INDEPENDENT 2024-07-10 20:08:27


Chinese man arrested over vandalism of controversial Japanese shrine

A Chinese national living in Japan has been arrested for allegedly helping vandalise a controversial shrine in Tokyo, the local police said on Wednesday.

Two others have been placed on a wanted list for allegedly defacing the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo.

Founded in 1869 by Emperor Meiji, the war shrine honours the deaths of 2.5 million Japanese soldiers and civilians who died in wars in the 19th and 20th centuries. The shrine is controversial as it also honours several convicted war criminals. The controversial war shrine is viewed by Seoul and Beijing as a symbol of Japanese militarism.

A video showing a man urinating on the stone pillar at the Yasukuni shrine before spray-painting the words “toilet” on it was widely shared on social media in Japan and led to a massive outrage.

A man who identified himself as “Iron Head” criticised the discharge of treated radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean in a video posted to Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu in early June.

A Tokyo metropolitan spokesperson said that 29-year-old Jiang Zhuojun, who lives in the north of Tokyo, was arrested “on suspicion of vandalism and disrespect for a place of worship”.

The incident reportedly occurred on 31 May at about 9.55pm local time.

Police said that the other two Chinese men – identified as Dong Guangming, 36, and Xu Laiyu, 25 – were both placed on a wanted list.

But the spokesperson said the duo seemed to have left the country.

According to The Japan Times, Mr Jiang and Mr Dong allegedly spray-painted the shrine pillar on 31 May while Mr Xu filmed them.

Mr Dong earlier told Japanese broadcaster TBS that he admits to the vandalism but will not report to the police, as his actions were a protest against Japan’s release of treated wastewater from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant.

Yasukuni shrine, in a statement emailed to the Associated Press, said the graffiti was “extremely regrettable” and called it “an act of degrading the dignity of the shrine”.

Japan started to release more than one million metric tonnes of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant, enough to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools, into the ocean, last year.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approved the plan in July last year, saying that it met international standards and that the impact it would have on people and the environment was “negligible”.

According to the Tokyo metropolitan police department’s public security bureau, the damage to the Yasukuni shrine is estimated at 4.2 million yen ($26,000).

Mr Dong is suspected of being the main perpetrator, while Mr Xu is alleged to have filmed the act.

Government ministers still regularly pay homage at Yasukuni shrine, infuriating China, South Korea, and others. However, no prime minister has visited since Shinzo Abe did in 2013, according to The Japan Times.

In April this year, South Korea expressed “deep disappointment” following Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida’s ritual offering to the Yasukuni Shrine. Mr Kishida and some cabinet members sent ritual offerings to the shrine on Sunday, Yonhap news agency reported, citing Japanese media.

Without directly mentioning the Japanese leader, the South Korean foreign ministry said that it regrets the Japanese leader’s visit and offering to the shrine “which glorifies Japan’s war of aggression and enshrines war criminals”.

Meanwhile, “Iron Head” is known on Chinese social media for videos accusing stall owners of dubious sales practices. His content was recently removed from the internet after he documented his experiences soliciting sex, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

He has since returned to China and told a Japanese journalist that he has no reason to reflect on his behaviour. The report said that the vandalism he committed at the Yasukuni shrine has been favourably received on Chinese social media, although many are sceptical of his motives.

Miss Universe Singapore now open to married and divorced women

The Miss Singapore beauty pageant has widened the criteria for participants, opening it up to all Singaporean women above 18, irrespective of their marital status.

Women who are married, divorced, or have children can now apply, as long as they are over 18, based in Singapore, or have been in Singapore for at least six months before 1 September 2024.

The upper age limit, which stated that an applicant had to be under 28, has also been removed by the Miss Universe Organisation.

However, a minimum height requirement of 1.68m has been introduced starting this year.

The winner of the pageant will receive SG$10,000 and go on to represent Singapore at Miss Universe 2024, which is scheduled to be held in Mexico in September.

Ms Elaine Daly, Miss Universe Singapore’s national director and Miss Universe Malaysia 2003, said in a statement: “This competition is more than just a crown. It’s a platform to inspire and advocate for causes close to your heart.”

“To all the aspiring Miss Universes in Singapore, my message is this: Believe in yourselves! Be bold, be passionate, and never shy away from using your voice. Work hard, embrace your individuality, and most importantly, have fun on this incredible journey.”

Miss Universe Singapore 2024 is being organised by Beyond Entity, a Malaysian company, and King Kong Media Production, an entertainment company headed by Singaporean actor Mark Lee.

In a statement, Lee said: “Miss Universe Singapore is a phenomenal platform offering young women the chance to shine and make a mark not only in pageantry but also in the entertainment industry.”

“We are seeking not just beauty queens but future actresses as well, following in the footsteps of many renowned actresses who began their journeys as beauty queens.”

Previous participants who have gone on to pursue acting careers include Cheryl Chou, who won the pageant in 2016 and Rebecca Lim, who won Miss Photogenic and reached the top five of the pageant in 2005.

Entrepreneur Priyanka Annuncia was named Miss Universe Singapore last year.

China ‘allowed’ Philippines to evacuate sick person from shoal

China’s coast guard claimed it “allowed” the Philippines to evacuate an ill soldier from a rusting warship on the contested Second Thomas Shoal on humanitarian grounds.

However, the Philippine coast guard called this claim “ridiculous” and accused China of illegal vessel deployment in their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Despite China’s assertion that it monitored the rescue operation at the Philippines’ request, the Philippine coast guard reported obstructive manoeuvres by its Chinese counterpart during the evacuation.

“The claim made by the People’s Republic of China that they have permitted a medical evacuation for a sick navy personnel, in order to present themselves as humanitarian while asserting their authority to allow such operation to be carried out in the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone, is ridiculous,” Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Jay Tarriela said on X.

He added: “This statement further confirms their illegal deployment of vessels within our EEZ and highlights their government’s view that the preservation of human life and welfare requires approval. Evidently, the deployment of numerous boats to delay the medical evacuation for hours just shows that they have a low regard for a humanitarian mission.”

The Chinese coast guard issued a statement claiming it had monitored the entire rescue operation on 7 July, stating it was carried out at the request of the Philippines. However, Philippines said China’s coast guard had engaged in “numerous obstructing and delaying manoeuvres” during the medical evacuation.

Almost a month ago, the Philippines denounced China’s “barbaric and inhumane” efforts to block a medical evacuation mission in the South China Sea last month.

The Philippines coast guard alleged that “despite informing the Chinese coast guard via radio and public address system about the humanitarian nature of our mission for medical evacuation they still engaged in dangerous manoeuvres and even intentionally rammed” a vessel “transporting the sick personnel”.

Philippine sailors eventually managed to evacuate the soldier to nearby Palawan, Mr Tarriela said at the time.

The countries have bickered extensively over the Spratly Islands – called Nansha Islands by China – the Second Thomas Shoal and Sabina Shoal. These small islands are located in the vast waterway, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual shipborne commerce. The Philippines has soldiers living aboard a rusty, aging warship at the Second Thomas Shoal, which was deliberately grounded by Manila in 1999 to reinforce its maritime claims.

Additional reporting by agencies

Chinese father criticised for asking toddler to fill bowl with tears

A father in China is facing backlash after a video of his three-year-old daughter crying into a bowl as punishment for watching too much television went viral on social media.

The toddler was asked by her father to fill the bowl after she burst into tears when he switched off the TV during dinner time.

The incident happened last month in southern China’s Yulin city in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in what is being criticised as the latest example of parents using harsh punishments.

The father told the daughter that she could “watch TV again when your tears fill up this bowl” after he saw her not eating her food and being engrossed in TV.

The video showed the girl holding the bowl in her hands and crying and squeezing her eyes to collect her tears.

But soon she became tired and said she would not be able to do it. Her father then told him to smile for him and the girl grinned with teary eyes.

“Educating the kid like this will make them develop negative character traits. Kids have learned that they can solve the problem through extreme means,” a user said on Chinese social media app Douyin.

While corporal punishment was banned in China in 1986, parents are often criticised for using harsh punishment methods to instil good behaviour in children.

The issue of tough parenting prompted lawmakers to adopt legislation on family education promotion in 2021.

Under the law, parents and guardians could be reprimanded and ordered to go through family education guidance programmes if prosecutors found any criminal or “very bad behaviour” in their children. It also prohibits parents from using “violence” to educate children on how to behave.

In 2022, Chinese parents in Hunan province forced their eight-year-old to watch television all night as punishment for watching too much TV. The parents took turns to keep a watch on the child so they could force him to stay awake. The boy kept crying during the night as he was not allowed to sleep until 5am, according to the report.

Mumbai lashed by half of London’s annual rainfall in just six hours

A burst of exceptionally heavy rainfall has inundated the streets of Mumbai, bringing India’s financial capital to a standstill, disrupting flights and forcing the closure of schools and colleges.

Almost a foot of rainfall, nearly 300mm, fell on the city in a span of just six hours on Monday, city officials said.

This is more than half of the rainfall London gets in a year.

The rain started just ahead of the morning rush hour when traffic is at its peak in the city of 12 million people.

Photos showed commuters wading through water to try and reach their workplaces and cars sumberged on inundated roads, sparking public anger.

“There’s heavy traffic on the roads and rail lines too have been affected,” Eknath Shinde, the chief minister of Maharashtra, the western state whose capital is Mumbai, said on X, urging people to stay indoors.

Television visuals showed suburban passenger trains halted on inundated lines and commuters walking on tracks to reach their destination.

India’s weather department has predicted more rainfall and high tides in the coastal city, issuing a red alert.

Schools and colleges in Mumbai and neighbouring Thane, Navi Mumbai and Panvel were closed on Tuesday. Trains and flights were delayed and offices switched to work from home.

Mumbai is known for traffic congestion and it gets worse during the rainy season, yet the city police had announced road closures and restrictions between 12 and 15 July for the wedding celebrations of India’s richest family, sparking outrage.

The Ambanis have been hosting a series of highly publicised celebrations in the city and outside, with Justin Bieber and Rihanna providing entertainment, ahead of the wedding of their son Anant to Radhika Merchant, daughter of a pharma tycoon.

Mumbai experiences heavy flooding every year. This year rainfall has been heavier across India after a brutal heatwave.

Earlier, the national capital Delhi was inundated after two days of rainfall, prompting a roof collapse at the international airport.

“We’re definitely seeing more rain this year. It’s making it tough for people, especially in low-lying areas, to secure their belongings and reach shelters in time,” said Liakath Ali, head of climate change programme at development agency BRAC, told Reuters news agency.

Rain has also been lashing eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal. A landslide triggered by heavy rainfall in Nepal killed 11 people over the weekend while lightning strikes killed 12 people in eastern India state of Bihar.

More than 2 million people have also been affected and 66 killed by rivers flooding in the northeastern state of Assam.

South Korea politician under fire for blaming women for male suicides

A South Korean politician is under fire for making unsubstantiated comments linking the rise in male suicides to a “female-dominated society“.

Seoul City councillor Kim Ki-duck published a report saying that women’s increasing social participation and their dominant role in society is linked to a growing number of suicides among males.

Mr Kim’s report on Seoul Metropolitan Council’s website said women’s participation has created a shortage of male labour and also made it difficult for them to find marriage partners.

“Unlike the past when patriarchy and male-dominant ideology were prevalent in Korea, as of 2023, it has begun to change into a female-dominated society with about 5 per cent more women than men,” he argued in the article.

“In order to overcome the expansion of the female-dominant phenomenon, in the short term, it is necessary to improve gender equality awareness so that men and women can enjoy equal rights and opportunities, and to resolve the problem of labour shortage (which appears to be in the sense of lack of jobs) by expanding men’s social participation.”

The report referred to the data on suicide attempts from the Han River bridges over the past six years. The suicide attempts have risen from 430 in 2018 to 1,035 in 2023. The data showed that the per centage of men attempting suicide has risen from 67 per cent to 77 per cent.

The councillor’s comments have been criticised, with many calling the remarks unsubstantiated and dangerous for women.

Professor Jang Sook-rang of Chung-Ang University’s Red Cross College of Nursing told Hankyoreh news website that the male suicide rate has always remained high regardless of women’s social participation.

Lee Min-ah, a professor of sociology at Chung-Ang University, told the outlet that solution is not in “overcoming the female-dominated society” but breaking away from patriarchal gender roles.

“If men feel anxious as more women enter society, we need to move toward a society that breaks away from the traditional gender roles that men should be the breadwinners or that women should be the sole caretakers of children.”

Mr Kim told the Hankyoreh, “I wrote this based on my own personal views, inferring the causes of the male suicide rate”.

South Korea’s suicide rate is the highest among the rich 38-member Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and it is twice the OECD average suicide rate. It recorded 25.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2022.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call or text 988, or visit 988lifeline.org to access online chat from the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

Australia appoints special envoy to confront rise in antisemitism

The Australian government named a special envoy Tuesday to confront a rise in antisemitism across the country since the Israel-Hamas war began.

A similar envoy will soon be appointed to challenge Islamophobia in Australia and both will promote social cohesion, prime minister Anthony Albanese told reporters at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Mr Albanese’s own Sydney office has been targeted with pro-Palestinian graffiti as rival activists clash over the Israeli-Hamas war in Australian cities and university campuses.

Mr Albanese appointed Jillian Segal, a Sydney lawyer and business executive, to be “special envoy to combat antisemitism in Australia” for three years. She will consult with community groups and report back to Mr Albanese and Multicultural Affairs Minister Andrew Giles.

Segal called statistics on antisemitism in Australia “shocking.” Reports of antisemitism spiked 700 per cent immediately after Hamas militants sparked the war in Gaza by attacking Israel on Oct. 7, and are still running 400 per cent to 500 per cent higher than before the conflict, she said.

The reports include Jewish-owned businesses being boycotted and vandalized as well as Jewish artists being excluded or subjected to social media shadow bans that restrict their visibility on platforms, Segal said.

“Unfortunately there is no single answer to the perennial problem of antisemitism,” she said.

“But the creation of this role shows a determination by the government to confront this evil and to ensure that it does not erode the goodness that exists in our society,” she added.

Mr Albanese said a graffiti attack that marked his inner-Sydney office as a Hamas target in December was being taken seriously and acted upon.

He also condemned last month’s vandalism with spray paint at the Australian National Korean War Memorial and the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in the national capital, Canberra.

“I have spoken with members of the Jewish community here, in Melbourne, right around Australia, who have not felt safe, members of the Jewish community whose children are worried about wearing their school uniform in our capital cities,” Mr Albanese said. “That’s not acceptable. Not acceptable, ever. And certainly not in Australia in 2024.”

“What we need to do is to make sure that the conflict that is occurring in the Middle East that has caused a great deal of grief for the Jewish community, for members of the Islamic and Palestinian communities – Australians overwhelmingly do not want conflict brought here,” Mr Albanese added.

Pregnant women infected as India suffers Zika virus outbreak

India is seeing a surge in Zika cases with authorities identifying at least six pregnant women infected by the virus.

A 74-year-old man is reported to have died from the infection in the southern state of Karnataka. Since the man had comorbidities, doctors are yet to ascertain if his death was caused directly by the virus.

In any case, he is the first patient in the state found with Zika traces at the time of their death, The Times of India reported.

While Zika, transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, is typically not fatal, it is linked to microcephaly, a condition where children are born with significantly smaller heads and have neurological problems.

Also linked to dengue, chikungunya and urban yellow fever, the Aedes usually bites during the day. Zika can be transmitted from the mother to her foetus during pregnancy, as well as through sexual contact, blood transfusion and organ transplantation.

Infected people are usually asymptomatic and those developing symptoms show them three to 14 days after infection. The symptoms include rash, fever, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise and headache, and they usually last for two to seven days, according to the WHO.

The Zika outbreak has particularly raised alarm in Pune, Kolhapur and Ahmednagar in western Maharashtra state, which is grappling with floods after a heavy downpour.

The southern state of Kerala has also reported Zika cases.

Pune has counted at least 12 cases so far, six of them pregnant women. “We have stepped up our surveillance activities,” said Dr Rajesh Dighe, assistant chief medical officer at the Pune Municipal Corporation.

“Samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology as part of the screening of pregnant women from areas where Zika cases were detected. Overall, 68 samples from pregnant women have been sent to the apex laboratory,” he was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

The city’s health department imposed a fine of Rs10,000 (£93) on a builder after a mosquito breeding site was found near his housing complex and a pregnant woman tested positive for the virus.

“She has been asked to consult her doctor, take folic acid tablets as directed and undergo the screening test to check whether the baby is at risk of any congenital conditions and if further tests are required,” Dr Dighe said.

The federal health ministry issued an advisory last week advising state governments to “alert the clinicians for close monitoring” of the affected pregnant women.

“States are urged to instruct the health facilities in the affected areas or those catering cases from affected areas to screen the pregnant women for Zika virus infection, monitor the growth of the foetus of expecting mothers who have tested positive for Zika.”

The ministry also instructed states to report Zika cases to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme and the National Centre for Vector Borne Diseases Control. It also advised them to intensify vector control activities in residential areas, workplaces, schools, construction sites, institutions, and health facilities.

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