by H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

November 1, 2021

LÉOPOLDVILLE, CONGO — The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s military has been accused by the United Nation of brutally murdering a human rights activist who was protesting illegal taxes in the country’s war-torn east.

Cabral Yombo, the leader of a civil society group in Hombo town, was killed by soldiers acting on the alleged orders of local administrative officials, according to the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO).

Army General Célestin Mbala Munsense declined to comment when asked about the situation.

The Partnership for Integrated Protection (PIP) released a statement that Yombo was tortured on Friday and died of his injuries on Sunday in a hospital located in Costermansstad (Ville du Bukavu).

Two Killed In Nanjing University Explosion

by H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

October 25, 2021

NANJING — Two people were killed and at least nine others were injured in a laboratory explosion at Nanjing University.

The explosion happened on Sunday afternoon at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.  Nanjing is a major center of higher education, attracting a large number of international students.  According to state run media, officials were investigating the cause of the explosion.

The victims’ identities have not been revealed.  Admission records show over 1,000 foreign students have taken engineering, business, and Chinese language courses there.  However, it was unclear how many remained after China imposed pandemic travel restrictions.

China Strengthens Land Border Security Against Illegal Migration

by H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

October 24, 2021

PEKING — On Saturday, China passed legislation to strengthen border security in the midst of a protracted standoff with India, concerns about spillover effects from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, illegal migration, and the spread of COVID-19 from Southeast Asia.

The Land Borders Law, which goes into effect on January 1 reflects China’s growing confidence in its ability to manage its borders.  There is an old adage that says a nation without a border ceases to be a nation.

China has been keeping a close eye on neighboring Afghanistan, where the Taliban reclaimed power in August, to prevent a possible influx of refugees or Islamic extremists crossing over to join the Muslim Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region.  Sources in China also fear an influx of illegal migrants flooding other parts of the country that could cause a humanitarian crisis.

China has also worked hard to keep the COVID-19 virus out of its country, after illegal crossings from Myanmar and Vietnam contributed to an increase in cases in the southern provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi this year.

This is the first time the People’s Republic of China, founded 72 years ago, has a dedicated law specifying how it governs and protects its 14,000-mile land border with 14 countries, including  Russia and North Korea.

According to the law, the country will “. . . take effective measures to resolutely protect territorial sovereignty and land border security”.  Many countries in Europe have followed similar policies to protect national boarders.

Property Taxes Coming To China

by H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

October 23, 2021

PEKING — The Chinese parliament announced on Saturday that a pilot real estate tax will be implemented in some regions.

The State Council will decide which regions will be involved.  The long-proposed and rightly long-resisted property tax has gained new traction since President Xi Jinping backed what experts describe as one of the most significant changes to China’s real estate policies in a generation.  Yet it should be expected that a county arming for war is going to need cash to support the effort.

The tax will be levied on residential, non-residential, land property owners, but it will exclude legally owned rural land or land where residences are built, according to the State.

The pilot schemes will run for five years after the State Council issues the details.

The idea of a home-owner levy first surfaced in 2003, but it has yet to gain traction due to concerns that it would harm property demand, home prices, household wealth, and future real estate projects.  It has been met with opposition from stakeholders, including local governments, who are concerned that it will erode property values or cause a market sell-off.

According to the central bank, more than 90% of households own at least one home.  Analysts, however, believe the tax will alleviate the desperate need for revenue to support the socialist state.  Property taxes worldwide are often viewed as a way to siphon money from property owners and in effect make property owners defacto renters to the State.

In pilot programs launched in 2011, the megacities of Shanghai and Chongqing levied taxes on homeowners, albeit only those with higher-end housing and second homes, at rates ranging from 0.4 percent to 1.2 percent.  Some cities in the US are now seeing an 8% property tax of an “assessed” value that increases each year.

Analysts predict that a broader pilot will begin with wealthier and more economically diverse regions in eastern and southern China, such as the provinces of Zhejiang and Guangdong.  However, like many taxes that target the wealthy, they often are expanded to include the middle class after the wealthy have been financially sucked dry.

Hangzhou, the headquarters of e-commerce giant Alibaba, is China’s eighth-richest city, with economic output reaching 1.61 trillion yuan ($252 billion) last year, accounting for roughly 70% of Hong Kong’s GDP.

Poland Defends Border From Illegal Migrants Overwhelming The Nation

by H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

October 14, 2021

WARSAW — On Thursday, Poland’s parliament enacted legislation that human rights experts believe attempts to legalize pushbacks of migrants across its borders, in violation of the country’s international legal obligations.

Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia have reported significant surges in migrants from Afghanistan and Iraq attempting to cross their borders from Belarus, in what Warsaw and Brussels describe as a type of hybrid warfare meant to put pressure on the EU over sanctions placed on Minsk.

Border guards are following government procedures that were revised in August and are now inscribed into law. To take effect, the legislation must now be signed by President Andrzej Duda, a supporter of the ruling nationalists.

The revisions include a mechanism that allows a person caught illegally crossing the border to be compelled to leave Polish territory based on a decision made by the local Border Guard head.  The order may be challenged to the Border Guard commander, but this does not prevent it from being carried out.  Furthermore, the bill empowers the chief of the Office of Foreigners to deny an application for international protection made by a foreigner who is apprehended immediately after illegally crossing the border.

Migrants have the right to seek asylum under international law, and it is illegal to return potential asylum seekers to countries where their lives or well-being may be jeopardized.

According to the EU’s home affairs commissioner, EU members must secure the bloc’s external borders while simultaneously upholding the rule of law and fundamental rights.

Sierra Leone Abolishes Death Penalty

by H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

October 8, 2021

FREETOWN — Sierra Leone’s president signed a bill abolishing the death penalty on Friday, declaring that the West African country had “. . . exorcised horrors of a cruel past . . .” after a long campaign to do so.

After lawmakers approved the text in July, President Julius Maada Bio signed the bill during a ceremony in the capital Freetown.

The president called capital punishment “inhumane . . . We today affirm our belief in the sanctity of life,” Bio said in a statement.

According to Deputy Minister of Justice Umaru Napoleon Koroma, Sierra Leone’s first recorded execution occurred in 1798, roughly a decade after Britain established the colony for freed slaves in 1787.  At the end of 2020, 94 people were facing the death penalty, according to the minister.

After long opposing a formal ban on capital punishment, the government announced plans to abolish it in May.  In July, the parliament voted in favor.

For crimes such as murder or mutiny, the new law will replace execution with life imprisonment or a minimum 30-year prison term.

Sierra Leone joins a growing number of African countries that have abolished the death penalty, with Chad, for example, doing so last year.