.
MORE MISSING
    Last month, the Balochistan National Party (BNP) quit Prime Minister Imran Khan’s parliamentary bloc, frustrated by unfulfilled promises to address Baloch grievances including the festering issue of the disappeared.
    When he led the BNP into an alliance with Khan’s coalition two years ago, Akhtar Mengal gave the government a list of 5,128 missing persons.
    Since then over 450 of the people on the list have been found or returned to their families, but during the same period Mengal says another 1,800 were reported to have disappeared.
    “If you cannot recover people, at least stop disappearing more people,” said Mengal.
    Another Baloch party – set up in the months prior to the 2018 elections with backing from the military establishment, according political analysts – is in a coalition with Prime Minister Khan’s party at both federal and provincial level.
    Balochistan Awami Party Senator Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar told Reuters the numbers of missing are “exaggerated.”
    But, Mama Qadeer, who heads a group called Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, keeps his own count.
    “In last six months, the number of Baloch missing persons has risen,” he told Reuters by telephone.    His son disappeared a decade ago.
    In February last year, Qadeer’s group handed a list of 500 missing to provincial officials.    Since then nearly 300 have been returned to their homes, but 87 others disappeared in the first half of this year, according to the group.
CHINA RAISES STAKES
    A federal commission set up nine years ago listed 6,506 cases of enforced disappearances nationwide by the end of 2019.    Most came from the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
    Only 472 were registered from Balochistan.    Advocacy groups say Balochistan’s number is far higher, pointing to difficulty in having cases accepted by the commission.
    “There’s hardly a home in Balochistan that hasn’t had a relative or loved one picked up,” Mohammad Ali Talpur, an aged activist who once fought alongside Baloch insurgents in the 1970s, told Reuters.
    The conflict has a long, complex history, but since that time the stakes have risen as Balochistan’s wealth of copper, gold, gas and coal deposits caught China’s eye.
    The prospects of Pakistan’s most reliable ally pouring in money excited successive governments, while fuelling Baloch resentment over how little would come their way.
    Separatist militants have frequently targeted Chinese construction in Gwadar, a port on the Balochistan coast, near the entrance to the strategically-important Gulf.
    And in 2018, the Balochistan Liberation Army launched an assault on the Chinese consulate in the southern port city of Karachi, killing four Pakistani police and civilians.
    It was the most high profile attack by the group until June 29 this year, when its fighters attacked the stock exchange, again killing four people.
    The attack came a day after hundreds of relatives of missing Balochs gathered in Quetta to mark the four thousandth day of their protest since the disappearance of Dr Muhammad.
(Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan in Karachi and Gul Yousafzai in Quetta, Pakistan; Writing and reporting by Umar Farooq in Istanbul, Turkey; Editing by Gibran Peshimam & Simon Cameron-Moore)

7/19/2020 Iranian Health Officials Play Down President’s Figure Of 25 Million People Infected
FILE PHOTO: An Iranian man and his son wearing a protective face mask walks in a street, following the outbreak of
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tehran, Iran, June 28, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – Iranian health officials sought on Sunday to play down the president’s estimate that some 25 million people have been infected with the coronavirus, saying it was based on serological blood tests that measure exposure to the illness and that cannot be relied on to show the current state of disease.
    The 25 million figure put forward by Rouhani on Saturday is nearly a third of the population and massively higher than the official number of COVID-19 cases.    Official case numbers rose to 273,788 on Sunday, with 14,188 deaths, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said.
    A Health Ministry statement carried by Iranian news media said the figure given by the president was based on numbers produced by a deputy in the ministry.
    “It is not possible to rely on serological tests to diagnose the current state of the disease,” the statement said.
    Serological tests determine if a person has been exposed to a disease by showing their antibody response.    In the coronavirus pandemic, they have been used by countries to survey samples of the population and estimate overall infection rates — whether or not people have had severe, mild or no symptoms of COVID-19.
    “Serological tests only show if people have been exposed to the virus in the past,” Mostafa Qanei, head of the government’s scientific committee of the coronavirus task force, was quoted as saying by the state IRINN website.    PCR tests of the throat and nose are needed to diagnose COVID-19, he added.
    Iran has been hardest hit by the pandemic in the Middle East, with infections and deaths rising sharply since restrictions were eased, beginning in mid-April.    Still, the number given by Rouhani took many Iranians by surprise.
    Turkey has suspended flights to Iran because of coronavirus worries, a spokesman for Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, Reza Jafarzadeh, was quoted as saying on Sunday by the official IRNA news agency.
    Parliament deputy Alireza Salimi called on the government to come up with a single official figure for coronavirus cases.
    In announcing the 25 million estimate on Saturday, Rouhani did not say what the figure was based on, but added that 30-35 million more were possibly at risk.
    A coronavirus task force official said Saturday the 25 million were “mildly affected patients who … did not need to seek medical advice.”
(Editing by Frances Kerry)

7/19/2020 Myanmar Holds Muted Martyrs’ Day Tribute To Fallen Independence Heroes
Myanmar State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi pays her respects to her late father during a ceremony
to mark the 73rd anniversary of Martyrs' Day in Yangon on July 19, 2020.Ye Aung Thu/Pool via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – Myanmar’s public marked one of the Southeast Asian nation’s darkest moments on Sunday with tributes to slain independence heroes, though the annual Martyrs’ Day gatherings were muted by the coronavirus pandemic due to social distancing measures.
    Flanked by senior government and military officials, state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi laid a wreath at a mausoleum dedicated to Aung San, her father and the country’s independence hero, who was assassinated alongside members of his cabinet on July 19, 1947.
    Crowds also laid flowers beside statues of Aung San, who remains a potent political force in the country, with his image used by his daughter and some of her rivals to garner support among a public that continues to revere him.
    The former ruling military junta for years curtailed use of his image for fear it would help the democracy movement that emerged in 1988 led by Suu Kyi.
    In the commercial capital of Yangon on Sunday, crowds queued to approach a statue of Aung San clutching portraits of the independence leader and his daughter, waiting on markers painted in the road to encourage people to keep a distance.
    “The Martyrs’ Day was once extinct, during the political crisis,” said Yin Yin Phyo Thu, as she laid flowers.
    “We young people are responsible for preserving the image of Martyrs’ Day not to fade away during COVID-19,” she said.
    Myanmar has reported 340 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
    The country goes to the polls again in November in a vote that will serve as a test of the fledgling democracy.
    “We came here to pay respects and also to get ourselves politically motivated in 2020, the election year,” said Kyaw Swar, a university student.
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

7/19/2020 China Says It Will Respond Resolutely If UK Sanctions Officials
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming looks on following the Chinese Lunar
New Year parade in central London, Britain January 26, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
    LONDON (Reuters) – China will respond resolutely to any attempt by Britain to sanction Chinese officials following the imposition of a security law in Hong Kong, its ambassador in London said on Sunday.
    Earlier this month Britain introduced a new sanctions regime to target individuals it says are involved in human rights abuses or organised crime.
    Some lawmakers in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party have said the sanctions should be used to target Chinese officials.
    “If UK government goes that far to impose sanctions on any individual in China, China will certainly make a resolute response to it,” Liu Xiaoming told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
    “You’ve seen what happens in the United States – they sanction Chinese officials, we sanction their senators, their officials.    I do not want to see this tit-for-tat happen in… China-UK relations.”
    British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the same programme he would not be drawn on future additions to Britain’s sanctions list but he denied that Britain would be too weak to challenge China through this channel.
    Raab said he would update Britain’s parliament to outline further measures on Hong Kong and China on Monday.
    Britain says the new national security law in Hong Kong breaches agreements made before the handover and that China is crushing the freedoms that have helped make Hong Kong one of the world’s biggest financial hubs.
    Hong Kong and Beijing officials have said the law is vital to plug holes in national security defences exposed by recent protests.    China has repeatedly told Western powers to stop meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

7/19/2020 ‘Ugly Face’: U.S. And China Trade Barbs In Myanmar As South China Sea Rift Deepens
FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of China occupied Subi Reef at Spratly Islands in
disputed South China Sea April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Francis Malasig/Pool
    (Reuters) – China’s embassy in Myanmar on Sunday accused the United States of “outrageously smearing” the country and driving a wedge with its Southeast Asian neighbors over the contested South China Sea and Hong Kong, as tensions mount between the superpowers.
    Responding to U.S. claims Beijing was undermining the sovereignty of its neighbors, the Chinese embassy said U.S. agencies abroad were doing “disgusting things” to contain China and had showed a “selfish, hypocritical, contemptible, and ugly face.”
    The United States last week hardened its position on the South China Sea, saying it would back countries in the region that challenge Beijing’s claim to about 90% of the strategic waterway.
    In a statement on Saturday, the U.S. embassy in Yangon called China’s actions in the South China Sea and Hong Kong, where Beijing has imposed tough new national security laws, part of a “larger pattern to undermine the sovereignty of its neighbors.”
    The U.S. statement drew parallels between China’s actions in the South China Sea and Hong Kong with large-scale Chinese investments projects in Myanmar that the United States warned could become debt-traps, along with trafficking of women from Myanmar to China as brides, and the inflow of drugs from China into Myanmar.
    “This is how modern sovereignty is often lost – not through dramatic, overt action, but through a cascade of smaller ones that lead to its slow erosion over time,” the U.S. embassy said.
    In its rebuke, China said the statement showed a “sour grapes” attitude by the United States towards “flourishing China-Myanmar relations” and was “another farce on a global tour by the U.S. authorities to shift the attention on domestic problems and seek selfish political gains
    The U.S. should first look in the mirror to see whether it still looks like a major country now,” it said.
    The Chinese embassy in Yangon did not answer phone calls seeking further comment.    The U.S. embassy was not immediately available for comment.
    Myanmar has increasingly become a battleground for influence between the two countries since relations between the government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and the West became strained over its treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority.
    Author and historian Thant Myint-U told Reuters in an email although the country was of negligible economic value to the rivals, its strategic importance as a bridge between mainland China and the Bay of Bengal was hard to ignore.
    “Myanmar’s instincts since independence in 1948 are to try to be friends with everyone, but it’s not clear that’s going to remain possible, in this coming period of increasingly febrile superpower rivalry,” he said.
    “The sheer weight of China’s giant industrial revolution next door is already transforming Myanmar; if multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects are added to the mix, the border between the two countries will become increasingly difficult to see,” he said.
    “It’s important to remember that Myanmar was one of the few countries in the world where the last Cold War led to proxy armed fighting which in turn led to military dictatorship and decades of self-imposed isolation.”
(Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

7/19/2020 UK’s Raab Says Clear Uighurs In China Suffered Human Rights Abuses
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrives at Downing Street ahead
of a cabinet meeting in London, Britain, July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
    LONDON (Reuters) – British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday it was clear the Uighur minority in China had suffered abuses of their human rights.
    “It is clear that there are gross, egregious human rights abuses going on, which is why in Geneva at the UN we raised this with 27 partners … to call out the government of China for its human rights abuses of the Uighurs, also of Hong Kong,” Raab told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.
    Beijing’s ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming told the same programme that most Uighurs were living happily and that ethnic minorities in China were treated as equals.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

7/19/2020 Iranian President Claims 100 Times More People Have Been Infected With COVID-19 Than Previously Reported by OAN Newsroom
A vendor wearing a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus adjusts his items as a pedestrian
walks past on a commercial street in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said
lockdowns over COVID-19 pandemic may lead to street protests over economic problems, though in Tehran, authorities have
decided to impose some restrictions again over newly spiking reported deaths from the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
    A new report by the Iranian Health Ministry estimated that roughly 25 million people in Iran have been infected by COVID-19.
    President Hassan Rouhani shared these findings Saturday, showing significantly higher numbers than the roughly 271-tho,000 and cases previously reported by officials.
    This significant gap casts further doubt on the country’s official figures as they denied the virus’s arrival in February, allowing it to spread even further.    Authorities said the low reported numbers are likely due to a lack of testing and poor data collection.
    Rouhani said he estimates millions more are still at risk to contract the virus in the future.
    “This report says that we should consider the possibility that 30 to 35 million people will be at risk of exposure to the virus,” he stated.    “This same report suggests that the number of hospitalized people will be twice the number we have witnessed during these last 150 days.”
    Officials are reimposing lockdown restrictions amid the new estimates, including banning religious gatherings and closing entertainment venues.

7/20/2020 Australia Warns Coronavirus Outbreak Will Take Weeks To Tame by Colin Packham
FILE PHOTO: People walk in the city centre on the first day of New South Wales' further eased coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) restrictions in Sydney, Australia, July 1, 2020. Picture taken through a glass window. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – A surge in COVID-19 cases in Australia’s second-biggest city could take weeks to subside despite a lockdown and orders to wear masks, Australia’s acting chief medical officer said on Monday as the country braces for a second wave of infection.
    Authorities in the state of Victoria, whose capital Melbourne is in partial lockdown amid a new outbreak, reported 275 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, down from a daily record of 438 three days earlier.
    Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said it would take “weeks” to slow the outbreak to levels seen as recently as June, when Victoria and the rest of Australia reported single or double-digit daily infections.
    “We have learned over time that the time between introducing a measure and seeing its effect is at least two weeks and sometimes longer than that,” Kelly told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.
    Australia has recorded about 11,800 coronavirus cases with a death toll of 123, a fraction of what has been seen in other countries.    In most Australian states the disease has been effectively eliminated.
    Less than a month ago, Australia was widely heralded as a global leader in combating COVID-19 but quarantine lapses in Victoria triggered a flare-up in infections in June.    An official inquiry into the outbreak began hearings on Monday.
    Victoria’s government has ordered about five million people into a partial lockdown for six weeks and told residents around Melbourne to cover their faces if they have to leave their homes.
    Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said it was too soon to declare that such measures had flattened the outbreak.
    “Until we bring some stability to this, we won’t be able to talk about a trend,” he said, referring to the drop in daily new cases.
    The Victorian outbreak and rising daily cases in neighbouring New South Wales, the country’s most-populous state, are stoking fears of a national second wave.
    NSW reported 20 new infections on Monday, the highest in three months.    The transmission rate in the state is higher than in Victoria, despite social distancing restrictions being tightened.
    NSW authorities have been unable to trace some of the clusters and state authorities have urged people to avoid unnecessary travel and public transport.
    Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would consider tightening social-distancing restrictions in cities like NSW capital Sydney if the numbers continued to rise over the next few weeks.
    Should NSW be forced to implement new restrictions, it would be a hammer blow to Australia’s hopes for a quick economic recovery.    Already, Australia is facing its first recession in nearly three decades, with unemployment at a 22-year high.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Stephen Coates)

7/20/2020 Democracy Activist Joshua Wong Launches Bid For Hong Kong Legislature
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong registers as a candidate for the upcoming
Legislative Council election in Hong Kong, China July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Prominent Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong applied on Monday to run for a seat in the Chinese-ruled city’s legislature, raising the prospect of a battle with authorities after being barred from running in previous polls.
    Wong is one of more than a dozen young, more confrontational politicians who outshone old guard democrats in unofficial opposition primaries this month in what many saw as a protest vote against a national security law imposed by Beijing.
    The Sept. 6 vote will see the democratic opposition try to reclaim some political influence in a city assembly stacked with Beijing loyalists.    Only half its seats are directly elected.
    Political analysts and democracy activists expect authorities will try to disqualify some candidates.
    Beijing says the primaries were illegal and may have violated the security law, which punishes what China broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
    “With the possibility of facing a life sentence … I still hope to receive people’s mandate and let the world know that we will continue to fight until our last breath,” Wong, who sees himself as a prime target of the new law, told reporters.
    In the past four years, authorities have barred 18 democrats from running in local elections, including Wong, according to the group Civil Rights Observer.
    Wong, who was 17 when he became the face of the 2014 student-led Umbrella Movement protests, was not been a leading figure of the often-violent protests that shook the semi-autonomous financial hub last year.
    However, he has drummed up support for the pro-democracy movement abroad, meeting politicians from the United States, Europe and elsewhere, drawing the wrath of Beijing, which says he is a “black hand” of foreign forces.
    He was disqualified from running in the former British colony’s district council elections last year on the grounds that advocating for Hong Kong’s self-determination violated electoral law, which he described at the time as political censorship.
    Wong has said he supports the idea of a non-binding referendum for people to have a say over Hong Kong’s future but that he is against independence.
    Wong did not sign a form in which candidates are asked to pledge allegiance to Hong Kong and its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.    The form is not mandatory, but candidates are required by the security law to pledge allegiance in writing or through other means.
(Reporting by Carol Mang and Yanni Chow; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Robert Birsel)

7/20/2020 Chinese Artist Holds His Tongue In Protest Of Pandemic Censorship
Brother Nut, Chinese performance artist wearing a face mask poses for a picture in Shanghai,
following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, China July 13, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – To protest censorship during the COVID-19 outbreak, a Chinese artist known as Brother Nut kept his mouth shut for 30 days, using metal clasps, gloves, duct tape and other items.
    In the project – #shutupfor30days – he also sealed his mouth with packing tape with “404,” the error code for a webpage not found, written across it, a nod to the blocking of online content that is common in China for sensitive issues.
    “If you ask me how an artist should digest unfair treatment, such as violence or censorship, my first reaction is: keep fighting, with art,” said Brother Nut.
    The 39-year-old artist has built a reputation for statement-making projects in a country where the room for dissent has shrunk and censorship has intensified under President Xi Jinping.
    China faced a barrage of criticism over the virus that emerged late last year in Wuhan, from being slow to sound the alarm to the treatment of a doctor who tried to alert authorities about the outbreak but was reprimanded by police for “spreading rumours.”
    The doctor, Li Wenliang, became a symbol of the outbreak in China and later died from coronavirus.
    “Sometimes I feel my job is similar to that of an NGO or a journalist – seeking to raise awareness of social issues and the moves to counter them,” said the soft-spoken, long-haired artist during an interview at a cafe in Shanghai’s M50 art district.
    Brother Nut’s previous performances include tugging a battery-powered vacuum cleaner around Beijing and creating a solid brick from polluted air.
    In 2018, he invited a heavy metal band to play in a village polluted with heavy metals, prompting local environmental authorities to investigate the contamination.
    To speak up for investors who lost their savings in a financial scam, Brother Nut staged a torch relay dubbed “Good Luck Beijing,” which in Chinese sounds similar to “Beijing Olympics.”
    He was later detained for 10 days by police.
    Threats and calls from police are commonplace, which he said makes him angry, rather than fearful, although he does not want his real name to be published.
    Brother Nut acknowledged that during last month’s project to maintain silence, he sometimes spoke to himself while eating.
    “We need expressions of art whenever and wherever.    They’re like flowers growing in cracks, and allow us to dance in the most desperate time,” he said.
(Reporting by Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Ryan Woo, Tony Munroe and Gerry Doyle)

7/20/2020 North Korea’s Kim Fires Officials For Extortion Linked To Hospital Project by Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides the 14th enlarged meeting of Political Bureau of 7th Central Committee of WPK
in this undated photo released on July 2, 2020 by North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s leader has sacked officials building a hospital after they pressed the public for contributions, media reported on Monday, the second rebuke linked to the high-profile project in a country where such problems are rarely publicised.
    Leader Kim Jong Un ordered the Pyongyang General Hospital to be built by the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party in October, calling it a “top priority” in improving public health in the face of the novel coronavirus.
    But during his latest visit to the site, Kim fired a group of project managers, called the construction coordination commission, for failing to allocate a proper budget and supplying equipment and materials from ordinary citizens.
    “He severely rebuked them for burdening the people by encouraging all kinds of ‘assistance’,” the KCNA state news agency reported, calling the incident a “serious digression” from party policy.
    KCNA released photographs of a serious-looking Kim speaking at the site with officials wearing masks.
    It was his second rebuke for the managers this month.    He earlier criticised them for causing delays with “inattention” and violating unspecified anti-epidemic rules.
    Kim praised builders on the project for making rapid progress despite “difficult situations” but told the party to “investigate the performance of the construction coordination commission as a whole and replace all the officials responsible,” KCNA reported.
    Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the sackings suggested a setback for a prestigious project and hinted at broader difficulties facing the economy.
    “It indicates potential delays and further obstacles in meeting the October deadline given difficulties in mobilising resources due to the pandemic and sanctions,” Yang said.
    North Korea has not reported any cases of the coronavirus but has taken intensive prevention measures, including a ban on gatherings, an order to wear masks and mandatory quarantines for border workers.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Robert Birsel)

7/20/2020 No Kissing And Disinfect The Microphone: Japan Nightlife Sets Its Virus Rules
FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a face mask walks past a signboard of a bar in the Kabukicho district, amid
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Campaigners for Japan’s nightlife workers say they need realistic guidelines for how to stay safe and remain in business amid the novel coronavirus, which has seen the government zero in on host and hostess bars as centres of contagion.
    Bar staff need practical rules on how to interact with customers, said Shinya Iwamuro, a urologist and public health advocate who has been teaching infection control measures in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district and other nightspots.
    That means no kissing, no sharing plates and conversation should be at right angles to avoid droplet contamination.
    “As much as possible, kiss only with your partner, and avoid deep kissing,” Iwamuro told a news conference, outlining what he described as “kiss etiquette.”
    Strategic testing in the nightlife districts of Tokyo has revealed rising daily cases of coronavirus, predominantly among people in their 20s and 30s.    The clusters prompted the Tokyo governor to raise the city’s alert to the highest “red” level on July 15.
    With cases in Tokyo nearing 300 a day late last week, officials excluded people travelling to and from the capital from a multibillion dollar government campaign aimed at reviving domestic tourism.
    The government is also considering toughening its special measures act that allows it to declare a state of emergency.    Media reported Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as saying there may be more spot checks of nightlife businesses.
    But concern has grown that nightlife has become a scapegoat for the failure of authorities to track and contain the disease.
    Masayuki Saijo, director of virology at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, said it was not appropriate to discriminate against people based on where or when they work.
    “There’s no difference, working at night or working in the day,” Saijo said.    “The strategy to reduce human-to-human infection is the same.”
    The host and hostess scene provides a kind of safety net for many Japanese seeking work, particularly single mothers, said Kaori Kohga, representative director of the Nightlife Business Association.
    More than a million people are estimated to work in the industry, she said.
    Her group has drafted its own safety rules for its members, including disinfecting karaoke microphones, as it found government recommendations, such as wearing masks and two-metre social distancing, were impractical, she told reporters.
    “Nothing will change if you’re only criticising us as the bad guys,” Kohga said, adding the government hadn’t acknowledged their rules nor offered enough financial help to businesses or workers.
(Reporting by Miyoung Kim; Additional reporting by Linda Sieg and Rocky Swift in Tokyo; Editing by Robert Birsel)

7/20/2020 Big Majority Of Japanese Reject Government Tourism Campaign Amid New Coronavirus Fears: Media Surveys
FILE PHOTO: Passersby wearing protective face masks are seen on the street amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Most people in Japan are against government plans to kickstart domestic tourism with a subsidised campaign, according to newspaper surveys published on Monday, as fears grow over the number of new coronavirus cases, particularly in Tokyo.
    The results highlight growing concerns that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s $16 billion “Go To” campaign, set to begin on Wednesday, could spread the virus to rural parts of the country where medical systems are fragile.
    Broadcaster NHK said more than 500 new cases were reported nationally on Sunday, of which 188 were in Tokyo – down by about 100 from the previous day but still well above levels seen when Abe’s government in late May called an end to a state of emergency it had imposed to contain the virus.
    A telephone survey conducted by the Asahi newspaper found 74% of respondents were opposed to the campaign.    In a similar survey by the Nikkei business daily, some 80% of respondents said it was too early to launch such a programme.
    Japan has not seen the kind of rapid spread of the virus that has killed tens of thousands in other countries.    But Tokyo has raised its coronavirus alert to the highest level after a series of fresh highs for new cases.
    Under the “Go To” campaign, travellers are set to get subsidies of as much as 50% to boost tourism-reliant economies outside major population areas.    With cases on the rise in the capital, the campaign – originally open to all – will now exclude people living or vacationing in Tokyo.
(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

7/20/2020 Mainland China Reports 22 New Coronavirus Cases Including 17 In Xinjiang
FILE PHOTO: People wear protective face masks as they walk in a shopping complex after an outbreak of
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China reported 22 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for July 19, up from 16 cases from a day earlier, the health commission said on Monday.
    Of the new infections, 17 were in the far western region of Xinjiang, according to a statement by the National Health Commission. The other five were imported cases.
    China reported 13 new asymptomatic patients, down from 42 a day earlier.
    As of Sunday, mainland China had 83,682 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said.    The COVID-19 death toll remained at 4,634.
(Reporting by Lusha Zhang, Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

7/20/2020 ‘We Are A Battleground Now’: In Southeast Asia, U.S.-China Tensions Flare On Social Media by Poppy McPherson and Karen Lema
FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter in Shanghai, China June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song
    (Reuters) – Tensions between the United States and China over the South China Sea have erupted into a war of words on social media, in what analysts see as a change in U.S. strategy amid a burgeoning superpower rivalry in Southeast Asia.
    After Washington last week hardened its position by explicitly rejecting Chinese maritime claims in the South China Sea, U.S. embassies in the region produced an unprecedented flurry of op-eds and statements criticising Beijing’s actions.
    China’s response was fiery, accusing Washington of “defaming China with untrue words so as to mislead the public” in the region.
    “We are a battleground now,” Renato de Castro, an analyst with the Albert Del Rosario Institute for Strategic and International Relations in the Philippines, told Reuters by phone.    “It will be a long game.”
    A week ago, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Beijing’s claim to about 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea “completely unlawful” and accused Beijing of seeking a “maritime empire.”
    U.S embassies in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Cambodia followed up with comments on Facebook and in editorials in local news outlets saying that Beijing’s actions fitted a pattern of encroachment on others’ sovereignty.
    The U.S ambassador to Thailand accused Chinese dams of holding back water from the region’s Mekong river during a drought last year.
    The embassy in Yangon drew parallels between the South China Sea and ways it said China was interfering in Myanmar, citing investments it said could become debt traps, the trafficking of women to China as brides, and the inflow of drugs into the country.
    In a swift counterattack, China’s ambassador to Thailand accused Washington of “attempting to sow discord between China and other littoral countries.”
    In a Facebook post that twice referred to the United States as “dirty,” China’s Myanmar embassy said its agencies abroad were doing “disgusting things” to contain China and showed a “selfish, hypocritical, contemptible, and ugly face.”
    The statements attracted thousands of regional social media comments, many attacking China while questioning the motives of both countries.
    “Thank you USA for doing what is the law requires,” commented Chelley Ocampo under the U.S embassy in the Philippines’ Facebook post.
    After someone wrote on the U.S. embassy in Malaysia’s page, “Imperial Yankee Go Home !!!!!!,” American diplomats replied, “Are you saying that you are ok with the PRC’s bullying tactics in the SCS?
‘CLARIFICATIONS AND REBUTTALS’
    Wang Wenbin, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, told a news conference in Beijing it was the “U.S. that first published comments attacking and condemning China” and its diplomats were issuing clarifications and rebuttals in response.
    The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the apparently coordinated social media offensive.
    The war of words marks a strident new tack for U.S diplomacy in the region, analysts said.
    The U.S. statements aimed to tie the South China Sea to local concerns “to depict Beijing as an unequivocal threat to the sovereignty of the Southeast Asian nations,” said Sebastian Strangio, author of an upcoming book on China’s regional influence.
    Meanwhile, China’s response was consistent with “pugnacious ‘Wolf-Warrior’ diplomacy” since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, he said, referring to increasingly nationalist Chinese rhetoric.
    Strains have become more evident in the South China Sea recently, with U.S. and Chinese navies holding simultaneous exercises in a waterway that China claims over smaller rivals, including the Philippines and Vietnam, on the basis of history.
    China “couldn’t afford allowing the U.S to make appreciable gains in turning regional opinion,” said Collin Koh Swee Lean, a research fellow at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
    “At least some of the Southeast Asian governments… may secretly, if not publicly, welcome the latest Pompeo statement and thereby possibly be emboldened to resist its moves in the disputed waters.”
(Additional reporting by Gabriel Crossley in Beijing; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Alex Richardson)

7/20/2020 Voice Data Recovered From Ukraine Jet Downed By Iran
A view of the flight recorder from the Iranian missile-downed Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) Flight PS752 Boeing 737 jet, as work begins
at the BEA investigation bureau in Le Bourget, France July 20, 2020 in this image obtained from social media. Twitter @BEA_AERO via REUTERS
    PARIS (Reuters) – Investigators examining the black boxes from the Ukrainian jet accidentally shot down by Iran have recovered its cockpit voice data, France’s BEA accident investigation bureau said.
    Iranian forces say they brought down the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) jet, a Boeing 737, on Jan. 8 after mistaking it for a missile amid heightened tensions with the United States.    All 176 people aboard Flight PS752 were killed.
    “CVR data – including the event itself – has been successfully downloaded,” the BEA said in a tweet on Monday, referring to the cockpit voice recorder from the downed jet.
    The BEA did not elaborate on the content of the audio, which records the pilots’ verbal communications and other cockpit sounds.    The release of any further information is a matter for Iranian authorities leading the investigation, a BEA spokesman said.
    The data extraction, expected to take most of this week, is being carried out with an Iranian investigator and observed by Canadian, U.S., Swedish and British experts and representatives from UIA, Boeing and engine maker Safran.
    Iran agreed in June to send the black boxes to the BEA for analysis, ending a long standoff with Canada, Ukraine and France over access to the data.    Work began early on Monday at BEA headquarters outside Paris.
    Many of the crash victims were Canadian citizens or permanent residents, or had Canada as their final destination.
    An interim report by Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation last week blamed a misalignment of a radar system and lack of communication between the air defence operator and his commanders for the tragedy.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday he welcomed Iran’s decision to hand over the black boxes, saying those responsible would be held accountable.
(Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

7/21/2020 Coronavirus Complicates South Korea, U.S. Military Exercises by Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper welcomes South Korea's National Defense Minister
Jeong Kyeong-doo to the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott
    SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea and the United States are trying to agree on the scale, scope and timing of annual military exercises with the novel coronavirus threatening to disrupt the travel of U.S. troops, South Korean officials said on Tuesday.
    South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper had a telephone call on Tuesday but could not decide on details of the exercises, which usually begin in early August, officials said.
    U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) has reported nearly 50 cases of the coronavirus among its troops, employees and their families in the past three weeks, including 10 on Monday.    All were confirmed upon arrival or while in two-week mandatory quarantine.
    “We’ll watch developments to determine the scale, date and methods of the exercises,” said a South Korean official who declined to be identified citing the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue.
    “We have to do what is necessary, but safety is also key to maintaining defence readiness posture,” the official said, suggesting the exercises could involve more simulations and less field training.
    The spike in coronavirus cases linked to U.S. forces has raised concern in South Korea.    The city of Pyeongtaek, home to a big U.S. base, has asked the South Korean government to ensure that all U.S. soldiers get tested before their arrival.
    The possible disruption of the exercises comes at a sensitive time.
    U.S. President Donald Trump has questioned the value of the drills and in 2018 even suggested to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he would end them.
    There are about 28,000 U.S. troops in South Korea.
    Jeong and Esper did not discuss any withdrawal of U.S. soldiers, the South Korean official said, dismissing as “groundless” a recent Wall Street Journal report that the Pentagon had offered the White House options to reduce the U.S. military presence in South Korea.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Robert Birsel)

7/21/2020 Philippines To Ramp Up Coronavirus Testing As Duterte Warns Of Arrests
FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during his fourth State of the Nation Address at
the Philippine Congress in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines said on Tuesday it would ramp up testing for the novel coronavirus amid a sharp rise in infections and deaths since a lockdown was eased in June, while President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to arrest anyone not wearing a mask.
    The government aimed to test 32,000 to 40,000 people a day compared with the current 20,000 to 23,000, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said in a televised meeeting with Duterte.
    The Philippines has tested nearly 1.1 million people so far, but Duque said the aim was for 10 million people – or nearly a tenth of the population – to be tested by the second quarter of next year.
    “We cannot test every citizen as no country has done it even the richest, the United States,” Duque said.
    In Southeast Asia, the Philippines ranks second to Indonesia in terms of the number of infections and deaths, with cases jumping nearly four-fold to 68,898 and deaths nearly doubling to 1,835 since the government relaxed lockdown measures in June.
    Lockdowns have been reimposed in some of the hardest-hit areas.
    Of 30 countries most impacted by the pandemic, the Philippines ranked 24th in terms of testing rate, data from statistics aggregator Statista showed.
    Duterte threatened to arrest anyone who spread the virus, refused to wear masks or keep a safe distance from others.    The tough-talking president warned in April that violators of lockdown rules could be shot for causing trouble.
    “We do not have any qualms in arresting people,” Duterte said in a recorded address aired on Tuesday. It was a “serious crime” to spread the COVID-19 respiratory disease, he added.
    “If you are brought to the police station and detained there, that would give you a lesson for all time,” he said of anyone caught not wearing a mask.
    Last week, officials said health workers and police would take patients with mild or no symptoms from their homes and place them in isolation centres, raising concerns about possible human rights violations.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema; Editing by Ed Davies and Stephen Coates)

7/21/2020 Australia Extends Jobs Support As New COVID-19 Outbreaks Threaten Economy by Colin Packham
FILE PHOTO: People walk in the city centre on the first day of New South Wales' further eased coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Sydney, Australia, July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia will spend A$16.8 billion ($11.8 billion) to extend its wage subsidies for businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic, as a surge in new infections in the country’s southeast threatens to keep the economy in recession.
    The six-month extension of the programme allays fears a hard end to the current A$70 billion scheme, originally scheduled for Sept. 30, would prolong Australia’s first recession in three decades.
    However, subsidies will be reduced under the new programme, which runs through to March 31 and is expected to cover about 1 million workers, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative government seeks to wean the economy of fiscal support.
    “It has to scale down and work ourselves off these supports because they’re not enduring, they cannot be permanent, they were never designed to be permanent,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
    Australia launched its support programme in March with fortnightly payments for workers from affected businesses of A$1,500 ($1,049).    The scheme covered all workers, including those who only worked casual shifts.
    Under scaled back subsisidies, recipients will receive A$1,200 a fortnight, while those who work less than 20 hours a week will receive A$700 every two weeks.    From Jan. 1, payments will fall to A$1,000 and A$650 a fortnight, respectively.
    The wage supplements have helped 3.5 million Australians and are widely credited with propping up the ailing economy after widespread social distancing restrictions paralysed businesses.
    However, Morrison said changes were needed to ensure enough support to the economy without overpaying casual workers.
    Morrison said his government will also trim unemployment benefits.    Australia in March said it would increase unemployment benefits by A$550 a fortnight until September 30, but Morrison said this will be cut by more than 50%.
FISCAL CUSHION
    The extension of the fiscal stimulus eases fears that Australia would suffer a hard economic landing after September with unemployment already at a 22-year high.     Australia’s central bank said late last month the economy will need “considerable” support for some time, despite moves by states and territories to reopen their economies.
    “The risk of a hard landing for the economy has dramatically reduced,” said Joshua Williamson, head of Economics Australia and New Zealand, Citibank. “By extending the assistance schemes, the government has reduced the likelihood of a policy driven slump in economic activity in Q4.”
    But hopes for a quick recovery have been dashed as Australia struggles to contain new COVID-19 outbreaks.
    Authorities in the southeastern state of Victoria, whose capital Melbourne is in partial lockdown amid a new outbreak, reported 374 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, up from 275 cases detected on Monday.
    The figures dent hopes Victoria will see a sustained slowdown in COVID-19 cases two weeks after nearly 5 million were told to stay home except for essential reasons.
    Australia has recorded about 12,000 coronavirus cases.    The death toll rose to 126 after a woman in her 100s, a woman in her 90s and a woman in her 80s died from the virus.
    Less than a month ago, Australia was widely heralded as a global leader in combating COVID-19 but quarantine lapses in Victoria triggered a flare-up in infections in June.
($1 = 1.4229 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Sam Holmes)

7/21/2020 UK Suspends Hong Kong Extradition Treaty, Stoking China Tensions by William James and Andy Bruce
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street, in London, Britain July 15, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley
    LONDON (Reuters) – Britain announced on Monday it would suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in an escalation of a dispute with China over its introduction of a national security law for the former British colony.
    Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told parliament the treaty would be suspended immediately and an arms embargo would be extended to Hong Kong.
    “We will not consider reactivating those arrangements, unless and until there are clear and robust safeguards, which are able to prevent extradition from the UK being misused under the new national security legislation,” Raab said.
    The ban is another nail in the coffin of what then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015 cast as a “golden era” of ties with China, the world’s second-largest economy.
    London has been dismayed by a crackdown in Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, and the perception that China did not tell the whole truth over the coronavirus outbreak.
    “Extraditions between Hong Kong and the UK are extremely rare, so this is a symbolic gesture, but a very important one,” said Nick Vamos, Partner at London law firm Peters & Peters.
    Raab said he would extend a longstanding arms embargo on China to include Hong kong, meaning no exports of weapons or ammunition and a ban on any equipment which might be used for internal repression, like shackles and smoke grenades.
    Australia and Canada suspended extradition treaties with Hong Kong earlier this month.    U.S. President Donald Trump has ended preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong.
    Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] to be purged completely from Britain’s 5G network by the end of 2027.
    China – once courted as the prime source of investment in British infrastructure projects from nuclear to rail – has accused Britain of pandering to the United States.
    Britain says the new security law breaches the guarantees of freedoms, including an independent judiciary, that have helped keep Hong Kong one of the world’s most important trade and financial centres since 1997.
    Raab was pressed by fellow lawmakers to consider targeted sanctions against individuals, over both Hong Kong and concerns about China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region, but he said any such measures were not imminent.
    “We will patiently gather the evidence, it takes months,” he said.
    Officials in Hong Kong and Beijing have said the law is vital to plug gaps in national security exposed by recent pro-democracy and anti-China protests.    China has repeatedly told Western powers to stop meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.
    On Sunday, China’s ambassador to Britain warned of a tough response if London attempted to sanction Chinese officials, as some Conservative Party lawmakers have demanded.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce and William James in London and Aakriti Bhala in Bengaluru; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Elizabeth Piper and Giles Elgood)

7/21/2020 Pompeo To Discuss Tackling China With PM Johnson After Huawei Ban
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo steps from his plane upon arrival in London, Britain, July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool
    LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will discuss ways to tackle the growing might of China when he meets Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday, just a week after London ordered a purge of Huawei gear from the 5G network.
    President Donald Trump lauded Johnson’s ban on Huawei, though he also claimed he had forced London’s hand due to concern over China, which he considers to be the United States’ main geopolitical rival of the 21st century.
    As Britain toughens its stance on China due to its handling of the novel coronavirus and a crackdown in Hong Kong, Pompeo’s visit is an attempt to stiffen Johnson’s resolve and dangle the potential reward of a post-Brexit free trade deal, diplomats say.
    “We welcome news that the UK will ?prohibit new purchases of 5G equipment from Huawei and phase out existing Huawei equipment from its 5G telecommunications networks,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement about the trip.
    “The UK made this important decision to protect its national security interests, just as countries around the world are doing,” it said.
    China says the West – and Washington in particular – is gripped by a mixture of anti-Chinese hysteria and colonial thinking about the communist state as it only seeks to bring prosperity to its 1.4 billion people.
    China in 1979 had an economy that was smaller than Italy’s, but after opening to foreign investment and introducing market reforms it has become the world’s second largest economy.
    China, whose $15 trillion economy is five times the size of the United Kingdom’s, has warned London that its Huawei ban would hurt investment as Chinese companies had watched as London “dumped” the national telecoms champion.
    Pompeo will discuss with Johnson so far vague intentions to create an alternative to Huawei.    He is also due to meet Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law and the last British governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

7/21/2020 Vietnam Confirms 12 New Coronavirus Cases, All Imported
FILE PHOTO: A health worker sprays disinfectant inside a bus to protect from the recent
coronavirus outbreak, at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, Vietnam February 21, 2020. REUTERS/Kham
    HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam’s health ministry on Tuesday reported 12 new coronavirus infections, all among citizens held in quarantine after coming back from Russia.
    The Southeast Asian country has not recorded any local transmission of the virus for more than three months after a successful programmes to contain the outbreak.
    Vietnam has registered no deaths related to coronavirus and a total of 396 cases, with around 90% of those infected having recovered.
(Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Editing by Ed Davies)

7/21/2020 Mainland China Reports 11 New Coronavirus Cases, Including Eight In Xinjiang
FILE PHOTO: People wear protective face masks as they are seen in a shopping complex after an outbreak
of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China reported 11 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for July 20, down from 22 cases from a day earlier, the health commission said on Tuesday.
    Of the new infections, eight were in the far western region of Xinjiang, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.     The other three were imported cases.
    China reported six new asymptomatic patients, down from 13 a day earlier.
    As of Monday, mainland China had 83,693 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said.    The COVID-19 death toll remained at 4,634.
(Reporting by Lusha Zhang, Roxanne Liu and Brenda Goh; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

7/21/2020 Hong Kong Protesters Gather On Anniversary Of Mob Attack by Jessie Pang and James Pomfret
Riot police ask people to leave to avoid mass gathering during a protest to mark the first anniversary of an attack
in a train station by an armed crowd wearing white shirts, demanding justice for the victims of violence
and broader freedoms, at a shopping mall in Hong Kong's Yuen Long, China July 21, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Small groups of Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators gathered on Tuesday to mark the first anniversary of an attack in a train station by an armed crowd wearing white shirts, and demanded justice for victims of the violence and broader freedoms.
    The Yuen Long attack, and the police’s apparent failure to prevent it, exacerbated tensions during protests last year, plunging the global financial hub into its deepest crisis since Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Scattered individuals around the Yoho mall and Yuen Long train station chanted slogans including “Hong Kong independence, the only way out.”    An elderly lady pasted small “HK Add Oil” stickers on to walls.
    Hundreds of riot police cordoned off areas and urged people not to gather because of coronavirus social distancing restrictions.
    Groups of youngsters roaming the malls cursed police from a distance and chanted: “Liberate Hong Kong.    Revolution of our Times,” a slogan the government has warned might violate new national security laws.
    Police fired pepper spray during at least one skirmish.
    Tuesday’s protest followed the imposition of the new security laws by Beijing that have provoked international criticism and raised fears for the city’s liberties and autonomy under the so-called “one country, two systems” formula.
    Some protesters held blank sheets of paper to oppose the “evil” law they say has criminalised free speech.
    “I’ve had lots of feelings of disappointment in these past few weeks,” said Lok, an 18-year-old student dressed in a black shirt and shorts, typical of protesters, conceding the turnout was less than he had hoped.    “But Hong Kong people should still keep the revolutionary spirit, and fight for their freedoms.”
    The police said in a statement that five people had been arrested in Yuen Long, including a 52-year-old man suspected of breaching the national security law and pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui.
PROTESTERS DEMAND JUSTICE
    Beijing says the law, which punishes what China broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, was needed to plug national security loopholes left by the city’s failure to pass such legislation on its own.    Hong Kong authorities say it will help bring stability.
    On July 21 last year, 45 people were injured after more than 100 men in white swarmed the train station.
    Police have been criticised for not responding quickly enough to calls for help, and for not immediately arresting any alleged culprits at the scene.
    A recent documentary by public broadcaster RTHK showed the police had been aware of the white-shirted crowd gathering hours before the attack.    Police later acknowledged plainclothes officers were present, but said investigations are continuing and further arrests were likely to be made.
    Protesters are still demanding justice.    So far, 37 people have been arrested, with seven charged with participating in riots and conspiracy to injure others with intent.
    In May, an Independent Police Complaints Council report into the year-long protests found no evidence of collusion but identified deficiencies in police deployment during the incident.
(Reporting by Jessie Pang and James Pomfret; Writing by Scott Murdoch, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Alison Williams)

7/21/2020 Be More Patriotic, China’s Xi Tells Companies As Targets Economic Upturn
Chinese President Xi Jinping walks past officials wearing face masks following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
outbreak as he arrives for the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall
of the People in Beijing, China May 22, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
    BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese companies should be more patriotic as well as enhancing their ability to expand overseas, as the country strives to make up economic losses caused by the coronavirus epidemic, President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday, according to state TV.
    China’s economic recovery so far and epidemic control efforts have been better than expected, China Central Television cited Xi as saying in a meeting with corporate representatives from Hikvision <002415.SZ>, Goertek <002241.SZ>, Panasonic China <6752.T> and others.
    Xi said the government will target a good growth rate this year, making fiscal policy more proactive, prudent monetary policy more flexible, and macro-economic policies more targeted and timely, according to the report.    Authorities would also continue to cut taxes, administrative fees, rent and rates to benefit businesses.
    The economy returned to growth in the second quarter after a deep slump at the start of the year, but unexpected weakness in domestic consumption underscored the need for more policy support to bolster the recovery after the shock of the coronavirus crisis.
    In the face of rising protectionism, a slowing world economy and shrinking global demand, Beijing would fully take advantage of its huge domestic market.
    It will also press ahead with reforms in keeping with the historical trend of economic globalisation, and companies should understand international rules and fend off risks in international markets, said Xi.
(This story corrects ‘feed off’ to ‘fend off’ in final paragraph)
(Reporting by Colin Qian, Stella Qiu and Kevin Yao; editing by John Stonestreet)

7/21/2020 Fishermen Without Fish As Cambodia’s River Reversal Runs Late by Prak Chan Thul
Scattered boats are seen in the dried up tributary that connects to the Tonle Sap lake in Kampong Khleang, Cambodia July 6, 2020. REUTERS/Prak Chan Thul
    KAMPONG KHLEANG, Cambodia (Reuters) – Crucial water flows to the Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest lake, have been delayed for a second consecutive year according to river experts, severely disrupting fishing and threatening the food supply of more than a million people.
    The river reversal vital for Tonle Sap Lake may not happen until next month, officials said, owing to drought conditions and more than a dozen hydropower dams in China and Laos which are blamed for disrupting the natural flow of the Mekong River.
    The Mekong typically swells in rainy season where it converges with Cambodia’s Tonle Sap River, causing an unusual reversed flow into the Tonle Sap Lake, filling it up and providing bountiful fish stocks.
    But that hasn’t happened yet and people who depend on the lake are struggling to get by.
    “I went out fishing for two nights and couldn’t catch enough,” said 37-year-old Khon Kheak, repairing a fishing net under his stilt house at Kampong Khleang, a floating village with little water to float in.
    That trip earned him 12,000 riels, or about $3, compared to $12-$25 a day last year, enough to support his family of six.
    His wife Reth Thary worries those days may be over.
    “If it continues like this we would be finished, we also owe people money,” she said, referring to a $1,000 loan.     Water typically flows into the Tonle Sap lake for 120 days, swelling it six-fold before running back into the Mekong as the monsoon season ends, usually in late September.     Based on rain forecasts and rainfall data, the river’s unique reverse flow should happen in August, said Long Saravuth, a Deputy Secretary General of Cambodia’s National Mekong Committee.
    The Mekong River Commission (MRC) attributes the delay to lower 2019 rainfall and operations of upstream Mekong hydropower dams, two of which are in Laos and 11 in China.
    “From now on, the reversed flow timing will likely not be the same as it used to be,” the MRC said.
    Laos and China say the dams bring vital economic benefits and regulate water flow, helping to prevent severe floods and droughts.
    But fisherman San Savuth, 25, wants Cambodia’s government to negotiate the release of water from those dams to help Kampong Khleang’s 2,000 families.
    Savuth may go to Siem Reap, a city 55km (34 miles) away, to find construction work.
    “We can’t catch anything.    There is no water, there is no fish,” he said.
    Even without the coronavirus squeezing international travel, there is no hope of attracting local tourists for boat trips from Kampong Khleang, which would normally handle 600 passengers a day.
    There is a padlock on the abandoned tourism office surrounded by overgrown grass and about 130 tour boats are lying idle.
    “People in Kampong Khleang are fishermen without fish,” said tour boat owner Ly Sam Ath.    “There is no farming for them to do.”
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Writing by Panu Wongcha-um and Martin Petty, editing by Ed Osmond)

7/21/2020 U.S. Holds Naval Exercises With Allies In Asia Amid China Tension by Sanjeev Miglani
FILE PHOTO: Sailors man the rails as aircraft carrier USS Nimitz with Carrier Strike Group 11, and some 7,500 sailors and airmen depart
for a 6 month deployment in the Western Pacific from San Diego, California, U.S., June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
    NEW DELHI/TOKYO (Reuters) – The United States is conducting two military exercises in Asian waters this week involving allies Japan, Australia and India, the U.S. navy said on Tuesday.
    The exercises come as military rivalry between the United States and China is intensifying and days after the United States said China’s claims of sovereignty in the disputed South China Sea were illegal.
    The United States has long opposed China’s expansive territorial claims on the South China Sea, sending warships regularly through the strategic waterway to demonstrate freedom of navigation.
    China opposes such exercises and said the U.S. rejection of its claims in the South China Sea raised tension and undermined stability in the region.
    The USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan were deployed to the South China Sea twice this month but this week, the Nimitz was in the Indian Ocean for exercises with the Indian navy, the U.S. navy said, in the latest sign of growing cooperation between the forces.
    Rear Admiral Jim Kirk, commander of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, said in a statement that Monday’s drills with the Indian navy helped improve the interoperability of their forces.
    “While operating together, the U.S. and Indian naval forces conducted high-end exercises designed to maximize training and interoperability, including air defense,” the U.S. navy said.
    India’s relations with China have also been strained after a deadly clash on their disputed border in the Himalayas last month, prompting calls in India for closer security ties with the United States and its allies including Japan.
    The drills were carried out near India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands, off the north end of the Malacca Straits, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes for trade and fuel, an Indian source said. India has a military base on the islands.
    The U.S. navy said the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group was in the Indian Ocean in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
    Separately, the U.S. strike group led by the Ronald Reagan was carrying out drills with naval forces from Japan and Australia in the Philippine Sea, U.S. and Australian officials said on Tuesday.
    The exercises are due to end on July 23, Australia’s defence department said.
    Later this year, the United States will hold naval exercises with India and Japan in the Bay of Bengal and Australia might join.
(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi, Ju-min Park and Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Robert Birsel)

7/21/2020 Iran Hits Record 229 Deaths From Coronavirus In Past 24 Hours – Health Ministry
A mother takes care of Amirali, a 7-year-old suspected to have the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Mofid children's
hospital, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tehran, Iran, July 8, 2020.
WANA (West Asia News Agency) Abdollah Heidari via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
    (Reuters) – Iran has seen a record 229 deaths in the past 24 hours from its outbreak of the novel coronavirus, health ministry figures showed on Tuesday.
    Iran, the Middle East country hardest hit by the pandemic, began relaxing its lockdown in mid-April, at least partly to boost an economy battered by U.S. sanctions.
    The Islamic Republic has recorded a total of 14,634 deaths from the coronavirus, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state TV, adding that the country has seen 278,827 infections and 242,351 recoveries.
    The previous record of deaths from the new coronavirus in a 24 hour period was on July 9, when health ministry figures showed 221 people had died.
    Hospitals in Iran face acute shortages of medical personnel and beds as the country tackles a powerful second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, a senior official with Tehran’s anti-coronavirus task force, Reza Jalili-Khoshnood, said last week.
    His comments contrasted with President Hassan Rouhani’s regular assurances that Iran has sufficient supplies of medical personnel and facilities.
    Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in the country, are now regularly shown on state media wearing a mask, a means of encouraging ordinary Iranians to also use masks more frequently.
(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Jan Harvey)

7/22/2020 China Says U.S. Told It To Shut Its Houston Consulate
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Wednesday that the United States had abruptly told it to close its consulate in the city of Houston, a move that Beijing said it strongly condemns, threatening retaliation.
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular daily news briefing that China had been notified on Tuesday that it must close the consulate.
    He said the consulate was operating normally, following local media reports in Houston on Tuesday night that documents were being burned in a courtyard at the consulate.
(Reporting by Cate Cadell, editing by Louise Heavens)

7/22/2020 China Asks U.S. To Stop Accusing Beijing Over Cyber Crimes
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Wednesday asked the United States to immediately stop making accusations against it about cyber crimes, in response to the U.S. indictment of two Chinese nationals for hacking COVID data and defense secrets.
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin made the comments in a regular daily news briefing.
(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Toby Chopra)

7/22/2020 Chinese Military Threat On The Rise, Taiwan Foreign Minister Warns
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu speaks to the media during a news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – China is stepping up military preparedness to overtake Taiwan, the island’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Wednesday, following a recent spike of Chinese drills near the island which Beijing considers its own.
    Taiwan has complained that China has stepped up threatening military activities near Taiwan in recent months.    Beijing has not renounced the use of force to bring the democratic island under its control.
    “Looking on the long-term trend, China appears to be gradually stepping up its military preparedness, especially in air or on the waters near Taiwan,” Wu told reporters.
    “What China is doing now is continuing to ramp up preparedness to solve the Taiwan issue,” he said.
    “The threat is on the rise.”
    Beijing routinely says such exercises are nothing unusual and are designed to show the country’s determination to defend its sovereignty.
    Taiwan’s defence ministry in June reported eight incidents of intrusion of Chinese military planes in its air defence identification zone, in which Taiwan jets gave radio warnings to usher the intruders out of the airspace.
    Wu said such intrusions “happened almost every day” in June and were “much more frequent” than what the government had disclosed to the public.    He said China has also made several “simulated” military attacks on Taiwan.
    “These behaviors worry us,” Wu said, adding that Taiwan was deepening its security ties with allies, including the United States which has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is its strongest international backer and main arms supplier.
    Wu said attacking Taiwan could be a “very convenient scapegoat” for the Chinese government to divert domestic pressure, which he said is struggling with a fast-slowing economy amid the coronavirus pandemic and the current wave of floods.
    Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who won re-election by a landslide in January pledging to stand up to China, has made military modernisation a priority.    The island unveiled its largest defence spending increase in more than a decade last year.
    Taiwan, one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, conducted live-fire exercises simulating the repulsion of an invading force last week, with Tsai saying it showed their determination to defend the island.
(Reporting By Yimou Lee; Editing by Michael Perry)

7/22/2020 Hong Kong Orders Masks Indoors In Public As Daily Cases Hit Record
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong will extend strict social distancing measures from midnight on Wednesday, ordering masks in all indoor public areas including malls and markets, as the global financial hub reported a daily record increase of novel coronavirus cases.
    Hong Kong tightened social distancing measures in July after a spike of locally transmitted cases and as authorities warned about a third wave of infections.
    “This is the most critical time for Hong Kong. We ask citizens to be patient and stay at home as much as possible,” Health Secretary Sophia Chan said.
    Commenting on the spike in cases, she said people had become more relaxed and were going out more without wearing masks. The new order for masks in indoor public places would be for two weeks.
    Hong Kong reported 113 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, a new daily record, including 105 locally transmitted infections.
    Since late January, more than 2,000 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 14 of whom have died.
    Chan said the closure of 12 types of venues including gyms and entertainment centres would continue until July 28, as would a ban on dining in restaurants after 6 p.m.
(Reporting by Twinnie Siu and Yanni Chow; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Robert Birsel)

7/22/2020 Thailand To Extend Emergency Decree Until End Of August
FILE PHOTO: A general view during the 41st Bangkok International Motor Show, after the Thai government eased measures to
prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bangkok, Thailand, July 15, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand will extend a state of emergency until the end of August, a senior official said on Wednesday, maintaining the security measure put in place to contain its coronavirus outbreak.
    The announcement comes after nearly two months without local transmission and with many people in Thailand questioning the need for an emergency decree.
    The decree, first introduced in late March, will be subject to cabinet approval next week.
    “It is still necessary to have the decree because we are opening up the country for more business meetings and tourism to stimulate the economy,” said Somsak Roongsita, secretary-general of the National Security Council, adding that doctors had requested it be maintained.
    The extension comes after political protests took place last week against the government, in defiance of a ban on gatherings.    Somsak, however, said the emergency decree would be used only to contain virus outbreaks and not rallies.
    “Political gatherings will be subject to the law, but not the decree,” he added.
    Thailand will begin allowing the entry of business executives for trade shows, migrant labourers, film makers and medical tourists, spokesman for the government’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), Taweesin Wisanuyothin said.
    Up to 110,000 migrant labourers from Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia will gradually be allowed entry and be tested for the coronavirus upon arrival.
    Foreign film makers and business executives will need a virus-free certificate from within three days before travel and have medical insurance.
    Medical tourists will have to stay in their hospitals for two weeks before taking additional trips in the country, Taweesin said.
    All foreign entries will be subject to a 14-day quarantine.
    Thailand has reported a total of 3,261 infections and 58 deaths.
(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty and Ed Davies)

7/22/2020 Hong Kong Mandates Masks In All Indoor Public Areas
FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
walk at a shopping mall in Hong Kong, China July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Lam Yik
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong will expand strict new social distancing measures from midnight on Wednesday, mandating face masks in all indoor public areas including malls and markets, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said.
    The Asian financial hub tightened social distancing measures in July after a spike of locally transmitted cases and as authorities warned about a third wave of infections.
    “This is the most critical time for Hong Kong. We ask citizens to be patient and stay at home as much as possible,” Chan said.
    A spike in recent cases was mostly due to people not wearing masks, she added.    The new measures would be in place for two weeks.
    The closure of 12 types of venues including gyms and entertainment centres would continue until July 28, as would a ban on dining in restaurants after 6 p.m.
    Since late January over 2,000 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 14 of whom have died.
(Reporting by Yanni Chow; writing by Farah Master; Editing by Stephen Coates)

7/22/2020 Explainer: What Are The Main Areas Of Tension In The U.S.-China Relationship?
FILE PHOTO: The flags of China, U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party are displayed in a flag stall at the
Yiwu Wholesale Market in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, China, May 10, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
    (Reuters) – The U.S. demand this week that China close its consulate in Houston is the latest in a string of disputes that have taken the relationship between the world’s two biggest economies to its lowest point in decades.
    Here are the main points of contention between Beijing and Washington:
CORONAVIRUS
    U.S. President Donald Trump has accused China of a lack of transparency about the coronavirus, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.    He regularly refers to it as the “China virus.”
    Trump said Chinese officials “ignored their reporting obligations” to the World Health Organization about the virus – that has killed hundreds of thousands of people globally – and pressured the U.N. agency to “mislead the world.”
    China says it has been transparent about the outbreak and the WHO has denied Trump’s assertions that it promoted Chinese “disinformation” about the virus.    The United States plans to quit the WHO in mid-2021 over its handling of the pandemic.
TRADE
    The Trump administration began increasing tariffs on imports from China, its largest trading partner, in 2018 as part of an ambitious plan to force Beijing to curb subsidies on state manufacturing and tough demands on U.S. companies in China.
    After more than a year of tit-for-tat tariffs that slowed global economic growth, the countries signed a trade deal in January 2020 that rolls back some tariffs, but does not address the core issues.    Beijing has pledged to increase imports of U.S. goods by $200 billion over two years.
    The U.S. Commerce and State departments are pushing U.S. companies to move sourcing and manufacturing out of China.
SOUTH CHINA SEA
    The United States has hardened its position in recent weeks on the South China Sea, where it has accused China of attempting to build a “maritime empire” in the potentially energy-rich waters.
    Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam challenge China’s claim to about 90% of the sea.    A July 13 statement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the first time the United States had called China’s claims unlawful and accused Beijing of a “campaign of bullying.”
HONG KONG
    China and the United States have clashed over pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, most recently Beijing’s imposition of new security legislation on the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.     Trump this month signed an executive order to end preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong, allowing him to impose sanctions and visa restrictions on Chinese officials and financial institutions involved in enacting the law.
    China has threatened retaliatory sanctions of its own.
UIGHURS
    The United States has imposed sanctions on Chinese officials, companies and institutions over human rights violations linked to China’s treatment of minority Muslim Uighurs in the country’s western Xinjiang region.
    China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in remote Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills.
JOURNALISTS AND CHINESE STUDENTS
    The United States has started treating several major Chinese state media outlets as foreign embassies and slashed the number of journalists allowed to work at U.S. offices of those Chinese media outlets to 100 from 160.
    In response, China expelled about a dozen American correspondents with major U.S. outlets and asked four U.S. media organizations to submit details about their operations in China.
    Washington in May introduced new rules restricting the granting of visas to Chinese graduate students believed to have links with China’s military.
HUAWEI
    Chinese tech firm Huawei was added to the U.S. Commerce Department’s “entity list” last year due to national security concerns, amid accusations from Washington that it violated U.S. sanctions on Iran and can spy on customers, allegations Huawei has denied. The listing greatly reduced its access to vital parts and supplies, like chips, from U.S. suppliers.
    Huawei says Washington wants to frustrate its growth because no U.S. company offers the same technology at a competitive price.
    The United States has been successfully pushing countries around the world to drop Huawei.
NORTH KOREA
    China is at odds with the United States over North Korea, even though they both want the country to give up its nuclear weapons.    Washington has accused China of breaching U.N. sanctions on North Korea, assertions Beijing has denied.    China wants to lift some sanctions, but the United States disagrees.
    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Trump have met three times, but failed to make progress on U.S. calls for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and North Korea’s demands for an end to sanctions.
    The number-two diplomat at the State Department, Stephen Biegun, said on Wednesday Washington and Beijing could still work together against North Korea’s development of weapons of mass destruction despite current tensions.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Chris Sanders, Idrees Ali, David Brunnstrom, Patricia Zengerle and Heather Timmons; Editing by Mary Milliken and Rosalba O’Brien)

7/22/2020 Pompeo Urges India To Reduce Dependence On China by Neha Arora and Aftab Ahmed
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seen during a press conference in the garden of Marienborg Castle
north of Copenhagen, Denmark, July 22, 2020. Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/via REUTERS
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged India on Wednesday to focus on domestic supply chains and reduce its dependence on China for telecommunications and medical supplies, as Washington’s ties with Beijing deteriorate dramatically.
    India had a chance to move “supply chains away from China and reduce its reliance on Chinese companies in areas like telecommunications, medical supplies and others,” Pompeo said at the U.S.-India Business Council’s India Ideas Summit, being conducted online.
    “India is in this position because it has earned the trust of many nations around the world, including the United States,” Pompeo said.
    The U.S. administration has squarely blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic and accused Chinese firms like Huawei Technologies Co Ltd of cyberspying and facilitating human rights violations in China, charges Huawei and Beijing deny.    The United States has also lambasted China’s new national security law for the former British colony of Hong Kong.
    The United States has told China to close its consulate in Houston in a dramatic deterioration in ties between the world’s two biggest economies amid accusations of Chinese espionage.
    India’s relations with China have strained following a border clash in the Himalayas last month in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
    Pompeo accused the Chinese of initiating the conflict, also denied by Beijing.
    “The recent clashes initiated by the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) are just the latest examples of the CCP’s (Chinese Communist Party) unacceptable behaviour,” Pompeo said.
    India, which recently banned dozens of Chinese apps in the country, including the popular TikTok video app, has not yet taken a call on Huawei after allowing the Chinese telecoms company to participate in trials for 5G networks.
    India is the world’s main generic drug supplier and its dependence on Chinese raw materials for its medicines is almost 70%.
    Separately, India’s ambassador to the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, said New Delhi was open to U.S. firms building manufacturing plants in the country.
    India’s military confrontation with China prompted calls for closer security ties with the United States and its allies, including Japan.
    India is modernising its military to narrow a gap with China and has increasingly turned towards the United States over its traditional supplier, Russia.
    “The United States has never been more supportive of India’s security.    India too, is an important partner and a key pillar of President (Donald) Trump’s foreign policy,” Pompeo said.
(Reporting by Neha Arora; editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

7/22/2020 India Cancels Historic Hindu Pilgrimage As Coronavirus Cases Mount by Fayaz Bukhari
FILE PHOTO - A medical worker assists a woman inside a care centre for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
patients at an indoor sports complex in New Delhi, India, July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – India has cancelled a historic Hindu pilgrimage to a holy cave high in the snow-capped mountains of contested Kashmir for the first time, as cases of the novel coronavirus continued to rise on Wednesday.
    There were 37,724 new cases reported in the past 24 hours, according to federal health data released on Wednesday.    India has reported almost 1.2 million cases overall, behind only the United States and Brazil.
    Organisers of the Amarnath Yatra, where saffron-clad Hindu ascetics walk 46 km (28 miles) to the cave across glaciers and waterlogged trails, said a “very sharp” spike in coronavirus cases had forced the cancellation.
    “The health concerns are so serious that the strain on the health system, along with the diversion in resources to the Yatra, will be immense,” said a statement by the organising committee released late on Tuesday.
    A strict lockdown was reimposed in Kashmir – also claimed by India’s arch rival Pakistan – on July 12 after a major spike in cases and deaths.
    Shops and businesses are shut, and in most parts of the main city of Srinagar roads are sealed and people are not allowed to leave their homes.
    The mountain cave contains an ice stalagmite that is considered a physical manifestation of Hindu god Lord Shiva.    It is the first time the pilgrimage has been cancelled since the cave was discovered by a farmer in the 19th century.
(Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar, writing by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Kim Coghill)

7/23/2020 China State Media Blasts Houston Consulate Shutdown As Trump Election Gambit
FILE PHOTO: China’s national flag is seen waving at the China Consulate General
in Houston, Texas, U.S., July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
    SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – The U.S. government’s order to China to shut its consulate in Houston is an attempt to blame Beijing for U.S. failures ahead of the November presidential election, Chinese state media said in editorials on Thursday.
    The United States said on Wednesday it had given China 72 hours to close the consulate “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” prompting Chinese threats of retaliation.
    The decision marked a dramatic escalation of tension between the world’s two biggest economies amid fresh accusations of Chinese espionage in the United States and calls by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a new global coalition against Beijing.
    China’s embassy to the United States described the order as “political provocation” and called on Washington to “immediately revoke” the decision.
    Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying wrote on Twitter that China would “surely react with firm countermeasures.”
    The official English-language China Daily newspaper described the closure as “a new gambit in the U.S. administration’s bid to paint China as a malevolent actor on the world stage, and thus make it an outlaw to the international community
    “The move shows that lagging behind his presidential election opponent in the polls … the U.S. leader is going all out in his attempts to portray China as an agent of evil,” it said.,br>     Polls show President Donald Trump trailing his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, ahead of the Nov. 3 election as the coronavirus crisis worsens, exacting a deep toll on the U.S. economy.
RETALIATION THREAT
    China has not said how it may retaliate.
    The South China Morning Post reported that China may close the U.S. consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu, while a source told Reuters on Wednesday that China was considering shutting the U.S. consulate in Wuhan, where the United States withdrew staff during the coronavirus outbreak.
    Hu Xijin, editor the Global Times, a tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said in a column that shutting the Wuhan consulate would not be sufficiently disruptive.
    Hu said the United States had a large consulate in Hong Kong and it was “too obvious that the consulate is an intelligence centre
    “Even if China doesn’t close it, it could instead cut its staff to one or two hundred.    This will make Washington suffer much pain,” he wrote.
    The other U.S. consulates in China are in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang.
‘GROUNDLESS FABRICATIONS’
    The Chinese embassy in Washington, in a statement released on Thursday, accused the United States of “groundless fabrications” about the actions of China’s diplomatic missions and urged it to “immediately revoke this erroneous decision.”
    “It’s time to step on the brakes and return to the right direction!” the embassy posted separately on its Twitter account.
    Separately, according to U.S. court filings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is alleging that a Chinese researcher accused of visa fraud and concealing ties to the military is now holed up in China’s consulate in San Francisco.
    Other Chinese researchers at U.S. universities have also been arrested for visa fraud, the filings showed.
    China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by David Stanway and Tony Munroe; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Michael Perry)
[OKAY CHINA AS THE SONG BY PAT BENETAR GOES “HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT.].

7/23/2020 Mainland China Reports 22 New Coronavirus Cases, Including 18 In Xinjiang
FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks are seen at a mask stall at a procurement fair for epidemic-prevention
materials in Shanghai following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, China July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China reported 22 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for July 22, up from 14 cases a day earlier, the health commission said on Thursday.
    Of the new infections, 18 were in the far western region of Xinjiang and one was in Dalian city in the northeastern Liaoning province, according to a statement by the National Health Commission. The other three were imported cases.
    The Dalian case involved a 58-year-old man working at a seafood processing company.    Multiple samples collected from the company, including frozen food, processing workshop, canteen and office building also tested positive, state media said.
    China reported 31 new asymptomatic patients, or those showing no symptoms, up from 22 a day earlier.
    On Thursday, Dalian reported two new locally transmitted cases and 12 asymptomatic ones, all close contacts of the case from Wednesday, state media said citing Dalian government.
    Earlier this month, customs in Dalian found the coronavirus in the packaging of frozen shrimps imported from Ecuador.    China suspended imports from three Ecuadorean shrimp producers after detecting the virus.
Dalian, with a population of nearly 7.0 million, plans to conduct nucleic acid testing for 190,000 people in the city, state media said.
    As of Wednesday, mainland China had 83,729 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said.    The COVID-19 death toll remained at 4,634.
(Reporting by Lusha Zhang, Judy Hua and Huizhong Wu; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Himani Sarkar)
[China is still not reporting their deaths by coronavirus correctly as every other country that they sent this virus to is a lot more each day and they blame any on another country.].

7/23/2020 Iran Says Foreign States May Have Carried Out Cyberattacks, Plays Down Their Role In Fires
FILE PHOTO: A view of a damage building after a fire broke out at Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility, in
Isfahan, Iran, July 2, 2020. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – Iran’s foreign ministry said on Thursday foreign governments may have been behind recent cyberattacks on Iranian facilities, but played down the possibility of them having a role in a series of fires and explosions at military and other installations.
    Since late June, several fires or explosions have been reported at military, industrial and nuclear sites in Iran as well as at oil refineries, power plants, factories and businesses.
    Some Iranian officials have said a fire at the underground Natanz nuclear facility this month may have been caused by cyber sabotage.    Other incidents have gone unexplained.
    “There are thousands of cyberattacks on the country’s infrastructure on a daily basis – which is nothing new – most of which are repelled by our defence systems,” Iranian media quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as telling reporters.
    In recent months, there have been several cyberattacks with wider dimensions, and technical and forensic analyses have identified “governments or groups” who were behind the attacks, he said without naming them.
    But Mousavi also said fires in forests, refineries and other locations were common in summer.
    An article this month by Iran’s state news agency IRNA addressed what it called the possibility of sabotage by enemies such as Israel and the United States although it stopped short of accusing either directly.
[Whoever it was made sure that the IAEA is now aware of Iran’s illegal facilities where they were advancing their agenda to get nuclear weapons to destroy Israel and the United States or maybe the Iranian people have decided to fight back against the Mullahs wrongdoings to them.    On 6/5/2020 the International Atomic Energy Agency warned of Iran's refusal to let them investigate two sites where they conducted undeclared nuclear activities, which is possibly those sites above.].

7/23/2020 India Reports Record 45,720 New Coronavirus Cases, Deaths Rise By 1,129
FILE PHOTO: People are seen inside a care centre for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients
at an indoor sports complex in New Delhi, India, July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – India reported a record jump of 45,720 in coronavirus infections on Wednesday taking its total number of cases to 1.24 million, the health ministry said on Thursday.
    India also reported 1,129 deaths for Wednesday, taking the death toll to 29,861.    India has the third-highest number of cases after the United States and Brazil.
(Reporting by Chris Thomas and Anuron Kumar Mitra; Editing by Tom Hogue)

7/23/2020 China Says UK Citizenship Pathway For Hong Kong Residents Violates International Law
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong and Chinese national flags are flown behind a pair of surveillance cameras outside
the Central Government Offices in Hong Kong, China July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – A new British policy allowing Hong Kong residents to claim British citizenship is a violation of international law and interferes with China’s internal affairs, China’s embassy in London said on Thursday.
    British Interior Minister Priti Patel said on Wednesday that Hong Kong people with British National Overseas or BN(O) status would be able to apply for special visas to live in Britain that could eventually lead towards citizenship, starting from January 2021.
    Britain had made that decision despite opposition from Beijing and China would respond strongly if it was not reversed, the Chinese embassy said in a statement.
    The move “severely violated (Britain’s) own commitments, seriously interfered with the internal affairs of China and seriously violated international law and the basic norms of international relations,” it said.
    London’s decision, which could allow nearly three million Hong Kong residents to settle in Britain, came after Beijing imposed new security legislation on the former British colony that democracy activists said would end the freedoms promised in 1997 when the territory was returned to Chinese rule.
    The British Consulate General of Hong Kong said in a press release on Thursday that the immigration route offers BN(O) citizens the right to live, work or study in Britain, and was made “following the Chinese government’s decision to impose a new National Security Law on Hong Kong.”
    Britain says the law breaches the terms of the handover treaty agreed in 1984.    China accuses Britain of interfering in Hong Kong and Chinese affairs.
    “The Chinese side urges the British side to recognise the reality that Hong Kong has returned to China, to look at the Hong Kong national security law objectively and immediately correct its mistakes,” the embassy said.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Stephen Coates)

7/23/2020 U.S. Gives China 72 Hours To Shut Houston Consulate, Trump Says Other Closures ‘Always Possible’ by Cate Cadell and David Brunnstrom
Vehicles pass by the China Consulate General in Houston, Texas, U.S., July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
    BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States gave China 72 hours to close its consulate in Houston amid accusations of spying, marking a dramatic deterioration in relations between the world’s two biggest economies.
    The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday the Chinese mission in Houston was being closed “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”
    President Donald Trump said in answer to a question at a news briefing it was “always possible” other Chinese missions could be closed too.
    “We thought there was a fire in one that we did close,” Trump said.    “I guess they were burning documents, or burning papers, and I wonder what that’s all about.”
    Overnight in Houston, firefighters went to the consulate after smoke was seen.    Two U.S. government officials said they had information that documents were being burned there.
    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the consulate was operating normally.
    The ministry said Washington had abruptly issued the demand to close the consulate on Tuesday and called it an “unprecedented escalation.”
    The Chinese Embassy in Washington had received “bomb and death threats” because of “smears & hatred” fanned by the U.S. government, spokeswoman Hua Chunying wrote in a tweet.
    “The U.S. should revoke its erroneous decision,” she said. “China will surely react with firm countermeasures.”
    Communist Party rulers in Beijing were considering shutting the U.S. consulate in the central city of Wuhan in retaliation, a source with knowledge of the matter said.
    U.S.-based China experts said Beijing could also opt to target more important consulates in Hong Kong, Shanghai or Guangzhou, something that could hurt American businesses.
    Richard Grenell, who served until recently as acting director of U.S. national intelligence, suggested the United States could close the Chinese consulate in tech-heavy San Francisco.
    “It’s a close call.    I would have done both (Houston and San Francisco) but it also makes sense to start with one,” he told Reuters by text.
    The Houston move comes in the run-up to the November U.S. presidential election, in which Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, have both tried to look tough towards China.
    Speaking on a visit to Denmark, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated accusations about Chinese theft of U.S. and European intellectual property, which he said were costing “hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
    While offering no specifics about the Houston consulate, Pompeo referred to a U.S. Justice Department indictment on Tuesday of two Chinese nationals over what it called a decade-long cyber espionage campaign that targeted defense contractors, COVID-19 researchers and hundreds of other victims worldwide.
    Pompeo also referred to recent speeches by the head of the FBI and others that highlighted Chinese espionage activities.
    “President Trump has said: ‘Enough.    We are not going to allow this to continue to happen,'” he told reporters.
    Republican Senator Marco Rubio, acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, described the Houston consulate on Twitter as the “central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies & influence operations in the United States.”
    The New York Times quoted the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, David Stilwell, as saying that the Houston consulate had been at the “epicenter” of the Chinese army’s efforts to advance its warfare advantages by sending students to U.S. universities.
    “We took a practical step to prevent them from doing that,” Stilwell told the Times.
    Stephen Biegun, the State Department’s number two diplomat, told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee the decision was made in response to “longstanding areas of concern.”
    He said these included intellectual property theft and commercial espionage, as well as unequal treatment of U.S. diplomats, exporters, investors and media in China and abuse by China’s security services of the welcoming U.S. posture toward Chinese students and researchers.
    A Chinese diplomat, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, denied the spying allegations and said the Houston mission acted like other Chinese consulates in the United States – issuing visas, and promoting visits and businesses.
‘RACE TO THE BOTTOM’
    U.S.-China ties have worsened sharply this year over issues ranging from the coronavirus and telecoms-gear maker Huawei to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and clampdown on Hong Kong.
    Jonathan Pollack, an East Asia expert with the Brookings Institution, said he could not think of anything “remotely equivalent” to the move against the Houston consulate since the U.S. and China opened full diplomatic relations in 1979.
    “The Trump Administration appears to view this latest action as political ammunition in the presidential campaign… It’s part of the administration’s race to the bottom against China,” he said.
    A source with direct knowledge of the matter said China was considering closing the U.S. consulate in Wuhan, where the State     Department withdrew staff and their families early this year due to the coronavirus outbreak that first emerged in the city.
    China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it would shut the consulate.
    Wang said the U.S. government had been harassing Chinese diplomats and consular staff for some time and intimidating Chinese students.    He said the United States had interfered with China’s diplomatic missions, including intercepting diplomatic pouches.    The State Department did not respond to a request for comment on the Chinese accusations.
(Reporting by Cate Cadell in Beijing and David Brunnstrom in Washington; additional reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard in Copenhagen, Patricia Zengerle, Daphne Psaledakis, Mark Hosenball, Steve Holland, Jeff Mason and Arshad Mohammed in Washington, Michelle Nichols and Echo Wang in New York and Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Writing by David Brunnstrom and Nick Macfie; Editing by Peter Graff and Rosalba O’Brien)

7/23/2020 Australia Reports Highest Coronavirus Deaths In Three Months, Infections Climb by Colin Packham
FILE PHOTO: A worker dressed in personal protective equipment disposes of rubbish outside a public
housing tower, reopened the previous night after being locked down in response to an outbreak of the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Melbourne, Australia, July 10, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia reported its highest daily number of coronavirus-related deaths in three months on Thursday as new infections continued to climb in its second most populous state.
    Victoria state said it had confirmed another 403 infections, while five people had died from the virus in the last 24 hours.
    The fatalities, including a man in his 50s, mark the country’s biggest one-day rise in COVID-19 deaths since late April.
    “This demonstrates the growing toll this terrible virus is taking on our community,” Health Minister Jenny Mikakos told reporters in the state capital, Melbourne.
    With authorities unable to bring new infections below triple digits, residents in Melbourne and most of the state are now required to wear masks outside of their homes.
    Nationally, Australia has recorded about 13,000 coronavirus cases with a death toll of 128.
MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB
    The rise in new infections came after Australia began relaxing strict containment measures imposed in mid-March.
    While the social distancing rules – which limited mobility of residents and shuttered businesses – slowed the spread of COVID-19, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said it has taken a heavy toll on the economy.
    The government reported its biggest budget deficit since World War Two on Thursday after committing to fiscal stimulus of around A$289 billion, or 14.6% of gross domestic product (GDP).
    The budget swung into a massive deficit of A$85.8 billion ($61.3 billion) in the year-ended June 2020 compared with an earlier forecast for a surplus, Frydenberg said.
    The shortfall will climb further next year, hitting A$184.5 billion in 2020-21.
    “Australia is experiencing a health and economic crisis like nothing we have seen in the last 100 years,” Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra.
    “Our economy has taken a big hit and there are many challenges we confront. We can see the mountain ahead.”
SETBACKS TO RECOVERY
    Analysts expect the economy will rebound in coming months as life returns to some sort of normal, though much depends on whether authorities can keep a lid on new virus outbreaks in Melbourne and Sydney, its two biggest cities, a Reuters poll found.
    Victoria has for more than two weeks required nearly 5 million people to stay home unless leaving for permitted essential reasons.
    Residents who do not wear facemasks are liable to fines of A$200.
    State police said they will show some discretion over the coming week, though state Premier Daniel Andrews urged people to comply, citing the cases of four children hospitalised with COVID-19.
    “We all need to work together, doing simple things, doing, large and small things, each of us to protect each other,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.
    “It’s all about the small things, the small improvements in our internal processes, and in terms of compliance across the Victorian community that add up.”
    Authorities in Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales are also on high alert for new cases despite the border with Victoria being closed.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry and Kim Coghill)

7/23/2020 U.S. Diplomats Head To China Despite Row Over Houston Consulate by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: Vehicles pass by the China Consulate General in Houston, Texas, U.S., July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A flight bound for Shanghai carrying U.S. diplomats has left the United States as Washington presses ahead with its plan to restaff its mission in China a day after a U.S. order to close the Chinese consulate in Houston sharply escalated tensions.
    A person familiar with the matter told Reuters the flight, carrying an unspecified number of U.S. diplomats, left Washington on Wednesday evening.    The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    An internal State Department email dated July 17, seen by Reuters, said the department was working to arrange a charter flight to Shanghai from Washington’s Dulles International Airport departing on Thursday.
    The source said this flight had departed earlier than initially planned.
    The email said a tentative July 29 flight to Tianjin and Beijing was in the initial planning stages and a target date for another flight, to Guangzhou, was still to be determined.
    The memo said priority was being given to reuniting separated families and returning section/agency heads.
    The U.S. is working to fully restaff its mission in China, one of its largest in the world, which was evacuated in February because of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.
    Thursday’s flight went ahead despite a dramatic move by Washington to close China’s consulate in Houston amid sweeping espionage allegations.
    China warned on Thursday it would be forced to respond to the U.S. move, which had “severely harmed” relations.
    It gave no details, but the South China Morning Post reported that China may close the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, while a source told Reuters on Wednesday it was considering shutting the consulate in Wuhan, where the United States withdrew staff at the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
    Two flights have so far taken place to return some of the more than 1,200 U.S. diplomats with their families to China since negotiations for the returns hit an impasse in early July over conditions China wanted to impose on the Americans.
    The impasse caused the State Department to postpone flights tentatively scheduled for the first 10 days of July.
    U.S.-China relations have deteriorated this year to their lowest level in decades over a wide range of issues, including China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, bilateral trade and a new security law for Hong Kong.
    Washington and Beijing have been negotiating for weeks over the terms of how to bring U.S. diplomats back amid disagreement over COVID-19 testing and quarantine procedures as well as frequency of flights and how many each can bring back.
(Reporting by Humeyra Paumuk; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Mary Milliken and Diane Craft)

7/23/2020 China Warns It ‘Must’ Retaliate After Closure Of Houston Consulate by Huizhong Wu and David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: China’s national flag is seen waving at the China Consulate General in Houston, Texas, U.S., July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
    BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China said the U.S. move to close its Houston consulate this week had “severely harmed” relations and warned it “must” retaliate, without detailing what it would do.
    Washington on Tuesday gave China 72 hours to close the consulate, which it said was “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” a dramatic escalation of tension between the world’s two biggest economies.
    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin described the U.S. allegations as “malicious slander” and said the “unreasonable” move had “severely harmed” relations.
    “China must make a necessary response and safeguard its legitimate rights,” he said, declining to specify any measures.
    The South China Morning Post reported that China may close the U.S. consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu, while a source told Reuters on Wednesday that China was considering shutting the consulate in Wuhan, where the United States withdrew staff at the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
    Hu Xijin, editor of China’s Global Times tabloid, posted on Twitter: “Based on what I know, China will announce countermeasure on Friday Beijing time. One U.S. consulate in China will be asked to close.”
    He had earlier said that shutting the Wuhan consulate would be insufficiently disruptive and suggested that China could cut U.S. staff at its large consulate in Hong Kong, which he described as an “intelligence centre.”
    “This will make Washington suffer much pain,” he wrote.
    The other U.S. consulates in China are in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang.
    China has four other consulates in the United States – in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York – as well as an embassy in Washington.
    A U.S. law enforcement official, familiar with the reasons for the closure of Chinese consulate in Houston, said there was “not one singular incident” which led to the decision.    He said the consulate was part of a “continual pattern” of suspicious or potentially illegal activities by Chinese diplomatic missions.
    Republican Senator Marco Rubio, acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, described the Houston consulate on Twitter as the “central node of the Communist Party’s vast network of spies & influence operations in the United States
    President Donald Trump said in answer to a question at a news briefing on Wednesday it was “always possible” other Chinese missions could be closed too.
    Richard Grenell, special presidential envoy for Serbia and Kosovo who served until recently as acting director of U.S. national intelligence, told Reuters the U.S. strategy was “very much start with one and move on to others if need be.”
    “It’s the escalation strategy,” he said.
    “The whole goal is to change the behavior of the Chinese… this is emerging as the Trump doctrine, which is very harsh actions, sanctions and isolation while at the same time always offering a chance to exit if the behavior changes.”
    The Wall Street Journal said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would deliver a speech in California later on Thursday urging allied countries and the people of China to work with the United States to change the Chinese Communist Party’s behavior.
    In spite of the tensions, a flight bound for Shanghai carrying U.S. diplomats left the United States on Wednesday night, as     Washington pressed ahead with its plan to restaff missions in China evacuated due to the coronavirus pandemic.
ELECTION ‘GAMBIT’
    U.S.-China ties have deteriorated sharply this year over issues ranging from the coronavirus and telecoms-gear maker Huawei to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its clampdown on Hong Kong.
    Chinese state media editorials said the U.S. move against the Houston consulate was an attempt to blame Beijing for U.S. failures ahead of Trump’s November reelection bid.
    Opinion polls show Trump trailing his Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of the Nov. 3 election.    The candidates have appeared to compete in their campaigns over who can appear toughest towards Beijing.
    Separately, the Federal Bureau of Investigation alleged in U.S. court filings that a Chinese researcher accused of visa fraud and concealing ties to the military was now holed up in China’s consulate in San Francisco.
    Other Chinese researchers at U.S. universities have also been arrested for visa fraud, according to U.S. court filings.
    Wang said China would safeguard its citizens.
    “For some time, the U.S. has held ideological bias to continuously surveil, harass and even arbitrarily detain Chinese students and scholars in the U.S.,” he said.
    “We urge the U.S. to stop using any excuse to restrict, harass or oppress Chinese students and researchers in the U.S.
(Reporting by David Stanway, Tony Munroe and Huizhong Wu in China and Steve Holland, Daphne Psaledakis, Humeyra Pamuk, David Brunnstrom and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Nick Macfie and Rosalba O’Brien)

7/24/2020 China Orders U.S. To Shut Chengdu Consulate, Retaliating For Houston by Yew Lun Tian and Tony Munroe
FILE PHOTO: U.S. and Chinese flags are seen before Defense Secretary James Mattis welcomes Chinese Minister of National
Defense Gen. Wei Fenghe to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China ordered the United States to close its consulate in the city of Chengdu on Friday, responding to a U.S. demand this week that China close its Houston consulate, as relations between the world’s two largest economies deteriorate.
    The order to close the consulate in Chengdu, in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, was seen as roughly reciprocal in terms of scale and impact, continuing China’s recent practice of like-for-like responses to U.S. actions.
    China had warned it would retaliate after it was unexpectedly given 72 hours – until Friday – to vacate its Houston consulate, and had urged the United States to reconsider.
    “The U.S. move seriously breached international law, the basic norms of international relations, and the terms of the China-U.S. Consular Convention.    It gravely harmed China-U.S. relations,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
    “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China informed the U.S. Embassy in China of its decision to withdraw its consent for the establishment and operation of the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu,” it said.
    The consulate opened in 1985 and has almost 200 employees including about 150 locally hired staff, according to its website.    It was not immediately clear how many are there now after a significant number of U.S. diplomats were evacuated from China during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.
    The consulate was given 72 hours to close, or until 10 a.m. on Monday, the editor of the Global Times newspaper said on Twitter.
    The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to requests for comment.     Chinese stock markets were sold off heavily after the announcement, leading regional losses with a 3.5% fall in the blue-chip index, while the yuan dropped to a two-week low. [MKTS/GLOB]
TROUBLED TIES
    Relations between Washington and Beijing have deteriorated sharply this year over a range of issues, from trade and technology to the novel coronavirus, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its clampdown on Hong Kong.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a speech on Thursday the United States and its allies must use “more creative and assertive ways” to press the Chinese Communist Party to change its ways, calling it the “mission of our time.”
    A source had previously told Reuters that China was considering shutting the U.S. consulate in Wuhan, where the United States withdrew staff early this year as the coronavirus outbreak raged.
    A state newspaper editor had suggested that China could order a dramatic scale back of staff at the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong.
    “The Chengdu consulate is more important than the Wuhan consulate because that is where the U.S. gathers information about Tibet and China’s development of strategic weapons in neighbouring regions,” said Wu Xinbo, a professor and American studies expert at Fudan University in Shanghai.
    He said the Chengdu consulate was less important for trade and economic activity than U.S. consulates in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
    The Chengdu consulate became notorious in 2012 when Wang Lijun, the police chief of nearby Chongqing city, attempted to defect there, a trigger point in a dramatic scandal that brought down rising political star Bo Xilai.
    Chinese social media users, who had denounced the U.S. order to close the Houston mission, applauded the response.
    The comment, “let’s renovate it into a hotpot restaurant!,” a reference to a popular dish in Chengdu, got 100,000 likes on the Weibo account of state broadcaster CCTV.
(Reporting by Tony Munroe and Yew Lun Tian; additional reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru, Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Robert Birsel and Michael Perry)

7/24/2020 China Says Pompeo’s Speech Filled With Ideological Bias
FILE PHOTO: New spokesman for Chinese Foreign Ministry Wang Wenbin speaks during a news conference in Beijing, China July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
    BEIJING (Reuters) – The Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday a speech by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on China disregarded reality and was filled with ideological bias.
    Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, told a daily news conference in Beijing that China urged the United States to discard the “cold war mentality.”
    In a speech delivered on Thursday, Pompeo said Washington and its allies must use “more creative and assertive ways” to press the Chinese Communist Party to change its ways, calling it the “mission of our time.”
(Reporting by Huizhong Wu; Editing by Alex Richardson)

7/24/2020 Water Wars: Mekong River Another Front In U.S.-China Rivalry by Kay Johnson and Panu Wongcha-um
A view of the Mekong river bordering Thailand and Laos is seen from the Thai side in Nong Khai, Thailand, October 29, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – The Mekong River has become a new front in U.S.-China rivalry, environmentalists and officials say, with Beijing overtaking Washington in both spending and influence over downstream countries at the mercy of its control of the river’s waters.
    It’s a confrontation in which the Trump administration – which has largely maintained funding for an Obama-era environmental and development programmes in the Lower Mekong – is losing ground.
    The two powers’ struggle recently moved into the realm of science – with the U.S. and Chinese governments each touting different reports about whether China’s 11 dams on the river were harming nations downstream.
    China’s dams have given it extensive control of the waters that flow down to Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, which have long depended on the river for agriculture, fisheries, and increasingly for hydropower in Laos.
    That control enables China to set the agenda for development linked to the waterway, and to exclude the United States from a role after decades of promoting Mekong projects as a way to exert its influence in the region.
    “This is becoming a geopolitical issue, much like the South China Sea, between the United States and China,” said Witoon Permpongsacharoen of the group Mekong Energy and Ecology Network.
    The state of the Mekong is an urgent worry for the 60 million people who depend on it for farming and fishing as it flows from China, where it is known as the Lancang, through Southeast Asia before emptying into the sea from Vietnam’s delta.
    Last year saw record drought, with Lower Mekong river levels the lowest in decades.    Fewer and smaller fish catches have been reported for years.
    A U.S. ambassador in the region described China as “hoarding” water in its 11 dams on its upper portion of the 4,350-km (2,700-mile) river, harming the livelihoods of millions of people in downstream countries.
    China also has been stepping up activities of its Lancang Mekong Cooperation group (LMC), a relatively new intergovernmental body that a second U.S. ambassador decried as trying to “sideline” the 25-year-old Mekong River Commission (MRC).
    The MRC traces its origins back to U.S. efforts to promote development during the Cold War.    It works with the governments of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to foster the sharing and sustainable development of the river and its resources.
    China’s foreign ministry told Reuters any U.S. suggestion that Beijing was trying to take over the Mekong conversation was groundless.
    “Countries outside the region should refrain from stirring up trouble out of nothing,” the ministry said.
‘ILL INTENT’
    The U.S.-China rivalry broke into a war of words after a Washington-funded study in April concluded that China’s dams held back waters during last year’s drought.
    The study by Eyes on Earth, a U.S.-based research and consulting company specialising in water, built a prediction model based on satellite imaging and MRC data that it said showed “missing” waters downstream, starting in around 2010.
    U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy said he was “quite surprised” at the stark findings.
    “That was the same here in the region,” Murphy told Reuters, referring to the reaction to the revelation.
    “To learn that a primary source for the diminished level of the Mekong, and changes in the Mekong in the Lower Mekong region, is what’s happening upstream in China – with essentially the hoarding of water,” Murphy said.
    China reacted with outrage, with its embassy in Thailand denouncing the study as “politically motivated, aimed at targeting China with ill intent” – a charge its author and U.S. officials denied.
    Then, last week, China’s Global Times published an article about a Chinese study it characterized as disproving the Eyes on Earth report.
    “River dams in China helped alleviate drought along Lancang-Mekong, research finds,” read the headline in the newspaper published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.
    However, the study by Tsinghua University and the China Institute of Water Resources in fact said China’s dams could, in future, help alleviate drought, not that they actually did so in 2019, according to a copy obtained by Reuters.
    “We are not meaning to compare with any other report.    We aim to provide some basic facts to facilitate mutual understanding, trust and therefore cooperation in the basin,” lead researcher Tian Fuqiang told Reuters in an email.
    Researchers will argue about the science, but for the Lower Mekong countries, it comes down to trust and power.
    Sebastian Strangio, author of a book on Southeast Asia’s relations with China, “In the Dragon’s Shadow,” said China’s downstream neighbours almost certainly trust China’s narrative less – but Beijing’s regional might can’t be ignored.
    “They rely on China now for a life-giving resource, and it’s very difficult for them to openly challenge the Chinese government on its dam building,” Strangio said.
    Reluctant to take sides, none of the MRC countries has commented publicly in favour of either the Chinese or American study.
SEPARATE COOPERATION GROUPS
    The United States has spent $120 million on its Lower Mekong Initiative since it was founded 11 years ago.
    China appears to be spending more: in 2016, the Beijing-sponsored LMC set up a $300 million fund for research grants to be awarded for the five downstream countries.
    The LMC did not respond to requests for an interview nor to questions about its 95 proposed projects, planned or underway, that are on a list reviewed by Reuters from its first Ministerial Meeting in Beijing in December.
    The Chinese-led group is taking a higher profile with an annual foreign ministers’ meeting and plans for a summit of leaders, possibly including Chinese President Xi Jinping, while less heavy-hitting water and environment officials typically go to MRC meetings, a Thai government official said.
    The LMC drew criticism from the U.S. ambassador to Thailand, Michael DeSombre, who called it a “parallel organisation” to the MRC.
    “We really would encourage the People’s Republic of China to work together with the Mekong River Commission, rather than trying to sideline it by creating its own organisation that it controls,” DeSombre said.
    Despite the U.S. warnings, officials at the Mekong River Commission say it welcomes cooperation with the LMC and China.
    One reason is that the commission and member governments want more data about operations of China’s dams, which hold back a combined capacity 47 billion cubic metres of water.
    In 2002, Beijing started notifying downstream countries of when it would release water that could cause flooding.
    But China has disclosed little else to enable downstream countries to make plans and request adjustments in the river’s flows.
    China, at a February meeting of the LMC, promised more cooperation with its neighbours, but when speaking privately, regional officials are sceptical.
    “China hasn’t shared any constructive data,” said a Vietnamese official who declined to be identified.
(Additional reporting by Gao Liangping in Beijing, David Stanway in Shanghai, Prak Chan Thul in Phnom Penh and Phuong Nguyen and Khanh Vu in Hanoi; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Robert Birsel)

7/24/2020 Scavengers In India Risk Health To Sift Coronavirus Debris by Adnan Abidi and Sunil Kataria
Mansoor Khan, 44, who works as a waste collector, puts on his shoes as he gets ready to look for recyclable materials from a landfill site
next to his house, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in New Delhi, India, July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Mansoor Khan and his wife Latifa Bibi have been collecting scraps of plastic and other items at an enormous landfill site on the outskirts of New Delhi for nearly 20 years.
    Their $5 daily earnings each keep their three children at school, in search of a better future than their parents’ lives amid the stench of rotting garbage.    But over the past few months, increasing amounts of biomedical waste have been arriving at the dump – a result, experts say, of the novel coronavirus pandemic and a huge risk for those who work there.
    Spread over 52 acres and rising more than 60 metres, the site is littered with used, plastic coronavirus test kits, protective gear and cotton stained with blood and pus – among hundreds of tonnes of waste coming daily from across the Indian capital, including small hospitals and nursing homes.
    Sifting with bare hands, hundreds of scavengers including children expose themselves to a disease that has infected more than 15 million people globally and claimed over 600,000 lives.
    India has reported almost 1.2 million cases overall, behind only the United States and Brazil.
WHAT IF WE DIE?
    Khan, 44, is aware of the dangers but feels he has little choice.
    “What if we die?    What if we get this disease? But fear will not fill our bellies, that is why we have to do this work,” he told Reuters, standing outside his two-room concrete house at the foot of the garbage mountain.
    Bibi, 38, said she was worried about bringing the infection home to the couple’s children, aged 16, 14 and 11.
    “When I return from there, I feel afraid to enter my house because I have children at home.    We are really afraid of this disease,” she said.
    Dinesh Raj Bandela, an expert in biomedical waste at the Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment, said protocols for disposal of biomedical waste were not necessarily being followed during the outbreak, putting those who sift through landfills at risk.
    Neither the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, which runs the dump, nor India’s Central Pollution Control Board, immediately replied to requests for comment.     According to Bandela, the Indian capital used to produce nearly 600 tonnes of medical waste a day, but that has risen by 100 tonnes since the virus hit.
(Reporting by Adnan Abidi and Sunil Kataria in New Delhi; Writing by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

7/24/2020 India Sees Record 49,000 New Coronavirus Cases, Drug Shortages In Places by Zeba Siddiqui and Rajendra Jadhav
FILE PHOTO: A health worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) uses his mobile phone to record details of the residents
during a check-up campaign for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India, July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Hemanshi Kamani
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – India reported over 49,000 fresh cases of the novel coronavirus with 740 new deaths on Friday, marking the biggest daily surge in cases even as officials in some states complained of shortages of vital drugs for those hospitalized.
    As the number of cases neared 1.3 million in India, local authorities scrambled to procure generic versions of remdesivir, the drug that has shown promise in clinical trials in treating severely-ill patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
    “Demand is huge as cases are rising rapidly in the state,” said a senior drug regulatory official in the western state of Maharashtra.    “Supplies of the drug are limited, but companies have assured us they will provide more in a week.”
    India has reported 30,601 deaths from the disease, with more than 40% of these deaths coming from Maharashtra state.
    The western state is the worst-affected, having recorded nearly 350,000 cases, of which almost 60% were reported in the country’s financial capital, Mumbai, and its satellite towns.
    Remdesivir, made by the U.S. drugmaker Gilead Sciences Inc, has been in high demand globally amid the pandemic, and Gilead in May and June authorized six Indian companies, and three foreign ones, to make and sell generic versions of the drug in 127 developing nations.
    Only three of these firms with operations in India – Hetero Labs Ltd, Cipla and Mylan NV have so far been able to start supplying.    Others are either awaiting regulatory approvals or still setting up production.
    Several hospitals have struggled to get the drug as patient numbers increased in a county whose public health system is one of the world’s most poorly-funded.    India has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases after the United States and Brazil.
    Drug industry and government officials in the country said that they are doing their best.
    “These things cannot be done in a hurry,” said P.D. Vaghela, an official at India’s Department of Pharmaceuticals, adding the drug regulator was working on granting approvals to companies for generic remdesivir at the earliest.
    “Some people were engaging in black marketing but we have taken strict action against them,” Vaghela said.
(Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui and Rajendra Jadhav in MUMBAI; Additional reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra in BENGALURU; Editing by Euan Rocha)

7/24/2020 Exclusive: More Than 40 Countries Accuse North Korea Of Breaching U.N. Sanctions by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO - A North Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of North
Korea in Geneva October 2, 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Picture
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – More than 40 countries accused North Korea on Friday of illicitly breaching a United Nations cap on refined petroleum imports and called for an immediate halt to deliveries until the end of the year, according to a complaint seen by Reuters.
    The 15-member U.N. Security Council imposed an annual cap of 500,000 barrels in December 2017 in a bid to cut off fuel for North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
    But in a complaint to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee, 43 countries – including the United States, Britain and France – said they estimated that in the first five months of this year Pyongyang had imported more than 1.6 million barrels of refined petroleum via 56 illicit tanker deliveries.
    The complaint said North Korean vessels continue to conduct ship-to-ship transfers at sea “on a regular basis as the DPRK’s primary means of importing refined petroleum.”    North Korea’s formal name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
    The countries asked the Security Council sanctions committee to make an official determination that North Korea had exceeded the cap and “inform member states that they must immediately cease selling, supplying, or transferring refined petroleum products to the DPRK for the remainder of the year.”
    Similar requests to the committee in 2018 and 2019 were blocked by North Korean allies Russia and China.    They are also the only two countries to have formally reported deliveries of refined petroleum to the Security Council sanctions committee.
    “China and Russia collectively have reported 106,094.17 barrels of refined petroleum product transfers … January through May,” the complaint said.    “The official accounting of the DPRK’s imports vastly underrepresents the volume of refined petroleum products that actually enter the DPRK.”
    The 43 countries also urged the committee to call on states to “immediately exercise enhanced vigilance regarding the DPRK attempting to procure additional refined petroleum products and to prevent illicit ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products to vessels owned, controlled, or acting on behalf of or working in cooperation with the DPRK.”
    North Korea has been subjected to U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.    While the Security Council has steadily strengthened sanctions, U.N. monitors reported this year that North Korea continued to enhance its programs last year.
    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump have met three times since 2018, but failed to make progress on U.S. calls for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and North Korea’s demands for an end to sanctions.
    The complaint to the Security Council committee said: “If the DPRK is able to flagrantly evade international sanctions, it will have little incentive to engage in serious negotiations.”
    The North Korean mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by David Gregorio)

7/24/2020 China Orders U.S. Chengdu Consulate Shut; Protesters Jeer Houston Closure by Yew Lun Tian and Gary McWilliams
FILE PHOTO: U.S. and Chinese flags are seen before Defense Secretary James Mattis welcomes Chinese Minister of National
Defense Gen. Wei Fenghe to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
    BEIJING/HOUSTON (Reuters) – China on Friday ordered the United States to close its consulate in Chengdu in response to a U.S. order for China to shut its Houston consulate, where staff packed up belongings watched by jeering protesters amid a sharp deterioration in relations between the world’s two largest economies.
    The order to close the consulate in Chengdu, a city in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, continued Beijing’s recent practice of like-for-like responses to Washington’s actions.
    Beijing had threatened retaliation after the Trump administration this week gave it 72 hours – until 4 p.m. on Friday – to vacate its consulate in the Texas city, and had urged the United States to reconsider.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday the consulate had been “a hub of spying and intellectual property theft.”
    Washington and its allies must use “more creative and assertive ways” to press the Chinese Communist Party to change its ways, he said.
    Senior U.S. officials said on Friday espionage activity by China’s diplomatic missions was occurring all over the country, but its activity out of the Houston consulate went well over the line of what was acceptable.
    A senior State Department official also linked espionage activity from that consulate to China’s pursuit of research into a vaccine for the new coronavirus.
    About 100 Chinese activists gathered at the consulate on Friday, shouting slogans denouncing communism and heckling consulate staff.
    Some held American flags as they watched workers loading belongings from the five-story consulate into trucks.
    The consulate, one side of which was adorned with large red Chinese lanterns, was closed.    People seeking visa applications were turned away, a guard said.
    Protesters cheered when a tractor trailer circled the building with giant signs that read: “Freedom from Communism, and God Bless America.”
    Relations between Washington and Beijing have deteriorated sharply this year over issues ranging from trade and technology to the coronavirus pandemic, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its clampdown on Hong Kong.
    China’s foreign ministry announced Bejing’s decision on the U.S. consulate in Chengdu in a statement.    Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said some personnel there were “conducting activities not in line with their identities” and had interfered in China’s affairs and harmed China’s security interests, but he did not say how.
    Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi, who is also foreign minister, blamed Washington for the deterioration in ties.
    “The current difficult situation in Sino-U.S. relations is entirely caused by the United States, and its goal is trying to interrupt China’s development,” Wang said in a video conversation with his German counterpart.
CHINESE RESEARCHER IN U.S. CUSTODY
    U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration said the closing of the Houston consulate was aimed at protecting American intellectual property and personal information.
    “We urge the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) to cease these malign actions rather than engage in tit-for-tat retaliation,” John Ullyot, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement.
    In a related case, a senior U.S. Justice Department official said a Chinese researcher who took refuge at China’s consulate in San Francisco was taken into American custody on Thursday.
    He said the researcher, Juan Tang, was part of a network of associates who concealed their military affiliation when applying for visas.
    The U.S. consulate in Chengdu was given 72 hours to close, or until 10 a.m. on Monday, the editor of the Global Times newspaper said on Twitter.
    The consulate opened in 1985 and has almost 200 employees, including about 150 locally hired staff, according to its website. It was not immediately clear how many are there now after U.S. diplomats were evacuated from China because of the pandemic.
    Global share markets fell after the announcement, led by a heavy drop in Chinese blue chips, which fell 4.4%, while the yuan hit a two-week low. [MKTS/GLOB]
    Technology stocks dragged Wall Street’s main indexes lower on Friday on the back of Sino-U.S. tensions and fears over rising coronavirus infections in the United States, putting the S&P 500 on track to erase all of its gains for the week.
    A source had told Reuters China was considering shutting the U.S. consulate in Wuhan, where Washington withdrew staff as the coronavirus outbreak raged.
    “The Chengdu consulate is more important than the Wuhan consulate because that is where the U.S. gathers information about Tibet and China’s development of strategic weapons in neighboring regions,” said Wu Xinbo, a professor and American studies expert at Fudan University in Shanghai.
    He said the Chengdu consulate was less important for economic activity than U.S. consulates in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
(Reporting by Tony Munroe and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; additional reporting by Huizhong Wu and Judy Hua in Beijing; Gary McWilliams and Adrees Latif in Houston; David Brunnstrom, Doina Chiacu and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Writing by Michael Perry and Timothy Heritage; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)

7/24/2020 Thai Youths Burn Image Of PM As Resignation Calls Grow by Arthorn Pookasook
Pro-democracy students burn a portrait of Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha in
front of the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, July 24, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Young Thai political activists set fire to pictures of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha outside government house on Friday and called for his resignation, as pressure builds on the generals who orchestrated a 2014 coup to leave office.
    In the past week there have been small protests seeking to drive him from office in at least six provinces, while internal party squabbles have led to six cabinet members resigning.
    Friday’s demonstrators burned images of Prayuth and his deputy, Prawit Wongsuwan, both former army chiefs.
    “We want to burn the bad things in Thailand,” said protester Niwiboon Chomphoo, 20, adding that Prayuth remained in charge because of a constitution that was “unreliable and unfair for our democracy.”
    Opponents say the military drafted a basic law that all-but guaranteed junta leader Prayuth remained in power as a civilian premier after national elections last year, with members of his royalist military clique in key posts.
    Prayuth also faces a tough challenge to revive an economy that the central bank says could shrink by a record 8.1% this year and may have seen 7-8 million job losses, largely from coronavirus impacts.
    Youth groups are planning more protests at the weekend. [nL3N2EU30X]
    Last Saturday about 2,500 people rallied against Prayuth in one of the biggest demonstrations since the 2014 coup, during which there were veiled negative references to the powerful monarchy, [nL3N2ER3DD] [nL3N2EP02T]
    Such allusions would once have been unthinkable in a country where criticism of the king is against the law.
    A group of about 20 people submitted a letter to the military on Friday asking it to monitor anti-monarchy statements at the protests.
    “Listen to us, we are your elders.    Don’t create division,” Tul Sittisomwong, its leader, told reporters.
    “We don’t have to show force to disagree and argue. We are ready to support the military to protect the highest institution.”
(Additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Martin Petty; editing by John Stonestreet)

7/25/2020 Tight Security Outside U.S. Chengdu Consulate After China Orders Closure by Martin Quin Pollard
Police officers march past the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China July 25, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    CHENGDU, China (Reuters) – Security was tight outside the U.S. consulate in the Chinese city of Chengdu on Saturday as staff inside prepared to leave, a day after China ordered it to close in response to a U.S. order for China to shut its consulate in Houston.
    The tit-for-tat consulate closures have brought a sharp deterioration in relations between the world’s two largest economies.
    A consulate emblem inside the compound was taken down and staff could be seen moving about.    Three removal vans later entered the compound.
    Police gathered outside and closed off the street to traffic.
    A steady stream of people walked along the street opposite the entrance throughout the day, many stopping to take photos or videos before police moved them on.
    Plain clothes officers detained a man who tried to hold up a sign. It was not clear what the sign said.
    Neither the consulate in the southwestern Chinese city nor the U.S. embassy in Beijing have responded to requests from Reuters for comment on the closure.
    The Chinese order to close it was retaliation after the Trump administration gave China until 4 p.m. last Friday to vacate its consulate in the Texas city.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the consulate had been “a hub of spying and intellectual property theft.”
    The U.S. consulate in Chengdu was also given 72 hours to close, or until 10 a.m. on Monday, the editor of China’s Global Times tabloid said on Twitter.
    The consulate opened in 1985 and has almost 200 employees, including about 150 locally hired staff, according to its website.    It was not immediately clear how many are there now after U.S. diplomats were evacuated from China because of the pandemic.
    At the Houston consulate, staff packed up belongings watched by jeering protesters.    Shortly after the closure order took effect a group of men who appeared to be U.S. officials were seen forcing open a back door to the facility.
    Residents in Chengdu expressed mixed views on the closure of the U.S. consulate in the city.
    “What I fear the most is the U.S. won’t just stop there, it might get uglier,” said 19-year-old university student Zhang Chuhan.
    “I approve.    The U.S. closed our consulate, I think we should shut theirs too,” said a man who identified himself as Jiang, 29.
    Relations between Washington and Beijing have deteriorated this year to what experts say is their lowest level in decades over issues ranging from trade and technology to the novel coronavirus, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its clampdown on Hong Kong.
    China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin has said some personnel at the Chengdu consulate were “conducting activities not in line with their identities” and had interfered in China’s affairs and harmed its security interests.    He did not say how.
(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard and Thomas Peter; Writing by Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Robert Birsel)

7/25/2020 Coronavirus Cases In Australian State Stay Stubbornly High
Walkers wear protective face masks at St Kilda pier in Melbourne after it became the first city in Australia to enforce mask-wearing in
public as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s Victoria state recorded an increase in new coronavirus cases on Saturday as officials laid out new directives to protect people in retirement homes and help contain a second wave of infections.
    Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, recorded 357 new cases overnight, and five deaths, up from 300 on Friday when it saw its highest ever death toll of 7, but lower than Wednesday’s record daily increase of 483 cases, state officials said.
    Australia has escaped the high coronavirus casualty numbers of other countries, with 13,950 infections and 145 deaths as of Saturday, but recent flare-ups in its two most populous states have raised alarm.
    A cluster of infections in Melbourne, Victoria’s largest city, prompted the government to impose a six-week partial lockdown and make masks mandatory for its residents, or risk a A$200 ($143) fine.
    “This is an incredibly stubborn second wave,” state premier Daniel Andrews told a regular media briefing.
    Victoria has introduced visitor limits at nursing homes, along with compulsory protective gear for staff, and will undertake a programme of asymptomatic testing, he said.
    “We’ve always known that aged care is a very challenging setting.    If you get community transmission and then you have chains of transmission that are driven by staff, then you will see outbreaks,” Andrews said.
    “That’s exactly the challenge we are facing at the moment.”
    Victoria has also been grappling with clusters at workplaces for essential services such as health care and food distribution, which officials said would stay open even if a stricter lockdown was ordered.
    “Masks will be important. It’s the small things, and adding them all together that is what will really put pressure on those numbers and drive them down,” Andrews said.
    Despite the lockdown, Victoria is not likely to see a substantial fall in new cases for weeks, its top health official said.
    “There is no magic bullet here, and there is nothing that will all of a sudden see numbers hit a zero in the next couple of weeks,” Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters.
    “When you have got outbreaks that are really difficult to manage, those will have ongoing cases for some time yet.”
    In the most populous state of New South Wales, new cases rose to 15 from 7 the previous day and three schools were closed for a deep clean after four students tested positive.
    Masks are not compulsory in the state, but supermarket chain Woolworths has asked customers in hot spot areas to mask up.
    Still, there have been more successful mitigation efforts elsewhere.
    The island state of Tasmania will next month begin accepting tourists from other states that have seen significant periods with no new cases, officials said on Friday.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Robert Birsel)

7/25/2020 Indonesia Reports 1,868 New Coronavirus Cases, 49 Deaths
FILE PHOTO - People wearing protective face masks walk during rush hour amid the spread of the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 21, 2020. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported 1,868 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the total to 97,286, data from the country’s COVID-19 task force showed.
    The number of deaths in the Southeast Asian nation related to COVID-19 rose by 49, to bring the total to 4,714, the data showed.
(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Fathin Ungku; Editing by William Mallard)

7/25/2020 Thousands Of Stranded Filipinos Crammed Into Baseball Stadium Amid Coronavirus Risks by by Eloisa Lopez
Filipinos stranded due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions cram inside a baseball stadium
for a government transportation program that while transport them back to their provinces,
in RizalMemorial Sports Complex, Manila, Philippines, July 25, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – Thousands of Filipinos were crammed into a baseball stadium in Manila on Saturday, breaking social distancing rules despite coronavirus risks, after people wanting to return to their home provinces flooded a government transportation program.
    Officials had reserved the stadium as a place to test people before transporting them back to their home provinces under a program to help people who had lost their jobs in the capital return to their families elsewhere.
    Officials had planned for 7,500 people to arrive at the stadium from Friday, but were caught out when another 2,000 people who were not yet scheduled to travel headed there anyway.
    “Because of the overflowing number of people, we can no longer control (the situation) and the relevance of social distancing had been diminished,” Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo, who is overseeing the government’s transportation assistance program, told Reuters by phone.
    Police were deployed to urge social distancing, but people, including the elderly, children and pregnant women, were seen in close contact with each other. Some were not wearing masks.
    Many of those at the stadium had got stuck in the capital when it imposed one of the strictest and longest lockdowns in mid-March in response to the coronavirus pandemic.     That was eased at the start of June, allowing businesses to reopen in a limited capacity, but schools remain shut and mass gatherings are banned.    People must wear masks in public and observe one-metre social distancing, while children and the elderly are urged to stay at home.
    Coronavirus cases have more than quadrupled since restrictions were eased to 78,412, with more than half of those in the capital and surrounding areas.
    Among those at the stadium was Fred Marick Ukol, 40, who became stuck in Manila after his flight to Australia, where he had found work as a welder, was cancelled.
    “We don’t have work and now all of our savings have dried up because of the lockdown,” Ukol said, referring to himself and fellow overseas Filipino workers.
    Encabo said everybody at the stadium would undergo rapid testing for COVID-19 and must be cleared before being allowed to board the buses, sea vessels, and trains the government has prepared.
(Additional reporting by Karen Lema and Jay Ereño; editing by Jane Wardell)

7/25/2020 North Korea Evades Sanctions, Importing More Oil Than UN Allows by OAN Newsroom
In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during an enlarged meeting of the Central Military Commission
of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang, North Korea Saturday, July 18, 2020. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
    North Korea continues to violate United Nations sanctions after months of silence. According to officials, the country has been carrying out major smuggling operations off the coast of China to ensure its economy’s safety and security.
    Operations were on hold for months due to the coronavirus, but resumed after world economies began to reopen.
    According to reports, North Korea has been importing oil while selling coal and sand for a profit.    Global traders and banks appear to be unaware that the ships were running illegal operations.
    “They’re not monitoring the ships that they’re either financing, insuring or that are carrying their product,” stated UN official Hugh Griffiths.
    The UN originally limited North Korea to 500,000 barrels of oil per year, which the country has reportedly exceeded.
    Defense experts warned these trade efforts are being used to help fund the country’s nuclear program.

7/25/2020 Iranian President Urges Coronavirus Caution During Religious Festivities
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi as
he wears a protective mask, in Tehran, Iran, July 21, 2020. Official Presidential website/Handout via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged people on Saturday to observe health protocols and practice social distancing during upcoming Muslim festivities, as a health official said there had been a surge in coronavirus infections in a major holy city.
    Muslims around the world mark the Eid al-Adha feast, due to start at the end of the month.    This year, Saudi Arabia is to limit the number of domestic pilgrims attending haj to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
    Most Iranians are Shi’ite Muslims, who also mark their most significant mourning ceremonies of Ashura in September.
    “Let glorious festivities be held in mosques and religious centers by observing health protocols and social distancing,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.
    “Let [face] masks this year be part of the glorious mourning of Muharram,” Rouhani said, referring to Ashura, the 10th day of the lunar month of Muharram, when according to Islamic tradition Imam Hussein was killed in battle in 680.
    One of the Eid al-Adha rituals is the sacrificial slaughter of sheep and giving to the poor.    Iranian health officials have urged the faithful to package the meat before distribution.
    Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi, speaking on state television, urged people not to visit the northeastern holy city of Mashad, which he said has seen an increase of 300% in coronavirus cases over a one month period.
    Millions typically visit Mashad’s Imam Reza shrine, which is Iran’s largest Shi’ite religious complex.
    Iran’s total tally of coronavirus cases hit 288,839 on Saturday, with 15,485 deaths, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on television.
    The country gradually lifted its COVID-19 restrictions from mid-April, but they have been reimposed in most areas after a sharp spike in cases.    On Saturday, officials in the capital Tehran extended restrictions by another week.
(Editing by Frances Kerry)

7/25/2020 U.S. Sends Envoy To Press For Peace Talks In Afghanistan
FILE PHOTO: An Afghan man wearing a protective face mask walks past a wall painted with photo of
Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the
Taliban delegation, in Kabul, Afghanistan April 13, 2020.REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Washington has dispatched a special envoy for Afghanistan to press for peace talks between the government and Taliban fighters, with the diplomat scheduled to visit Kabul on a trip with stops in five nations, the U.S. State Department said on Saturday.
    U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad departed on Friday to travel to Doha, Kabul, Islamabad, Oslo and Sofia, the department said in a statement.
    The United States is drawing down its troops in Afghanistan under an agreement struck in February with the Taliban.
    The agreement aimed to pave the way for formal peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government, and Khalilzad’s task is to try and bring both sides to the table.
    Khalilzad plans to press for a deal on prisoner exchanges and a reduction in violence, two issues that have hampered progress toward starting peace talks.
    “Although significant progress has been made on prisoner exchanges, the issue requires additional effort to fully resolve,” the State Department said in its statement.
    On Wednesday, Khalilzad condemned an attack by Afghan government forces that killed 45 people, including civilians, in airstrikes against Taliban fighters in a western province bordering Iran.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; editing by Grant McCool)

7/26/2020 North Korea Declares Emergency In Border Town Over First Suspected COVID-19 Case by Sangmi Cha and Josh Smith
FILE PHOTO: Kaesong city is seen across the demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating North Korea from South Korea in this picture
taken from Dora observatory in Paju, 55 km (34 miles) north of Seoul, September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won/File Photo
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared an emergency and a lockdown in a border town after a person suspected of being infected with the novel coronavirus returned from South Korea after illegally crossing the border, state media said on Sunday.
    If confirmed, it would be the first case officially acknowledged by North Korean authorities.
    Kim convened an emergency politburo meeting in response to what he called a “critical situation in which the vicious virus could be said to have entered the country,” the North’s KCNA state news reported.
    A person who defected to South Korea three years ago returned across the fortified border that divides the two Koreas to the town of Kaesong this month with symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, KCNA reported.
    “An emergency event happened in Kaesong City where a runaway who went to the south three years ago, a person who is suspected to have been infected with the vicious virus returned on July 19 after illegally crossing the demarcation line,” KCNA said.
    KCNA did not say if the person had been tested, but said an “uncertain result was made from several medical check-ups of the secretion of that person’s upper respiratory organ and blood,” prompting officials to quarantine the person and investigate anyone he may have been in contact with.
    One analyst said the announcement was important, not only because North Korea was for the first time reporting a suspected coronavirus case but also because it suggested it was appealing for help.
    “It’s an ice-breaking moment for North Korea to admit a case,” said Choo Jae-woo, a professor at Kyung Hee University.
    “It could be reaching out to the world for help. Perhaps for humanitarian assistance.”
    North Korea is under economic pressure because of international sanctions over its nuclear programme.
‘DIRE SITUATION’
    Cho Han-bum, a senior fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said it was significant that North Korea was reporting its first suspected coronavirus case was imported.
    “North Korea is in such a dire situation, where they can’t even finish building the Pyongyang General Hospital on time.    Pointing the blame at an ‘imported case’ from South Korea, the North can use this as a way to openly accept aid from the South,” Cho said.
    KCNA did not elaborate on how the unidentified “runaway” had crossed one of the world’s most heavily guarded borders but said the incident was being investigated and the military unit responsible would face “severe punishment.”
    The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs (JCS) said there was a “high chance” that someone had indeed crossed and the military was checking surveillance footage. It even suggested it might be able to identify the person.
    “Our military has specified some people and is verifying facts in close collaboration with related agencies,” the JCS said.
    North Korea has received thousands of coronavirus testing kits from Russia and other countries and imposed strict border closures.
    Thousands of people in North Korea were also quarantined as it took precautions to prevent a coronavirus outbreak but restrictions had recently been eased.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha and Josh Smith; Editing by Sandra Maler, Robert Birsel)

7/26/2020 Australia Reports Jump In Daily New Cases, Record Deaths
FILE PHOTO: A health worker wearing a protective suit takes a nose-swab sample from a man during tests for the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Bondi Beach drive-through testing centre, as the state of
New South Wales grapples with an outbreak of new cases, in Sydney, Australia, July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, recorded 459 cases of the new coronavirus, the second-highest daily total and up from 357 cases the previous day, the state’s leader said on Sunday.
    Premier Daniel Andrews also told a press briefing that Victoria had reported 10 COVID-19 deaths in past 24 hours, Australia’s highest ever daily number.
    The state’s second wave is being driven by workplace infections, including at aged-care and healthcare facilities, big distribution centres, slaughterhouses, cold-storage facilities and warehouses, Andrews said.
    “What that tells you is that some people… are feeling sick, they have symptoms and they are still going to work,” he said.    “If that continues, then we will just continue to see more and more cases.”
    The cases were found on the day with the highest number of coronavirus tests, at more than 45,000.
    Australia has avoided the worst of coronavirus crisis seen in other countries, but authorities are struggling to contain an outbreak in Victoria.    It has recorded more than 14,400 cases so far.
    Victorians are subject to a six week lockdown, border closures with other states and mandatory face mask wearing.
    The country’s most populous state of New South Wales recorded 14 new cases overnight, with almost half connected to a known outbreak at a restaurant on the outskirts of Sydney.
    “Ten families are currently planning funerals.    And the youngest among them have lost someone in their forties.    Please wear a mask everyone.    And if you don’t you will get fined,” Andrews said.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by William Mallard)

7/26/2020 Philippines Records 39 Coronavirus Deaths, 2,110 New Cases
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines on Sunday reported 39 deaths related to the novel coronavirus and 2,110 additional infections.
    Its total deaths now stand at 1,932, with 80,448 confirmed cases, the Department of Health said in a bulletin.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Robert Birsel)

7/26/2020 Staff Leaving U.S. Chengdu Consulate Under High Security As Deadline Looms by Martin Quin Pollard
A furniture removal vehicle enters the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China, July 26, 2020, after
China ordered its closure in response to U.S. order for China to shut its consulate in Houston. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    CHENGDU, China (Reuters) – Staff of the U.S. consulate in Chengdu made final efforts to clear the premises on Sunday as security remained tight outside, ahead of a Monday closure ordered by Beijing as China-U.S. relations continue to worsen.
    A mini tourist atmosphere prevailed outside the facility on a tree-lined street on a hot Sunday, as onlookers shared sidewalk space with dozens of uniformed and plainclothes police opposite the entrance.
    Consulate closures in Houston and Chengdu have escalated a sharp deterioration in ties between the world’s two biggest economies, which were already their worst in decades amid disputes over trade and technology, the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its clampdown on Hong Kong.
    Police asked people to move on when crowds formed outside the consulate, as onlookers took photos and videos of what they expected would be the last time to see the compound in U.S. hands.    The street was closed to traffic, except for consular or police vehicles let through by police.
    China on Friday ordered the closure of the Chengdu consulate in the southwestern provide of Sichuan.    That means an evacuation deadline of 10 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Monday, according to the editor of a state-run tabloid.
    In Houston on Friday a group of men accompanied by aU.S. State Department official were seen forcing open a door atthe Chinese consulate, shortly after the U.S. closure order took effect for a facility that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called “a hub of spying and intellectual property theft.”
    A coach that had been on the Chengdu consulate premises on Saturday left on Sunday morning.    It was unclear who or what was inside.    Since Friday, staff have been seen coming and going, including at least one with a suitcase. Removal vans entered and left on Saturday and Sunday.
    “China’s response was reciprocal,” said a 63-year-old local resident who gave only his surname, Yang.    The situation “is quite regrettable.”
    On the Chengdu police account on Weibo, similar to Twitter, some netizens were asking the authorities to be lenient toward to a man who lit a firework outside the consulate Friday.
    “I believe our country is so powerful, so it has the ability to handle it properly, and provide me with enough safety,” said a 25-year-old finance worker surnamed Zhao when she passed by the consulate.
(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard; Writing by Pei Li; Editing by William Mallard)

7/26/2020 ‘Delicious Taxes’: Thai Protesters Use Japanese Cartoon Hamster To Mock Government by Patpicha Tanakasempipat
Demonstrators march during a protest demanding the resignation of Thailand's Prime Minister
Prayuth Chan-o-cha, in Bangkok, Thailand, July 26, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Hundreds of Thai protesters sang a Japanese cartoon jingle on Sunday with lyrics mocking the government as hungry hamsters feasting on taxpayer cash, part of a new protest movement by youth who say they are using whimsical tactics for serious ends.
    Thai youths have been defying a coronavirus ban on gatherings to hold rallies almost daily since last week.    The first rally, by a group called the Free Youth Movement, drew more than 2,000 activists, one of the biggest anti-government protests since a coup in 2014.
    At Sunday’s demonstration, protesters sang new lyrics to the theme song for “Hamtaro,” a Japanese cartoon about a hamster who loves sunflower seeds.    They ran in circles around Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, like hamsters running in a wheel.
    “The most delicious food is taxpayers’ money,” they sang.    “Dissolve the parliament!    Dissolve the parliament! Dissolve the parliament!
    Leaders of the Free Youth Movement have said they will return to the streets for another large-scale demonstration next week if their demands are not met, including dissolving parliament, revising a constitution written by the military and ending the harassment of government critics.
    Some of the protests have been whimsical in tone, but the protesters say their political aims are serious.
    “The adults may think because we’re doing this, they can’t take us seriously.    But this is the way for the new generation,” said a 20-year-old protester who gave her name as Fah.    “We are doing this differently in hope that something will change.”
(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Additional reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa; Editing by Kay Johnson and Peter Graff)

7/26/2020 Modi Says Coronavirus Risk Persists In India, Recoveries Rise by Shilpa Jamkhandikar
Health workers in personal protective equipment (PPE) enter a residential building complex during a check up
campaign for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India July 26, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – India needs to be “extra vigilant” as the novel coronavirus threat persists, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a public address on Sunday, even as the country registered a record number of patient recoveries in a day.
    Infections from the coronavirus have risen rapidly in India, the world’s second most populous country, with more than 48,000 cases recorded in the last 24 hours.    India has so far recorded nearly 1.4 million cases and more than 30,000 deaths.
    On Sunday, the Indian government said 36,145 patients had recovered and been discharged in the last 24 hours, marking a record number of single-day recoveries.    At the same time, a record number of tests in a single day – more than 440,000 – were conducted, it added.
    Modi, in his monthly radio broadcast to the nation, sounded caution, saying it was important to practise social distancing and wear masks to fight the virus.
    “The danger of corona is far from being over.    At many places, it is spreading fast,” Modi said.    “We need to be extra vigilant.”
    In recent weeks, coronavirus infections have spread further into the countryside and smaller towns.    Experts say case numbers will rise significantly in the coming months as testing increases, straining a healthcare system already pushed to the brink.
    The western state of Maharashtra is the worst-affected, having recorded more than 360,000 cases, of which roughly 60% were reported in the country’s financial capital, Mumbai, and its satellite towns.
    India imposed a strict lockdown on March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease, shutting down businesses, schools, airlines and all non-essential services.    Many of those restrictions have been eased in recent weeks.
(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Aditya Kalra and Barbara Lewis)

7/26/2020 Tokyo Confirms 239 New Coronavirus Cases On Sunday: Media
FILE PHOTO: Passengers wearing protective face masks pass through the automated entranceway at a station
amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo officials confirmed 239 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, Japanese media reported, as the capital struggles with a resurgence in cases after the government lifted a state of emergency.
    The total marks the sixth straight day new cases in the city have exceeded 200.
    While Japan was spared the kind of surge in infections that have killed tens of thousands in other countries, Tokyo has raised its coronavirus alert to the highest level after a series of new cases.
(Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Sam Holmes)

7/26/2020 Indonesia Reports 1,492 New Coronavirus Cases, 67 Deaths
Men wearing protective masks fish on the waves breaker at Ancol beach as the government eased restrictions following
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 25, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported 1,492 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, bringing the total tally to 98,778, data from the country’s Health Ministry website showed.
    The number of deaths in the Southeast Asian nation related to COVID-19 rose by 67, bringing the total to 4,781, the data showed.
(Reporting by Fathin Ungku and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Editing by Sam Holmes)

7/27/2020 China Seizes U.S. Consulate In Chengdu, Retaliating For Houston by Martin Quin Pollard and Thomas Peter
Police set up an umbrella as they cordon off the area around the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China, July
27, 2020, after China ordered its closure in response to U.S. order for China to shut its consulate in Houston. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    CHENGDU, China (Reuters) – China took over the premises of the U.S. consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu on Monday, after ordering the facility to be vacated in retaliation for China’s ouster last week from its consulate in Houston, Texas.
    The seizure capped a dramatic escalation in tensions between the world’s two biggest economies that began when employees at China’s Houston consulate were seen burning documents in a courtyard last Tuesday, hours before Beijing announced that it had been ordered to leave the facility.
    The U.S. consulate in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, was closed as of 10 a.m (0200) on Monday, and Chinese authorities had entered the building from the front door, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
    On Friday, Beijing announced that it had asked the United States to close its Chengdu post, and gave the Americans 72 hours to vacate, the same amount of time China was given to leave its Houston mission, which was shut on Friday.
    “We are disappointed by the Chinese Communist Party’s decision and will strive to continue our outreach to the people in this important region through our other posts in China,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said in an email to Reuters.
    At midday on Monday, police removed a roadblock that had restricted access to the Chengdu facility, and dozens of passersby stopped to take photos and videos.
    One man stood across the street and played the Chinese national anthem from his phone.
    Grey sheet-like material was placed over the spot near the entrance where a plaque had been affixed, and over the place where there was large lettering saying “U.S. Consulate General
    The U.S. embassy issued a video in Chinese on its Twitter feed: “The U.S. consulate in Chengdu has been proudly promoting the mutual understanding between Americans and the people in Sichuan, Chongqing, Guizhou, Yunnan and Tibet since 1985.    We will forever miss you,” it said.
    The American flag was no longer flying at the consulate having been lowered at 6:18 a.m. on Monday, according to video shot by a journalist and shared by state broadcaster CCTV on its Twitter-like Weibo account.
    The eagle on top of the flagpole remained.
    On Sunday night, a crane was seen entering the consulate compound and hoisting at least one container onto a large truck.
    The Chengdu consulate opened in 1985 and had almost 200 employees, including about 150 locally hired staff, according to its website.    It was not immediately clear how many had been working there at the time of its closure, after U.S. diplomats were evacuated from China because of the coronavirus pandemic.
    U.S.-China relations have plunged to their worst in decades over a range of disputes, from trade and technology to the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its clampdown on Hong Kong.
    On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech calling a more assertive approach to China the “mission of our time.”
(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard and Thomas Peter; writing by Tony Munroe; editing by Richard Pullin and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

7/27/2020 Hong Kong Extends Virus Restrictions To Ban Gatherings Of More Than Two People
FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk at Mid-Levels Central, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hong Kong, China July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong on Monday announced further restrictions to curb a surge in coronavirus cases, including a ban on gatherings of more than two people, a total bar on restaurant dining and mandatory face masks in all public places, including outdoors.
    The measures, which take effect from Wednesday, are the first time the city has completely banned dining in restaurants. Since late January, more than 2,600 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 20 of whom have died.
    “The situation is very worrying,” said Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, adding that the current outbreak is the most severe the city has experienced.
    The measures will be in place for 7 days, he said.
    The Chinese territory in July halted dine-in services from 6pm as concerns grew of a third wave of infections but allowed restaurants and cafes to function through the day as normal.
    However, the city has seen a spike in locally transmitted coronavirus cases over the past three weeks, with Sunday the fifth consecutive day of triple digit infection figures.
    Authorities have warned that citizens have become too lax about wearing masks and social distancing.
    Over the weekend they stepped up controls, sealing off popular beaches and introduced new rules to limit movements of ship and flight crews which stop in the city.
    Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority has said new cases are being found faster than public hospitals can take them in, according to public broadcaster RTHK.
    China’s liaison office in Hong Kong said on Sunday that the central government had made clear it would boost the city’s capacity in coronavirus tests and help set up hospitals especially for infected patients.
(Reporting by Yanni Chow and Twinnie Siu; Writing by Farah Master; EDiting by Giles Elgood)

7/27/2020 Philippines Duterte Says Coronavirus Intervention Prevented Millions Of Cases by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema
FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during his fourth State of the Nation Address at
the Philippine Congress in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday defended his government’s policy to fight its coronavirus outbreak and said early intervention had prevented as many as 1.3 million to 3.5 million infections.
    Speaking during his annual address to the nation and as the country’s cases grew to 82,040 and nearly 2,000 deaths, Duterte said a lengthy lockdown that was one of the world’s strictest may have hurt the economy but had kept numbers in check.
    The Philippines eased restrictions on June 1, but cases have since quadrupled and critics say the country was too slow in detecting infections due to weak testing, which Duterte acknowledged started slowly.
    “To me, even if the numbers were much lower, it would still be and would have been worth the sacrifice we made,” he said of the measures.
    “Life first before everything,” he said, adding “we initially encountered difficulties ramping up our testing capacity.”
    Duterte also reiterated that he would not allow schools to reopen for face-to-face classes until a vaccine was available and had earlier believed one could be ready as early as September.
    He said he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping four days ago to make the Philippines a top priority once Beijing had developed its own vaccine for COVID-19.
    “I made a plea to President Xi if they have the vaccine can they allow us to be one of the first … so that we can normalise as fast as possible,” he said.
    Duterte also promised no relent in a bloody war on drugs that has alarmed the international community and said the Philippines “will not dodge our obligation” to human rights, adding that included protecting people from drugs and corruption.
    “Do not do it in my country because I will really kill youthat is a commitment,” he said, warning drug dealers.
    He also threatened the closure or government expropriation of telecoms firms for what he called “lousy” services, and gave providers until December to improve.
(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Ed Davies)

7/27/2020 Indonesia’s Coronavirus Cases Top 100,000 As Economy Opens Up
FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask at an underpass Jatinegara amid the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported on Monday its total number of coronavirus cases had topped 100,000, as the president urged officials handling the outbreak to retain an “aura of crisis” in a country with the most infections and deaths in East Asia.
    The health ministry reported 1,525 new cases and 57 deaths on Monday, taking the total number of infections and fatalities to 100,303 and 4,838, respectively.
    The new milestone comes a week after President Joko Widodo overhauled Indonesia’s COVID-19 committee to also focus on economic recovery along with handling health aspects.
    “(We) can’t let up. This aura of health crisis needs to be echoed until a vaccine is available and can be used effectively,” Widodo told a meeting on Monday addressing committee members.
    Indonesia’s state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma and China’s Sinovac have a vaccine partnership and will conduct third-phase clinical testing in the country next month.
    Unlike some neighbouring countries, Indonesia has never completely locked down after Widodo warned it would hurt millions of poor people though some areas have brought in restrictions.
    As part of the opening up of the economy, the island of Bali, the main gateway for tourists, plans to allow international visitors back from Sept. 11.
    Laura Navika Yamani, an epidemiologist at Airlangga University, said Indonesia should be wary of opening up without improving testing and tracing.
    “So now that we’ve fallen into the ‘new normal’, interactions between people are inevitable so the risk of transmission will be around and possibly widen,” she said.
    The extent of testing has been low for a country of nearly 270 million people, with 807,946 tested as of Monday.
    President Widodo this month said the coronavirus outbreak in Indonesia is not expected to peak until August or September.
    Muhammad Wildan, 25, a civil servant, is concerned about the rising caseload, but said he had to work.
    “I’m very scared, but what can you do? You have to make a living,” said Wildan, speaking on a central Jakarta street.
(Reporting by Yuddy Cahya Budiman, Maikel Jefriando and Stanley Widianto; Editing by Ed Davies)

7/27/2020 Huawei Cuts India Revenue Target By Up To 50%, Laying Off Staff: ET
FILE PHOTO: People are seen inside a Huawei store at a shopping mall in Beijing, China July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
    (Reuters) – Chinese telecom company Huawei Technologies Co has cut its India revenue target for 2020 by up to 50% and is laying off more than half of its staff in the country, the Economic Times reported on Monday, amid calls to boycott Chinese goods in Asia’s third-largest economy.
    Huawei is now targeting $350-$500 million in revenue for 2020, compared with roughly $700-800 million it was aiming earlier, the newspaper reported.
    Huawei is cutting 60-70% of its Indian staff, excluding those in research and development and the global service centre, the newspaper said, citing people aware of the matter.
    The report comes amid a rise in anti-China sentiment in India following the killing of 20 Indian soldiers by Chinese forces in a Himalayan border dispute last month.
    India has also told two state-run telecoms firms to use locally-made rather than Chinese telecom equipment to upgrade their mobile networks to 4G. (https://reut.rs/2ByrjhH)
    Huawei did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
(Reporting by Philip George in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)
[President Donald Trump has influenced other nations to join in on affecting Huawei's business as another message to China to backoff.].

7/27/2020 Thousands Protest Philippine President’s Annual Speech by OAN Newsroom
Protesters march as they hold a rally at the University of the Philippines against the 5th State of the Nation Address
(SONA) by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, July 27, 2020 in Metro Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
    Thousands of people in the Philippines protested against Rodrigo Duterte ahead of his annual speech.    Around 2,000 Filipino’s defied police threats by continuing to hold a demonstration against the country’s president in Manila on Monday.
    Key issues brought up by the demonstrators included an anti-terror law, which critics have said is aimed towards Duterte’s opponents, and the shut down of a news channel this month.    This came after the outlet was was critical of the president.
75-year old Duterte is expected to highlight the actions his administration have taken in the face of COVID-19.
    “Some people went out because they recognized the need to be present, to be physically be here in the streets to express their sentiments,” stated Renato Reyes, a protest leader.    “…There is a pandemic, there is a severed economic crisis, but the government is prioritizing repressive measures like the terror law, the shut down of a broadcast network contributed to unemployment.”
    The speech will be President Duterte’s fifth state of the nation address.

7/27/2020 Iran Government Spokesman Tests Positive For Coronavirus
FILE PHOTO: Abbas Araqchi, Iranian deputy foreign minister for political affairs (R), Behrouz Kamalvandi, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization spokesman (L)
and Iran's government spokesman Ali Rabiei attend a news conference in Tehran, Iran July 7, 2019. Tasnim News Agency/Handout via REUTERS.

7/27/2020 Iran Moves Mock-Up U.S. Carrier To Mouth Of Gulf: Satellite Images
Iran's refurbished mockup aircraft carrier, used previously as a simulated U.S. target during a February, 2015 Iranian naval war games exercise,
is seen towed by a tugboat near Bandar Abbas, Iran July 25, 2020. Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies/via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has moved a mock-up U.S. aircraft carrier to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, satellite images show, suggesting it will use the look-alike vessel for target practice in war games in a Gulf shipping channel vital to world oil exports.
    The use of dummy American warships has become an occasional feature of training by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and its naval forces, including in 2015 when Iranian missiles hit a mock-up resembling a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
    Tehran, which opposes the presence of U.S. and Western navies in the Gulf, frequently holds naval war games in the strategic Strait, the conduit for some 30% of all crude and other oil liquids traded by sea.
    One of the images taken on July 26 by U.S.-based space technology firm Maxar Technologies showed an Iranian fast attack boat moving toward the model U.S. carrier in the strategic waterway.    Another image showed model planes lined up on the deck of the fake carrier.
    “We cannot speak to what Iran hopes to gain by building this mock-up, or what tactical value they would hope to gain by using such a mock-up in a training or offensive exercise scenario,” said Commander Rebecca Rebarich, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.
    “We remain confident in our naval forces’ ability to defend themselves against any maritime threat.”
    Tensions have spiked between Iran and the United States since 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions that has sharply dropped Tehran’s oil exports.
    Iran’s Guards in April said Tehran would destroy U.S. warships if its security is threatened in the Gulf.    Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to block Hormuz if Iran is not able to export oil or if its nuclear sites are attacked.
    There have been periodic confrontations between the Iranian Guards and the U.S. military in the Gulf in recent years.    U.S. officials have said closing the Strait would be crossing a “red line” and America would take action to reopen it.
    Iran cannot legally close the waterway unilaterally because part of it is in Omani territorial waters.    However, ships that sail it pass through Iranian waters, which are under the responsibility of the Iran’s Guards naval force.
(Additional reporting by Lisa Barrington in Dubai; Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by William Maclean)

7/27/2020 North Korea’s Kim Says There Will Be No More War Thanks To Nuclear Weapons
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks at an event to confer "Paektusan" commemorative pistols to leading commanding officers of the armed forces
on the 67th anniversary of the "Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War", which marks the signing of the Korean War armistice,
in this undated photo released on July 27, 2020 by North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said there will be no more war as the country’s nuclear weapons guarantee its safety and future despite unabated outside pressure and military threats, state media said on Tuesday.
    Kim made the remarks as he celebrated the 67th anniversary of the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, which fell on July 27, with a reception for veterans, the official KCNA news agency said.
    The country developed nuclear weapons to win “absolute strength” to stave off another armed conflict, Kim said in a speech carried by KCNA, emphasising the defensive nature of the programmes.
    “Now we are capable of defending ourselves in the face of any form of high intensity pressure and military threats from imperialist and hostile forces,” he said.
    “Thanks to our reliable and effective self-defensive nuclear deterrent, there will no longer be war, and our country’s safety and future will be firmly guaranteed forever.”
    The speech came amid stalled talks aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes in exchange for sanctions relief from Washington.
    Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump met for the first time in 2018 in Singapore, raising hopes for a negotiated end to North Korea’s nuclear threats. But their second summit, in 2019 in Vietnam, and subsequent working-level meetings fell apart.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

7/28/2020 Australian Police Disperse Black Lives Matter Rally
Police officers issue citation tickets to demonstrators, after police shut down a rally that
was deemed unlawful, in Sydney, Australia, July 28, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian police on Tuesday detained at least one person and ordered about 50 others to disperse after they gathered in Sydney to go ahead with a Black Lives Matter protest despite an official ban because of the coronavirus pandemic.
    The march had been called to highlight the deaths of Aboriginal people in custody, building on momentum from global rallies for racial justice and against police brutality.
    Organisers had pressed ahead with the gathering despite the courts upholding the police ban, pledging to comply with social distancing restrictions.
    However, police detained organiser Paddy Gibson in a public park shortly before the scheduled start of the march and ordered other participants to leave the area, according to a Reuters witness.
    Reuters estimated there were about 50 people gathered on a rainy day in the city, well short of the 500 people that organisers had expected to attend before the ban.
    Australia on Monday reported its highest ever single-day increase in cases after a flare-up of infections in Victoria state.
    Neighbouring New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital, is also battling several virus clusters and authorities have warned people taking part in the rally that they risk arrest.
    Health Minister Greg Hunt made a last ditch plea for people not to attend, asking them to instead use social media platforms or arrange a silent vigil outside their homes.
    “Don’t.    You could take somebody’s life.    It’s as simple as that,” Hunt told Sky News.
    Australia has recorded about 15,000 cases of COVID-19 and 167 deaths, though authorities have warned people could die after the spike in cases.
(Reporting by Renju Jose, Colin Packham, Jill Gralow and James Redmayne; editing by Jane Wardell)

7/28/2020 China Says Hong Kong To Suspend Crime-Related Agreements With UK, Canada, New Zealand
FILE PHOTO: The Chinese and Hong Kong flags flutter at the office of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, ahead of a
news conference held by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, in Beijing, China June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that Hong Kong’s government would suspend agreements on mutual assistance for criminal matters, including extradition, with Britain, Canada and New Zealand.
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily briefing that the three countries’ decision to suspend extradition agreements with Hong Kong over a new security law for the city constituted a gross interference in China’s internal affairs.
(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Gareth Jones)

7/28/2020 Singapore Spy Case Reawakens Fears China Recruiting On Island State by John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan
FILE PHOTO: A view of Singapore skyline, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
outbreak, in Singapore July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The case of a Singaporean caught spying for China in the United States has reawakened fears over China recruiting intelligence assets on an island state which has won trust among Western governments while keeping on good terms with Beijing.
    Jun Wei Yeo, a 39-year-old academic who also goes by the name Dickson Yeo, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court on Friday to acting as an illegal agent of Chinese intelligence.    He will be sentenced in October and faces up to 10 years in prison.
    Singapore’s home ministry said in a brief statement on Sunday that it had been aware of Yeo’s case since his arrest by U.S. authorities in November, and he is receiving consular assistance.
    Court documents show Yeo was lured into becoming a Chinese asset four years earlier while attending a forum in Beijing to give a presentation on Southeast Asian politics.    He moved to the United States in January, 2019.
    “One fool like this can get all Singaporeans suspected,” academic and former Singaporean diplomat Bilahari Kausikan said in a Facebook post in response to the spy’s case.
    Initially claiming to represent China-based think tanks, Yeo’s recruiters offered to pay him for political reports and information, but he learned later that some of his contacts were intelligence agents, the court records show.
    Tasked with finding people with non-public information about politics, economics, and diplomacy, Yeo first focused on Southeast Asia, before switching to the United States.
    When he moved to the United States his handlers gave him a bank card and told him to communicate with them using multiple phones to avoid detection.
    Using a fake consultancy and business networking site LinkedIn, Yeo reached out to individuals, targeting those with financial or work troubles, and paid them to write reports.
    Among those he lured was a civilian with high level security clearance working on a U.S. military fighter jet programme.
    Yeo’s former PhD supervisor at Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy was an ethnic Chinese U.S. citizen, who was accused by Singaporean authorities in 2017 of being an agent of foreign influence for an undisclosed country.
    Huang Jing denied those allegations, and while never convicted he had his residency pass revoked.
    Now working in Beijing, Huang said he was shocked and glad Yeo had been caught, noting that he had an “obvious sense of insecurity and hunger for being somebody.”
    Two former classmates said that Yeo had dreamed of becoming a diplomat but felt he had been shunned by the Singapore establishment. Yeo could not be reached for comment.
ASIA’S SWITZERLAND
    The home ministry said investigations into Yeo “had not revealed any direct threat” to Singapore.
    While Yeo may have drawn the line at betraying his own country, he was caught spying against the superpower with whom Singapore has the closest security ties, though the city-state is bound by its own rules to pursue a neutral foreign policy.
    At loggerheads with the United States over trade and other issues, Beijing denied knowledge of Yeo’s case on Monday and accused the United States of using espionage claims to smear China.
    Deteriorating Sino-U.S. relations hit a new low during the past week, as the United States closed China’s consulate in Houston and China retaliated by seizing the U.S. consulate in Chengdu.
    Yeo’s case reinforced concerns raised in Western security think-tanks that Singapore was a soft target for China to recruit well-educated ethnic Chinese assets whose passports grant them easy access to countries almost everywhere.
    “People might be more suspicious of Singaporeans if there is a perception that Singapore is compromised,” said Chong Ja Ian, a visiting Singapore scholar at the Harvard-Yenching Institute in Cambridge, Mass..    Chong said the incident may also make it more difficult for Singapore to walk the diplomatic tightrope between Washington and Beijing.
    Often described as the Switzerland of Asia because of its wealth, international finance network and neutrality, Singapore is one of the most politically stable countries in a region where the United States and China have competing interests.
    China is Singapore’s biggest trading partner, as it is for many countries in Asia.
    A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in 2018 found Singapore universities had among the highest level of collaboration globally with researchers from the China’s People Liberation Army (PLA).
    And U.S.-based think tank Jamestown Foundation last year said that China used business associations and other organisations in Singapore to spread propaganda about a “greater China” identity among Singaporeans, 75% of whom are ethnic Chinese.
    Bilveer Singh of the National University of Singapore’s department of political science, said the city-state’s openness and strategic location has made it a hub for many countries to “acquire intel” and “agents of influence.”
    Yeo was “definitely not an isolated case,” he said.
    A Mexican researcher from another Singapore university, Duke-NUS, was arrested in the United States earlier this year for acting on behalf of Russia.
    Reuters asked the home ministry for comment on whether Yeo was an isolated case and, among other questions, whether there would be any restrictions on academics coming from, or visiting China.
    The ministry said it would not be commenting further.
(Reporting by John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan; additional reporting by Fanny Potkin; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

7/28/2020 New Zealand Suspends Extradition Treaty With Hong Kong by Praveen Menon
FILE PHOTO: New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters arrives at a news conference after he attended an emergency
meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and made a number of other changes following China’s decision to pass a national security law for the territory, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said on Tuesday.
    “New Zealand can no longer trust that Hong Kong’s criminal justice system is sufficiently independent from China,” Peters said in a statement.
    “If China in future shows adherence to the ‘one country, two systems’ framework then we could reconsider this decision.”
    Beijing imposed new legislation on the former British colony earlier this month despite the protests of Hong Kong residents and Western nations, setting the financial hub on a more authoritarian track.
    Australia, Canada and Britain all suspended extradition treaties with Hong Kong earlier this month. U.S. President Donald Trump has ended preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong.
    Peters said New Zealand will treat military and dual-use goods and technology exports to Hong Kong in the same way as it treats such exports to China as part of a review of its overall relationship with Hong Kong.
    Travel advice has been updated to alert New Zealanders to the risks presented by the new security law, he added.
    In a website statement, the Chinese embassy in New Zealand called the decision a violation of international law and gross interference in China’s internal affairs.
    “The Chinese side has lodged its grave concern and strong opposition,” an embassy representative said in the statement.
    China reserves the right to make a further response, said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at a daily news conference in Beijing on Tuesday.
    China is New Zealand’s largest trading partner, with annual two-way trade recently exceeding NZ$32 billion ($21 billion).
    New Zealand’s ties with China have frayed recently after the Pacific nation backed Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Organization (WHO).
(Editing by Sam Holmes and Clarence Fernandez)

7/28/2020 Floods, Coronavirus Hobble Two Of India’s Poorest States by Jatindra Dash
FILE PHOTO: Flood-affected villagers disembark a boat after they reached a safer place at Kachua village in
Nagaon district, in the northeastern state of Assam, India, July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika
    (Reuters) – Floods caused by heavy monsoon rains in two of India’s poorest states have displaced or affected 8 million people and killed 111 since May, authorities said on Tuesday, at a time when coronavirus cases have swelled there.
    The Brahmaputra river in the northeastern state of Assam is flowing above the “danger level” in many places, while heavy rains that began this week in Bihar in the east will last until Wednesday, officials say.
    Since the start of the monsoon season on June 1, Assam has received 15% more rainfall than a 50-year average and Bihar 47% more, according to the country’s weather department.
    The floods in Assam, where at least nine one-horned rhinos have drowned in an inundated national park, have so far affected 5.7 million people, more than 45,000 of whom are still sheltered in makeshift relief centres.
    In Bihar, floods have stranded more than 2.4 million people, with around 12,800 staying in government shelters, complicating efforts by officials to enforce social distancing measures to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus in the state.
    It has so far reported more than 41,000 infections, with 255 deaths from the COVID-19 disease, straining health resources in the state.
    “The number of COVID patients in Bihar is higher than expected,” Naveen Chandra Prasad, the state’s director-in-chief of public health, told Reuters.    “Floods and COVID are a combined problem for us.”
    Assam, meanwhile, is preparing for a peak in coronavirus infections in mid-September.    It has so far reported more than 33,500 cases, with 86 deaths.
(Reporting by Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar, Zarir Hussain in Guwahati and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

7/28/2020 Vietnam Suspends Flights To And From Danang Due To Virus Outbreak by Phuong Nguyen and Khanh Vu
A view of an empty street of Hoi An, an ancient tourism town, south of Da Nang city, Vietnam, after new cases of
the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) were detected in the area, July 28, 2020. Paul Mooney/Handout via REUTERS.
    HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam has suspended all flights to and from Danang for 15 days after at least 14 cases of the novel coronavirus had been detected in the city, the government said on Tuesday.
    The Southeast Asian country is back on high alert after authorities on Saturday confirmed the first community infections since April, and another three cases on Sunday, all in or around Danang.
    A further 11 cases linked to a Danang hospital were reported late on Monday.
    All bus and train services to and from Danang have also been suspended from Tuesday, the statement said.    The city, a tourism hot spot, had reintroduced social distancing measures over the weekend after the government confirmed the first domestically-transmitted cases of coronavirus in more than three months.
    With more than 95 million people, Vietnam is the most populous country in the world to have recorded no COVID-19 fatalities.    Thanks to strict quarantine measures and an aggressive and widespread testing programme, Vietnam has kept its virus total to 431 cases.
    Two of the Danang cases were in a critical condition, Vietnam’s health ministry said.
    Vietnam is still closed to foreign tourism, but there had been a surge in domestic travellers looking to take advantage of discounted flights and holiday packages to local resorts.
    On Monday, the government said it had requested the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) to allow domestic airlines to significantly increase the number of flights from Danang to 11 Vietnamese cities in order to help evacuate 80,000 people, mostly tourists.
    “All evacuation flights now are cancelled,” CAAV deputy director Vo Huy Cuong told Reuters by phone on Tuesday.
    “We operated 90 flights to evacuate tourists stranded in Danang yesterday but most tourists had already left Danang on Sunday, mostly by coach or train to nearby provinces,” Cuong said.
    Around 18,000 of the tourists who had been in Danang have returned to Ho Chi Minh City, authorities from the southern business hub said on Tuesday.
    A further 15,000 to 20,000 had been expected to arrive in Hanoi, according to a statement from the city’s governing body on Monday.
(Reporting by Phuong Nguyen and Khanh Vu; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Ed Davies and Michael Perry)

7/28/2020 Taiwan Probes Possible First Local Virus Case In One Month As Imported Cases Rise
FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a face mask holds a child as she walks at an empty terminal hall of Taipei’s Taoyuan International
Airport, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Taiwan July 17, 2020. REUTES/Ben Blanchard
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan on Tuesday was investigating its first possible local coronavirus infection in more than a month, a Thai man who tested positive last week, as the island also faces a rise in cases brought from overseas.
    Taiwan’s early response was effective in keeping the pandemic at bay, with just 467 infections and seven deaths.    Most of the cases have been imported and have recovered.
    Until the Thai man’s positive test, the island had not seen a local case of coronavirus infection since June 24.
    Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre said it was probing where and how the man contracted the virus.    The migrant worker arrived on the island in January and tested positive on July 25, shortly after returning to Thailand.     More than 180 people who had contact with him in Taiwan have undergone health screenings, the centre said.
    “We will make all necessary checks, clarifying how he got infected and whether there is a possibility for further contagion,” the centre’s deputy chief, Chuang Jen-hsiang, told reporters in Taipei.
    Taiwan also reported five new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, all imported and marking the biggest daily rise in infections since mid-April.    The new cases were people who had returned to Taiwan from the Philippines and Hong Kong.
    Taiwan has largely closed its borders since mid-March and the government has been cautious about reopening them in case of a second wave of infections.    It now has only 20 active cases.
    Life in Taiwan has been less disrupted than in countries with strict lockdowns.    The government, though, has encouraged social distancing and face masks are widely worn in public.
(Reporting By Yimou Lee; Editing by Tom Hogue)

7/28/2020 Pakistan Urges Worshippers To Buy Sacrificial Animals Online To Prevent COVID-19 Surge by Syed Raza Hassan
A general view of a cattle market, ahead of the Muslim festival of sacrifice Eid al-Adha, as the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues, in Karachi, Pakistan July 26, 2020. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro
    KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistani authorities are encouraging people to buy sacrificial animals online or at least wear masks when visiting cattle markets, fearing preparations for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha could reverse a decline in COVID-19 infection numbers.
    Government social-distancing restrictions this year including half-day closing have seen a drop in customers at the normally bustling markets which, like in other Muslim countries, are set up in urban centres ahead of one of Islam’s most important festivals.
    The main cattle market of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, was less busy on Sunday than in preceding years with just six days before festivities, Reuters witnesses said.    Trader Allah Ditta, who travelled hundreds of miles to sell his stock, told Reuters his customers had almost halved.
    Most visitors flouted a requirement to wear masks, and many were accompanied by children who this year are barred.
    “I don’t understand this coronavirus.    I have not seen anyone dying of it,” said trader Muhammad Akram.    “Look around you: No one is wearing a mask.”
    Pakistan has reported over 270,000 COVID-19 cases with almost 6,000 deaths.    Daily cases of new infection numbered just under 1,200 on Sunday versus a peak last month nearing 7,000 around another festival, Eid al-Fitr.
    “In the last four weeks there has been significant slowdown in the pandemic’s spread, with an 80% decline in deaths,” State Minister of Health Zafar Mirza said on Sunday – three weeks after he himself tested positive for COVID-19.
    “Last Eid, since gatherings increased, people travelled, and this interaction caused cases to spike,” Mizra said.    “People should take it very seriously and act responsibly.    There is a chance that cases might go up again, like Spain.”
    While market visitors have fallen, more people are paying charities to slaughter cattle on their behalf and deliver their cut to them or donate it to the needy.
    Shakil Dehelvi, joint secretary-general of Alamgir Welfare Trust, said the charity had received its target booking number twice as quickly as last year.
(Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

7/28/2020 Hong Kong University Sacks Veteran Democracy Activist
FILE PHOTO: One of the former leaders of the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement, also known as the "Umbrella Movement", Benny Tai speaks to
the media as he leaves the high court after being released on bail in Hong Kong, China August 15, 2019. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – The University of Hong Kong (HKU) on Tuesday sacked veteran pro-democracy activist Benny Tai from his tenured position as an associate professor of law, a move he called “the end of academic freedom” in the Chinese-ruled city.
    Tai was a leading figure in Hong Kong’s 2014 “Umbrella” protests, which paralysed the city for 79 days as demonstrators occupied main roads demanding greater democracy.
    He was sentenced to 16 months in prison last year for two public nuisance offences, but released on bail pending an appeal – a conviction that prompted HKU to begin reviewing his position.
    Tuesday’s decision by the governing council reversed an earlier decision by the university senate that there were not enough grounds for a dismissal.
    “It marks the end of academic freedom in Hong Kong,” Tai said on Facebook.    “Academic institutions in Hong Kong cannot protect their members from internal and outside interferences.”
    Tai was also singled out by Beijing officials this month for his role in helping organise an unofficial primary vote for the opposition pro-democracy camp to select candidates for elections to the city legislature.
    The officials said the vote was illegal and potentially violated a new, sweeping national security law that many fear will erode freedoms in the semi-autonomous city, including those of the media and academia.
    In a statement on Tuesday, the Hong Kong Liaison Office, Beijing’s main representation in the city, said Tai’s sacking was “just an act of punishing evil, promoting good and conforming to the people’s will.”
    The said Tai’s words and deeds “have severely intensified social conflicts in Hong Kong and poisoned Hong Kong’s political environment
    Beijing and the Hong Kong government have said the law will not affect rights and freedoms, and that it is needed to plug security loopholes.
    HKU said in a statement that its council had resolved a "personnel issue” following a “lengthy,” “stringent” and “impartial” process, without naming Tai.
    The university could not be reached for comment outside business hours.
(Reporting by Yanni Chow, Carol Mang and Jessie Pang; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Giles Elgood)

7/28/2020 Iran Holds Annual Gulf Drill Amid Rising Tensions With U.S.
FILE PHOTO: An Iranian locally made cruise missile is fired during war games in the northern Indian Ocean
and near the entrance to the Gulf, Iran June 17, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards launched a military drill in the Gulf on Tuesday, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, at a time of high tension between Tehran and Washington.
    There have been periodic confrontations in the Gulf in recent years between the Guards and the U.S. military, which has accused the Guards’ navy of sending fast-attack boats to harass U.S. warships as they pass the Strait of Hormuz.
    Tehran, which opposes the presence of U.S. and Western navies in the Gulf, holds annual naval war games in phases in the strategic waterway, the conduit for some 30% of all crude and other oil liquids traded by sea.
    “The final stage of the drill called ‘Great Prophet 14’ with the participation of the Guards Navy and Air Force has started in the areas of land, air, sea and space in … the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf,” Fars reported.
    The Guards, in a statement quoted by Fars, said its naval and air forces would use “missile, UAV and radar units” in the drill.
    Satellite images published on Monday showed Iran has moved a mock-up U.S. aircraft carrier to the Strait, suggesting it will use the fake vessel for target practice in war games there.
    Commander Rebecca Rebarich, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, said the U.S. military was “always watchful of this type of irresponsible and reckless behaviour by Iran in the vicinity of busy international waterways.”
    But she said that “this exercise has not disrupted coalition operations in the area nor had any impacts to the free flow of commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and surrounding waters.”
    Tensions have spiked between Iran and the United States since 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions that have sharply lowered Tehran’s oil exports.
    The Guards in April said Tehran would destroy U.S. warships if Iran’s security is threatened in the Gulf.    Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to block Hormuz if Iran is not able to export oil or if its nuclear sites are attacked.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi, additional reporting by Lisa Barrington, Editing by William Maclean and Edmund Blair)

7/28/2020 Taliban Announce Three-Day Ceasefire In Afghanistan For Eid Al-Adha, Starting Friday by Abdul Qadir Sediqi
FILE PHOTO: Members of the Taliban handover their weapons and join in the Afghan government's
reconciliation and reintegration program in Jalalabad, Afghanistan June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Parwiz
    KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s Islamist Taliban militants announced on Tuesday that they will observe a three-day ceasefire for the Muslim religious holiday of Eid al-Adha, starting Friday, offering some respite from weeks of increasing violence.
    Disagreements over a prisoner exchange and the violence have delayed peace talks between an Afghan government-mandated committee and the Taliban, as envisaged in an agreement signed between the United States and the militant group in Doha in February.
    “In order for our people to spend the three days of Eid in confidence and happiness, all fighters are instructed not to carry out any operations,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted.
    However, he added that if Taliban fighters come under attack from government forces, they will retaliate.
    The Afghan president’s spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said the government welcomed the ceasefire announcement but added that Afghans wanted enduring peace and the start of direct peace negotiations.
    Since the U.S.-Taliban agreement, 3,560 Afghan security forces personnel have been killed in attacks by militants, President Ashraf Ghani said in a speech on Tuesday.
    The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a report on Monday that more than 1,280 Afghan civilians had been killed in the first six months of the year, mainly as a result of fighting between Afghan government forces and the Taliban.
    The U.S. State Department said last week that U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad would travel to the region to push for an agreement on prisoner exchanges and a reduction in violence.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

7/28/2020 Floods, Coronavirus Hobble Two Of India’s Poorest States by Jatindra Dash
FILE PHOTO: Flood-affected villagers disembark a boat after they reached a safer place at Kachua village
in Nagaon district, in the northeastern state of Assam, India, July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika
    (Reuters) – Floods caused by heavy monsoon rains in two of India’s poorest states have displaced or affected 8 million people and killed 111 since May, authorities said on Tuesday, at a time when coronavirus cases have swelled there.
    The Brahmaputra river in the northeastern state of Assam is flowing above the “danger level” in many places, while heavy rains that began this week in Bihar in the east will last until Wednesday, officials say.
    Since the start of the monsoon season on June 1, Assam has received 15% more rainfall than a 50-year average and Bihar 47% more, according to the country’s weather department.
    The floods in Assam, where at least nine one-horned rhinos have drowned in an inundated national park, have so far affected 5.7 million people, more than 45,000 of whom are still sheltered in makeshift relief centres.
    In Bihar, floods have stranded more than 2.4 million people, with around 12,800 staying in government shelters, complicating efforts by officials to enforce social distancing measures to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus in the state.
    It has so far reported more than 41,000 infections, with 255 deaths from the COVID-19 disease, straining health resources in the state.
    “The number of COVID patients in Bihar is higher than expected,” Naveen Chandra Prasad, the state’s director-in-chief of public health, told Reuters.    “Floods and COVID are a combined problem for us.”
    Assam, meanwhile, is preparing for a peak in coronavirus infections in mid-September.    It has so far reported more than 33,500 cases, with 86 deaths.
(Reporting by Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar, Zarir Hussain in Guwahati and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

7/28/2020 Explosion In Iran’s Kermanshah Province, No Casualties Reported: Mizan
A view of burnt fuel tanks after they were hit by an explosion in Kermanshah province, Iran July 28, 2020. WANA
(West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
    DUBAI (Reuters) – An explosion has set a fuel tank on fire in Iran’s western province of Kermanshah on Tuesday, Iran’s Mizan news agency reported, in the latest in a series of fires and explosions, some of which have hit sensitive sites.
    “An explosion in a fuel tank occurred in Dolat Abad industrial area parking area,” Mizan said, but there were no reports of casualties.
    Iran’s Student News Agency ISNA said six fuel tanks were exploded that caused a major fire in the area.    A video of the incident published by Mizan showed plumes of dense black smoke billowing into the air.
    “Some 100 fire fighters are trying to contain the fire in the area.    There were no casualties but some people were injured,” the deputy head of Kermanshah’s fire department, Keyvan Maleki, told ISNA, adding that authorities were investigating the cause of the explosion.
    There have been several explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial facilities since late June.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Gareth Jones)

7/29/2020 Philippines Takes ‘Major Step’ Toward Using Nuclear Power by Enrico Dela Cruz
FILE PHOTO: The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is seen during a tour around the BNPP compound
in Morong town, Bataan province, North of Manila, Philippines May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines has taken a big step towards tapping nuclear power, its energy minister said on Wednesday, after President Rodrigo Duterte created an inter-agency panel to study the adoption of a national nuclear energy policy.
    As power demand soars in what has for years been among the world’s fastest-growing economies, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has been passionately advocating use of nuclear power, despite public concern over safety in a country hit frequently by natural disasters.
    Nuclear power is seen as a potential answer to the Philippines’ twin problems of precarious supply and Southeast Asia’s highest electricity costs, but Duterte has yet to express full support for Cusi’s proposal.
    In a July 24 executive order and made public on Wednesday, however, Duterte created a committee to conduct the study, indicating openness to reviving the country’s nuclear energy ambitions.
    The Philippines spent $2.3 billion to build what was Southeast Asia’s only nuclear power facility, but never used it https://reut.rs/39NyZcR.
    The 621-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was completed in 1984 but mothballed following the devastating Chernobyl disaster and the collapse of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, who ordered its construction.
    Cusi welcomed Duterte’s move as “a major step towards the realisation of a Philippine nuclear energy programme” that would “help shield our consumers from traditional power price volatilities.”
    The committee will assess the feasibility of adding nuclear to the Philippines’ power mix, taking into account economic, security and environmental implications.
    If it goes ahead, it could either build new facilities or rehabilitate the Bataan plant.    Previous attempts to pursue nuclear energy have failed due to safety concerns and its association with Marcos and his brutal martial law era.
    Despite having no nuclear policy, however, the Philippines has been in talks with Russian state atomic company Rosatom about a feasibility study for deploying small nuclear plants in far-flung areas.
(Editing by Martin Petty)

7/29/2020 Hong Kong Warns City On Verge Of Large Coronavirus Outbreak
A man wearing a protective face mask takes a photo of the sunset at Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront as skyline buildings stand across
Victoria Harbor following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hong Kong, China July 28, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has warned the city is on the brink of a large-scale outbreak of the coronavirus and urged people to stay indoors as much as possible as strict new measures to curb the disease’s spread take effect on Wednesday.
    The new regulations ban gatherings of more than two people, close dining in restaurants and make the wearing of face masks mandatory in public places, including outdoors.    These are the toughest measures introduced in the city since the outbreak.
    The government has also tightened testing and quarantine arrangements for sea and air crew members, effective on Wednesday.
    “We are on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak, which may lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially of the elderly,” Lam said in a statement late on Tuesday.
    “In order to protect our loved ones, our healthcare staff and Hong Kong, I appeal to you to follow strictly the social distancing measures and stay at home as far as possible.”
    The new measures, which will be in place for at least seven days, were announced on Monday after the global financial hub saw a spike in locally transmitted cases over the past three weeks.
    On Tuesday, Hong Kong reported 106 new coronavirus cases, including 98 that were locally transmitted. Since late January, more than 2,880 people have been infected in the former British colony, 23 of whom have died.
(Reporting By Twinnie Siu and Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

7/29/2020 Pakistan’s De Facto Health Minister Resigns Amid Pandemic
FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's health minister, Zafar Mirza (R), interacts with a woman in
Islamabad, Pakistan February 19, 2020. REUTERS/Saiyna Bashir/File Photo
    ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s de facto health minister Zafar Mirza stepped down on Wednesday in the middle of the pandemic citing criticism on his government’s advisers who hold dual nationality.
    The resignation has come at a time when Pakistan might see a spike in the virus spread due to two major Muslim gatherings in coming weeks.
    Mirza was among several special assistants to the prime minister, or SAPMs, who have faced criticism from opposition parties for being either a dual national or non-elected members of the parliament.
    Another of the advisers Tania Aidrus resigned citing her dual citizenship.    Mirza has not said he held any other nationality other than Pakistan in his asset declaration.
    “Due to ongoing negative discussion about the role of SAPMs & criticism on the gov, I choose to resign,” he said in a statement he posted on Twitter.    “I am satisfied that I leave at a time when COVID-19 has declined in Pakistan.”
    Pakistan has lately seen a downward trend in COVID-19 cases, which critics say is happening due to low testing, bringing daily infections as low as 1,000 from over 5,000.
    The country has registered 276,288 coronavirus infections and 5,892 deaths.
    The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended Pakistan increase daily testing to above 50,000, but after peaking at 31,000 tests, the South Asian nation has brought it down to around 20,000 a day.
    Two main events – Eid al-Adha falling at the weekend and Ashura later in August – which see large Muslim gatherings can risk spikes in the virus spread.
    The government has warned people against violating public health measures.
(Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

7/30/2020 Hong Kong Opens Dining In Shelters As Residents Struggle With Restaurant Ban
People have lunch at a mall after the government banned dine-in services, following the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hong Kong, China July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong authorities on Thursday opened 19 community centres for residents to eat inside after a virus-induced ban on indoor dining at restaurants forced many workers to have their meals outside on pavements under sweltering heat and rain.
    The restaurant ban, which took effect on Wednesday, barred any outlet from allowing dine-in patrons to curb the spread of COVID-19, an unprecedented move in the financial hub where hundreds of thousands depend on eating out for daily meals.
    Construction and office workers were seen across the city trying to find shade as they ate their noodle and rice lunch boxes in temperatures of up to 35 degrees Celsius (95°F).
    Others opted to eat inside storerooms or even toilets, public broadcaster RTHK said.
    In a prompt reversal, the government said on Thursday it would partly relax its ban on restaurant dining, noting that it brought “inconvenience and difficulties” to many workers.
    From Friday, outlets will be able to open during breakfast and lunch, provided they operate at 50% capacity and ensure diners sit two to a table.
    Ivan Tong, a 24-year-old engineer who was buying his takeaway lunch in the commercial district of Tsim Sha Tsui, said many industries did not have an office where workers could eat and some companies did not allow dining inside, making the restaurant ban very tough.
    “Although these measures aim to lower the number of confirmed cases, it may be more dangerous as people are outside longer,” Tong said.
    The government’s move to open centres across the city came after private businesses as varied as hairdresser salons and bus companies as well as churches provided space for the public to eat in.
    One salon, Hair La Forme, posted on Facebook that it would provide water, napkins and air-conditioned toilets for free.
    “Every time someone eats a meal it will be fully disinfected,” it said above a photograph showing individual customer booths with leather seats and wide mirrors.
(Reporting by Yoyo Chow, Yanni Chow and Pak Yiu; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

7/30/2020 Australia Reports Record Spike In Coronavirus Cases, 14 Deaths by Colin Packham
FILE PHOTO: Walkers wear protective face masks at St Kilda pier in Melbourne after it became the first city in Australia to enforce mask-wearing
in public as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia recorded its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday with 14 deaths and more than 700 new infections mainly in Victoria state, where the government ordered all residents to wear face-coverings outside.
    The toll takes the country’s total fatalities from the novel coronavirus to 190, more than half of which have occurred in Victoria, the second-most populous state, and its capital Melbourne, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
    Australia had prided itself on rapidly containing the initial COVID-19 outbreak but a second wave which began in Victoria last month has forced Melbourne back into lockdown and sparked outbreaks in other areas including Sydney.
    “We’ve now been in this lockdown (in Melbourne) for some weeks and we are not getting the results we would hope for, and as a result the further measures that are taken are certainly necessary,” Morrison told reporters, backing the restrictions announced by the Victorian government.
    “On some days the virus wins, on other days we beat it.    But I think we’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus.”
    Further restrictions on movement would deal a blow to the economy which is already in its first recession for 30 years, but failure to control the latest outbreaks would do more economic harm in the long run, Morrison added.
    Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said everyone in the state of more than 6 million people would be required to wear a mask when outside from Sunday, widening a requirement already in place in Melbourne.
    He also extended social distancing restrictions, with residents in communities southwest of Melbourne no longer allowed to have visitors to their homes from late Thursday.
    Cafes, pubs and restaurants would be allowed to stay open, however, because these were controlled environments where social distancing rules could be enforced.
    “Having friends over to your house is not a controlled environment,” Andrews said.
    The previous record daily count of new infections in Australia was 518 reported on Monday.    The country has confirmed a total of 16,298 cases since the pandemic began.
    Andrews said that while the latest spike in cases was concerning, the majority of them were at known hotspots such as aged-care homes and the number of untraceable infections was “much smaller
    Australia’s most-populous state, New South Wales (NSW), reported 18 new cases, with six from unknown sources.     The northeastern state of Queensland, which had effectively eliminated the virus, said it had found three new cases, two of whom were believed to have contracted COVID-19 while in the NSW capital Sydney.    Queensland closed its borders to people from Sydney on Wednesday.
    Queensland police allege that two 19-year-old women who brought the virus into the state after returning from a trip to Victoria had falsified travel documents and lied to authorities about their movements.
    Both now faced criminal charges but one was continuing to refuse to tell officials where she had been, amid a spike in cases south of Brisbane where the pair reside.
    “They went to extraordinary lengths to be deceitful and deceptive and quite frankly criminal in their behaviour and that is what has put the community at risk,” Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll told reporters.
    Queensland earlier this month denied entry to anyone who had been to Victoria in the previous 14 days.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Stephen Coates and Christian Schmollinger)

7/30/2020 Explainer: COVID-19 Strikes Back In Virus-Free Vietnam
FILE PHOTO: Vietnamese construction workers in blue protective suits infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) arrive at the
tropical diseases hospital after being repatriated from Equatorial Guinea via a specially-adapted Vietnam Airlines plane
filled with medical equipment and negative pressure chambers, in Hanoi, Vietnam July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Kham
    HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam has had one of the world’s best records in containing the coronavirus despite bordering China, its biggest trading partner, where the virus was first reported.
    But after more than three months with no reports of local transmission, new cases have now been reported in six cities and provinces in the past week and authorities in the communist-ruled country are scrambling to contain the new outbreak.
HOW HAS VIETNAM BEEN AFFECTED SO FAR?
    Vietnam, with more than 95 million people, is the most populous country in the world to record no coronavirus deaths so far.
    It has had a total of only 459 cases, far fewer than most other large countries in Southeast Asia and reported no local transmissions of the virus for 100 days until July 25.
    Since then it has reported 42 infections linked to the first case in a third wave which started in the coastal resort city of Danang.
    The limited impact of the virus is one reason why Vietnam is one of the few regional economies that is still expected to eke out some growth this year.
HOW DID VIETNAM DO SO WELL?
    Public health experts describe Vietnam’s initial response as a textbook example of how to deal with an infectious disease outbreak.
    Vietnam ramped up testing and contact tracing far faster than neighbouring countries and put tens of thousands of people in quarantine if they were suspected of contact with anyone infected or had come from abroad.
    The response was aided by the surveillance infrastructure of a state that tolerates little opposition as well as widespread popular support that some compared to that of the U.S.-war era.
    When a second wave of infections began in March, much of the country was put under lockdown and schools and businesses shut.
THEN WHAT HAPPENED?
    Vietnam was one of the first countries to start easing its strict lockdown in late April with local transmissions apparently stopped.
    Bars reopened and crowds returned to the streets, football matches started again and although face mask use was encouraged to stop the spread of the disease, many people stopped bothering.
    Vietnam started to revive its domestic tourism industry.
HOW DID THE NEW CASES RESURFACE?
    The first case was found in a 57-year-old man from Danang.
    Since then, at least 30 cases have been reported around Danang, and others in the capital, Hanoi, the business hub, Ho Chi Minh City, and the coffee-growing Central Highlands.
    The government has said it is a different strain of virus to earlier ones detected in Vietnam, suggesting that it had come from abroad rather than lying low in the community.
    The source of the new infection remains unclear.    One of the cases, an American citizen, first developed symptoms in Danang as early as June 26, the health ministry said.
    Suspicions have been raised by authorities that the new infections could have been the result of illegal immigration from China, Vietnam’s ancient foe.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
    Vietnam has gone back into full response mode.
    All flights to and from Danang have been suspended for 15 days although in the immediate aftermath of the infections about 21,000 tourists there returned to Hanoi and another 18,000 to Ho Chih Minh City.
    Hanoi said it would conduct mass testing for all 21,000 those who had returned there from Danang.
    Authorities in the capital have also shut bars and banned large gatherings because of the new cases.
(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Michael Perry)

7/30/2020 Malaysia’s Ruling Coalition Stumbles As Key Ally Quits Political Pact by Joseph Sipalan
FILE PHOTO: Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks during a news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng
    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – The biggest party in Malaysia’s ruling coalition on Thursday said it will withdraw from a political alliance with the prime minister but will continue to support the government, potentially undermining the stability of his administration.
    The move by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party comes two days after former premier Najib Razak, a party leader, was sentenced to 12 years in jail for corruption in a case linked to the multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
    UMNO makes up the largest bloc of lawmakers in Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s coalition and its support is crucial for the survival of the government, which has a two-seat majority in parliament.
    UMNO joined with Muhyiddin’s Bersatu party and other political parties five months ago under the Perikatan Nasional banner to form the government after the shock resignation of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
    While quitting the Perikatan Nasional, UMNO said its lawmakers would continue to support the government and the prime minister.
    “UMNO has made the decision to not be part of Perikatan Nasional,” UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told a news conference.
    The party will focus on strengthening its partnership with the Islamic party PAS under the Muafakat Nasional pact.
    Muhyiddin had proposed to make his Bersatu party a member of the Muafakat pact, but no decision has been made yet, Ahmad Zahid said.
    Muhyiddin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    UMNO’s decision to withdraw could be seen as retaliation over Najib’s verdict, said Ibrahim Suffian of independent pollster Merdeka Center.    While Najib no longer leads the party, he remains highly influential.
    Ibrahim said UMNO’s lawmakers will no longer be bound by convention to support Muhyiddin in parliament.
    “They are no longer constrained within the coalition, which means the lawmakers can walk off at any time… the government could collapse at any time,” he said.
(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

7/30/2020 Australia Reports Record Spike In Coronavirus Cases, 14 Deaths by Colin Packham
FILE PHOTO: Medical staff dispose of clinical waste at an aged care facility experiencing an outbreak of the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) in Melbourne, Australia, July 26, 2020. Picture taken July 26, 2020. AAP Image/Daniel Pockett via REUTERS
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia recorded its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday with 14 deaths and more than 700 new infections mainly in Victoria state, where the government ordered all residents to wear face-coverings outside.
    The toll takes the country’s total fatalities from the novel coronavirus to 190, more than half of which have occurred in Victoria, the second-most populous state, and its capital Melbourne, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
    Australia had prided itself on rapidly containing the initial COVID-19 outbreak but a second wave which began in Victoria last month has forced Melbourne back into lockdown and sparked outbreaks in other areas including Sydney.
    “We’ve now been in this lockdown (in Melbourne) for some weeks and we are not getting the results we would hope for, and as a result the further measures that are taken are certainly necessary,” Morrison told reporters, backing the restrictions announced by the Victorian government.
    “On some days the virus wins, on other days we beat it.    But I think we’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus.”
    Further restrictions on movement would deal a blow to the economy which is already in its first recession for 30 years, but failure to control the latest outbreaks would do more economic harm in the long run, Morrison added.
    Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said everyone in the state of more than 6 million people would be required to wear a mask when outside from Sunday, widening a requirement already in place in Melbourne.
    He also extended social distancing restrictions, with residents in communities southwest of Melbourne no longer allowed to have visitors to their homes from late Thursday.
    Cafes, pubs and restaurants would be allowed to stay open, however, because these were controlled environments where social distancing rules could be enforced.
    “Having friends over to your house is not a controlled environment,” Andrews said.
    The previous record daily count of new infections in Australia was 518 reported on Monday.    The country has confirmed a total of 16,298 cases since the pandemic began.
    Andrews said that while the latest spike in cases was concerning, the majority of them were at known hotspots such as aged-care homes and the number of untraceable infections was “much smaller.”
    Australia’s most-populous state, New South Wales (NSW), reported 18 new cases, with six from unknown sources.
    The northeastern state of Queensland, which had effectively eliminated the virus, said it had found three new cases, two of whom were believed to have contracted COVID-19 while in the NSW capital Sydney.    Queensland closed its borders to people from Sydney on Wednesday.
    Queensland police allege that two 19-year-old women who brought the virus into the state after returning from a trip to Victoria had falsified travel documents and lied to authorities about their movements.
    Both now faced criminal charges but one was continuing to refuse to tell officials where she had been, amid a spike in cases south of Brisbane where the pair reside.
    “They went to extraordinary lengths to be deceitful and deceptive and quite frankly criminal in their behaviour and that is what has put the community at risk,” Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll told reporters.
    Queensland earlier this month denied entry to anyone who had been to Victoria in the previous 14 days.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Stephen Coates and Christian Schmollinger)

7/30/2020 Daily Coronavirus Cases In India Top 50,000 For First Time by Alasdair Pal
Nurses wearing protective masks stand inside a temporary facility created to facilitate cancer patients diagnosed
with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India, July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India on Thursday reported more than 50,000 daily coronavirus cases for the first time, driven by a surge in infections in rural areas at a time when the government is further easing curbs on movement and commerce.
    There were 52,123 new cases in the previous 24 hours, according to federal health data, taking the total number of infections to almost 1.6 million.
    Some 775 people died of COVID-related conditions over the same period, raising total deaths now just under 35,000 – low compared to the total number of cases, but showing little sign of slowing.
    While major cities like New Delhi and Mumbai have seen their cases ease, infections in rural areas are continuing to rise sharply, alarming experts who fear weak healthcare systems there will be unable to cope.
    India has the third highest number of infections globally, behind the United States and Brazil.    It has nearly twenty times the number of cases as China, which has a similar-sized population and where the virus was first recorded late last year.
    Separately, New Delhi announced the third phase of easing restrictions that had been aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.    An evening curfew will be lifted from August 1, and gyms will be allowed to open, but schools, cinemas, and bars will remain closed.
    The restrictions, which included an almost total shutdown of the country for nearly three months, have hurt small businesses in what is still predominantly a low-income country.
    Consumer demand is showing little sign of picking up ahead of India’s festival season, where it usually rises significantly.     “Every year we get orders for big idols, but this year due to COVID-19 restrictions we didn’t get any,” Alagar, an idol maker in the southern city of Madurai, told Reuters partner ANI on Thursday.
(Reporting by Alasdair Pal in New Delhi; editing by John Stonestreet)

7/30/2020 Japan Braces For Coronavirus Spike Amid Domestic Travel Campaign by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Mari Saito
A woman wearing a face mask makes her way at the Kabukicho district, amid the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, July 14, 2020.REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan is bracing for a surge in the number of coronavirus infections after new daily cases exceeded 1,000 for the first time, a week after the start of a national travel campaign to revive the tourism industry.
    The country had 1,264 new cases on Wednesday, according to a tally by national broadcaster NHK, surpassing the previous record of 981, with infections spreading rapidly not only in Tokyo, but also in other regions including remote islands.
    Northern Japan’s Iwate prefecture, which had been the last-remaining prefecture free from coronavirus infection, had its first cases on Wednesday, while the southern island of Okinawa had 44 infections, hitting a record for the third day in a row.
    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government launched a national travel campaign on July 22 that aimed to revive a battered tourism industry despite a resurgence in coronavirus cases.
    A member of the World Health Organization’s influenza panel said the campaign was ill-timed, and it has created a dilemma for those who fear the spread of the virus but are in desperate need of business.
    “It’s become a habit for me to check the number plates of cars to see whether they come from outside the prefecture.    I’m not going to lie, I get a bit shocked when I see that someone’s visiting from far away,” said Keiko Tsukahara, the co-manager of an inn in the hot springs town of Nikko, north of Tokyo.
    “But we have had zero income for the past few months and we need customers.”
    Mutsu Mayor Soichiro Miyashita, however, ordered 21 city buildings and other city-owned tourist attractions to be closed over the long holiday last weekend as he prioritised health over business.
    The small town in northern Japan’s Aomori prefecture has only one hospital, with just four beds for patients with infectious diseases.    It has so far reported no COVID-19 cases.
    “As we experience the second wave of cases, it shouldn’t be a choice between our lives or the economy.    Our only option is whether we can protect and save lives,” said Miyashita.
    He added that any travel subsidy programme should have been rolled out at a later stage when the situation had stabilised.
‘CLEARLY A MISTAKE’
    The WHO panel’s Norio Sugaya criticised the timing of Abe’s campaign.
    “I’m all for supporting the tourism industry … But we should not do that when infection is resurgent.    The virus spreads as people move.    This is clearly a mistake,” Sugaya said.
    “Doctors will soon be signalling the red light.    Hospitals will soon be filled, so will ICUs (intensive care units).”     Tokyo plans to urge shorter operating hours for restaurants and karaoke parlours next month to tackle the recent spike in infections, the Nikkei business daily said.
    The metropolitan government is considering a compensation of 200,000 yen ($1,900) to stores that comply with its request to close at 10 p.m. from Monday until Aug. 31, it said.
    Besides promoting domestic trips, Japan is slowly reopening to foreigners.
    The government plans to allow foreign students and workers to return starting Aug. 5, the foreign ministry said.
    The measure will be applied to some 90,000 people who left Japan before their destination was named as one of the 146 countries from which Japan is banning visits, the ministry said.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Kiyoshi Takenaka. Editing by Gerry Doyle and John Stonestreet)

7/30/2020 Indonesia Reports 1,904 New Coronavirus Cases, 83 Deaths
Mannequins wearing protective face masks and face shields are displayed at a market amid the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported on Thursday 1,904 new coronavirus infections, bringing the country’s total tally to 106,336 cases, Health Ministry data showed.
    The number of deaths in the Southeast Asian nation related to COVID-19 rose by 83, bringing the total number of fatalities to 5,058.
(Reporting by Nilufar Rizki and Stanley Widianto; Editing by Ed Davies)

7/30/2020 Iran Struggles To Buy Food In A World Wary Of Touching Its Money by Jonathan Saul, Ana Mano and Joori Roh
FILE PHOTO: Women wearing protective face masks shop at a bazaar following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19), in Tehran, Iran, July 8, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency) Abdollah Heidari via REUTERS
    LONDON/SAO PAULO/SEOUL (Reuters) – Iran, creaking under the impact of U.S. sanctions, a collapse in oil sales and a severe COVID-19 epidemic, is scrambling to buy food and medicine to avoid a supply crunch. But it’s a struggle.
    Despite such supplies being exempt from sanctions, banks and governments are reluctant to transfer or take Iranian money because they fear unwittingly breaching the complex U.S. restrictions, according to five trade and finance sources.
    An approved trade channel launched by the Swiss government, and backed by Washington – the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Agreement (SHTA) – went live in February after over a year of work to facilitate such Iranian purchases from Swiss companies.
    Yet Iran’s central bank (CBI) has been unable to transfer the billions of dollars worth of oil export cash it had built up between 2016 and 2018 to bank accounts working with the SHTA, the five sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
    That money was accumulated in bank accounts in countries that Iran sold oil to, especially in Asia, with its biggest customers including South Korea and Japan, in the years after Iran signed the nuclear accord with world powers, but before the Trump administration withdrew and reimposed sanctions in 2018.
    The funds were frozen when the sanctions, which target the CBI as well as dollar transactions with Iranian entities, were reintroduced.    As a result, international banks and their governments – whom they seek clearance from – are wary of allowing funds to be released without specific authorisation from Washington for each transfer, the sources said.
    The blockage, according to the sources, illustrates how the complexity of U.S. sanctions has made many banks, companies and countries wary of doing any business with Iran, even when exemptions exist, because breaches can involve huge financial penalties and being effectively shut out of the crucial U.S. financial system.
    The impact has also been felt in other areas, with Reuters previously reporting many foreign shipping companies and insurers are unwilling to provide vessels or cover for voyages, even for approved commerce.
SOUTH KOREA, JAPAN
    South Korean and Japanese authorities have declined cash transfers to Switzerland by the CBI without specific U.S. approval, according to the sources, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.
    The South Korean foreign ministry confirmed this.
    “Under the current U.S. sanctions, returning the money in cash is impossible,” an official told Reuters.    “Any permission regarding the funds need to be strictly authorized by the U.S.
    The foreign ministry official said Seoul had “discussed the Swiss route as another possible way of clearance (of funds)” but added that the “U.S. hasn’t been positive about such proposals.”
    It is unclear why the United States might not have given specific approval for those transactions.
    A Japanese finance ministry official declined to comment and referred the matter to Iranian authorities.
    The CBI did not respond to requests for comment.
    When asked whether such transfers of funds were permitted and whether it would give specific authorisations, a U.S. Treasury spokesperson said the United States was committed to the delivery of humanitarian goods and services to the Iranian people.
    Non U.S. nationals could engage in the export or re-export of food, agricultural products, medicine, and medical devices to Iran outside of U.S. jurisdiction without additional authorization provided transactions involving the CBI were consistent with U.S. guidance, the spokesperson added.
    A State Department spokesperson said the United States remained committed to the success of the SHTA.
    “It has never been, nor is it now, U.S. policy to target humanitarian trade with Iran,” it added.
ONE SWISS DEAL DONE
    Switzerland’s government said on Monday that a Swiss pharmaceutical company had completed the first transaction under the new humanitarian trade channel with Iran, adding more transactions would follow.
    The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) told Reuters that the SHTA needed “regular transfers of Iranian funds from abroad for its functioning,” adding that U.S. authorities had given assurances that they would support such transfers.
    “We are in talks with the USA and other partners on this matter.    However, we cannot provide information on individual transfers,” SECO said, without providing further details.
    SECO also did not comment on how the first confirmed transaction was funded.
    An Iranian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Tehran had been in contact with countries where it had funds to try to transfer the money under the Swiss initiative.
    “These countries have approached the U.S. to secure its approval for such a transfer, but to no avail,” the official said.
    Swiss bank BCP is the only financial institution that has committed to the SHTA so far and agreed to receive Iranian funds under the scheme, the sources said.
    BCP did not respond to requests for comment.
    The sources said major international trading houses were also ready to supply Iran with agricultural commodities under the scheme, but only when they were certain transactions were free of any sanctions risk.
    “The big trading houses will only work inside a formal U.S.-approved payment system,” one European grain trader said.
BRAZILIAN CORN CLOG
    Adding to Iran’s food-supply woes, corn imports from key supplier Brazil have slumped.    Iran was Brazil’s second-biggest buyer of corn in 2019, but in January to June its imports from the country slid to around 339,000 tonnes from 2.3 million tonnes a year ago, according to Brazilian government data.
    Tehran is facing increased competition in Brazil’s corn market from other buyers especially Taiwan.    Brazilian sellers are also struggling to find international banks willing to process the transactions because of perceived sanctions risk, according to seven Brazilian trade and finance sources.
    The traders have sought to use small local banks to clear Iran-related transactions, the people said.    They have also sought to use the euro to avoid dollar transactions that would be flagged to the U.S. Treasury, they added.
    Iran pays $10 per tonne more than other buyers to compensate for payment and logistical challenges, the Brazilian trade sources said.
    “Because of the hostile policies of the United States, we have to cut down imports,” said Mehdi Ansari, head of Iran-based grain trader Tejari Ansari Group.
    The U.S. Treasury declined to comment when asked about the drop in Brazilian corn sales to Iran.
    Iranian buyers have made around 600,000 tonnes worth of advanced corn purchases from Brazil this month for the second half of the year, with payments expected to be worked out once cargoes sail, trade sources said.    Sellers could divert vessels to other buyers, however, if Iran cannot pay.
    Brazilian traders are also using barter deals, for example taking Iranian urea to be used as fertilizer in exchange for corn, the sources said.
    Carlos Millnitz, CEO of Brazilian chemical company Eleva Química, told Reuters such deals did not breach sanctions as no money was exchanged, but “make the corn more expensive for Iran.”
    He added, however, that his company was avoiding Iranian-flagged ships for barter exchanges after two such vessels were stranded for weeks at a Brazilian port last year when state-run oil firm Petrobras refused to refuel them due to U.S. sanctions.
(Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo, Michael Shields in Zurich, Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Veronica Brown, Simon Webb and Pravin Char)

7/30/2020 Hong Kong Blocks 12 Democrats From Election As China Security Law Shadow Looms by Yanni Chow and Jessie Pang
Civic Party members, Jeremy Tam, Kwok Ka-ki, Alvin Yeung, Alan Leong, Dennis Kwok and Tat Cheng attend a news conference after 12 pro-democracy
candidates have been disqualified from running for election to the legislature in Hong Kong, China July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong on Thursday disqualified a dozen pro-democracy candidates from running in a key election, citing reasons including collusion with foreign forces and opposition to the new China-imposed national security laws.
    It was the most sweeping move yet seen on the city’s electoral freedoms, with even moderate democrats targeted.    Some critics including Hong Kong’s last British governor Chris Patten called it an “outrageous political purge.”
    Those disqualified included pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, some members of the Civic Party, a moderate, old-guard opposition group, and others who won an unofficial “primary” vote held by the opposition camp this month.
    The move comes one month after Communist Party rulers in Beijing announced the national security law that reins in dissent in the semi-autonomous city.    It could also steer China further onto a collision path with the West.
    The government said there could be more disqualifications.
    Critics said the move sought to curb the ascendancy of a young, more defiant generation of democrats after an overwhelming win in last year’s lower-level district council elections.
    “Clearly, #Beijing shows a total disregard for the will of the #Hongkongers, tramples upon the city’s last pillar of vanishing autonomy and attempts to keep #HK’s legislature under its firm grip,” Wong tweeted.
    Chances for a historic majority in the Legislative Council, or mini-parliament, for the opposition camp will take a further blow if the government decides to postpone the Sept. 6 vote, as expected, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
    Hong Kong has disqualified candidates before but not on this scale.    The disqualification of Civic Party candidates signals Beijing is becoming less tolerant of even moderate democrats, who have for decades been a vocal opposition in the legislature.
    “The government is constructing a CCP (Chinese Communist Party) assembly in Legco to eliminate most of the opposition voices,” Nathan Law, a pro-democracy activist and former lawmaker who was kicked out of the legislature, said on Twitter.    Law fled Hong Kong for Britain earlier this month.
    The Civic Party said its existence is not confined to the legislature, often referred to as Legco, and it will continue to work for its values.
    “When the regime wishes to enslave us, the best thing to do is to stand firm and tell the regime we would not change,” said Civic Party member Kwok Ka-ki, who was among those disqualified.
IMPROPER BEHAVIOUR
    The government said advocating self-determination, soliciting intervention by foreign governments, or “expressing an objection in principle” to the enactment of the new security law was behaviour that “could not genuinely/i>” uphold the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
    Candidates are required by law to pledge allegiance to Hong Kong and the Basic Law.
    The government said there was “no question of any political censorship, restriction of the freedom of speech or deprivation of the right to stand for elections as alleged by some members of the community
.”
    Beijing’s top representative office in the city, the Hong Kong Liaison Office, said in a statement it supported the disqualifications as the candidates aimed to “paralyse the government” and “subvert state power.”
    Beijing introduced the security legislation to punish what it broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces in the former British colony.
    Critics of the law say it erodes basic rights and freedoms, guaranteed when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, while supporters say it will bring stability after a year of often-violent anti-government and anti-China unrest.
    The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance On China, a coalition of over 60 lawmakers from countries including the United States, Britain, Canada and Germany, said the moves were “unacceptable obstructions of the democratic process in Hong Kong and raise further concerns about the erosion of rights and freedoms.”
    In Taiwan, which is claimed by China, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party said recent political developments in Hong Kong “went entirely against the principle of democracy and the rule of law, as well as basic human rights.”
(Addiional reporting by James Pomfret, Carol Mang and Twinnie Siu; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by John Stonestreet, Nick Macfie and Frances Kerry)

7/30/2020 China Says UK Has Poisoned Relations, Some Want New Cold War
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming talks to the crowd following the Chinese
Lunar New Year parade through central London, Britain January 26, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
    LONDON (Reuters) – China blamed the United Kingdom on Thursday for deteriorating ties after Prime Minister Boris Johnson slapped a 5G ban on Huawei, accusing London of poisoning the relationship by meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.
    “These actions have seriously poisoned the atmosphere of China-UK relationship,” China’s ambassador to London Liu Xiaoming told reporters.
    “Some British politicians cling to the Cold War mentality… They play up the so-called China threat, see China as a hostile state, threaten a complete decoupling from China and even clamour for a new Cold War against China,” he said.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton; editing by Sarah Young)

7/31/2020 Hong Kong Expected To Delay Vote After Opposition Candidates Barred by Yanni Chow and Yoyo Chow
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, wearing a protective mask, speaks during a news conference over
global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Hong Kong, China July 13, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is expected to announce on Friday the postponement of a Sept. 6 city assembly election because of a spike in coronavirus cases, putting off what the pro-democracy opposition hopes will be its chance to win a historic majority.
    The opposition aims to ride a wave of resentment of a new national security law, that Beijing imposed on the city on June 30, to election victory despite the disqualification by authorities of 12 pro-democracy candidates.
    Lam is expected to announce the postponement at 6 p.m. (1000 GMT), Cable TV reported.
    The election will be the former British colony’s first democratic exercise since Beijing imposed the security legislation against what China broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with punishment of up to life in prison.
    The Chinese and Hong Kong governments say the law will not undermine Hong Kong’s freedoms and is necessary to preserve order and prosperity after months of often-violent anti-government protests last year.
    But activists say the law has ushered in a crackdown that spells the end of the Chinese-ruled city’s high degree of autonomy.
    They point to the disqualification from the city election of 12 opposition candidates, including young activist Joshua Wong.    More are expected to be barred in coming days.
    “Barring me from running … would not stop our cause for democracy,” said Wong, 23, who became an international figure leading months-long protests in Hong Kong as a teenager in 2012 and 2014.
    The reasons given by the pro-Beijing city government for the disqualifications included what authorities deem subversive intentions, opposition to the security law and a campaign to obtain a majority that can block legislation.
    Wong, who China calls a “black hand” of foreign forces, said his disqualification was “invalid and ridiculous” and the new law a “legal weapon used against dissidents.”
    The government denies political censorship or suppression of the right to run for the legislature, where only half the seats are directly elected.    The other half is stacked with pro-Beijing figures.
‘POLITICAL PURGE’
    Authorities also disqualified some members of the Civic Party, a moderate, old-guard opposition group, and others who won an unofficial “primary” vote held by the opposition camp this month.
    That independently organised vote saw a younger, more defiant generation of democrats taking over the helm of the opposition, but the Civic Party disqualifications signal Beijing is becoming less tolerant of even moderate voices.
    Former colonial power Britain said it was clear the candidates had been barred because of their political views.    Hong Kong’s last British governor, Chris Patten, called it an “outrageous political purge.”
    Hong Kong police have also arrested four students, aged 16-21, on suspicion they threatened China’s national security by being involved in an online group that pledged to fight for Hong Kong’s independence.
    Critics say the new security law crushes rights and freedoms promised to the city when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula.
    Supporters of the law say it is vital to plug security loopholes exposed by last year’s protests.
    Under the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, Hong Kong was supposed to enact national security legislation by itself but failed due to opposition from democracy activists fearful of what they have long seen as Beijing’s growing stifling of the city’s freedoms.
    An unfulfilled “ultimate aim” of the city’s constitution is for universal suffrage, the principal demand of last year’s protests.
    Hong Kong has reported more than 3,000 coronavirus cases since January, far fewer than many other major cities around the world.    The government has restricted group gatherings to two people to fight the spread.
(Reporting by Yanni Chow; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Robert Birsel)

7/31/2020 China Rejects Accusations Of Hacking Attempt On U.S. Vaccine Developer Moderna
FILE PHOTO: A sign marks the headquarters of Moderna Therapeutics, which is developing a vaccine against the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China rejected on Friday charges that hackers linked to its government targeted biotech firm Moderna Inc, a leading U.S.-based coronavirus vaccine research developer, to steal data.
    The accusations are baseless and without evidence, and China does not need to and does not engage in technology theft, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a news briefing.
(This story corrects to read U.S. (not UK) in headline)
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; writing by Se Young Lee)

7/31/2020 Iran’s Khamenei Rejects Talks With U.S. Over Missile, Nuclear Programmes
FILE PHOTO: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wears a protective face mask, during a virtual
meeting with lawmakers in Tehran, Iran July 12, 2020. Official Khamenei Website/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ruled out negotiations with the United States over Tehran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes on Friday and urged Iranians to resist U.S. pressure.
    “America’s brutal sanctions on Iran are aimed at collapsing our economy … Their aim is to limit our influence in the region and to halt our missile and nuclear capabilities,” Khamenei said in a speech broadcast live on television.
    “Relying on national capabilities and cutting our dependence on oil exports will help us to resist America’s pressure.”
    Relations between Tehran and Washington have deteriorated since U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 abandoned a pact between Iran and six world powers under which Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions.
    The United States has reimposed sanctions that have sharply lowered Tehran’s oil exports.    Washington says it wants Tehran to negotiate a wider deal to further curb Iran’s nuclear work, halt its missile programme and limit the Islamic Republic’s regional influence.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Alison Williams and Timothy Heritage)

7/31/2020 Tokyo Could Declare New Emergency If Coronavirus Worsens
A man wearing a protective face mask crosses the street amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
in Tokyo, Japan July 30, 2020. Picture taken with slow shutter speed. REUTERS/Issei Kato

7/31/2020 Hong Kong Reports 121 New Coronavirus Cases As Local Transmissions Stay High
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong reported 121 new coronavirus cases on Friday, including 118 that were locally transmitted, as authorities said the global financial hub faced a critical period to battle a third wave of the virus which has seen a resurgence this month.
    The Chinese territory reported a daily record of 149 new cases on Thursday.    Since late January, over 3,100 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 27 of whom have died.
(Reporting by Yanni Chow; Writing by Farah Master)

7/31/2020 Philippines Records 4,063 New Coronavirus Cases, Southeast Asia’s Highest Jump For Second Day
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippine health ministry on Friday confirmed 4,063 novel coronavirus infections, reporting the highest daily case increase in Southeast Asia for a second straight day.
    In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed infections have risen to 93,354, while deaths increased by 40 to 2,023.
    Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday maintained coronavirus restrictions in the capital and some provinces for another two weeks to try to control the spread of the virus.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty)

7/31/2020 Indonesia Reports 2,040 New Coronavirus Cases, 73 Deaths
FILE PHOTO: Passengers wearing protective masks and face shields queue for a public bus, following the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at a central bus spot in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported on Friday 2,040 new coronavirus infections and 73 additional deaths, according to data published on the country’s COVID-19 task force website.
    This brought Indonesia’s total number of confirmed infections to 108,376 and deaths to 5,131.
(Reporting by Tabita Diela; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Ed Davies)

7/31/2020 India’s Coronavirus Cases Rise By A Daily Record Of 55,078
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker wearing protective gear squeezes the sweat out of his face masks as
he takes a break from taking swab from the residents for rapid antigen test, amidst the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak, at a residential area in Ahmedabad, India, July 24, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave
    BENGALURU (Reuters) – India reported another record surge in daily COVID-19 cases on Friday, taking the total to 1.64 million, as the government further eases virus curbs in a bid to resuscitate the economy, while also trying to increase testing.
    Infections jumped by 55,078 in the past 24 hours, while the death toll rose by 779 to 35,747, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on its website.
    The ministry also said it aimed to raise the country’s capacity to 1 million coronavirus tests per day in the medium term, from a record 600,000 on Friday.
    The federal government this week announced the reopening of yoga institutes and gymnasiums, and removed restrictions on the movement of people and goods.
(Reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra; Editing by Tom Hogue)

7/31/2020 Hong Kong Activist Joshua Wong Says Poll Disqualification Won’t Stop Democracy Fight by Yoyo Chow
Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong, wearing a face mask, attends a news conference regarding his disqualification
as a candidate in elections for the legislature, in Hong Kong, China July 31, 2020. REUTERS/Lam Yik
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Young Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong said on Friday his “invalid and ridiculous” disqualification as a candidate in elections for the legislature would not stop the fight for democracy in the Chinese-ruled city.
    The Hong Kong government on Thursday barred Wong and 11 other pro-democracy activists from the elections due in September, citing reasons including collusion with foreign forces, subversive intentions, opposition to a new security law and campaigning for a legislation-blocking majority.
    The disqualifications were the most sweeping move yet on the city’s electoral freedoms following Beijing’s imposition of a security law last month which many Western nations say erodes citizens rights.
    Wong, who China calls a “black hand” of foreign forces, said in a statement the security law was an “legal weapon used against dissidents.”
    “Barring me from running … would not stop our cause for democracy,” said Wong, 23, who became an international figure leading months-long protests in Hong Kong as a teenager in 2012 and 2014.
    Beijing imposed the new law on the global financial hub to give police and new mainland Chinese security agents wide-ranging powers beyond the scrutiny of courts, in some cases, and set its freest city on a more authoritarian path.
    Critics say it crushes rights and freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, while supporters say it will restore stability after a year of often-violent anti-establishment protests.
    Along with Wong, authorities disqualified some members of the Civic Party, a moderate, old-guard opposition group, and others who won an unofficial “primary” vote held by the opposition camp this month.
    That independently organised vote saw a younger, more defiant generation of democrats taking over the helm of the opposition, but the Civic Party disqualifications signal Beijing is becoming less tolerant of even moderate voices.
    Chances for an historic majority in the Legislative Council, or mini-parliament, for the opposition camp will take a further blow if the government decides to postpone the Sept. 6 vote, as expected, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
    The government denied “political censorship, restriction of freedom of speech or deprivation of the right to stand for elections” and said there could be more disqualifications.
    It said it was merely upholding the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, and the candidates’ behaviour was inconsistent with it.
    Britain said it was clear the candidates had been barred because of their political views.    Hong Kong’s last British governor Chris Patten called it an “outrageous political purge.”
(Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry)

7/31/2020 India Police Patrol Ahead Of Construction Of Temple On Bitterly Contested Site by Saurabh Sharma
FILE PHOTO: A general view of Ayodhya is seen after Supreme Court's verdict on a disputed religious site, India, November 10, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
    LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) – Police have been ordered onto the streets of an Indian town where Hindu groups will next week begin building a temple on a site contested by Muslims for decades in a dispute that has sparked some of the country’s most bloody communal violence.
    The Supreme Court of India ruled last year that Hindus, who believe the site in the northern town of Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, be allowed to build a temple there.
    Hindus say the site was holy for them long before the Muslim Mughals, India’s most prominent Islamic rulers, built the Babri Mosque there in 1528.    The court said Muslims be given another plot of land for a mosque.
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose ruling Bharatiya Janata Party campaigned for more than three decades for the temple, has been invited to lay the temple’s foundation stone on Aug. 5, officials said.
    “But his visit depends on the pandemic situation and security concerns around it,” said a senior official in Modi’s office in New Delhi, referring to the novel coronavirus.
    “Social distancing rules will be followed,” said the official, who declined to be identified as he is not an authorised spokesman.
    In 1992, a Hindu mob destroyed the 16th-century mosque on the site, triggering riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed across the country.
    Court battles over the ownership of the site followed.
    Since the court ruling last year, tension has eased and Muslims, who make up about 12% overwhelmingly Hindu India, have largely accepted the decision.
    “We’ve accepted that Hindu temple will be built and there’s no point in creating tension,” said Shakib Noor, a member of a Muslim religious board in Ayodhya
    Nevertheless, authorities in Ayodhya have ordered police to patrol the streets and for barricades to be set up to prevent big crowds gathering next week.
    While India has ended its most coronavirus restrictions, it has maintained a ban on religious gatherings.
    Donations for the temple have poured in from Hindus in India and abroad.    It should be finished by 2022, its supporters say.
    “This is a great moment for the entire Hindu community,” said Sharad Sharma, a senior member of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a hardline Hindu group involved in the temple’s construction.
(Additional reporting and writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Robert Birsel)

7/31/2020 U.S. Imposes Sanctions On Chinese Company Over Abuse Of Uighurs by Steve Holland and Daphne Psaledakis
FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter before a trade meeting in Shanghai, China July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States intensified its economic pressure on China’s Xinjiang province on Friday, imposing sanctions on a powerful Chinese company and two officials for what it said were human rights abuses against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities.
    The move, the latest blow to U.S.-China relations, came a week after U.S. President Donald Trump closed the Chinese consulate in Houston, prompting Beijing to shutter the U.S. consulate in Chengdu.
    The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement it blacklisted the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, also known as XPCC, along with Sun Jinlong, former party secretary of XPCC, and Peng Jiarui, XPCC’s deputy party secretary and commander, over accusations they are connected to serious human rights abuse against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
    “The Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, China against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities rank as the stain of the century,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
    China denies mistreatment of the minority group and says the camps holding many Uighurs provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.
    Washington’s action freezes any U.S. assets of the company and officials; generally prohibits Americans from dealing with them; and bars Sun Jinlong and Peng Jiarui from traveling to the United States.
    A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the company as a “a secretive, paramilitary organization that performs a variety of functions under the direct control” of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
    “They are directly involved in the implementation of the CCP’s comprehensive surveillance, detention and indoctrination … which we all know targets the Uighurs and members of other ethnic minority members in Xinjiang,” the official said.
    The Treasury also issued a license, authorizing certain wind-down and divestment transactions and activities related to blocked XPCC subsidiaries until Sept. 30.
    Washington recently imposed sanctions on the autonomous region of Xinjiang’s Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, the highest-ranking Chinese official to be targeted, blacklisting the member of China’s powerful Politburo and current first party secretary of the XPCC, as well as other officials and the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.
    Peter Harrell, a former official and sanctions expert at the Center for a New American Security, said that from an economic perspective, Friday’s action was a “substantial escalation” of U.S. pressure and sends a warning to companies engaged in activity in China.
    “The Trump administration finally took a meaningful sanctions … action on Xinjiang, as opposed to ones that were primarily symbolic,” Harrell said.
    XPCC is a quasi-military group created in 1954.    It was initially made up of demobilized soldiers who spent time in military training while developing farms on the region’s arid land.
    Civilian members from eastern China later joined the corps, which now numbers 3.11 million people, or more than 12% of the region’s population.    It is almost entirely made up of Han Chinese in a region that is home to the Muslim Uighur people.
(Reporting By Steve Holland and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Editing by Mary Milliken, Andrea Ricci and Tom Brown)

7/31/2020 Hong Kong Delays Assembly Election Amid Rise In COVID-19 Cases by OAN Newsroom
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, center, announces to postpone legislative elections scheduled for Sept. 6, citing
a worsening coronavirus outbreak during a press conference in Hong Kong, Friday, July 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
    Hong Kong has suspended its assembly election by a year amid a rise in coronavirus cases. Leader Carrie Lam announced the delay on Friday, postponing an opportunity for pro-democracy opposition leaders to win a majority in the assembly by a full year.
    This comes in the wake of China’s controversial new laws, which are expected to stop even more pro-democracy opposition party members from being on the assembly.
    “The state council replied and expressed support for the decision made by the chief executive and the council, in accordance with the law, to postpone the election of the seventh legislative council by one year on the ground of public interest,” stated Lam.    “In terms of how we should deal with the one year postponement and vacuum of the legislative body, the Central People’s Government will submit the matter to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress for a decision.”
    In the meantime, it will be up to China’s parliament to decide how to fill the legislative power left in the yearlong election delay.

7/31/2020 Exclusive: U.S. Proposes House Arrest For ‘Most Dreaded’ Taliban Prisoners, To End Stalemate by Rupam Jain, Charlotte Greenfield and Jonathan Landay
FILE PHOTO: An Afghan man wearing a protective face mask walks past a wall painted with photo of
Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader
of the Taliban delegation, in Kabul, Afghanistan April 13, 2020.REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail/File Photo
    MUMBAI/ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has proposed that hundreds of Taliban prisoners be transferred to house arrest in a supervised facility when they are freed from Afghan jails, three senior official sources said, a proposed solution for a deadlock that is holding up peace talks.
    The proposal for Taliban fighters accused of conducting some of the bloodiest attacks in Afghanistan to be placed in a location where they would be under both Taliban and Afghan government surveillance was presented this week to the warring Afghan sides by top U.S. diplomats, the sources said.
    The diplomats are trying to kickstart peace negotiations in Doha that have been delayed over the prisoner issue.    The Afghan government is resisting freeing the final batch out of some 5,000 prisoners whose release was demanded by the insurgent group as a condition to start peace talks.
    U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad pressed Taliban leaders and President Ashraf Ghani to break the deadlock during a visit to Kabul this week. [nL2N2EW09B]
    Around 400 prisoners are still in government custody, with Western allies also expressing concerns over releasing around half of those.
    “The Americans and their allies agree that it would be insane to let some of the most dreaded Taliban fighters walk out freely…the Afghan forces arrested them for conducting some of the most heinous crimes against humanity,” said a senior western diplomat in Kabul.
    Khalilzad’s office was not immediately available for comment on the proposals.    A spokesman for Ghani declined to comment.
    The State Department referred Reuters to a statement it released after Khalilzad’s visit, which said he had pressed for “ongoing efforts to resolve the remaining issues ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations,” including the prisoner release, but did not detail any proposals.
MAJOR ATTACKS
    Of the 400 prisoners left, around 200 are accused by the Afghan government of masterminding attacks on embassies, public squares and government offices, killing thousands of civilians in recent years and including a huge 2017 blast targeting the German Embassy in Kabul.
    Two Taliban sources and one former senior Afghan official said senior members of the militant Haqqani Network, which has ties to the Taliban, are also among the group.
    On Friday, Ghani ordered the release of 500 Taliban prisoners who are not part of the group’s list.
    However the two Taliban and two diplomatic sources said the insurgent group was insistent on its demand for the release of the remaining 400 prisoners on the list.
    “The Taliban are adamant about their release, the only middle path is to get the Afghan government to hand these militants to the Taliban if they agree to put them in house arrest,” a second diplomat in Kabul said on condition of anonymity.
RANGE OF PROPOSALS
    An Asian diplomat said Khalilzad had presented a range of proposals, including the option of moving them to a jointly guarded facility.
    He said other ideas put forward were releasing the prisoners without publicly announcing it, agreeing to release prisoners shortly after negotiations start, or persuading the Taliban to compromise on the most contentious 200 prisoners.
    Washington is keen to break the deadlock in order to deliver concrete results ahead of the November U.S. presidential election in which President Donald Trump will want to tout his success in ending the 19-year-long Afghan war.
    Washington also wants to adhere to a troop withdrawal deadline reached in February with the Taliban.
    “Khalilzad is really feeling the heat now,” the Asian diplomat said.    “The Americans have become the constant mediators between the two Afghan sides and it’s not easy.”
    Two senior Taliban members said Khalilzad had promised the group he would resolve the prisoner issue soon, and they expected the final release to take place over the Eid holiday weekend, likely Saturday or Sunday.
    Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, declined to comment on the proposal to hold some Taliban fighters in a jointly guarded facility.
    He said the group would shortly complete the release of 1,000 prisoners it is holding and wanted the Afghan government to complete its side of the prisoner exchange.
(Reporting by Rupam Jain, Charlotte Greenfield and Jonathan Landay; Additional reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Hamid Shalizi in Kabul and Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar; Editing by Frances Kerry)

7/31/2020 Afghanistan Releases Taliban Prisoners As Part Of Ceasefire by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this March, 1, 2020, file photo, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news
conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)
    The president of Afghanistan recently announced he has released 500 Taliban prisoners as part of a three-day ceasefire agreement.    On Friday, Ashraf Ghani confirmed the move was part of a U.S. brokered peace deal between the two.
    The president also condemned two recent terrorist attacks, which killed 33 civilians and injured more than 100.
    The Taliban has denied responsibility for the attacks.
    “In response to the Taliban ceasefire announcement, as well as a goodwill gesture and to accelerate the peace process, I order the release of 500 Taliban prisoners,” stated Ghani.    “These 500 Taliban will be not from the list that they have given us before.”
    Both groups indicated they are ready to talk after the three-day Eid al-Adha holiday, as long as the prisoner swap has been fulfilled.

7/31/2020 Hong Kong Delays Election Citing Pandemic, But Democracy Camp Sceptical by Yanni Chow and Carol Mang
Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong, wearing a face mask, shows journalists his declaration in English regarding his disqualification
as a candidate in elections for the legislature, during a news conference in Hong Kong, China July 31, 2020. REUTERS/Lam Yik
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Friday postponed a Sept. 6 election to the Chinese-ruled city’s legislature by a year because of a rise in coronavirus cases, dealing a blow to the pro-democracy opposition which had hoped to make huge gains.
    The United States quickly condemned the move, saying it was the latest example of Beijing undermining democracy in the Chinese-ruled territory.
    “This action undermines the democratic processes and freedoms that have underpinned Hong Kong’s prosperity,” White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told reporters.
    The decision to delay the vote came after 12 pro-democracy candidates were disqualified from running for perceived subversive intentions and opposition to a sweeping new security law imposed by Beijing, prompting questions among many about whether the pandemic was the real reason for the delay.
    “Postponing the September elections for a year is a cynical move to contain a political emergency, not a public health one,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
    “This simply allows Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to deny Hong Kong people their right to choose their government.”
    Avery Ng, secretary-general of the League of Social Democrats, was equally sceptical.
    “Obviously the Chinese Communist Party is using COVID-19 as a cover to stop Hong Kongers from voting against the government and democrats’ potential majority win,” he told Reuters.
    “Together with the mass disqualification of candidates, the CCP … only allows an election in which they can control the outcome to take place.”
    Germany announced it would suspend its extradition agreement with Hong Kong following Lam’s decision.
    The opposition had aimed to ride a wave of resentment over the national security law to win a majority in the Legislative Council, where half the seats are directly elected with the other half filled mostly by pro-Beijing appointees.
    Lam said she had to invoke an emergency law to make the postponement and no political considerations were involved.    China’s parliament would decide how to fill the legislative vacuum, she added.
    She told reporters the decision was aimed at safeguarding people’s health.
    “We have 3 million voters going out in one day across Hong Kong, such flow of people would cause high risk of infection,” Lam said.
    Hong Kong has reported more than 3,000 coronavirus cases since January, far lower than in other major cities around the world. But the number of new infections has been in the triple-digits for the past 10 days.
    Rival finance hub Singapore, which has had a larger coronavirus outbreak, held a general election in July.    Many pro-democracy activists had suspected Lam would use the coronavirus to delay the election.
    The poll would have been the former British colony’s first official vote since Beijing imposed the security law to tackle what China broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with punishment of up to life in prison.
    Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula guaranteeing freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.     Critics of the new law say it undermines that autonomy.
    The Chinese and Hong Kong governments say the law is necessary to preserve order and prosperity after months of often-violent anti-China protests last year.
    “I anticipated it, because of this year’s social movements, we already anticipated that the government wouldn’t give us the right to let us vote,” said resident Janis Chow, 25.    “I’m disappointed but I was ready for it.”
‘POLITICAL PURGE’
    News of the postponement came as the nomination period for candidates seeking to run in the election closed.
    Among the 12 opposition candidates disqualified was Joshua Wong, who rose to fame leading pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as a teenager in 2012 and 2014.
    “Barring me from running … would not stop our cause for democracy,” said Wong, 23.
    Wong, who China calls a “black hand” of foreign forces, said his disqualification was “invalid and ridiculous” and the new law a “legal weapon used against dissidents.”
    The government denies political censorship or suppression of the right to run for the legislature.
    Authorities also disqualified some members of the Civic Party, a moderate, old-guard opposition group, and others who won an unofficial “primary” vote held by the opposition camp this month.
    That independently organised vote saw a younger, more defiant generation of democrats taking over the helm of the opposition, but the Civic Party disqualifications signal Beijing is becoming less tolerant of even moderate voices.
    Britain said it was clear the candidates had been barred because of their political views.    Hong Kong’s last British governor, Chris Patten, called it an “outrageous political purge
    China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs office said in a statement that officials would be sent down to Hong Kong to conduct large-scale coronavirus tests “to help Hong Kong build a large-scale quarantine and treatment centre,” again sparking concerns among some local residents, this time that China may use this as an excuse to collect DNA samples for surveillance purposes.
(Reporting by Yanni Chow, Carol Mang, Meg Shen, James Pomfret, Joyce Zhou, Pak Yiu, Twinnie Siu and Scott Murdoch; Additional reportnig by Nandita Bose in Washington and Maria Sheahan in Berlin; Writing by Marius Zaharia and Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie)

8/1/2020 China Embassy Criticises Germany’s Suspension Of Extradition Treaty With Hong Kong
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas pauses as he meets with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos
Mitsotakis at the Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, July 21, 2020. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
    SHANGHAI/BERLIN (Reuters) – China’s embassy in Germany condemned Berlin’s suspension of its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, a move Germany said was a response to the postponement of an election in the Chinese city.
    In a statement on its website, dated Friday, China’s embassy said the suspension violated international law and the basic norms of international relations, and “grossly interferes with China’s internal affairs.”
    The embassy expressed “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” to the minister’s remarks, and said that China “reserves the right to respond further,” without elaborating.
    Germany Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Friday that Berlin will suspend its extradition agreement with Hong Kong, after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam postponed a Sept. 6 election to the city’s legislature by a year.
    “The Hong Kong government’s decision to disqualify a dozen opposition candidates for the election and postpone the elections to the legislature is another infringement on the rights of the citizens of Hong Kong,” Maas said.
    “We have repeatedly made our expectation clear that China lives up to its legal responsibilities under international law,” he said, adding that this included ensuring rights under the Basic Law as well as the right to free and fair elections.
(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith in Shanghai and Maria Sheahan in Berlin; Editing by Alex Richardson and William Mallard)

8/1/2020 Australia’s Victoria Sees COVID-19 Cases Drop, Still Mulling Curbs
FILE PHOTO: A medical personnel holds a swab while administering a test for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a pop-up testing centre,
as the state of New South Wales grapples with an outbreak of new cases, in Sydney, Australia, July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s second most populous state, Victoria, reported 397 cases of the new coronavirus on Saturday, down by more than a third from Friday, but authorities said they are considering further restrictions as numbers remain worrisome.
    Three people died from factors related to COVID-19 in the 24 hours to early Saturday, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said. This brings the state’s deaths in the pandemic to 116 and Australia’s tally to 201.
    “The numbers are too high and there is a growing case for us to do more,” Andrews told a televised briefing.
    “This is a very significant number of new cases, and while there is always a temptation to try and read trends in these numbers, there is a growing concern in relation to the number of community transmission within the data.”
    Victoria, where the capital Melbourne is under a reimposed six-week stay-home order, had prided itself early in the pandemic on a tough approach to social distancing.    Now the state accounts for about 60% of Australia’s 17,300 cases.
    On Thursday, the state, where wearing face masks is now mandatory, reported a record 723 infections and 13 deaths. Victoria reported 627 new infections and eight deaths on Friday.
    Andrews had warned this week that Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions could be extended past the initial mid-August end date and further social-distancing measures taken if daily case numbers remained high.
    On Saturday he said that “active consideration” is being given to new steps but would not reveal any details.
    “It’s not a tap you can just turn on or off, and they are not decisions that would be taken lightly because there are significant costs,” Andrews said.
    Neighbouring New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, reported 17 cases of COVID-19 and one death on Saturday – the state’s first death in more than a month.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)

8/1/2020 ‘Losing Battle’: Philippine Doctors, Nurses Urge New COVID-19 Lockdowns
Vendors and customers wear masks for protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while making
transactions at a market in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 21, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – More than a million Philippine doctors and nurses, saying the country was losing the fight against COVID-19, urged President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday to reimpose strict lockdown in and around Manila.
    In the largest call yet from medical experts to contain the virus, 80 groups representing 80,000 doctors and a million nurses, warned of a collapse of the healthcare system from soaring infections of the new coronavirus without tighter controls in the capital and nearby provinces.
    The Philippines on Friday recorded its biggest daily jump in new cases for a second successive day, with 4,063 infections.
    “Our health workers are burnt out with seemingly endless number of patients trooping to our hospitals for emergency care and admission,” the group, led by the Philippine College of Physicians, said in a letter to the president.
    “We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19,” it added.
    The presidential palace said it will include input from stakeholders in future meetings of the coronavirus task force but that community quarantine alone was insufficient.
    “The palace understands the delicate balancing act between public health and the economic health of the nation,” Duterte spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.
    In mid-March, Duterte imposed one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdown in the capital and other provinces to combat the virus.
    In an effort to revive the economy, restrictions were eased in June, allowing freer movement of people and the reopening of some businesses. But infections have since jumped fivefold to 93,354, with deaths more than doubling to 2,023.
    Healthcare workers, including microbiologists, infectious disease and public health experts, paediatricians and nurses, called for a two-week lockdown in the capital and provinces south of it until mid-August.
    The capital region and nearby provinces account for two-thirds of the Philippine economy, among the fastest-growing in Asia before the pandemic.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by William Mallard)

8/1/2020 The Revolution Will Be Stencilised: ‘Thailand’s Banksy’ Won’t Back Down by Chalinee Thirasupa
Headache Stencil, a graffiti artist poses in front of his works during his exhibition at The Foreign Correspondents'
Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok, Thailand, July 31, 2020. Picture taken July 31, 2020. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – The Thai political street artist who goes by the name “Headache Stencil” prefers to keep his true identity anonymous, but he is pretty sure that authorities know where to find him.
    Shortly after one of his latest public projections on the June 24, he noticed several men loitering outside his apartment. He says security at the building told him the men had identified themselves as plainclothes police.
    “Now when I leave home at night I have to look twice behind my shoulder,” he said at a gallery show of his more permanent art on Friday night.
    The display of political art comes amid youth-led political protests by thousands calling for the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
    As in all his public appearances, the artist covered his face with a mask, with his public anonymity plus his work’s political nature prompting some to call him “Thailand’s Banksy” after the renowned British graffiti artist.
    Asked whether police were monitoring the artist or knew his identity, Krisana Pattanacharoen, a deputy police spokesman, said: “I don’t know him at all.”
    Headache Stencil takes his name from the fact that most of his work is sprayed onto walls using stencils and the fact that he aims to cause headaches for Prayuth, who first came to power in a 2014 military coup.
    “I started 3 days after the coup,” he said of his work, adding that he had an office job before that.
    Much of his stencilised street art that tends to appear overnight on walls and buildings around Bangkok mocks Prayuth, whom he has portrayed on the face of a Rolex watch in a reference to allegations of government officials’ unreported wealth.
    “The more they try to suppress me, the more I would make my counter move.    I won’t stay still,” he said.
(Reporting by Kay Johnson; Editing by Kim Coghill)

8/1/2020 Tokyo Reports Record 472 New Coronavirus Cases On Saturday: NHK
Tokyo businessmen wearing protective face masks walk near the station amid the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato
    TOKYO (Reuters) – The number of new coronavirus cases confirmed in Tokyo was around 472 on Saturday, a new record, NHK public television quoted Tokyo officials as saying.
    It was the second day in a row that the number of cases in the capital rose by more than 400.
    Though Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has said the city could declare its own state of emergency, the central government says there is still no need to do so nationally despite a record spike in several cities around the nation.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Kim Coghill)

8/2/2020 Australia’s Victoria Declares Disaster, Sets Curfew To Curb COVID-19 by Lidia Kelly
FILE PHOTO: Medical personnel administer tests for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a pop-up testing centre, as the
state of New South Wales grapples with an outbreak of new cases, in Sydney, Australia, July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s second-most populous state of Victoria declared a state of disaster on Sunday and imposed a nightly curfew for the capital Melbourne as part of its harshest movement restrictions to date to contain a resurgent COVID-19.
    Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city already under a reimposed six-week stay-home order, has struggled to rein in the disease, with record numbers of infections of the new coronavirus reported last week.
    On Sunday, Victoria reported 671 infections, one of its highest, and seven COVID-19 deaths.    High numbers of community transmissions and cases of unknown origins have forced the new restrictions, which will be in place for six weeks, officials said.
    “The current rules have avoided thousands and thousands of cases each day, and then thousands of people in hospital and many more tragedies than we have seen.    But it is not working fast enough,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised briefing.
    A curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day will be implemented from Sunday evening in Melbourne, barring the nearly five million people in the city from leaving their houses except for work or to receive or give care.
    The sweeping new restrictions limit the time Melbourne residents may spend on outdoor exercise and essential shopping.    All schools will move to remote learning from Wednesday.
    Supermarkets will remain open, and restaurants, already closed for dining in, will be able to continue with their takeaway and delivery services.
FEDERAL BACKING
    The federal government backed Victoria’s measures, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying in a post on his Facebook page that they were “regrettably necessary” to stop the spread of the pandemic.
    “We are all in this together and we will get through it,” Morrison said.
    Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt said at a televised briefing the federal government supports the measures with a ‘heavy’ heart.
    “We do so because they will help save and protect lives,” Hunt said.
    The backing by the federal government, ruled by a Liberal Party-led coalition, for the measures by Victoria’s Labor Party government shows national unity across the political spectrum in a country with a loose federal system.
    Australia has fared far better than many other countries in keeping the coronavirus from spreading, but at a high economic cost.    It has recorded around 18,000 coronavirus cases and just over 200 COVID-19 deaths, but the recent surge in Victoria has proven difficult to contain.
    The state of disaster gives Victoria police additional powers to ensure people are complying with public-health directions.
    “We have no choice but to make these decisions and to push on,” Andrews said.    “This is the only option we have.”
    Restrictions on movement and business operations elsewhere in the state will be less severe than in Melbourne.    Andrews said further restrictions for Victoria businesses will be announced on Monday.
    Neighbouring New South Wales, the most populous state, reported 12 infections on Sunday, with the state now “strongly” recommending the use of face masks in public.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard and Christopher Cushing)

8/2/2020 Philippines To Update COVID-19 Strategy As Healthcare Workers Seek ‘Timeout’
FILE PHOTO: Passengers wearing face masks for protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) maintain social
distancing while queueing to ride a train in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 21, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ health department vowed on Sunday to update its game plan against COVID-19 within a week and sought to beef up the healthcare workforce in the capital Manila, where medical frontliners are calling for reviving strict lockdowns.
    The Southeast Asian country on Saturday reported 4,963 additional coronavirus infections, the largest single-day jump on record, bringing its total confirmed cases to 98,232, while its death toll had climbed to 2,039.
    It has the second-highest number of coronavirus infections and COVID-19 deaths in the region, behind Indonesia.
    In the largest call yet from medical experts to contain the virus, 80 groups representing 80,000 doctors and a million nurses, on Saturday said the Philippines was losing the fight against the disease and warned of a collapse of the healthcare system from soaring infections without tighter controls.
    In a statement issued following an unscheduled meeting late on Saturday of the government’s coronavirus task force to address the concerns of doctors and nurses, the Department of Health said it would come up with an updated COVID-19 strategy within seven days.
    It appealed to healthcare workers in the provinces and those returning from abroad to help beef up the frontline workforce in the capital, and sought help from universities and medical groups in hiring more doctors, nurses and other medical staff.
    The government appears reluctant to revive strict curbs on movement in the capital, saying there are other ways to control the spread of the disease.
    Still, the health department said it supports the healthcare workers’ call for a “timeout” and would “proactively lead the implementation of effective localised lockdowns.”
    “The battle is not over, and it will not be for a long time yet,” the department said in a statement.    But “we will marshal all our efforts to turn the tide.”
(Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by William Mallard)

8/2/2020 Indonesia Reports 1,519 New Coronavirus Infections, 43 Deaths
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported 1,519 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, bringing the total to 111,455, data from the country’s COVID-19 task force showed.
    The data also showed 43 new COVID-19 related deaths, bringing the toll to 5,236.
(Reporting by Stanley Widianto and Nilufar Rizki; Editing by Kim Coghill)

8/2/2020 Tokyo Confirms 292 New Coronavirus Cases On Sunday: NHK
FILE PHOTO: Commuters and passersby wearing protective face masks walk near the station amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo confirmed 292 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, after cases rose by more than 400 in the past two days, public broadcaster NHK said.
    Governor Koike Yuriko said on Friday Tokyo could declare a state of emergency if the coronavirus situation in the Japanese capital deteriorates further, as debate deepened over how to respond to record increases in new infections.
(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

8/2/2020 Mainland China Reports 49 New Coronavirus Cases For Aug 1
People wear protective masks as they walk in a shopping street following the outbreak of the coronavirus
disease (COVID 19) in a historic part of Beijing, China, July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China reported 49 cases of the new coronavirus in the mainland for Aug. 1, up from 45 cases a day earlier, the health commission said on Sunday.
    Of the new infections, 30 were in the far western region of Xinjiang, three were in the northeastern province of Liaoning, and the remaining 16 were imported cases, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.
    China reported 20 new asymptomatic cases, down from 23 a day earlier.
    As of the end of Saturday, mainland China had 84,385 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The COVID-19 death toll remained at 4,634.
(Reporting by Judy Hua, Tina Qiao and Ryan Woo; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

8/2/2020 China Sends Team To Hong Kong To Do Widespread Coronavirus Testing
An exhibition hall that has been converted into a makeshift treatment facility to treat patients of the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is pictured in Hong Kong, China August 1, 2020. REUTERS/Pak Yiu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Seven Chinese health officials were due to arrive in Hong Kong on Sunday, the first members of a 60-person team that will carry out widespread testing for COVID-19 in the territory as the global financial hub races to halt a third wave of illness.
    China’s National Health Commission on Saturday announced their scheduled arrival.
    Members of the team are from public hospitals in Guangdong province while a specialist team of six from Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus first appeared, will help prepare part of the AsiaWorld Expo convention centre as a facility for COVID-19 patients.
    The initiative is the first time mainland health officials have assisted Hong Kong in its battle to control the coronavirus.
    Some local residents fear China may use this as an excuse to collect DNA samples for surveillance purposes.
    Leader Carrie Lam said on Saturday the former British colony asked for help from the central government due to the resurgence in cases.    She said the government was studying whether everyone in Hong Kong could be tested, local broadcaster RTHK reported on Saturday.
    The Chinese territory saw a surge in locally transmitted coronavirus cases in July and introduced a raft of tightening measures including restricting gatherings to two people and mandating face masks in all outdoor public spaces.
    Hong Kong has reported around 3,400 coronavirus cases and 33 deaths since January, far lower than other major cities around the world.    But the daily number of new infections has been in the triple-digits for the past 11 days.
    Beijing recently imposed a security law that critics say undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy, which was guaranteed under a “one country, two systems” formula when the city returned to Chinese control from Britain in 1997.
(Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

8/2/2020 Pompeo Condemns Hong Kong Government Over Recent Arrests, Delayed Elections by OAN Newsroom
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on the State
Department’s 2021 budget on Capitol Hill Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)
    According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration is gravely concerned by the ordered arrest of four students in     Hong Kong under the city’s new national security law.    On Sunday, Pompeo reiterated “Beijing continues to break its promises and eviscerate Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
    The four students in question are pro-democracy activists.
    One of the activists, American national Samuel Chu, announced “he woke up to reports he was a wanted fugitive” on Friday.    On Twitter, he added “if he is targeted, any American who speaks out for Hong Kong can and will be too.”

FILE – In this Friday, Sept. 13, 2019 file photo, demonstrators hold up the mobile phone lights as
they form a human chain at the Peak, a tourist spot in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
    Secretary Pompeo also condemned Hong Kong’s government over its decision to postpone the city’s legislative council elections by one year.    In a statement, he said there is no valid reason for such a lengthy delay.
    He further expressed it is likely Hong Kong will never again be able to vote for anything or anyone.
    Pompeo has urged the city’s government to reconsider its decision and hold the elections close to their originally scheduled date of September 6th.
    He went on to suggest Hong Kong will become just another communist run city in China if the elections aren’t held at the scheduled time.

8/2/2020 UAE, Iran Foreign Ministers Discuss COVID Challenge
FILE PHOTO: United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan addresses the 74th session of the United
Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 28, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The foreign ministers of longstanding regional foes Iran and the United Arab Emirates agreed on Sunday that they would strive to cooperate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    In a video call during which they also exchanged greetings for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan told his Iranian counterpart that strengthening bilateral cooperation was important element in tackling the coronavirus, UAE state news agency WAM said.
    Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet that it was “a very substantive, frank and friendly video conversation” on COVID-19 as well as “bilateral, regional and global situations.”
    “We agreed to continue dialogue on theme of hope—especially as region faces tough challenges, and tougher choices ahead,” he wrote.
    Shi’ite Muslim Iran has long been at odds with U.S. Gulf Sunni Arab allies the UAE and Saudi Arabia.    Tensions between Iran and the United States have been on the rise since 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions.
    Washington blamed a series of attacks against oil interests in the Gulf last year on Iran, while the UAE did not publicly hold a particular country responsible.
    The two ministers held a telephone call in March in which Sheikh Abdullah expressed the UAE’s support for Iran during the coronavirus outbreak.
(Reporting by Yousef Saba; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

8/3/2020 Mass Jailbreak In Afghanistan, At Least 24 Die In Islamic State Attack by Ahmed Sultan and Abdul Qadir Sediqi
An Army vehicle patrols near the site of an attack on a jail compound in Jalalabad, Afghanistan August 3, 2020. REUTERS/Parwiz
    JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) – A gunbattle between Islamic State fighters and Afghan security forces raged at a prison in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Monday, with at least 24 people killed after the militants’ overnight assault led to a mass jailbreak.
    The attack began on Sunday evening with car bomb detonated at the entrance to the prison, and there were numerous other blasts heard as the IS gunmen opened fire on security guards.
    Some 30 militants involved in the attack on the prison, where some 2,000 prisoners were held, according to Sohrab Qaderi, a lawmaker in the capital of Nangarhar province.
    Three militants were killed during the initial attack and gunbattle overnight, while at least 21 civilians and members of security forces died in the fighting, and 43 were wounded, Attaullah Khugyani, a spokesman for the governor said.
    Police were forced to divert manpower to recapture escaped prisoners amid the chaos, and by noon on Monday around 1,000 had been caught, Qaderi said, without elaborating on how many were still at large.
    Afghan special forces arrived to support police, according to officials, and civilians were being evacuated from areas surrounding the prison, where Taliban and IS prisoners were being held along with ordinary criminals.
    Meanwhile the city was in lockdown.
    “The whole city of Jalalabad is under curfew, shops are closed,” Qaderi said.    “Jalalabad is completely empty.”
    IS claimed responsibility for the attack, which came a day after the Afghan intelligence agency said special forces had killed a senior commander of the group near Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar.
    Some 130 kilometres (80 miles) east of Kabul, Jalalabad lies on the highway leading to the Khyber Pass and the Pakistani city of Peshawar.
    A United Nations report last month estimated there are around 2,200 IS members in Afghanistan, and that while the group is in territorial retreat and its leadership has been depleted, it remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks.
(Additional reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Writing by Rupam Jain and Charlotte Greenfield, Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

8/3/2020 Australia’s Melbourne Clamps Down In Frantic Bid To Curb Virus by Melanie Burton
FILE PHOTO: Bourke Street mall, a normally busy shopping hub in Melbourne, is seen devoid of people after the city re-entered Stage 3 restrictions as
part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders/File Photo
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s second-biggest city, Melbourne, already under night curfew, announced fresh restrictions on industries including retail and construction on Monday in a bid to contain a resurgence of the coronavirus.
    From Wednesday night, Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, will close retail, some manufacturing and administrative businesses as part of a six- week lockdown.    The new measures are expected to double the number of jobs affected by coronavirus restrictions to around 500,000.
    Having already imposed the strictest restrictions on movement, Victoria declared a “state of disaster” on Sunday, as a surge in community transmissions raised fears that the infection rate was going out of control.
    Australia has fared better than many countries, with 18,361 coronavirus cases and 221 deaths from a population of 25 million.
    “As heartbreaking as it is to close down places of employment … that is what we have to do in order to stop the spread of this wildly infectious virus,” Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference.
    “Otherwise, we are not in for six weeks of restrictions – we’ll be in for a six-month stint.”
    The latest moves in Victoria, meant production at meatworks would be cut by one-third, while construction activities and staffing at distribution centres would also be scaled back and all schools would return to remote learning.
    Supermarkets will remain open along with restaurant takeaway and delivery services, but many other retail outlets will shut.
    "This is a very tough day, and there are many more of those to come before we get to the other side of this,” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told Nine News television.
    The outbreak in Victoria, which makes up a quarter of the national economy, has scuppered hopes for a quick rebound from Australia’s first recession in nearly three decades.
    Andrews announced A$5,000 ($3,570) payments for affected businesses and flagged more announcements about penalties, enforcement and education on Tuesday.
    The national government also announced pandemic leave disaster payments for people who have run out of sick leave and have to self-isolate for 14 days, paying A$1,500 to ensure those with COVID-19 symptoms stop going to work.
    “What we’re dealing with here is a disaster,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a media conference.
    Restrictions announced on Sunday included a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. for six weeks, barring the city’s nearly five million people from leaving their homes except for work or to receive or give care.
    “The idea that, in this country, we’d be living at a time where there would be a night curfew on an entire city of the size of Melbourne was unthinkable,” Morrison said.
    Victoria state reported 429 new cases on Monday, down from 671 new infections on Sunday, but 13 more deaths was the second highest daily death toll.
FEARS OF SPREAD
    States bordering Victoria also took precautionary steps.
    New South Wales, which had 13 new infections overnight, strongly recommended the use of masks in all indoor venues, while South Australia, with two fresh cases, reduced gatherings inside the home to a maximum of 10 people from 50 previously, and said only those seated at venues can be served alcohol.
    The surge in new cases means an Australia-New Zealand travel bubble will be indefinitely delayed, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said, as the criteria for places with quarantine-free travel was no community transmission for 28 days.
    “That is going to take a long time for Australia … so that will be on the backburner for some time,” she told New Zealand’s network Three.
    Both countries had hoped international travel between the two could restart as soon as September.
($1 = 1.4004 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Additional reporting by Praveen Menon in Wellington and Sonali Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin, Michael Perry & Simon Cameron-Moore)

8/3/2020 Vietnam Says Early August ‘Decisive’ In Containing Coronavirus by Khanh Vu and Phuong Nguyen
FILE PHOTO: A woman wears a protective mask as she drives past a banner promoting prevention
against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Hanoi, Vietnam July 31, 2020. REUTERS/Kham
    HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam is in the midst of a “decisive” fight against the novel coronavirus, the prime minister said on Monday, with the focus on Danang city where infections have appeared in four factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700 people.
    Vietnam, widely praised for its mitigation efforts since the coronavirus appeared in late January, is battling several new clusters of infection linked to Danang after going more than three months without detecting any domestic transmission.
    “We have to deploy full force to curb all known epicentres, especially those in Danang,” the official broadcaster Vietnam Television (VTV) quoted Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc telling government officials.
    “Early August will be the decisive time within which to stop the virus from spreading on a large scale.”
    The country of 96 million has confirmed at least 621 infections, with six deaths.
    Authorities on Monday reported one new case linked to the central city of Danang, a tourism hot spot where Vietnam’s first domestically transmitted case in 100 days was detected on July 24.
    The source of the new outbreak is unclear but it has spread to at least 10 places, including the capital, Hanoi, and the business hub of Ho Chi Minh City, infecting 174 people and killing six.
    Four cases were found at factories in different industrial parks in Danang, which collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said.
    The government said on Saturday it planned to test Danang’s entire population of 1.1 million people, part of “unprecedented measures” to fight the outbreak.    The city imposed a lockdown last week, banning movement in and out of the city and closing entertainment venues.
    Buon Ma Thuot, a city in Vietnam’s coffee-growing Central Highlands region, was placed under lockdown on Monday, state media reported.
    Twenty-three percent of the latest infections are asymptomatic, the government said in a statement, meaning people infected with the virus do not show symptoms of the COVID-19 sickness it causes.
    Phuc said the new outbreak could have a more “critical impact” than previous waves of infection.
    Authorities said on Sunday the strain of virus detected in Danang was a more contagious one, and that each infected person could infect 5 to 6 people, compared with 1.8-2.2 for infections earlier in the year.
    Vietnam has carried out 52,000 tests for the coronavirus in the past seven days, according to a Reuters analysis of official data.    Health ministry data does not include rapid tests used for mass screening.
(Reporting by Khanh Vu and Phuong Nguyen; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel)

8/3/2020 Singapore To Make Travellers Wear Electronic Tags To Enforce Quarantine
FILE PHOTO: Seafarers who have spent the past months working onboard vessels arrive at the Changi Airport to board their flight back
home to India during a crew change amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore June 12, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore will make some incoming travellers wear an electronic monitoring device to ensure that they comply with coronavirus quarantines as the city-state gradually reopens its borders, authorities said on Monday.
    From August 11, the devices will be given to incoming travellers, including citizens and residents, from a select group of countries who will be allowed to isolate at home rather than at a state-appointed facility.
    Similar measures using electronic wristbands to track peoples’ movements during quarantine have been used in Hong Kong and South Korea.
    Travellers to Singapore are required to activate the device, which use GPS and Bluetooth signals, upon reaching their home and will receive notifications on the device which they must acknowledge.
    Any attempt to leave home or tamper with the device will trigger an alert to the authorities.
    Hong Kong in March introduced a scheme for incoming travellers to use a slim electronic wristband, similar to a tag worn by hospital patients, to enforce quarantines for arriving passengers.    South Korea has also used such wristbands connected to smartphone apps for those who violate quarantine.
    Singapore, which has not given details on what the device will look like, said in a statement that it will not store any personal data and does not have any voice or video recording function.
    Those aged 12 and below will not have to wear the devices.
    The city-state, which is also planning to give all residents a wearable virus-tracing dongle, has tough punishments for breach of its quarantine and social distancing rules.
    Under the Infectious Diseases Act, punishments can be fines of up to S$10,000 ($7,272) or imprisonment of up to six months, or both.    It has also revoked the work passes of foreigners who flouted the rules.
    Singapore has reported 52,825 coronavirus infections, mostly due to mass outbreaks in cramped migrant workers dormitories, but imported cases have been creeping up in recent days.
(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and John Geddie in Singapore; Editing by Ed Davies)

8/3/2020 Hundreds Of Prisoners Flee Before Afghan Forces End Islamic State Jail Siege by Ahmed Sultan and Abdul Qadir Sediqi
An Army vehicle patrols near the site of an attack on a jail compound in Jalalabad, Afghanistan August 3, 2020. REUTERS/Parwiz
    JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Afghan security forces on Monday killed at least 10 Islamic State fighters who had taken control of a prison in the eastern city of Jalalabad, ending a siege in which hundreds of prisoners escaped.
    At least 29 people were killed in the militants’ assault on the prison on Sunday evening and subsequent clashes with security forces, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province said before the final shootout.
    “The attack is now over,” Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the provincial council, told Reuters after security forces clashed night and day with militants who had taken over the prison watchtowers.
    The violence comes at a sensitive time for Afghanistan as the United States attempts to usher peace talks between the Afghan government and the insurgent Taliban, who say they oppose Islamic State and have fought against them.
    More than 300 prisoners were still at large, Attaullah Khugyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said, said.    Of the 1,793 prisoners, more than 1,025 had tried to escape and been recaptured and 430 had remained inside.
    “The rest are missing,” he said.
    A defence ministry statement said all 10 attackers had been killed by Afghan security forces, though a provincial council member and a witness inside the prison told Reuters the number was likely around 30.
    Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which came a day after the Afghan intelligence agency said special forces had killed a senior Islamic State commander near Jalalabad, the provincial capital.
    After detonating a car bomb at the entrance on Sunday evening, Islamic State gunmen overran the prison where many Islamic State militants captured during a campaign in the past month were being held, along with Taliban fighters and common criminals.
    Mohammad Idres, one of the prisoners trapped inside and contacted by cellphone, said on Monday afternoon when the siege was under way he could see could around four bodies on the ground outside.
    “We are very hungry, it’s very hot and we don’t have water,” he told Reuters.
    “Sometimes it is quiet and then firing starts,” he said.    “The security forces cannot seem to advance because the attackers hold strategic points, including the watchtowers.”
    Officials said Afghan Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen Yasin Zia arrived on Monday to oversee the operation, involving special forces.
    Khugyani said civilians, prisoners and members of the security forces were among the 29 dead and more than 50 wounded before the final assault.
    As the siege dragged through the day, the normally bustling city was placed under a curfew.
    “Jalalabad is completely empty,” Qaderi said.
    Some 130 km (80 miles) east of Kabul, Jalalabad lies on the highway leading to the Khyber Pass and the Pakistani city of Peshawar.
    Security forces also clashed with Islamic State fighters on Monday in another part of Nangarhar, according to Ghalib Mujahid, the governor of Behsud district, though he said he did not yet have any information on casualties.
    The United States is drawing down troops after almost 19 years of war but security has remained volatile as the Taliban continue attacks on Afghan forces and other targets.
    A U.N. report last month estimated there were around 2,200 Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan, and that while the group has lost territory and its leadership has been depleted, it remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks.
(Reporting by Ahmed Sultan and Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Writing by Rupam Jain and Charlotte Greenfield, Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Nick Macfie)

8/3/2020 Pompeo, Taliban Negotiator Discuss Afghan Peace Process: Taliban Spokesman
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the State Department's
2021 budget, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, in Washington, D.C., U.S., July 30, 2020. Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a video meeting on Monday with the Taliban’s chief negotiator, Mullah Baradar Akhund, to discuss the Afghanistan peace process, a Taliban spokesman said.
    Pompeo and Baradar, who is based in Qatar, also discussed the issue of prisoners whose release by the Afghan government is demanded by the insurgents, Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman in Doha, said on Twitter.
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Chris Reese)

8/4/2020 Beijing Threatens Retaliation Over U.S. Actions Against Chinese Journalists
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin speaks during a news conference in Beijing, China July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Tuesday it will retaliate if Washington continues what it described as hostile actions against Chinese journalists based in the United States.
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the ministry understands that no Chinese journalist in the United States have had their application for a visa renewal approved since Washington in May moved to limit their visas to 90 days with an option for an extension.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

8/4/2020 Australian State To Impose Hefty Fines To Compel COVID-19 Isolation by Colin Packham
FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask walks in a street in Melbourne after it became the first city in Australia to enforce mask-wearing
in public as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s second-most populous state Victoria said on Tuesday that anyone breaking COVID-19 isolation orders will face hefty fines, as high as A$20,000 ($14,250), and that more military personnel will be deployed to fight the spread of the virus.
    Australia, once heralded as a global leader in containing COVID-19, is desperately trying to slow the spread of the virus in Victoria to prevent a national second wave of infections.
    Victoria earlier this week imposed a night curfew, tightened restrictions on people’s daily movements and ordered large parts of the local economy to close to slow the spread of coronavirus.
    But nearly a third of those who contracted COVID-19 were not home isolating when checked on by officials, requiring tough new penalties, Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said on Tuesday.
    Fines of nearly A$5,000 ($3,559.00) will be issued to anyone breaching stay at home orders.    Repeat offenders face a fine of up to A$20,000.
    “There is literally no reason for you to leave your home and if you were to leave your home and not be found there, you will have a very difficult time convincing Victoria police that you have a lawful reason,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.
    The only exemption will be for urgent medical care, said Andrews, adding anyone under a self-isolation order will no longer be allowed to leave their homes for outdoor exercise.
    “Fresh air at the front door. Fresh air in your front yard or backyard or opening a window,” he said.
    Andrews said an additional 500 unarmed military personnel will this week deploy to Victoria to assist police in ensuring self-isolation orders are being complied with.
    The latest military deployment will join about 1,500 troops already in Victoria and engaged in contact tracing, testing and assisting police at check points.    Australia has deployed almost 3,000 troops to help in virus logistical operations.
    Australia has recorded nearly 19,000 COVID-19 cases and 232 fatalities, far few than many other developed nations after closing its international borders early, imposing social distancing restrictions and mass virus testing.
    But as the country began to reopen, community transmissions rose significantly in Victoria which has recorded triple digit new cases for weeks.    It now has the bulk of infections in the country, with nearly 12,000 reported cases. On Tuesday, Victoria reported 439 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours.
    Andrews said 11 people had died from the virus since Monday, bringing the state’s death toll to 136.    The virus has spread significantly throughout Victoria’s aged care facilities, with many of the deaths among the elderly.
    Victoria state officials said the latest wave of COVID-19 infections has been driven by residents refusing to adhere to restrictions on their movements.
    “There are a number of people who have knowingly breached the curfew — so somebody who decided they were bored and they were going to go out for a drive, somebody who decided that they needed to buy a car after 8:00pm last night,” Victoria Minister for Police Lisa Neville told reporters in Melbourne.
    With concerns that many people feel they have no choice but to continue working after a COVID-19 diagnosis, Australia said on Monday it would pay people in the state A$1,500 to stay home if they were ordered to and they do not have leave entitlements.
    Many internal state borders have been closed which has so far seen the new wave of infections predominately limited to Victoria, with neighbouring New South Wales (NSW) state reporting the next highest number of cases.
    NSW on Tuesday reported 12 new cases, though all the cases can be traced back to known outbreaks, some of which were started by infected people travelling from Victoria.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Michael Perry)

8/4/2020 Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi Confirms Contesting For Second Term by Shoon Naing
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives to the electoral commision to formalize her re-election
bid as a parliament member in Yangon, Myanmar August 4, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday formally declared her intention to seek a second term in an election in November that is seen as a test of the Southeast Asian nation’s tentative democratic reforms.
    After decades of military rule, Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for campaigning for democracy, took the reins in 2016 after an electoral landslide, but has been forced to share power with the generals.
    Her international reputation slumped over Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims but she remains popular at home, where her image is undented by accusations of complicity in atrocities against the minority.
    On Tuesday, Suu Kyi, 75, waved to a crowd of around 50 supporters on the outskirts of the former capital Yangon to submit an application to run as a candidate.
    Some of her supporters wore red-coloured face masks denoting their backing for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party and shouted: “Mother Suu, be healthy.”
    In 2017, a military-led crackdown in Myanmar resulted in more than 730,000 Rohingya fleeing across the border to Bangladesh, where they took shelter in refugee camps. U.N. investigators concluded that the military campaign had been executed with “genocidal intent.”
    In January, Suu Kyi admitted that war crimes may have been committed against Rohingya, but denied genocide, saying refugees had exaggerated the extent of abuses against them.
    Mainly-Muslim Gambia had filed a suit in November at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Myanmar of “ongoing genocide” against the Rohingya.
    Myanmar has filed a report on its adherence to measures to protect Rohingya, but details of the document have not been published.
    On the domestic front, Suu Kyi’s adminstration has had faltering peace talks with ethnic armed groups in various parts of the country, while a struggling economy faces new pressure from the cororavirus pandemic.
    The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is dominated by the military and retired civil servants, will be the NLD’s main opponent.
(Reporting by Shoon Naing; Editing by Ed Davies & Simon Cameron-Moore)

8/4/2020 Prominent Muslims To Grace Hindu Temple Ceremony On Contested India Site by Saurabh Sharma
FILE PHOTO: A general view of Ayodhya is seen after Supreme Court's verdict on a disputed religious site, India, November 10, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
    LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) – In a gesture of reconciliation, two prominent Muslims who lived through deadly riots following the razing of a mosque in northern India in 1992 plan to attend the foundation-laying ceremony for a Hindu temple on Wednesday on the same site, they said.
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose Hindu nationalist party has been leading the demand for a temple there dedicated to the god-king Ram, is expected to be the chief guest at the event in Ayodhya town.
    Construction was made possible by a verdict late last year from the Supreme Court of India awarding the disputed site to the Hindus, and the planned visit by the two well-known Muslims underscored an easing of animosity between followers of the two religious faiths in one of Hindu-majority India’s most communally sensitive regions.
    “Whatever happened are things of the past,” said Iqbal Ansari, one of the Muslim litigants.    “I’ve been invited and I think it’s the wish of Lord Ram and I am going to attend it.”
    Mohammad Sharif, another Muslim honoured with one of India’s highest civilian awards for doing the last rites of unclaimed bodies since the riots, told Reuters he too had got an invitation and was keen to be there.
    In 1992, a Hindu mob destroyed the 16th-century Babri Mosque on the site, triggering clashes in which about 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed across the country.    Hindus believe the site is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.
    The area, situated about 427 miles southeast of New Delhi, was filled with the sounds of vedic hymns ahead of the ground-breaking ceremony.
    Barricades have been put up across the town with heavy police presence, as authorities try to limit the number of visitors to maintain social distancing.    At least two priests in the area and four policemen have tested positive for COVID-19.
    Still, nearly 200 people are likely to be there at the event, including 135 saints and priests from Nepal.
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

8/4/2020 Philippines Reports 6,352 Coronavirus Cases, Southeast Asia’s Biggest Daily Jump
Heavy traffic is pictured along Marcos Highway, as motorists queue for a checkpoint on the first day
of the Philippine capital's reimplementation of a stricter lockdown to curb coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
infections, in Marikina City, Metro Manila, Philippines, August 4, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ health ministry on Tuesday reported 6,352 new coronavirus infections, marking the biggest daily jump in cases in Southeast Asia and after posting a record rise in five of the past six days.
    In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases had increased to 112,593, while deaths rose by 11 to 2,115.
    The Philippine capital and nearby provinces on Tuesday returned under strict lockdown for two weeks to arrest soaring cases since restrictions were relaxed in June.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davies)

8/4/2020 China Vows Retaliation If Any U.S. Action Against Journalists by Yew Lun Tian and Brenda Goh
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin speaks during a news conference in Beijing, China July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
    BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China vowed on Tuesday to retaliate if the United States persisted with “hostile action” against Chinese journalists who may be forced to leave in coming days if their U.S. visas are not extended.
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters at a daily briefing that no Chinese journalist in the United States had been granted a visa extension since the United States, on May 11, limited their stay to 90 days, with an option to extend.
    “The U.S. has been escalating its actions against Chinese journalists,” Wang told reporters.    “The U.S. should immediately correct its mistake and stop its actions.”
    “If the U.S. persists, China will take a necessary and legitimate response to safeguard its rights,” he said.
    Wang did not say how many Chinese journalists were affected or what retaliation China might consider, but the editor of China’s Global Times newspaper said earlier U.S. journalists based in Hong Kong would be among those targeted should Chinese journalists be forced to leave the United States.
    “Chinese side has prepared for the worst scenario that all Chinese journalists have to leave,” Hu said on Twitter.
    “If that’s the case, Chinese side will retaliate, including targeting US journalists based in HK.”
    The Global Times is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.
    The two countries, whose relations have deteriorated sharply recently over various issues including trade and the novel coronavirus, have exchanged several tit-for-tat actions involving journalists in recent months.
    The United States in March slashed the number of Chinese nationals allowed to work at the U.S. offices of major Chinese state-owned media to 100 from 160.
    China expelled U.S. journalists working for three U.S. newspapers – New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post – this year and has threatened to match any more U.S. action against Chinese journalists.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Robert Birsel)

8/4/2020 Heavy Rain Batters India’s Mumbai Disrupting Rail And Road Traffic by Rajendra Jadhav
People drive through a flooded street during heavy rains in Mumbai, India, August 4, 2020. REUTERS/Hemanshi Kamani
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – Authorities in the Indian city of Mumbai issued a red alert on Tuesday and warned people not to venture out after heavy overnight rain in the financial hub brought flooding and travel chaos.
    Some suburbs have seen more than 300 mm of rain in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning and more heavy rain is expected over the next two days, said India Meteorological Department (IMD) official K.S. Hosalikar.
    The department issued a red alert for the city for the next two days and civic authorities advised people not to venture out unless absolutely necessary.
    Trains, already running skeleton services due to the novel coronavirus lockdown, were suspended in several places because of flooding and traffic was disrupted on some of the city’s main roads.
    A landslide swept down a slope onto a main road in a northern suburb, media reported.
    There was no impact on operations at Mumbai’s airport apart from reduced visibility, a representative said.
    The city struggles with the monsoon rains every year as widespread construction and rubbish-clogged drains and waterways make it increasingly vulnerable to flooding.
    Mumbai is also struggling with a surging coronavirus outbreak with an average of 1,000 new cases being reported every day.
(Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Robert Birsel)

8/4/2020 Vietnam Capital Low On Kits For Mass Tests As Nation’s Virus Cases Climb by Khanh Vu and Phuong Nguyen
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A medical specialist wearing a protective suit pours droplets of blood, collected from people who have returned from Da Nang,
onto a test kit for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a rapid testing center outside Hanoi, Vietnam July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Kham
    HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam reported 28 new COVID-19 infections and two deaths on Tuesday, bringing total cases to 670, with eight dead, as the capital Hanoi said it lacked the rapid testing kits it needs to continue mass screening for cases amid a new outbreak.
    Targeted testing and strict quarantining had helped Vietnam contain earlier outbreaks, but it is now battling new infections after going more than three months without any domestic transmission.
    The new outbreak has infected more than 220 people since July 25, the majority in Danang, but it has spread to at least eight other cities and provinces, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where entertainment venues are closed and gatherings restricted to prevent infections.
    Danang and Buon Ma Thuot in the coffee-growing Central Highlands are on lockdowns.    A government spokesman on Monday there was no plan for a nationwide lockdown.
    Vietnam’s government said on Tuesday the Danang outbreak appears to have started in early July.
    Most of Tuesday’s new cases are linked to Danang, the health ministry said, adding there were over 133,000 people undergoing quarantine, about 80% of those in their homes.
    More than 88,000 people have returned to Hanoi from Danang since July 8, but only 70,689 were tested, authorities said, with two positive
    The gap is due to a shortage of rapid testing kits used to screen thousands of residents at a time, according to state media.
    Hanoi medical institutions and hospitals have been assigned to boost testing capacity.
    Rapid tests can diagnose a blood sample in minutes but are prone to inaccuracies.    They are used to identify potentially positive cases that are confirmed using the more accurate, swab-based Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.
    Phan Quoc Viet, chairman of PCR test kit manufacturer Viet A Corp, said he was not concerned about stocks.
    “Vietnam is not short of COVID-19 test kits,” Viet told Reuters.    “We have enough for two million PCR tests and are willing to provide enough kits for the country to conduct a widespread testing programme.”
(Reporting by Khanh Vu and Phuong Nguyen; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Martin Petty and Gareth Jones)

8/4/2020 Fire Breaks Out At Iranian Industrial Area, No Casualties: State TV
Firefighters try to extinguish a fire that broke out at an Iranian industrial area near Tehran, Iran August 4, 2020.
WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
    DUBAI (Reuters) – A fire broke out at an Iranian industrial area near Tehran on Tuesday, Iran’s state TV reported, the latest in a string of fires and explosions, some of which have hit sensitive sites.
    “The fire broke out at the industrial area of the Jajrud district in the Pardis county this morning … there were no casualties … firefighters are trying to contain the fire,” it said.
    A fire department official told state TV that the cause of the fire was under investigation.
    There have been several other incidents at facilities in the past weeks, including a fire at the underground Natanz nuclear facility last month which caused significant damage, but Iranian officials said operations were not affected.
    In an explosion at a medical clinic in the north of the capital Tehran in July, 19 people were killed.    Officials said it was caused by a gas leak.
    On June 26, an explosion occurred east of Tehran near the Parchin military and weapons development base that the authorities said was caused by a leak in a gas storage facility in an area outside the base.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Alison Williams)

8/4/2020 China Vows Retaliation If Any U.S. Action Against Journalists by Yew Lun Tian and Brenda Goh
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin speaks during a news conference in Beijing, China July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
    BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China vowed on Tuesday to retaliate if the United States persisted with “hostile action” against Chinese journalists who may be forced to leave in coming days if their U.S. visas are not extended.
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters at a daily briefing that no Chinese journalist in the United States had been granted a visa extension since the United States, on May 11, limited their stay to 90 days, with an option to extend.
    “The U.S. has been escalating its actions against Chinese journalists,” Wang told reporters.    “The U.S. should immediately correct its mistake and stop its actions.”
    “If the U.S. persists, China will take a necessary and legitimate response to safeguard its rights,” he said.
    Wang did not say how many Chinese journalists were affected or what retaliation China might consider, but the editor of China’s     Global Times newspaper said earlier U.S. journalists based in Hong Kong would be among those targeted should Chinese journalists be forced to leave the United States.
    “Chinese side has prepared for the worst scenario that all Chinese journalists have to leave,” Hu said on Twitter.
    “If that’s the case, Chinese side will retaliate, including targeting US journalists based in HK.”
    The Global Times is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.
    The two countries, whose relations have deteriorated sharply recently over various issues including trade and the novel coronavirus, have exchanged several tit-for-tat actions involving journalists in recent months.
    The United States in March slashed the number of Chinese nationals allowed to work at the U.S. offices of major Chinese state-owned media to 100 from 160.
    China expelled U.S. journalists working for three U.S. newspapers – New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post – this year and has threatened to match any more U.S. action against Chinese journalists.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Robert Birsel)

8/5/2020 Flood-Hit South Korea Guards Against Coronavirus At Relief Shelters by Soohyun Mah and Sangmi Cha
A health worker sanitizes the floor of a makeshift shelter for flood sufferers at a gym in Ansung, South Korea, August 5, 2020. REUTERS/Daewoung Kim
    ANSEONG, South Korea (Reuters) – Tents erected in a school gym in the South Korean city of Anseong provided shelter on Wednesday for some families among more than 1,000 people made homeless by landslides and floods caused by the country’s longest period of rain in seven years.
    At least 15 people have been killed and more than 1,500 forced from their homes during 43 consecutive days of rain, though a few hundred have managed to return.
    Sitting at the Anseong shelter, which housed 33 people as of Wednesday, 83-year-old Kwon Cha-soon’s eyes filled with tears as she described losing everything to a landslide.
    “There isn’t a single plate … It’s an empty house,” she said.    “All my pots and garlic jars have been swept away.”
    More than 1,146 people remained in temporary shelters set up in gyms and community centres as of Wednesday, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety said, with measures implemented at the facilities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
    As a precaution against the shelters becoming coronavirus hotspots, officials at the school in Anseong, a city of 190,000 people 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Seoul, erected tents and placed them slightly apart to encourage social distancing.
    Relief workers checked people’s temperatures and screened for any COVID-19 symptoms, and displaced residents were asked to wear masks and wash their hands.
    “I was a bit concerned about the coronavirus, but there is no alternative given the situation,” said Kim Soo-goon, whose home was filled with debris and mud following a landslide.
    South Korea has reported 14,456 coronavirus cases, including 33 new cases as of midnight on Tuesday, with 302 deaths.
    Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called for the health ministry to declare three provinces in northern South Korea as special disaster zones, which would entitle them to receive additional aid.
    In neighbouring North Korea, state media warned of “torrential” rain, possible flooding, and high winds and waves.
    While the reports did not mention any specific damage, this year’s heavy rains come during the summer harvest season, raising concerns about food security.
    The rain appears to be hitting some of the major rice-growing areas of North Korea, said Choi Yong-ho, research fellow at the Korea Rural Economic Institute in Seoul.
    “This flooding will have a negative impact for North Korea’s food supply,” he said.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha in Seoul and Suhyun Mah in Anseong. Additional reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

8/5/2020 Hong Kong Reports 85 Coronavirus Cases As Authorities Battle Third Wave
FILE PHOTO: People wear protective face masks at a Light Rail station following the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hong Kong, China July 19, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong reported 85 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, including three that were locally transmitted, as authorities battle to control a third wave of the outbreak which has seen a resurgence in infections over the past month.
    Since late January, around 3,700 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 43 of whom have died. Wednesday’s figure was up marginally from Tuesday’s 80 cases.
(Reporting by Twinnie Siu; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

8/5/2020 Philippines Confirms 3,462 More Coronavirus Cases, Nine Deaths
FILE PHOTO: Passengers wearing face masks for protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) queue
to ride a bus in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 21, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ health ministry on Wednesday reported 3,462 new coronavirus infections and nine additional deaths.
    In a bulletin, the ministry said total infections had risen to 115,980, putting the tally just behind Indonesia’s 116,871 cases, which is the highest in East Asia.
    Coronavirus deaths in the Philippines have reached 2,123.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davies)

8/5/2020 Sri Lankans Vote For New Parliament, Shrugging Off Coronavirus Fear by Arjuna Ranawana
People wearing protective masks wait in a line to cast their vote outside a polling station during the
country's parliamentary election in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 5, 2020. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte
    COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lankans shrugged off fears of the novel coronavirus and streamed into polling centres on Wednesday to elect a new parliament that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa hopes will clear the way for him to boost his powers.
    The tourism-dependent island nation of 21 million people has been struggling since deadly Islamist militant attacks on hotels and churches last year followed by lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
    Rajapaksa is seeking a two-thirds majority for his party in the 225-seat parliament to enable constitutional reforms to make the presidency more powerful so he can implement his economic and national security agenda.
    Voters, who wore masks and kept one metre apart, seemed keen to have their say with a third of the electorate casting ballots in the first four hours, the Election Commission said.
    “If they come at this rate we should get between 65 and 70 percent, which is good given the COVID situation,” said top Election Commission official Saman Sri Rathnayake.
    Sri Lanka had reported 2,828 cases of the coronavirus and 11 deaths as of Tuesday, which is small compared with other South Asian countries.
    Election officials wore transparent face shields while medical personnel were deployed to ensure voters abided by rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
    “The polling station is safer than the beach, the restaurant and the marketplace,” said the chairman of the Election Commission, Mahinda Deshapriya.
    Rajapaksa won the presidency last November vowing to restore relations with China, which had been strained by disputes over some Chinese investments.
    He is hoping to install his older brother who is also a former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, as prime minister.
    The brothers built their political careers as nationalist champions of the majority Sinhalese, Buddhist community.
    They are best known for crushing ethnic minority Tamil separatist insurgents who battled for decades for a homeland in the island’s north and east.
    The 26-year civil war ended in 2009 when the elder Rajapaksa was president amid allegations of torture and killings of civilians in the final stages of the conflict.
    Since then, governments led by the brothers’ opponents have sought to reduce the power of the president to prevent abuses and instead strengthen independent commissions appointed by parliament.
    But Rajapaksa said he has felt hobbled since he took over as president.
    “I need power to implement my economic programme which you voted for,” he told supporters last week.
    The opposition led by Sajith Premadasa, son of assassinated president Ranasinghe Premadasa, has warned of the risk of autocracy if the presidency is invested with more powers.
    Votes are to be counted on Thursday and the results should be known that day.
(Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Robert Birsel)

8/5/2020 India’s Modi To Launch Construction Of Hindu Temple On Site Of Razed Mosque by Saurabh Sharma
People watch a live screening of the stone laying ceremony of the Ram Temple by Prime Minister
Narendra Modi in Ayodhya, in New Delhi, India August 5, 2020. REUTETS/Adnan Abidi
    AYODHYA, India (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil a plaque on Wednesday to kick off the construction of a Hindu temple in the northern city of Ayodhya on a spot where a mosque was demolished nearly three decades ago to spark deadly riots nationwide.
    The event fulfils a long-standing promise by Modi and his Hindu nationalist party and marks the first anniversary of another commitment delivered by his government, the end of special privileges for India’s only Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.
    It follows a Supreme Court verdict late last year that handed the site to India’s Hindu majority in exchange for a plot given to the Muslim community for a mosque, ending years of litigation.
    Although two prominent Muslims who experienced the riots said in a gesture of reconciliation that they would attend the ceremony, an influential Muslim non-government body said the Babri Mosque “was, and will always be,” one.
    “Usurpation of the land by an unjust, oppressive, shameful and majority-appeasing judgment can’t change its status,” the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board said on Twitter.    “No need to be heartbroken.    Situations don’t last forever.”
    Many Hindus believe the god-king Ram was born on the exact spot where the mosque was built in the 16th century by Muslim Mughal rulers.    In 1992, it was demolished by a Hindu mob, triggering riots that killed about 2,000 people, mostly Muslims.
    Yellow flowers decorated the freshly washed area around a temple on the banks of the Sarayu River where Modi will offer prayers before heading to the construction site at noon on his first such visit since becoming prime minister in 2014.
    Numerous security officials guarded Ayodhya, crowded by thousands of people, few wearing masks against the coronavirus, although social distancing measures to limit its spread will allow only about 200 to gather at the main event site.
    The chant of prayers resounded through the city, located about 687 km (427 miles) southeast of the capital New Delhi, as devotees and monks thronged its numerous ancient temples in celebration.
    Event organisers gathered soil from more than 2,000 holy spots and water from over 100 rivers for use in prayers at the start of the building work, while a Ram devotee from southern Tamil Nadu state has donated two bricks of precious metal.
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

8/5/2020 Indonesia Reports 1,815 New Coronavirus Cases, 64 New Deaths
FILE PHOTO: Employees tidy up beds at a sports facility converted to an isolation room for COVID-19 victims amid the spread of the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) in Gresik, East Java Province, Indonesia, July 20, 2020, in this photo taken by Antara Foto/Zabur Karuru/via REUTERS.
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia recorded 1,815 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian country to 116,871, data by the country’s health ministry showed.
    There were 64 additional deaths, taking the overall number of fatalities to 5,452, the data showed.
(Reporting by Stanley Widianto and Fathin Ungku; Editing by Martin Petty)

8/5/2020 Militants Attack In Indian Kashmir As It Locks Down For Anniversary by Fayaz Bukhari
Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officers put up a roadblock on an empty street during a lockdown on
the first anniversary of the revocation of Kashmir's autonomy, in Srinagar August 5, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Ismail
    SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – Militants attacked Indian security forces with a grenade and gunfire in Kashmir on Wednesday, defying a strict security lockdown on the first anniversary of the government’s scrapping of the disputed Himalayan region’s autonomy.
    There were no immediate reports of casualties, police said.
    Authorities blanketed Kashmir with troops, who laid out barbed wire and set up road blacks to prevent demonstrations a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped India’s only Muslim-majority state of its special rights.
    The government said the change was necessary to develop the strife-torn region and integrate it with the rest of India but it infuriated many Kashmiris and neighbouring Pakistan.
    Some critics saw it as part of a pattern by the Hindu-nationalist government aimed at sidelining Muslims.    The government denies that.
    Kashmir is claimed in full by India and Pakistan, which have gone to war twice over it, and both rule parts of it.    Militants have been fighting Indian rule in its part of Kashmir since 1989 in a conflict that has killed at least 50,000 dead, according to official figures.
    Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was due to travel to the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir to mark the anniversary later on Wednesday.
    He reiterated a long-standing Pakistani appeal for international intervention to help resolve the dispute over Kashmir between the nuclear-armed neighbours that has bedevilled their ties since the end of British colonial rule in 1947.
    “It is imperative that the international community steps in immediately and backs its words of condemnation with practical steps that will force India to reverse its present course against the Kashmiri people,” he said in a statement.
    India has ruled out any outside mediation over Kashmir.
    In Srinagar, a handful of members of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gathered at their headquarters to unfurl an Indian flag to mark the occasion.    The party had long campaigned for ending Kashmir’s special status.
    Party spokesman Altaf Thakur said similar celebrations took place in all district headquarters in the territory.    “It is an important and historic day for our party,” Thakur told Reuters.
    Elsewhere in Srinagar, police and paramilitary troops enforced the strictest lockdown for several months, stopping public movements, including a proposed meeting of politicians.
    “One year later the authorities are still too afraid to allow us to meet, much less carry out any normal political activity.    This fear speaks volumes about the true situation on the ground in Kashmir,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah said on Twitter.
    Last August’s change in status in Indian Kashmir was accompanied by a communication blackout, widespread restrictions and mass detentions, including of elected leaders.
    Most of those measures have been eased, although internet speeds are still restricted.    More recently, many families have been confined indoors because of coronavirus lockdowns.
(Additional reporting by Sheree Sardar in ISLAMABAD; Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Robert Birsel)

8/5/2020 Australia Suffers Record Coronavirus Deaths, Triggering Tighter Curbs by Sonali Paul
FILE PHOTO: A medical personnel reacts while working alongside others wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)
as they administer tests for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a pop-up testing centre, as the state
of New South Wales grapples with an outbreak of new cases, in Sydney, Australia, July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia reported a record 15 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, all in Victoria state, which was preparing to close much of its economy to control a second wave of infection that threatens to spread across the country.
    The second-most populous state in Australia reported a record rise of 725 new COVID-19 cases despite having reimposed a lockdown on Melbourne, the state capital with a population of 5 million people, four weeks ago.
    New South Wales and Queensland states introduced new measures to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, which has claimed 247 lives across the country.
    In Victoria, the state government imposed a night curfew and tightened restrictions on people’s movements across greater Melbourne on Sunday, and ordered most businesses to stop trading from Wednesday night in a massive blow to the national economy.
    Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Wednesday further restrictions would include shutting most child-care centres and expanding a ban on elective surgery to the whole state to free up medical resources for coronavirus cases.
    “The notion of more than 700 cases is not sustainable.    We need to drive the numbers down and this strategy is designed to do just that,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.
    Australian Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd urged Victorians to comply with the state’s tight restrictions.
    “I hope it won’t be the case, but it may be, that the numbers will go even higher over the coming days before they start to come down as a result of the impact of the restrictions,” Kidd told reporters in Canberra.
    The tighter lockdown will delay an independent inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine programme.    Hearings which were due to begin on Thursday will start on Aug. 17, with the final report now due on Nov. 6.
    State health officials believe the mingling of security guards with infected travelers in hotel quarantine was the main source of the resurgence of the virus in Melbourne over the past two months.
    Victoria accounts for about a quarter of the nation’s economy and has nearly two-thirds of Australia’s almost 19,500 COVID-19 cases.
CONTAGION FEAR
    In northeastern Queensland state, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said travelers from New South Wales and the capital Canberra would be barred from Saturday.    The state is already closed to Victorians.
    “We have seen that Victoria is not getting better, and we’re not going to wait for New South Wales to get worse. We need to act,” Palaszczuk told reporters in Brisbane.
    After two months of no community transmission in the state, Queensland now has at least three such cases.    Queensland reported one new infection on Wednesday, while New South Wales (NSW), the most-populous state, reported 12.
    Travelers returning from Victoria to NSW through Sydney airport will be required to self-quarantine in hotels for 14 days from midnight on Friday, the NSW government said.
    NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that while case numbers in the state were “pleasingly stable, we continue to be at high risk.”
    The closure of businesses in Victoria and curbs on construction activity, meatworks and warehouses are set to cost 250,000 jobs, doubling the number of jobs already lost in the state due to the pandemic.
    In another blow to the economy, Australia’s number two airline, Virgin Australia Holdings, said it would axe 3,000 jobs under its prospective new owner Bain Capital.
    Australia’s central bank expects the nation’s jobless rate to spike to 10% later this year.
    S&P Global Ratings said it may lower Victoria’s AAA long-term rating as the current lockdown and border closures would hit the economy “substantially more than we previously expected.”
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Additional reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Stephen Coates)

8/5/2020 Beijing Warns U.S. For ‘Suppressing’ Chinese Journalists by OAN Newsroom
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin speaks during a daily briefing at
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Friday, July 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
    In Beijing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the U.S. had damaged the reputation of Chinese journalists and urged it to “correct its mistakes.”    His remarks came after the U.S. government restricted the stay of Chinese journalists in the country to no more than 90 days back in May.
    Washington cited concerns over the journalists’ suspected membership in the Chinese Communist Party as the reason for the visa restrictions, which Wenbin labeled as political suppression.
    “The relevant U.S. action has seriously interfered with the normal reporting activities of the Chinese media in the U.S., severely damaged the reputation of the Chinese media, and gravely disrupted the normal cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries,” he stated.
    Wenbin said dozens of Chinese journalists were forced to leave the U.S. due to the restrictions the government has imposed on Chinese state media in the country, also adding that about 20 have had their visas denied since 2018.    The spokesperson further accused the U.S. of bullying and threatened it with “justified responses” if it did not change.
    “The U.S. flaunts itself on freedom of press, while on the other hand it obstructs the Chinese media from doing their job in the U.S.” stated the Chinese spokesperson.    “This exposes the hypocrisy of the so-called ‘freedom of press’ in the U.S. — this is completely double standards and hegemonic bullying.”
    Wenbin hinted at possible reprisals against U.S. reporters in Hong Kong and said the region was under China’s administrative rule.
    The statement came amid revelations Chinese media outlets have been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to print Chinese state propaganda as ads on major U.S. outlets.
    The New York Times recently severed its ties with the Chinese state sponsored China Daily and deleted hundreds of advertisements on its website, which were paid for by the Chinese news outlet.
    Tension between China and the U.S. has ramped up considerably during the last few weeks and stems from several key issues.    Chief among these issues is the outbreak of COVID-19 as well as the country’s crackdown on democratic institutions in Hong Kong.

8/5/2020 Special Report: COVID Opens New Doors For China’s Gene Giant by Kirsty Needham
FILE PHOTO: Scientists work with samples taken for testing for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the "Huo-Yan"
(Fire Eye) National Laboratory for Molecular Detection of Infectious Agents in Belgrade, Serbia May 12, 2020. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – As countries scramble to test for the novel coronavirus, a Chinese company has become a go-to name around the world.
    BGI Group, described in one 2015 study as “Goliath” in the fast-growing field of genomics research, is using an opening created by the pandemic to expand its footprint globally.    In the past six months, it says it has sold 35 million rapid COVID-19 testing kits to 180 countries and built 58 labs in 18 countries.    Some of the equipment has been donated by BGI’s philanthropic arm, promoted by China’s embassies in an extension of China’s virus diplomacy.
    But as well as test kits, the company is distributing gene-sequencing technology that U.S. security officials say could threaten national security.    This is a sensitive area globally.    Sequencers are used to analyse genetic material, and can unlock powerful personal information.
    In science journals and online, BGI is calling on international health researchers to send in virus data generated on its equipment, as well as patient samples that have tested positive for COVID-19, to be shared publicly via China’s government-funded National GeneBank.
    As BGI’s foothold in the gene-sequencing industry grows, a senior U.S. administration official told Reuters on condition of anonymity, so does the risk China could harvest genetic information from populations around the world.
    Underpinning BGI’s global expansion are the Shenzhen-based company’s links to the Chinese government, which include its role as operator of China’s national genetic database and its research in government-affiliated key laboratories.    BGI, which says in stock market filings it aims to help the ruling Communist Party achieve its goal to “seize the commanding heights of international biotechnology competition,” is coming under increasing scrutiny in an escalating Cold War between Washington and Beijing, Reuters found.
    Reuters found no evidence that BGI is violating patient privacy protections where these apply.    Responding to questions from the news agency, BGI said it is not owned by the Chinese government.
    “Under the current political climate, the fear raised about the use of BGI’s technology is unfounded and misleading,” BGI said in a statement to Reuters.    “BGI’s mission is, and has always been, using genomics to benefit people’s health and wellbeing.”
    China’s foreign ministry said in a statement the country has been open, transparent and responsible in “sharing information and experience with the international community, providing supplies to relevant countries” including COVID-19 test kits and protective equipment, and helping countries improve epidemic control.
    The extent of BGI’s endeavours to dominate an industry with geostrategic value, as well as of its efforts to gather genetic data from around the world, was pieced together by Reuters from public documents and dozens of interviews with scientists, researchers and health officials.
    Some U.S. officials warn of a dual risk to national security from BGI: Sensitive genetic information about U.S. citizens may fall into foreign hands, and American companies stand to lose their innovative edge in the field of genomics to Chinese firms.
    Earlier this year, the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) published practical tips for health services to avoid “potential threats posed by foreign powers” in connection with COVID-19 tests.    Other officials draw parallels between BGI and Huawei Technologies Co., the Chinese telecommunications titan whose 5G technology the United States says could be used to capture personal data that Beijing could exploit.    Huawei has said it would refuse to cooperate with spying.
    Sharing data is essential for medical research.    But in the case of genetic data, officials and scientists say the risks are that it could be weaponized.
    Individuals can be identified by a portion of their DNA, and some researchers have found genetic links with behaviours such as depressive disorder.    A hostile actor could use such data to target individuals for surveillance, extortion or manipulation, according to a comprehensive report prepared for the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence by science and medical experts in January, which added that such associations are not yet well understood.
    Knowledge of the genetic makeup of national decision-makers or the military, and their propensity to act in certain ways, could be used by adversarial intelligence agencies as a mechanism of influence, said the report, “Safeguarding the Bioeconomy,” from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Genetic data could reveal a U.S. vulnerability to specific diseases, it added.
    As companies race to develop and patent biological drugs for the global market, the ethnic diversity of the U.S. population makes U.S. genomic data more valuable than data from countries with homogeneous populations, the report said.    That’s because the more varied the data, the bigger the advantage in identifying genetic disease.    The report raised the possibility BGI could amass DNA sequence information from U.S. genetic samples that would give it an “asymmetrical” advantage over U.S. firms.
    Genetic information, including family medical history, “is of enormous value and can be exploited by foreign regimes for a range of security and economic purposes,” Bill Evanina, director of the NCSC, told Reuters in response to questions about Chinese genomic companies.
    BGI and Huawei have said they work together.    In a video that is no longer available on Huawei’s site, a BGI executive said it processes “staggering volumes of data” from its gene sequencers, stored on Huawei’s high-powered systems.    In response to questions from Reuters about whether this information could be shared with China’s government, Huawei said only users of its technology can define who to share data with.    “Huawei’s Cloud technology and cloud computing services are secure and compliant with international security standards,” it said, adding it complies with all laws.
    BGI said it does not have access to patient data from its diagnostic tests.
    The company said it is conducting scientific research on the genomes, or genetic blueprints, of the virus and patients with COVID-19.    But it said this research is separate from the tests it provides to other nations to diagnose COVID-19.
    Asked about China’s genomics ambitions, a U.S. State Department spokesman said: “We believe countries need to be able to trust that vendors will not threaten national security, privacy or intellectual property.    Trust cannot exist where a company is subject to an authoritarian government, like the People’s Republic of China, that lacks prohibitions on the misuse of data.”
FROM “WHO1” TO FIRE EYE
    BGI was involved in China’s response to the coronavirus from the start.    Its scientists were among teams that sequenced the virus genome and shared that information in January.
    On Dec. 26, BGI collected and tested a throat swab from a 44-year-old man who was a patient in the military hospital in Wuhan, according to a record of the sequence that was shared with other researchers on a global database.    The World Health Organisation (WHO) learned of cases of pneumonia of an unknown cause in Wuhan on Dec. 31; the blueprint of the patient’s virus was named WHO1.
    The week after that first test, BGI took swabs from another three patients at the hospital who had been to the local seafood market, according to a paper published by Chinese scientists in The Lancet on Jan. 29. BGI sequenced these samples.
    By month’s end, the company had designed an automated laboratory for the Wuhan government to massively increase testing.    BGI called the design “Fire Eye,” after the ability of China’s fabled Monkey King to see disguised threats.
    The labs were replicated in China, and the Mammoth Foundation – a charity established a few months earlier by BGI – started donating tests and laboratories worldwide.    By mid-year, BGI’s COVID-19 lab equipment was installed in at least 10 countries thanks to donations by the charity, company statements and local news reports show.
    China’s government helped coordinate some of BGI’s deals.    The Solomon Islands said it had received a $300,000 cheque from the Chinese embassy, which advised the island nation to buy tests and lab equipment from BGI.    China’s foreign ministry said China has done its best to ensure safety and reliability of medical supplies.
    Besides donations, BGI has reported lab deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars.    As technicians in white protective suits build Fire Eye labs in countries from Australia to Saudi Arabia, BGI Genomics, a listed subsidiary of the group, said last month demand would help boost profits by 700% for the first half of the year to more than $218 million.
POWERFUL INFORMATION
    There are two main aspects to BGI’s COVID-19 programme.
    First, diagnostic test kits, which come with high-speed processing robots to handle large volumes, work by detecting the genetic material of the virus in a patient’s sample to tell if a person has been infected.    BGI says these tests do not give access to patient data.
    The second part, which the company offers as an add-on in its marketing materials, is gene-sequencing equipment.     In the pandemic, researchers around the globe are using sequencers to track mutations in the virus, see which mutation is spreading, and choose strains or samples to work with for vaccine development.
    Underpinning demand for DNA sequencers is also their role driving a lucrative medical field known as precision or personal medicine.    Rather than seek one-drug-suits-all treatments, precision medicine focuses on how different people’s genes interact with their environment to help predict their risk of disease, or their response to medications.
    In July, BGI Genomics, BGI’s listed subsidiary on the Shenzhen stock exchange filed for a $293 million capital hike, telling investors in the filing their support would help it collect as much patient data as possible, “on the human body, genome, people’s living habits and environment, so we can understand more, and diagnose in a more precise way.”
    The company also says it plans to promote the Fire Eye labs it rolls out for COVID-19 for precision medicine after the pandemic.
FROM CUSTOMER TO RIVAL
    BGI was set up by four scientists in 1999 as a non-profit research body called the Beijing Genomics Institute, to enable China to join a global project to map the human genome.    Since 2016, its headquarters have housed and operated the government-funded China National GeneBank, a biorepository of 20 million plant, animal and human genetic samples.
    In 2010, BGI received a $1.5 billion loan from the state-run China Development Bank, some of which it used to buy 128 sequencing machines from an American firm, San Diego-based Illumina Inc.
    Two years after that, Beijing said in a State Council plan for the bio-industry that it wanted China to develop gene sequencing technology.    In 2013, BGI succeeded in buying Illumina’s largest competitor, California-based Complete Genomics, for $118 million.    That is now the U.S. research arm of the Chinese group.    BGI Group launched its own sequencing equipment in 2015; the group floated BGI Genomics in 2017.
    This year, BGI Genomics told investors that it had cost $95 million to sequence a whole human genome in 2001.    By 2014, Illumina had announced it reduced the cost to below $1,000. Now BGI could do it for $600.
    In May, MGI Tech, the BGI subsidiary that makes DNA sequencers, raised $1 billion in venture capital.
    But after BGI indicated it would launch its sequencers in the United States, it ran into a challenge – an accusation of intellectual property violations from Illumina.    In June, a U.S. court issued a preliminary injunction banning the sale, distribution or promotion of BGI’s materials and equipment, pending a trial to decide if the technology was copied from Illumina.
    Seeking the injunction, Illumina’s lawyers told the court: “BGI plans extreme price cutting and ambitious sales directly against Illumina.”
    BGI declined to comment on the case.    In court papers, BGI denied infringing Illumina’s patents and asked that parts of the injunction be put on hold while it appealed the ruling.    Illumina told Reuters COVID-19 will boost sequencer demand.
MORE VALUABLE THAN GOLD
    With a price tag of between $20,000 for a portable model and $1 million for a powerful machine, gene sequencers are an important part of a country’s pandemic armoury.
    Even before the new coronavirus, in October 2019, Ethiopia’s government said it would establish a genomics lab with equipment donated by BGI.    Months later, Illumina donated sequencers to 10 African nations to help monitor the virus, the U.S. company said.
    At least five countries worldwide have received BGI’s sequencers with the Fire Eye labs, according to statements the countries or BGI have released.    In many cases BGI does not own or operate the Fire Eye laboratories, but simply provides the equipment, the company told Reuters.
    For BGI, sequencers offer more than money.    It has said they will also help it study the virus in large populations.
    One recipient of BGI sequencing equipment is Serbia, the Balkan country where Beijing has invested heavily as part of its One Belt, One Road initiative to open trade links for Chinese companies.    Two labs have opened there. Both were donated by Chinese companies, Beijing and Belgrade said.
    After the first lab opened, coordinator Jelena Begovic told Reuters in May that DNA sequencers help researchers by linking genetic information on the virus with genetic information on the patient.    In future, she said, the labs would underpin cooperation with BGI.
    “Information is nowadays sometimes more valuable than gold,” she said.    “In that sense, this is also a source of information for them regarding this region.”
    Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told an opening ceremony that after the pandemic, “We will have the most modern lab, which will enable us to start talking with BGI on how to build the most advanced institute for precision medicine and genetics in this region.”
    Sweden, too, has received sequencing equipment from BGI.    The Karolinska Institute, a medical university in Stockholm, hopes to use it to identify a human genotype that is more susceptible to the disease, microbiology professor Lars Engstrand said in a presentation on BGI’s website.
    Asked by Reuters about the risk Swedish genomic data may be collected by the Chinese government, Engstrand said this was “a very relevant question” and the institute’s IT security department had scrutinised its collaboration with BGI.
    “There will be no sequence information sent to any other servers or computers outside our institute,” said Engstrand, who heads the institute’s Center for Translational Microbiome Research, in an email.    “No cloud solution will be used for these sensitive data.”
    He was unsure if the institute would go ahead with sequencing human genomes, he added.
CONSIDERABLE SUPPORT
    Researchers globally are sharing virus data, but BGI has also set up its own sharing platform, the “Global Initiative on Open-source Genomics” for the new coronavirus.
    On a website together with the China National GeneBank, giogs.genomics.cn, it invites international scientists to send in virus information including patient age, gender and location, collected in accordance with local regulations.
    “You will be asked to share virus genome data to the public via (the National GeneBank) in the first instance,” the site says.
    In exchange, the site offers sequencing services and “considerable support” for the cost of kits and reagents.     BGI told Reuters it had received no patient samples under this new programme – samples have been sequenced in local facilities.
    It said its goal is to “develop more high-quality genome data of (the) virus with BGI’s sequencing solution.”    It said it wants to facilitate the rapid and open sharing of genome data to support research on the virus.
    Besides the National GeneBank, BGI’s headquarters also house at least four government-designated “Key Laboratories” for genomic research, which are also government-funded.    BGI said this funding is used for research, not operations.
    One of the labs supported a study by a dozen BGI researchers who sequenced the genomes of more than 300 COVID-19 patients in a Shenzhen hospital, according to a paper they shared on MedRvix, a website for pre-published scientific papers.
    “We and the others are continuing to recruit patients and data in China and around the world to understand the host genetic background underlying the varying clinical outcome of the patients,” the researchers wrote.
    As rapid COVID-19 tests are adopted globally, the researchers added, it will be important to study patients who don’t show symptoms.    The study’s lead author didn’t respond to questions from Reuters.
SECURITY APPARATUS
    BGI’s pandemic push comes as tensions between China and the United States are mounting, including over China’s genetic programme.
    Two BGI subsidiaries were blacklisted by the U.S. Commerce Department last month for China’s alleged human rights violations.    Washington alleged BGI is involved in conducting genetic analysis of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang in western China, where U.N. experts and activists say Muslims were held in detention centres.
    BGI said in a statement it “does not condone and would never be involved in any human-rights abuses.”    Chinese officials say the camps are educational and vocational institutions and deny they violate the human rights of the detainees.
    China’s security apparatus is a BGI customer.    Another BGI subsidiary, Forensic Genomics International, says on its website it works with China’s Public Security Bureau.    It had multiple contracts with the police to collect male DNA samples, as well as samples from some newborn babies, a survey this year by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found.
    BGI said the forensics subsidiary complied with scientific ethics and the law.    The foreign ministry declined to comment.
(Needham reported from Sydney; Additional reporting by Daniel Levine in San Francisco, Ivana Sekularac in Belgrade, Tova Cohen in Tel Aviv, Joel Schectman and David Brunnstrom in Washington, D.C., Cate Cadell in Beijing, Steve Stecklow in London, David Kirton in Shenzhen; Edited by Sara Ledwith)

8/5/2020 At Least 30 Injured In Grenade Attack In Pakistan At Kashmir Rally by Syed Raza Hassan
FILE PHOTO: Police officers guard at the cordoned site after, according to police a grenade attack was carried out on
a rally by the supporters of religious and political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) to mark the "Day of Exploitation in
Kashmir" one year after the Indian government split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federally controlled territories
and took away its special privileges, in Karachi, Pakistan August 5, 2020. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro/File Photo
    KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – At least 30 people were injured in a grenade attack on a rally in Karachi on Wednesday, as Pakistan marked the first anniversary of India’s revocation of Kashmir’s semi-autonomy.
    The wounded were rushed to different hospitals, where one was in a critical condition, an official from the provincial health department said.
    “A grenade was lobbed in the rally, causing several casualties,” Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon told Reuters.
    The attack was claimed by Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army, a separatist outfit that has become active in the past months.
    In June, four people were killed including two soldiers in three consecutive explosions claimed by the SRA.
    The group wants Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, to break from the Pakistani federation.    It has also announced its alliance with the Balochistan Liberation Army, a militant group fighting for greater autonomy for the Balochistan region in southwestern Pakistan.
    The attack took place as similar rallies were held across the country. The Karachi rally, organised by Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious right party, was called off after the attack.
    Last August, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped Jammu and Kashmir – India’s only Muslim-majority state – of its special rights and split it into two federally administered territories.
    The government said the change was necessary to develop the revolt-torn region and integrate it with the rest of India, but it infuriated many Kashmiris as well as neighbouring Pakistan.
    Kashmir is claimed in full by India and Pakistan, which have gone to war twice over it, and both rule parts of it.
    Indian authorities deployed troops and curbed public movement on Wednesday to stop potential protests in Kashmir.
(Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Alison Williams)

8/6/2020 Philippines Records Most Coronavirus Cases In East Asia After New Surge by Neil Jerome Morales
FILE PHOTO: A police officer checks a passenger's body temperature at a quarantine checkpoint amid the reimposed strict
lockdown to curb COVID-19 infections, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, August 5, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines on Thursday recorded another jump in coronavirus cases to overtake neighbouring Indonesia as the country with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in East Asia.
    A recent surge in cases of the virus in and around the capital Manila has pushed authorities to reimpose a lockdown affecting around a quarter of the country’s 107 million people.
    The Philippines recorded 3,561 new infections on Thursday, taking its total confirmed cases to 119,460.    That is higher than Indonesia’s 118,753 infection cases.
    The death toll rose by 28 to 2,150, which is less than half of Indonesia’s 5,521 fatalities, but is expected to grow after the recent spike in cases.
    President Rodrigo Duterte announced late on Sunday a two-week lockdown in and around Manila, which accounts for two-thirds of the country’s economic output.
    The restrictions, which came into effect on Tuesday, were reinstated after a group of doctors and nurses warned that the healthcare system could collapse as a result of a surging number of virus patients.
    Public transport has been shut and working from home instituted where possible, with only one person per household allowed out for essential goods.
    The Philippines imposed one the world’s strictest and longest lockdowns in and around the capital, running from mid-March to the end of May, which brought the economy to its knees in the first half.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Writing by Jane Wardell; Editing by Ed Davies)

8/6/2020 Hong Kong Reports 95 New Coronavirus Cases As Local Transmissions Stay High
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong reported 95 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, of which 91 were locally transmitted, as authorities tried to contain the virus, which has seen a resurgence in the global financial hub over the past month.
    Around 3,800 people have been infected in Hong Kong since late January, 44 of whom have died.    On Wednesday, 85 new cases were reported.
    The government on Thursday said it was extending the work from home period for civil servants until Aug. 16.
(Reporting by Twinnie Siu; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

8/6/2020 Indonesia’s COVID-19 Infections Rise By 1,882, Deaths By 69
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported 1,882 new coronavirus infections and 69 additional deaths on Thursday, data from government’s COVID-19 task force showed.
    Those brought the total number of cases to 118,753 and deaths to 5,521.
    Indonesia’s case tally was surpassed on Thursday by neighbouring Philippines, which with 119,460 coronavirus cases has the most infections in East Asia.
(Reporting by Nilufar Rizki; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Martin Petty)

8/6/2020 South Korea Launches Search For Rescue Workers Missing In Floods After Boats Capsize by Sangmi Cha and Hyonhee Shin
Residents look on a submerged Han River park by flooded Han River in Seoul, South Korea, August 6, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
    SEOUL (Reuters) – A massive search was under way in South Korea on Thursday after one rescue worker was killed and five went missing when their boats overturned and were swept over a dam by surging floodwaters, Yonhap news agency reported.
    Parts of South Korea have seen 44 consecutive days of rain, the longest monsoon since 2013, and continued showers across the Korean peninsula threatened to bring new floods and landslides.
    Two rescue boats were trying to free a police boat stuck in wire by a dam near the city of Chuncheon, to the northeast of Seoul, when they overturned, Yonhap reported.
    One man was rescued at the scene but seven others were swept over the dam’s floodgates.
    One of the seven, a 68-year-old man, was found near the dam suffering from cardiac arrest but was recovering.    Another, also 68, was recovered dead about 20 km (12 miles) downstream, Yonhap reported.
    A local police official told Reuters he was busy with the search, but could not confirm the details.
    More than 800 police and fire officials, seven helicopters and 69 boats were dispatched to the scene to search for the remaining missing people, according to media reports.
    Elsewhere, at least 16 people have been killed and 11 were missing, with more than 1,600 people displaced over recent days.
    In Seoul, the Han River swelled over its banks in some areas after authorities were forced to open floodgates on upstream dams.    Some highways by the river had to be closed, Yonhap reported.
    On Wednesday, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun visited some of the hardest-hit areas and urged the government to consider designating several provinces special disaster zones.
    A decision on that could come by Friday, Yonhap reported, with the designation enabling more government aid.
    Emergency workers implemented measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in gyms and community centres being used as shelters.
    Heavy rain has also fallen in North Korea and state media published pictures of flooded streets but did not give any detail of damage or casualties.
    The government in North Korea had issued a flooding alert for areas near some its biggest rivers and lakes, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha and Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Robert Birsel and Giles Elgood)

8/6/2020 Human Trials Of Coronavirus Vaccine Set To Begin In Indonesia by Stanley Widianto
FILE PHOTO: Staff are seen in the COVID-19 vaccine production facility area at the Bio Farma office amid the coronavirus
pandemic in Bandung, West Java province, Indonesia August 4, 2020. Antara Foto/Dhemas Reviyanto via REUTERS
    BANDUNG, Indonesia (Reuters) – Human trials on a potential coronavirus vaccine are due to start in Indonesia next week as part of a collaboration between state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd, a senior researcher said.
    The launch of the vaccine trial comes as Indonesia has struggled to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, with a consistently escalating number of cases.
    The phase 3 clinical trial is set to begin on Aug. 11 and will involve 1,620 volunteers aged between 18 and 59, Professor Kusnandi Rusmil, head researcher at Bandung’s Padjadjaran University, told reporters.
    Half of the participants will receive the vaccine over a six-month period, while the rest will receive a placebo, he said, noting 800 volunteers had been signed up so far.
    “We want to have our vaccines so we can use it for our people,” Rusmil told reporters.
    As of Wednesday, Indonesia had recorded 116,871 coronavirus infections and 5,432 deaths – the highest in East Asia.
    The coronavirus pandemic has sparked a global race for a vaccine, with more than 100 in development and about a dozen already being tested on humans.
    As Indonesia seeks to stem an ongoing wave of infections, the government has been vocal about the need to secure sufficient supplies of a vaccine amid concerns some nations may miss out.
    Erick Thohir, Indonesia’s minister for state-owned enterprises, sought to reassure the public this week, saying that Bio Farma would be ready by year-end to produce 250 million doses a year should the Sinovac vaccine prove successful.
[L4N2F635B]
    The Sinovac trial is one of several collaborations to produce a vaccine underway in the world’s fourth-most populous nation.
(Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Ed Davies)

8/6/2020 China Reports 37 New Coronavirus Cases In Mainland For Aug 5
FILE PHOTO: People watch Showering Timing band perform at the Nugget Records bar and recording studio as nightlife resumes
following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China, July 31, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China reported 37 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for August 5, up from 27 a day earlier, the country’s health commission said on Thursday.
    Seven of the new infections were imported cases, versus five a day earlier, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.
    The commission also reported 20 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 24 a day earlier.
    As of August 5, mainland China had 84,528 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said.    The COVID-19 death toll remained at 4,634.
(Reporting by Emily Chow and Wang Jing; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

8/6/2020 Trump Attacks China Over Virus As U.S. Health Secretary Heads To Taiwan by Andrea Shalal
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday intensified his attacks on China for its handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 700,000 people worldwide, as his health secretary headed to Taiwan for a visit sure to irk Beijing.
    Trump, whose public approval ratings have fallen amid continued COVID-19 infection rates and economic woes, sought to shift the focus to Beijing, claiming again, without evidence, that it may have intentionally let the virus spread globally.
    The Republican president, who is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in national polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election, said it was a “disgrace” that Beijing had limited the spread of the virus at home but allowed it to reach the rest of the world.
    “What China did is a terrible thing … whether it was incompetence or on purpose,” he said, reviving a refrain that has strained ties between the world’s two largest economies and raised questions about a U.S.-China trade deal signed in January.
    Biden on Wednesday said the deal was “failing” after Commerce Department data showed the U.S.-China trade deficit widened 5% to $28.4 billion in June.
    Trump will sign an executive order Thursday aimed at yanking back supply chains from China for key ingredients and supplies used to make medicines and medical equipment, said Peter Navarro, a key adviser and China hawk.
    Trump’s health secretary, Alex Azar, is due to visit Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province, starting Sunday and reaffirm the U.S. partnership with the Asian country, prompting China to threaten “strong countermeasures.”
    Azar will be the highest-level U.S. official to visit the island in four decades.    Washington broke off official ties with Taipei in 1979 in favor of Beijing but is now moving to sell Taiwan at least four of its large sophisticated aerial drones.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

8/6/2020 In Call With Chinese Counterpart, Pentagon Chief Expresses Concern About Beijing’s Activity In South China Sea
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper listens during a news conference at the U.S. Department of
State following the 30th AUSMIN in Washington, D.C. July 28, 2020. Brendan Smialowski/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed concerns about Beijing’s “destabilizing” activity near Taiwan and the South China Sea in a call with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
    The call comes as U.S.-China ties have rapidly deteriorated this year over a range of issues including Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus, telecommunications equipment maker Huawei [HWT.UL], China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, and a clampdown on Hong Kong.
    “Secretary Esper also communicated the importance that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) abide by international laws, rules and norms and meet its international commitments,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters, adding that the call lasted for an hour and a half.
    He said Esper also reiterated the importance of a constructive and stable relationship.
    “Wei … urged the U.S. side to stop erroneous words and deeds, improve the management and control of maritime risks, avoid taking dangerous moves that may escalate the situation, and safeguard regional peace and stability,” China’s official Xinhua news agency said.
    This appears to be the first call between the two since March.
    China on Thursday threatened to take countermeasures over a trip to Taiwan by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, as the Chinese-claimed island country geared up for its highest-level U.S. official visit in four decades.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)

8/7/2020 Hong Kong Activist Joshua Wong Files Court Challenge To 2019 Poll Disqualification by Joyce Zhou and Carol Mang
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong speaks to the media as he arrives at the High Court to lodge a judicial review over
his disqualification from the 2019 district council elections, in Hong Kong, China August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Joyce Zhou
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong filed a court challenge on Friday against his disqualification from district polls, in a move which may have implications for this year’s removals of opposition candidates for the city’s legislature.
    Wong, 23, was the only candidate in district council elections last year to have been disqualified, with authorities saying his candidacy contravened electoral laws that bar “advocating or promoting self-determination.”
    Wong, who China calls a “black hand” of foreign forces, said at the time he supported the idea of a non-binding referendum for people to have a say over Hong Kong’s future status within China. But he is against independence which is anathema for Beijing.
    “The reason I apply for judicial review is to make clear that the power of the returning officer keeps enlarging, they are just (pursuing a) political mission,” said Wong, referring to officials who vet candidates.
    Wong, who became an international figure after leading protests as a teenager in 2012 and 2014, was also among 12 opposition candidates recently disqualified from running in elections for seats in the city’s legislature.
    Those polls have been postponed by a year to Sept 2021, with the government citing coronavirus risks.
    Grounds for disqualification included perceived subversive intentions, “opposition in principle” to a new national security law imposed by Beijing, and intentions to form a majority that could block government legislation.
    If Wong’s court challenge on Friday is accepted, it could pave the way for legal challenges to the latest round of disqualifications.
    The Hong Kong government’s decision to postpone the elections has been criticised by Western governments as an attempt to weaken the pro-democracy opposition in the Chinese-ruled, semi-autonomous city. Hong Kong authorities said the only consideration was public health.
    Pro-democracy candidates won more than 80% of the district council seats last year and hoped to win an unprecedented majority in the legislature, riding momentum built on protests in 2019 and fuelled by resentment over the new security law.
    Wong faces multiple charges for taking part in unlawful assemblies related to protests last year and on June 4, 2020 at a vigil commemorating China’s 1989 bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
    Beijing imposed the new security legislation on June 30 in response to last year’s protests to punish anything China considers to be secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
    Critics of the legislation say it erodes the freedoms the former British colony was promised when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, while supporters say it will bring stability after a year of unrest and safeguard China from foreign interference.
(Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Stephen Coates)

8/7/2020 Afghan Grand Assembly Gathers To Decide Fate Of Taliban Prisoners by Hamid Shalizi
Afghan policemen stand guard at a check point in Kabul, Afghanistan August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
    KABUL (Reuters) – Thousands of Afghan elders, community leaders and politicians gathered on Friday to debate government efforts to make peace with the Taliban, in particular the fate of 400 hard-core Taliban prisoners whose release could clear the way for talks.
    Some 3,200 people have been invited to the grand assembly, known as a Loya Jirga, in Kabul amid tight security to debate for at least three days and then advise the government on whether the prisoners should be freed.
    As part of a February pact between the United States and the Taliban allowing for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, it was agreed that some 5,000 Taliban prisoners should be released from Afghan jails as a condition for talks between the militants and the U.S.-backed government.
    The government has released all but some 400 militants it says have been convicted of the worst crimes including killings, drug trafficking and kidnapping.
    While many Afghans see the peace effort as the best hope for ending the 19-year war with the Taliban, some are concerned about the militants’ commitment to reconciliation, especially after the United States completes its troop withdrawal.
    U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, the architect of the deal allowing the United States to withdraw its forces and end its longest-ever war, warned against the Loya Jirga throwing up any complications.
    “We wish the jirga participants success … and urge them not to allow those who prefer the status quo and seek to complicate the path to peace to manipulate the process,” Khalilzad said on Twitter.
    He did not elaborate.
    Afghanistan’s constitution recognises the Loya Jirga as “the highest manifestation of the will of the people of Afghanistan.”
    The head of its secretariat, Abdul Salam Rahimi, said its decision was necessary as President Ashraf Ghani was not empowered to release prisoners convicted of such serious crimes.
    He said precautions would be taken to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi, additional reporting by Charlotte Greenfiled; Editing by Robert Birsel)

8/7/2020 Indonesia Reports 2,473 New Coronavirus Cases, 72 Deaths
FILE PHOTO: Healthcare workers do a simulation for coronavirus vaccine clinical trials next week at the Faculty of Medicine
at Padjadjaran University amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Bandung, Indonesia, August 6, 2020. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported 2,473 new coronavirus infections on Friday, bringing the total tally in the country to 121,226, data from government’s COVID-19 task force website showed.
    The Southeast Asian country also added 72 new deaths on Friday, taking the total number to 5,593, the data showed.
(Reporting by Kate Lamb; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Ed Davies)

8/7/2020 India Surges Past 2 Million Coronavirus Cases, Angry Health Workers Launch A Strike by Shilpa Jamkhandikar
FILE PHOTO: A health worker in personal protective equipment (PPE) collects a sample using a swab from a person at a school which was turned into a centre
to conduct tests for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), amidst the spread of the disease, in New Delhi, India, August 6, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    MUMBAI, India (Reuters) – India, the country hardest hit in Asia by the coronavirus pandemic, reported on Friday a record daily jump in infections, taking its total number of cases over two million, as government struggled to contain the spread amid striking health workers.
    More than 3.5 million health workers, who have been the foot-soldiers in the Covid-19 detection efforts across India, embarked on a two-day strike from Friday to secure better wages and proper protective equipment.
    “At least 100 health workers have died of Covid-19 in the country so far, but there has been no insurance provided to them by the government,” said A. R, Sindhu secretary of the Centre of Trade Unions, a key participant in the ongoing strike.
    Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHA workers, are the government’s recognised health workers who are usually the first point of contact in economically deprived sections, where there is limited or no direct access to health-care facilities.     They have been conducting door-to-door checks to trace Covid-19 patients.
    A total of 10 unions representing the workers, who also include ambulance drivers and cooks at community centers, joined the strike.    A majority of them work on contracts with state governments at a monthly salary of about 3,000 Indian rupees ($40.02).
    “In some places, we had a lot of difficulty reaching households, especially in the mountainous regions… Households would be very far apart and we had to get to each of them on foot,” Nagalakshmi.D, a union leader of ASHA workers in the southern state of Karnataka told Reuters.
    “During rains, we had to cross rivers by boat and rope bridges too,” she said.
WORST STILL AHEAD
    With infections spreading further to smaller towns and rural areas, experts say the epidemic in India is likely to be months away from hitting its peak, putting more strain on an already overburdened healthcare system in a nation of 1.3 billion people.
    India is the third nation to pass the unwanted milestone of two million Covid-19 cases, lagging behind only the United States and Brazil.
    India has been posting an average of around 50,000 new cases a day since mid-June, but experts say its testing rate at 16,035 per million people is far too low.
    “A country of India’s size and diversity has multiple epidemics in different phases,” said Rajib Dasgupta, head of the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
    Still, the government has taken some solace from the relatively low death rate, at about 2%, with 41,585 deaths so far, though that figure will be understated as only deaths of people who have been tested for the virus are counted.
(Additional reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra and Derek Francis in Bengaluru, Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar, Editing by Rupam Jain and Gareth Jones)

8/7/2020 North Korea’s Kim Inspects Flood Relief; Worry Grows About Crops by Sangmi Cha
A submerged Han River park by flooded Han River is seen in Seoul, South Korea, August 6, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered officials to provide food and shelter for hundreds of families who lost their homes in floods, the KCNA state news agency reported on Friday.
    Heavy rain across the Korean peninsula has brought flooding to both North and South Korea in recent days, and concern is growing about damage to North Korean crops and its potential impact on food supplies.
    “It is of priority importance to quickly supply sleeping materials, daily commodities, medicines and other necessities to the flood-affected people to stabilize their living,” Kim said in comments carried by KCNA.
    Kim made the remarks while inspecting a flood-hit part of North Hwanghae Province, on the border of South Korea, as he “clarified tasks” for recovery work with officials there.
    Torrential rain for several days has inundated more than 730 single-story houses, destroying 179 of them, and flooded rice-growing land, KCNA said.
    There were no reports of casualties.
    State television footage showed Kim visiting rural areas where a flooded river devastated farmlands and the roofs of some houses had collapsed.
    Kim would also mobilise the army for rehabilitation, in particular work on homes and roads, and he called on architects to build 800 model houses in a badly hit farming village in Unpha County, KCNA said.
    The rain during the harvest season in the rice-growing area is raising concern about North Korea’s food security.
    North Korea’s ruling party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, cited a study that said rice and corn would suffer if the crops were under water for just two or three days.
    “The fate of this year’s farming depends on how to protect farmland and crops from the flood,” the newspaper said.
    South Korea on Thursday donated $10 million to the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) for its efforts to help North Korean children and women.
    Parts of South Korea have seen more than 40 consecutive days of rain, the longest monsoon since 2013, and more is expected across the peninsula.
    President Moon Jae-in on Friday designated seven hardest hit cities and counties as special disaster zones, which allows the areas to get more government aid.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Additional reporting by Hyonhee ShinEditing by Tom Brown, Robert Birsel and Timothy Heritage)

8/7/2020 Philippines Records Most Coronavirus Cases In Eastern Asia After New Surge by Neil Jerome Morales
FILE PHOTO: A police officer checks a passenger's body temperature at a quarantine checkpoint amid the reimposed strict
lockdown to curb COVID-19 infections, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, August 5, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
(This August 6 story has been refiled to correct headline and first paragraph to refer to eastern part of Asia, not East Asia)
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines on Thursday recorded another jump in coronavirus cases to overtake neighbouring Indonesia as the country with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in the eastern part of Asia.
    A recent surge in cases of the virus in and around the capital Manila has pushed authorities to reimpose a lockdown affecting around a quarter of the country’s 107 million people.
    The Philippines recorded 3,561 new infections on Thursday, taking its total confirmed cases to 119,460.    That is higher than Indonesia’s 118,753 infection cases.
    The death toll rose by 28 to 2,150, which is less than half of Indonesia’s 5,521 fatalities, but is expected to grow after the recent spike in cases.
    President Rodrigo Duterte announced late on Sunday a two-week lockdown in and around Manila, which accounts for two-thirds of the country’s economic output.
    The restrictions, which came into effect on Tuesday, were reinstated after a group of doctors and nurses warned that the healthcare system could collapse as a result of a surging number of virus patients.
    Public transport has been shut and working from home instituted where possible, with only one person per household allowed out for essential goods.
    The Philippines imposed one the world’s strictest and longest lockdowns in and around the capital, running from mid-March to the end of May, which brought the economy to its knees in the first half.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Writing by Jane Wardell; Editing by Ed Davies)

8/7/2020 U.S. To Impose Sanctions On Hong Kong Leader Lam, Other Chinese Officials: Bloomberg
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, wearing a face mask following the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak, attends a news conference in Hong Kong, China July 31, 2020. REUTERS/Lam Yik
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration will impose sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other Chinese officials on Friday for their role in curtailing political freedoms in the territory, Bloomberg News reported.
    Bloomberg, which cited three people familiar with the matter, said the sanctions would be imposed under an executive order Trump signed last month to punish China for its moves against dissent in Hong Kong.
    The U.S. State and Treasury departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Tensions between the United States and China have been increasing daily. China’s foreign ministry said on Friday it firmly opposes executive orders that Trump announced this week to ban U.S. transactions with the Chinese owners of the WeChat and TikTok apps.
    The Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which Trump signed last month allows him to impose sanctions and visa restrictions on Chinese officials and financial institutions involved in the imposition of a new national security law in Hong Kong.
    Last month, Carrie Lam postponed a Sept. 6 election to Hong Kong’s legislature by a year because of a rise in coronavirus cases, dealing a blow to the pro-democracy opposition that had hoped to make huge gains.
    The United States condemned the move, saying it was the latest example of Beijing undermining democracy in the Chinese-ruled territory.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Susan Heavey, David Brunnstrom and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Chris Reese and Frances Kerry)

8/7/2020 Landslide Kills 15 In Southern India, More Than 50 Feared Trapped
Rescue workers look for survivors at the site of a landslide during heavy rains in Idukki, Kerala, India, August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    KOCHI, India (Reuters) – A landslide caused by torrential rains killed at least 15 tea garden workers in the southern Indian state of Kerala on Friday, and rescue workers were searching for more than 50 people thought to be trapped under soil and debris, officials said.
    The landslide hit in the early hours as workers slept, in Idukki district, district collector H Dineshan told Reuters.
    Fifteen bodies had been recovered so far and another 51 people were feared to be trapped, he said.
    “One team of National Disaster Relief Force have reached the site.    Helicopters cannot be deployed as the climate is very misty,” he added.
    Nearly 20 cm (7.9 inches) of rain fell on Thursday in Idukki district, according to data compiled by state-run weather department.    Idukki is about 240 km (150 miles) north of the state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
    “The area has received heavy rains over the last two days and the landslides occurred after midnight.    Those affected are mostly tea workers who were sleeping,” said S Sureshkumar, the district’s additional superintendent of police.
    In 2018, Kerala was hit by the worst floods in a century. Hundreds were killed, many of them from Idukki district.
(Reporting by Jose Devasia and Sudarshan Varadhan; Writing by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Frances Kerry)

8/8/2020 U.S. Sanctions Branded ‘Clowning Actions’ As Hong Kong Vows It Won’t Be Intimidated by Yanni Chow and Alun John
FILE PHOTO: Newly appointed head of Hong Kong Liaison Office Luo Huining speaks to media to mark
his first day at office in Hong Kong, China January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Beijing’s top representative office in Hong Kong said on Saturday that sanctions imposed by Washington on senior Hong Kong and Chinese officials were “clowning actions” that would not frighten or intimidate Chinese people.
    Separately, the Hong Kong government said the sanctions were “shameless and despicable” and represented “blatant and barbaric” interference in China’s internal affairs.
    “We will not be intimidated,” a government spokesman said.
    The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on Luo Huining, the head of China’s Liaison Office, as well as Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and other current and former officials that Washington accuses of curtailing political freedoms in the global financial hub.
    The move accelerates rapidly deteriorating Sino-U.S. ties, more than a month after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on Hong Kong that drew condemnation from Western governments and sent a chill across the city.
    “The unscrupulous intentions of the U.S. politicians to support the anti-China chaos in Hong Kong have been revealed, and their clowning actions are really ridiculous,” the Liaison Office said in a statement.    “Intimidation and threats cannot frighten the Chinese people.”
    Luo, the most senior mainland political official based in the Chinese-controlled territory, said U.S. sanctions on him indicated he was doing what he “should be doing for my country and Hong Kong,” according to the statement.
    Luo has oversight over the implementation of the contentious security law that allows mainland security agents to be officially based in China’s freest city for the first time.
    As well as Luo and Lam, the sanctions target Hong Kong police commissioner Chris Tang and his predecessor Stephen Lo; John Lee, Hong Kong’s secretary of security, and Teresa Cheng, the justice secretary.    Xia Baolong, the director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing, was also named.
    Police chief Tang told local media on Saturday that maintaining the security of the country and Hong Kong was his responsibility, and foreign sanctions were meaningless.
    The sanctions freeze any U.S. assets of the officials, prohibit them from carrying out business in the country and generally bar Americans from doing business with them.
    Beijing-backed leader Lam has previously told local media she has no assets in the United States.
    Hong Kong financial regulators moved to calm market fears on Saturday, as banks in the city grappled with the implications of the sanctions.    The markets watchdog said it was not aware of any aspect of the sanctions that would affect how financial firms carry out their normal operations in the city.
DRACONIAN” SECURITY LAW
    Washington said the “draconian” security law had undermined its autonomy and set “the groundwork for censorship of any individuals or outlets that are deemed unfriendly to China.”
    The U.S. sanctions come a week after Hong Kong postponed a Sept. 6 election to the Chinese-ruled city’s legislature by a year, citing a spike in coronavirus cases, prompting democracy activists to question whether the pandemic was the real reason.
    Washington said the election delay was the latest example of Beijing undermining “the democratic processes and freedoms that have underpinned Hong Kong’s prosperity.”
    The security legislation targets what Beijing broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
    Beijing and the Hong Kong government have said the law will not affect rights and freedoms, and that it is needed to plug security loopholes.    They said it will only target a small minority of “troublemakers.”
    Fifteen people have been arrested under the law so far, including four aged 16-21 who were detained last week.
    Beijing imposed the legislation directly on Hong Kong just before midnight on June 30, circumventing the city’s legislature, and leaving the city’s officials in the dark on the details of the law until it was implemented.
    The law has steered China further on a collision course with the West, prompting countries including Australia, Canada and Britain to suspend extradition treaties with Hong Kong.
    The legislation allows agents to take suspects across the border for trials in Communist Party-controlled courts, one issue that has raised alarm at home and overseas.
    Some Hong Kong people have fled the city to set up home overseas, while immigration consultants have reported a surge in inquiries of people looking to leave.
    Hong Kong authorities have issued arrest warrants for six pro-democracy activists who fled the city and were suspected of violating the new security.
    Some political analysts say the security law coming directly from Beijing and bypassing Hong Kong’s legislature signals the start of a more authoritarian rule in the semi-autonomous city and a march toward mainland control.
    Critics of the law say it erodes basic rights and freedoms, guaranteed when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, while supporters say it will bring stability after a year of often-violent anti-government and anti-China unrest.
(Reporting By Yanni Chow, Alun John, Sumeet Chatterjee, Jessie Pang, Carol Mang and Scott Murdoch; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Michael Perry)

8/8/2020 Death Toll From Indian Passenger Aircraft Accident Rises To 18 by Favas Jalla and Jose Devasia
Rescue workers look for survivors after a passenger plane crashed when it overshot the runway at the Calicut
International Airport in Karipur, in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    KOZHIKODE, India (Reuters) – The death toll from an Indian passenger aircraft accident has risen to 18, while 16 people have been severely injured, a senior government official said on Saturday.
    The Air India Express plane, which was repatriating Indians stranded in Dubai due to the coronavirus pandemic, overshot the runway of the Calicut International Airport in heavy rain near the southern city of Kozhikode on Friday.    This was India’s worst passenger aircraft accident since 2010.
    The flight was carrying 190 passengers and crew.
    The plane’s pilot and the co-pilot were killed in the accident, K Gopalakrishnan, chief of the Malappuram district in the southern state of Kerala, told Reuters.
    “All passengers have been admitted to various hospitals, and they are also being tested for COVID-19,” Gopalakrishnan said, adding autopsy of the bodies would be carried out according to the COVID-19 protocol.
    The Boeing-737 the plane skidded off the table-top runway of Calicut, crashing nose-first into the ground.    Such runways are located at an altitude and have steep drops at one or both ends.
    In 2010, another Air India Express flight from Dubai overshot the table-top runway at Mangalore, a city in the south, and slid down a hill, killing 158 people.
    Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri last night told national broadcaster DD News that only an investigation would reveal the cause of the crash.
    Puri said authorities managed to rescue most of the passengers because the plane did not catch fire while descending the slope at the end of the runway.
    India, which shut down all air travel in late March to try to contain the novel coronavirus, has restarted limited international air travel.
    Air India Express AXB1344 was a government-operated repatriation flight for Indians previously unable to return home because of travel restrictions.
(Writing by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

8/8/2020 Philippines Confirms 4,226 New Coronavirus Cases, 41 More Deaths
A woman gets a free coronavirus disease (COVID-19) swab testing at a gymnasium
in Navotas City, Metro Manila, Philippines, August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ health ministry on Saturday reported 4,226 new coronavirus infections and 41 additional deaths.
    In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed infections have risen to 126,885 while deaths have reached 2,209, with bulk of cases and casualties reported in the capital.
    The Philippines, with a population of 107 million, leads Southeast Asian nations in the most number of cases and is second to Indonesia in deaths.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

8/8/2020 South Korea Floods, Landslides Kill 21 As Heavy Rains Continue
General view shows flooding along Seomjin River amid monsoon rains, in Duga-ri, South Korea August 8, 2020
in this still image taken from social media video. Lee Dong Hyun / Misillan Farm via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – At least 21 people have died after 46 days of heavy rains in South Korea, with the country’s longest monsoon in seven years causing more flooding, landslides and evacuations on Saturday.
    More than 3,000 people had been evacuated as of 6 a.m. local time on Saturday (2100 GMT Friday), according to Ministry of the Interior and Safety data, as rains battered the southern part of the Korean peninsula. Eleven people are missing.
    About 100 metres (109.36 yards) of levee collapsed at the Seomjin River in the southern edge of the peninsula on Saturday and flooded the area, an official at the South Jeolla province said, with about 1,900 people evacuated in the province including about 500 from around the river.
    The country’s forestry agency has raised landslide warnings to its highest level in every region except the holiday island of Jeju.
    Five homes were buried in a landslide on Friday from a mountain behind a village in Gokseong, South Jeolla province, killing five people.    Three people have been rescued.
    In neighbouring North Korea, state media KCNA reported that Premier Pak Pong Ju, the country’s third-highest ranking official, inspected flood damage to submerged fields and crops in southwest regions of the country.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

8/8/2020 Head Of China’s Hong Kong Liaison Office Says U.S. Sanctions Indicate He Is Doing What He Should
FILE PHOTO: Luo Huining (C), head of China's Liaison Office attends Macau gambling tycoon
Stanley Ho's funeral reception, in Hong Kong, China July 10, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    BEIJING (Reuters) – Director at China’s Hong Kong Liaison Office, Luo Huining, said U.S. sanctions on him indicated he was doing what he “should be doing for my country and Hong Kong”, a statement on the liaison office’s website showed on Saturday.
    The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the territory’s current and former police chiefs and eight other top officials for what Washington says is their role in curtailing political freedoms in the territory.
    Among the officials targeted were Luo Huining, mainland China’s top official in Hong Kong.
    Luo was appointed adviser to a committee for safeguarding national security for Hong Kong in July.
(Reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

8/9/2020 Afghanistan To Release 400 ‘Hard-Core’ Taliban To Start Peace Talks by Hamid Shalizi and Hameed Farzad
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a consultative grand assembly, known as
Loya Jirga, in Kabul, Afghanistan August 7, 2020. Afghan Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS
    KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan agreed on Sunday to release 400 “hard-core” Taliban prisoners, paving the way for the beginning of peace talks aimed at ending more than 19 years of war.
    Under election-year pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump for a deal allowing him to bring home American troops, the war-torn country’s grand assembly, or Loya Jirga, on Sunday approved the release, a controversial condition raised by the Taliban militants to join peace talks.
    “In order to remove an obstacle, allow the start of the peace process and an end of bloodshed, the Loya Jirga approves the release of 400 Taliban,” the assembly said in a resolution.
    Minutes later, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, “Today, I will sign the release order of these 400 prisoners.”
    Last week Ghani invited some 3,200 Afghan community leaders and politicians to Kabul amid tight security and concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic to advise the government on whether the prisoners should be freed.
    With the release, the Afghan government will fulfil its pledge to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
    Talks between the warring Taliban and government will start in Doha this week, Western diplomats said.    Ghani appealed to the hardline Islamist group to pledge to a complete ceasefire ahead of talks.
    Deliberation over the release of last batch of Taliban prisoners, accused of conducting some of the bloodiest attacks across Afghanistan, had triggered outrage among civilians and rights groups who questioned the morality of the peace process.
    In 2019 alone, more than 10,000 civilians were killed or injured in the conflict in Afghanistan, putting total casualties in the past decade over 100,000, a United Nations report said last year.
    Ahead of the Loya Jirga, Human Rights Watch cautioned that many of the prisoners had been jailed under “overly broad terrorism laws that provide for indefinite preventive detention.”
    Ahead of November U.S. elections, Trump is determined to fulfil a major campaign promise of ending America’s longest war.
    The drawdown will bring the number of U.S. troops to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday.
    In a February pact allowing for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Washington and the Taliban agreed on the release of the Taliban prisoners as a condition for the talks with Kabul.
(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi and Hameed Farzad in Kabul; Additional reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Writing by Gibran Peshimam and Rupam Jain; Editing by William Mallard)

8/9/2020 Esper: U.S. Will Cut Troop Levels In Afghanistan To ‘Less Than 5,000’
FILE PHOTO: Secretary of Defense Mark Esper testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on 'Department of Defense
Authorities and Roles Related to Civilian Law Enforcement' in Washington, DC, U.S. July 9, 2020. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States plans to cut its troop levels in Afghanistan to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday, adding detail to drawdown plans U.S. President Donald Trump announced earlier this week.
    The United States currently has about 8,600 troops in Afghanistan.    Trump said in an interview released Monday by Axios that the United States planned to lower that number to about 4,000.
    Esper announced the lower troop levels in a Fox News interview.
(Reporting by Brad Heath; Editing by William Mallard)

8/9/2020 Australia’s Victoria Reports Deadliest Day Of COVID-19 Pandemic by Swati Pandey
FILE PHOTO: Federation Square is seen devoid of people after Melbourne, Australia, returned to a stage-three lockdown
as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, reported its deadliest day of the COVID-19 outbreak on Sunday, with 17 peop