Who Is Chinese Professor Wenguang Sun?

VOA Mandarin has attempted to reach Professor Wenguang Sun since he was removed from his home during a live interview earlier this week.

The professor, who lives in Jinan, the capital of eastern China’s Shandong province, has not responded. Sources in Shandong told VOA on Thursday that Sun was in a military-run hotel.

On Wednesday, Chinese police broke into the home of the retired Shandong University professor, who is critical of China’s human rights record, as he was expressing via a telephone interview his opinions on the Voice of America (VOA) Mandarin television show, Issues & Opinions.

VOA Mandarin has attempted to reach Sun by cellphone and WeChat, a popular social media platform.

In response to the incident, Congressman Chris Smith, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chairman of the Congressional Executive Committee on China, said on Thursday, “In an apparent attempt to chill an open exchange of ideas and opinions, Chinese police may have forcibly stopped a Voice of America interview with Professor Wenguang Sun.

“There is currently no information about Professor Sun’s whereabouts, but we urge his immediate release if detained for engaging in what should be his right to free speech,” said Smith, who also chairs the House subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.

“The Chinese and American people must continue to work toward a day when someone like Prof. Sun can openly share his opinions, via a free press, without fear of reprisal,” he added in a statement Thursday.

Senator Marco Rubio on Thursday tweeted: “Every time you hear overblown rhetoric about how we are on the verge of ‘tyranny’ or ‘authoritarianism’ in America remember what real tyranny looks like. In #China the police arrested a Xi critic while he was in the middle of a live interview.”

A look at Sun’s background:

* Born in 1934

* Graduated from Shandong University Department of Physics in 1957, where he stayed on as a teacher

* Detained in “cowsheds” during the Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s

* Sentenced in 1978 to seven years in prison for “attacking Great Leader Chairman Mao”

* Rehabilitated in 1982, returned to teaching at Shandong University

* Retired from Shandong University in 1994

* Most recent book, A Century of Disasters: From Mao Zedong to Jiang Zemin, published in Hong Kong in 2004

* Passport application denied in 2005, unable to travel aboard since

* One of initial co-signers of Charter 08, a petition for democracy in China

* Shandong University reduced his pension in March

* Criticized China’s checkbook diplomacy in an open letter posted on the eve of President Xi Jinping’s July trip to Africa

* Police break into his home in Jinan during a live interview with Voice of America on Aug. 1, 2018. Last words via telephone were: “I am entitled to express my opinion. This is my freedom of speech.”

Source: Voice of America


PRETORIA– South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has given two senior officials of the National Prosecuting Authority until next Friday to explain why they should not be suspended pending inquiries.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has informed two senior NPA officials of his intention to institute inquiries into their fitness to hold office.

He has given Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba and Special Director of Public Prosecutions Lawrence Mrwebi until next Friday to explain why they should not be suspended pending these inquiries.

The two were struck off the roll in 2016 following several decisions they have made. These included dropping charges against suspended Police Crime Intelligence head Richard Mdluli, the spy tapes matter relating to the scrapping of corruption charges against former President Jacob Zuma and the case of suspended KwaZulu-Natal Province head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), also known as the Hawks, Johan Booysen, in the alleged Cato Manor death squad matter.

Mrwebi and Jiba were reinstated to the roll of advocates in July after the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld their appeal against a 2016 ruling by the Pretoria High Court.

The president’s decision to serve suspension notices on the two comes as the Constitutional Court is expected to rule on whether the appointment of Shawn Abrahams as NPA head was valid.



PRETORIA– Commercial banks in South African which have been implicated in the rigging of foreign exchange dealings of the Rand against the US dollar say the Competition Commission has failed to provide enough facts regarding the alleged collusive transactions.

The 23 banks were giving testimony before the Competition Tribunal during the second day of the Competition Tribunal hearings Tuesday.

Most of the banks which gave testimony on Tuesday want the tribunal to dismiss the cases against them because of lack of evidence. They again argued jurisdiction, prescription and that there is no proof that they participated in collusive transactions.

They have also argued that the matter has been prescribed because it happened three years ago. The alleged collusive transactions took place from 2007 to 2013.

The banks are said to have made massive profits by manipulating the Rand-US dollar rate and the competition commission says consumers have suffered the consequences of this.

The competition commission has refuted claims that it took too long to investigate this case, saying it was only made aware of it by Absa Bank three years after the collusive transactions took place.

Its investigation found that the banks had a general agreement to collude on prices for bids in relation to currency trading.



JOHANNESBURG– Women’s Month in South Africa will kick off Wednesday with widespread marches across the country to protest against gender-based violence (GBV).

Protests organized under the hashtag, Total Shutdown, want women to stay away from work and school for one day. Demonstrators will, among other issues, demand stronger sentencing by the courts in gender-based violent crimes, crimes against women to be included in school curricula and strengthening the presence of social workers at schools.

The Women’s League of the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), has called on women to call out men who have abused women.

The League’s young women’s unit has posted the names of men, some of whom are members of the ruling party, who have been found guilty of violence against women on its Facebook page.

Women’s Month begins on Aug 1 and commemorates the women who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in August 1956 to protest the apartheid-era Pass laws.


As High Seas Threaten Liberian Slum, Residents Await Promised Homes

On a windy day in Liberia’s waterfront slum of West Point, Gbeneweieh Quoh surveys what remains of her home, fearful that it may crumble into the ocean.

The waves tore away three bedrooms in the past year, leaving the fragile structure even more vulnerable to rising tides and storms.

Yet Quoh’s family cannot afford to move anywhere else, so they are just staying put, she said. “What can we do? Nobody will help.”

Theirs is one of thousands of homes that risk sliding into the sea in Monrovia’s densely populated slum community, according to the Liberian government.

“Almost the entire township is threatened by the ocean…it is mainly seated on a sand dune,” said Duannah Siryon, managing director of Liberia’s National Housing Authority.

Coastal erosion threatens thousands of kilometers of coast from Mauritania to Gabon in West Africa, home to about 105 million people. These coastal areas generate 56 percent of the region’s gross domestic product, says the World Bank.

In Liberia’s West Point alone, rising sea levels and erosion have destroyed about 800 homes and displaced more than 6,500 people since 2013, according to the Disaster Victims Association, a group of community leaders.

Displaced families have been forced to stay with relatives, find refuge in churches or sleep rough in open-air markets, the association says – with many struggling to feed themselves.

“We (Grant and his brother) eat one-and-a-half cups of rice a day, two on Sunday,” said Daniel Grant, the group’s 71-year-old chairman whose five properties have been swallowed up by the ocean over the past five years.

“We used to have six to seven cups when I had income coming in from rent,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at a group meeting in a dark office in Monrovia, the capital.

Earlier this month Liberia’s newly sworn-in President George Weah committed to building 2,000 modern homes to replace fragile structures in West Point as well as a sea wall to keep out the encroaching ocean.

But slum residents worry it is too little, too late.

“A poor man is always a patient person. We are still begging them (the government),” Grant said.

Worsening Conditions

The country is still recovering from two brutal civil wars, which spanned 14 years before ending in 2003, and an Ebola outbreak which killed some 4,800 people between 2014 and 2016.

Now those displaced from their homes by erosion face further hardship, poor living conditions and fast-spreading diseases like tuberculosis, West Point residents say.

“Even animals have somewhere to sleep, but we are out in the cold,” said S. Panteswen, a middle-aged man at the meeting whose two houses in West Point were also destroyed by high tides.

Like many others he has spent a lifetime scrimping and saving while running small businesses on the side, slowly expanding his property by adding on small rooms built with thin concrete or other salvaged material.

Marie Samulkai, 48, a housing volunteer from West Point, built a large home for her family of 11 in the neighborhood in 2008, making a living by selling groceries and alcohol from nearby shacks.

“In 2014 it (the house and shacks) all went (swept away by the sea at night). Now I’m homeless,” she said.

With her main source of income gone, she said her children “have lost respect for me” now that she can no longer provide for them.

Grant said there is a “desperate need” to educate the coastal community on the danger of erosion and build more solid homes.

Sometimes residents make building blocks from sand or try to reclaim land filled with garbage – which can easily be washed away, he said.

“People take the sand and make blocks. They build bridges on rubbish.”

People sleeping within reach of the sea has also led to fatalities, according to the community.

In May, a boy who was sleeping on his front porch was swallowed up by the waves at night, said Grant. His body later washed up on the beach.

Slow Progress

Although the Liberian government has pledged to build new homes for displaced families, most have yet to materialize, said the dozens of victims who attended the group meeting chaired by Grant.

In 2016 a visit by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to West Point raised their hopes.

“She brought food and clothes” and promised to rehouse residents in new homes in Monrovia’s nearby VOA neighborhood, Grant explained.

About 30 families were moved to what were supposed to be temporary, prefabricated-type structures, while permanent homes were built, he said.

The families remain in the shelters, but none of the more solid homes have been completed, he added.

“They (the builders) started. Some (houses) reached the roof level, some had windows, some just foundations,” he explained.

About 100 homes were expected to be built, but Grant said the project appears to have been shelved in spite of President Weah’s plans to upgrade West Point.

“I say to the government now please do not change the plan the former president made,” he said.

Siryon from the National Housing Authority said that the “government will resume the project and hopefully complete them (the homes) within the shortest possible time,” adding that it was allocating further funding to the initiative.

Back at her home, Quoh, 28, wonders out loud who in the community will be forced to leave the area next. “We know nothing but here (this area).”

“We can be afraid but what can we do? The sea comes close, sometimes it touches the house. We are losing hope but we hope in God,” she said.

Source: Voice of America