INDEPENDENT 2024-07-11 00:08:36


130 people trapped in Tibet after landslides block roads in Nepal

More than 130 people, including tourists, were trapped in China’s Tibet region after landslides in neighbouring Nepal blocked key roads.

The tourists were trapped in the remote mountainous town of Zhentang after heavy rains and flooding washed away sections of a provincial highway, China’s state media said.

Heavy rains have been triggering floods and landslides in Nepal for several days now, killing dozens of people and washing away roads and other key infrastructure.

Those trapped included migrant workers, businessmen on travel and tourists, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Rescuers were attempting to evacuate them on Wednesday.

The stranded people were earlier asked to hike up a mountain to relative safety. The hike left many of them with a “lack of physical strength”, CCTV reported.

The town, on the southern slope of the Himalayas near China’s border with Nepal, has an average altitude of 2,000 metres and is in an area known for hot springs and hiking.

Another 342 stranded people were relocated to nearby towns earlier.

Floods, landslides and lightning strikes have killed at least 50 people across Nepal since mid-June, when the annual monsoon rains started.

In the hill-ringed capital of Kathmandu, several rivers have overflown their banks, flooded roads and inundated homes.

Photos and videos from Kathmandu and other places showed people wading through waist-deep water and residents using buckets to empty their houses.

The adverse weather is expected to persist, with storms forecast throughout Thursday, adding another layer of difficulty to the rescue efforts.

CCTV reported that these conditions were likely to further complicate the ongoing rescue operations in Tibet.

Neighbouring India is also experiencing heavy rainfall across the country. At least 300mm worth of rain fell on Mumbai on Monday, submerging roads and delaying trains and disrupting flights.

Heavy rainfall also caused flooding in the capital Delhi earlier this month and collapsed the roof of a parking lot at the international airport, killing one person.

Severe rainfall has triggered flooding in the hilly northeastern parts of the country which had been battered by Cyclone Remal in May.

India court says Muslim women entitled to alimony under secular law

Alimony isn’t charity but a right, India’s supreme court said while ruling that divorced Muslim women are entitled to seek maintenance.

Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih dismissed a Muslim man’s challenge to a state high court’s verdict ordering him to pay his former wife Rs 10,000 (£93.5) a month in alimony.

The man, Mohd Abdul Samad, argued that a divorced woman is not entitled to alimony under the Muslim Personal Law, which he said should prevail over secular law.

But the court said the right to seek maintenance under the country’s criminal code is a “secular provision” applicable to all married women, regardless of their religion.

A family court in southern Telangana state had directed Mr Samad to pay an alimony of Rs 20,000 (£187) per month to his former wife after she filed a petition in 2017 claiming that he had divorced her under the instant divorce practice known as triple talaq.

The controversial practice recognised by certain schools of Islamic jurisprudence requires a man to merely say “talaq”, the Arabic word for divorce, three times to divorce his wife.

The supreme court in 2017 ruled the practice to be unconstitutional and violative of the fundamental rights of Muslim women.

Mr Samad said he divorced his wife in accordance with the prevailing Muslim Personal Law in 2017 and he has a divorce certificate to that effect but it was not considered by the family court. He went to the Telangana high court, which declined to set aside the family’s court order but reduced the alimony amount to Rs 10,000.

Mr Samad then moved the supreme court where his lawyer argued that a divorced Muslim woman can seek recourse under the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Divorce Act, 1986, which is part of the personal law governing matters of marriage, succession, inheritance and charities for the minority community.

But amicus curiae Gaurav Agarwal countered that the personal law does not take away a woman’s entitlement to relief under the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The court agreed. “This right transcends religious boundaries, reinforcing the principle of gender equality and financial security for all married women,” it said.

The court also underlined “the necessity for husbands to provide financial support to their wives”. Among the practical measures it suggested “maintaining joint bank accounts and sharing ATM access to ensure economic stability for women within the household”.

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

Hong Kong man first hiker to die on Mount Fuji in new climbing season

A man from Hong Kong has died attempting to scale Mount Fuji in Japan, marking the first recorded fatality of this climbing season.

Lawrence Wong, 58, began his climb on Monday with his wife from the fifth station on the popular Yoshida trail and reached a mountain lodge located at an altitude of 3,100m around 8.30pm, reported the Hong Kong Free Press.

A staff member of the Trade and Industry Department in Hong Kong, Wong fell unconscious as he reached the eighth station of the Yamanashi prefecture, reported The Standard.

Fellow climbers informed the staff at the station who quickly took him to the nearest medical centre, where a doctor pronounced him dead.

While the cause of his death is yet to be made public, Japanese police told NHK there were no external injuries on the man. The immigration department confirmed receiving a request for assistance and is following through with China’s embassy in Japan.

The department is also providing assistance and advice to the civil servant’s family, it said.

Wong’s is the first death since the summer climbing season began on 1 July.

Fuji, Japan’s tallest mountain, is closed for most of the year. It opens for climbers for two and a half months from July to mid-September.

That does not stop hikers from attempting to scale the peak during off season. In late June, four climbers died after climbing the mountain while the trails were still closed.

Explaining the challenges in climbing Mount Fuji, Takekawa Shunji, a mountain guide told NHK: “Mount Fuji in winter is classified as one of the toughest mountains for winter climbing in Japan. Conditions are so severe that people with just some experience with ordinary mountains in winter can’t deal with it. It still has some snow in June, so a climber must know that conditions won’t be different to those of winter.”

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.

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.

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.

Modi receives Russia’s highest civilian award

Narendra Modi received Russia‘s highest civilian award for “exceptional service” in promoting bilateral ties on Tuesday even as Western countries expressed displeasure about the Indian prime minister’s visit to a longtime ally.

Vladimir Putin presented the Order of St Andrew the Apostle the First Called to Mr Modi after their summit meeting at the Kremlin. The formal ceremony was held five years after Mr Modi was conferred the award in 2019 for “outstanding achievements in promoting partnership with Russia”.

The award was established in 1698 by Tsar Peter the Great in honour of the patron saint of Russia.

“Honoured to receive The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle. I thank the Russian Government for conferring the award,” Mr Modi said in a post on X, dedicating the award to his fellow Indians.

Mr Modi concluded his first trip to Russia in five years on Tuesday. The visit had been stalled since the Russian military invaded Ukraine in early 2022.

The Indian leader has avoided condemning Russia while emphasising a peaceful settlement of the ongoing war.

The bilateral relationship has become complicated, however, as Russia has moved closer to China, India’s chief rival.

Mr Modi arrived in Moscow on Monday shortly after Russian missiles struck across Ukraine, killing at least 42 people and reportedly damaging a children’s hospital in the capital Kyiv.

He alluded to the bloodshed while speaking about his meeting with Mr Putin on Tuesday.

“Be it war, a struggle or a terrorist attack, every person who believes in humanity, when there is loss of life, he is pained,” Mr Modi said. “When innocent children are killed, when we see innocent children dying, then the heart pains. And that pain is very horrible.”

The prime minister said he and the Russian president shared “our opinions on Ukraine with an open heart and in detail”.

“We respectfully listened to each other”.

Mr Modi said “a solution is not possible on the battlefield. Between bombs, guns and bullets, a solution and peace talks cannot be successful. And we have to adopt the path of peace only through talks”.

In televised comments, Mr Putin said “all issues” were discussed with the Indian prime minister and that “our relationship is one of a particularly privileged strategic partnership”.

Mr Modi was criticised back home and by Western nations for greeting Mr Putin with his signature bear hug.

“It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said, without mentioning Mr Modi by name.

A spokesperson for the US State Department said that Washington “made quite clear directly with India our concerns about their relationship with Russia”.

“India is a strategic partner with whom we engage in a full and frank dialogue. And that includes our concerns about their relationship with Russia,” Mathew Miller said.

Mr Modi last travelled to Russia in 2019, when he attended a forum in the eastern port city of Vladivostok and met with Mr Putin.

They also saw each other in September 2022 at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization bloc in Uzbekistan.

From Russia, Mr Modi went to Austria as the first Indian prime minister to visit the central European country in 40 years.

The two countries are looking to deepen their “relationship and closer cooperation on various geopolitical challenges”.

“The India-Austria friendship is strong and it will get even stronger in the times to come,” Mr Modi said.

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