Washington DC: As Tibetans start grappling with the once unthinkable prospect of the octogenarian Dalai Lama’s passing, the United States is looking to lay down a red line against China handpicking his successor. Through a warning from a senior official and legislation under consideration in Congress, the United States is hoping to make clear in advance that Beijing would face international opprobrium if it tries to take over the reincarnation process. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USAt 84, the 14th Dalai Lama has slowed his once incessant travel down a notch and earlier this year was hospitalized for a chest infection, although there is no indication he faces serious health issues. Nonetheless, both Tibetan activists and Beijing are keenly aware that his death will mark a major setback in his push for more autonomy for the Himalayan region, depriving the cause of a Nobel Prize winner whose moral teachings and idiosyncratic humor have made him one of the world’s most popular religious leaders. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential pollsChina has not held talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives for nine years and has increasingly hinted it may identify his successor — who, Beijing would presume, would back its iron-fisted rule of Tibet. A bill recently introduced in the US Congress would call for sanctions on any Chinese official who interferes with Tibetan Buddhist succession practices. Testifying Wednesday before Congress, David Stilwell, the top State Department official for East Asia, vowed that the United States would keep pressing for “meaningful autonomy” for Tibetans. “Disturbingly — and ironically — the party continues to assert its role in the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation process, even as President Xi has urged party members to remain ‘unyielding Marxist atheists,'” he said. “We believe that Tibetans, like all faith communities, must be able to practice their faith freely and select their leaders without interference,” he said. Tibetan monks traditionally choose the Dalai Lama through a ritualistic search that can take years, with a wandering party seeking telltale signs that a young boy is the reincarnation of the last spiritual leader. The 14th Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since fleeing an aborted uprising in 1959, has mused of a non-traditional succession that would throw off China. He has said he could choose a successor while he is still alive — possibly a girl — or even decide that he was the final Dalai Lama.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s embattled leader said Tuesday more than 20,000 people have applied to take part in a dialogue session with her and “vent their anger” at the government after three months of huge pro-democracy protests. It is the government’s first attempt to reach out to the protestors since millions took to the streets in the biggest challenge to China’s rule since the city’s handover from Britain in 1997. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Thursday’s meeting would be an opportunity for people to have their voices heard but some protesters said they were not interested as their demands are already clear. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince Salman ‘snubbed’ Pak PM Imran, recalled his private jet from US: Report “We have promised that participants from different background, with different political stands could express their opinions freely, even vent their anger,” Lam said. While thousands have applied, just 150 people will be chosen at random to attend the two-hour session with Lam, and protest equipment such as umbrellas, helmets and gas masks will not be allowed. “I hope the community dialogue could be held in a peaceful, rational and calm environment,” Lam said. Also Read – Iraq military admits ‘excessive force’ used in deadly protests Hong Kong has entered a 17th week of political unrest which seen hundreds of rallies, some of which ended in violent clashes between police and protestors. More than 1,500 people have been arrested, the youngest aged 12. Lam said she felt “heart-ache” seeing children being arrested and asked “how well can children understand the current political issues?” “Here I need to urge parents, teachers and principals must let children know that political problems are not that simple,” Lam added. Her remarks drew criticism from opposition legislators. “You never under-estimate the young’s voice,” pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said. “Many young people these days are very mature-minded and they knew perfectly what they are thinking… and what a civilised society should be.” The protests were initially against a bill that would have allowed extradition to China, but have snowballed into wider calls for democracy and police accountability in the semi-autonomous city. Video emerged over the weekend of officers kicking a detained man wearing a yellow shirt in an alley. At a press conference Monday a senior police officer suggested it was not clear the “yellow object” was a man and claimed the video might have been doctored, sparking ridicule online. Higher resolution footage of the same incident shows a man on the ground, surrounded by police, one of whom kicked him. Police have repeatedly denied using excessive force and Lam insisted they had exercised restraint. “The fact that over three months, we have not seen major fatalities in Hong Kong, by world standard … it is quite remarkable,” Lam said.
Jakarta: Air pollution from Indonesian forest fires is putting nearly 10 million children at risk, the United Nations warned Tuesday, as scientists said the blazes were releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases. The fires have been spewing toxic haze over Southeast Asia in recent weeks, closing schools and airports, with people rushing to buy face masks and seek medical treatment for respiratory ailments. Jakarta has deployed tens of thousands of personnel and water-bombing aircraft to tackle the slash-and-burn blazes set to clear agricultural land. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince Salman ‘snubbed’ Pak PM Imran, recalled his private jet from US: ReportThe fires are an annual problem but this year are the worst since 2015 due to dry weather. Almost 10 million people under 18 — a quarter of them below five — live in the areas worst affected by fires on Indonesia’s Sumatra island and the country’s part of Borneo island, UN children’s agency UNICEF said. Small children are especially vulnerable due to undeveloped immune systems while babies born to mothers exposed to pollution during pregnancy may have problems such as low birth weight, they said. Also Read – Iraq military admits ‘excessive force’ used in deadly protests”Poor air quality is a severe and growing challenge for Indonesia,” said Debora Comini from UNICEF. “Every year, millions of children are breathing toxic air that threatens their health and causes them to miss school — resulting in lifelong physical and cognitive damage.” Thousands of schools have been closed across Indonesia due to poor air quality, with millions of youngsters missing classes. Pictures circulating on social media have shown the sky turning blood-red over hard-hit Jambi province, on Sumatra, in the middle of the day due to the haze. Schools were forced to shut across Malaysia last week as smog from its neighbour clouded the skies, while Singapore was also shrouded in haze during the weekend’s Formula One motor race. Air quality improved in Malaysia Tuesday and was at “moderate” levels on an official index in most places with the skies looking largely clear, while the haze had lifted from Singapore. A regional forecasting centre said the number of “hotspots” — areas of intense heat detected by satellite which indicate a likely fire — had fallen sharply on Sumatra. Fires on the island are usually blamed for belching smog over Malaysia and Singapore. There have been a series of wildfire outbreaks worldwide, from the Amazon to Australia, and scientists are increasingly worried about their impact on global warming.