Jumaat, 4 Mac 2011

The Malaysian Insider :: World

The Malaysian Insider :: World

China state media warn against protest calls in capital

Posted: 04 Mar 2011 06:18 PM PST

Police on motorised vehicles patrol Tiananmen Square during the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress in Beijing today, March 5, 2011. — Reuters pic

BEIJING, March 5 — China told its people today not to heed calls to emulate protests that have rocked the Middle East, warning that any threats to Communist Party-led stability could bring "disaster".

This was the government's most public warning yet against calls for Middle East-inspired pro-democracy protests that have spread from an overseas Chinese website, triggering tighter censorship, intense security in Beijing, and new restrictions on foreign reporters.

The commentary in the Beijing Daily newspaper, a Communist Party mouthpiece, signalled that China's security crackdown would not let up.

"Everyone knows that stability is a blessing and chaos is a calamity," said the newspaper, which is the mouthpiece of the Communist Party administration for China's capital.

The warning came on the same day as the opening of China's annual parliament in the capital, where Premier Wen Jiabao warned that inflation could corrode social stability.

Police smothered any weekend protests before they had a chance of forming, and some foreign reporters who went to the scene of the would-be gathering on the Wangfujing shopping street in downtown Beijing were beaten up.

But the commentary told citizens to beware. Hard-won order was at stake, it said.

Uprisings across the Middle East have toppled authoritarian governments in Tunisia and Egypt and now threaten Muammar Gaddafi, the long-time strongman of Libya.

"This turmoil has brought a massive calamity to the people of these countries," said the newspaper in the commentary, which was widely repeated on many Chinese state media websites.

"It is worth noting that at home and abroad some people with ulterior motives are trying to draw this chaos into China," it said. "They have used the Internet to incite illegal gatherings.

"There are always some people at home and abroad who want to exploit the problems existing in our development to provoke trouble," it added, urging citizens to "conscientiously protect harmony and stability".

The protest calls in China have little chance of taking off.

Beijing has mobilised 739,000 police officers, officials, security guards and residents recruited into local patrols to guard against mishaps during the parliament, reported the official China News Service.

Police have rounded up dozens of dissidents since online messages from abroad urged pro-democracy gatherings inspired by the "Jasmine Revolution" in Tunisia. Internet censorship also means that few Chinese residents are aware of the protest calls.

Chinese police have threatened to revoke the visas of dozens of foreign journalists if they continue "illegal" reporting from sites where overseas websites have called for anti-government demonstrations.

"Those people intent on concocting and finding Middle East-style news in China will find their plans come to nothing," said the Beijing Daily commentary. — Reuters


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Libyan forces attack western town, rebel push in east

Posted: 04 Mar 2011 05:37 PM PST

A rebel fighter takes cover from shelling by soldiers loyal to Muammar Gaddafi during a battle near Ras Lanuf, March 4, 2011. — Reuters pic

A boy runs atop underground prisons that were part of the headquarters for forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi in Benghazi, March 4, 2011. — Reuters pic

AJDABIYAH, Libya, March 5 — Muammar Gaddafi's forces captured part of a town in western Libya yesterday, but rebels said they had taken the coastal oil town of Ras Lanuf, extending the territory they control in the east of the country.

The fighting appeared to confirm the division of the oil-producing desert state into a western area round the capital Tripoli held by forces loyal to Gaddafi and an eastern region held by those rebelling against his four-decade rule.

In Zawiyah, a town 50km west of Tripoli whose control by the rebels had embarrassed the government, "dozens were killed and more were wounded" by pro-Gaddafi forces, said Mohamed, a resident. "We have counted 30 dead civilians."

The loyalist forces used grenade-launchers, heavy machineguns and snipers on a hotel roof to fire at protesters marching through town after Friday prayers to demand Gaddafi's resignation, Mohamed said.

Rebel fighters retreated but were still holding the central Martyrs Square later in the day, a rebel spokesman said.

A Libyan government official said the town had fallen. "It's been liberated, maybe there are still some pockets (under rebel control) but otherwise it's been liberated."

In the east, rebels said they had captured the airport of Ras Lanuf and later that they had taken the oil town itself, which lies on a strategic coast road 660km from Tripoli.

"We have taken Ras Lanuf 100 per cent, Gaddafi's forces have all left," rebel soldier Hafez Ibrahim said from the town. He did not say who controlled the military base and oil terminal.

A deputy foreign minister in Tripoli disputed this, telling reporters that government forces still held the town.

Rebels have already seized control of much of the rest of eastern Libya, the main oil-producing part of the country, in a popular uprising centred on Benghazi, Libya's second city.

The revolt against Gaddafi is the bloodiest yet against a long-serving ruler in the Arab world, and follows the ousting in the past weeks of the veteran presidents of both Tunisia and Egypt — Libya's western and eastern neighbours.

A rebel spokesman said pro-Gaddafi forces bombed an arms depot — one of the biggest weapons stores in the region — on the outskirts of Benghazi yesterday.

"A lot of people have been killed," said a resident who would only identify himself as Saleh. "There are many people in the hospital. No one can approach, it's still very dangerous."

Security forces cordoned off the area, and a Reuters witness said at least eight ambulances were seen ferrying casualties from the scene. Windows were shattered in suburbs several kilometres away, residents said.

News of the fighting pushed up US crude prices to their highest levels since September 2008, and Brent crude futures for April delivery rose US$1.36 to US$116.17 a barrel.

The International Energy Agency said the revolt had halted one million barrels per day (bpd) of Libya's 1.6 million bpd oil output. The loss, due largely to the flight of thousands of foreign oil workers, is a big blow to the economy.

Popular revolt

The upheaval has caused a humanitarian emergency on the Tunisian border, where tens of thousands of foreign workers have fled to safety. An international airlift is under way, reducing the number of refugees stranded in tented camps.

The rebels earlier told Reuters they were open to talks only about Gaddafi's exile or resignation, after attacks on civilians that have provoked international condemnation, arms and economic sanctions and a war crimes investigation.

"Victory or death . . . We will not stop until we liberate all this country," Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel National Libyan Council, told supporters of the two-week-old uprising.

Western nations have called on Gaddafi to go and are considering various options including the imposition of a no-fly zone, but are wary about any offensive military involvement.

In Tripoli, shooting rang out across Tajoura district as Gaddafi loyalists broke up a crowd of protesters seeking an end to his long rule and shouting "Gaddafi is the enemy of God!"

The demonstrators spilt out of the Murat Adha mosque after Friday prayers, and several hundred began chanting for an end to Gaddafi's four decades in power. Al Jazeera said up to 100 people were arrested, accused of helping the rebels.

A pro-Gaddafi rally in Tripoli's central Green Square later drew several hundred demonstrators, many waving green flags.

Earlier yesterday, rebel volunteers said a rocket attack by a government warplane just missed a rebel-held military base that houses an arsenal in the eastern town of Ajdabiyah. — Reuters


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