China’s Xi meeting Putin in boost for isolated Russia leader
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin enter a hall for talks in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019. The Chinese government said Xi would visit Moscow from March 20, to March 22, 2023, but gave no indication when he departed. The Russian government said Xi was due to arrive at midday and meet later with Putin.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)
By Emily Wang Fujiyama And Joe Mcdonald in Beijing
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping is due to meet Vladimir Putin in Moscow in a political boost for the isolated Russian president after the International Criminal Court charged him with war crimes in Ukraine.
Xi’s government gave no details of what the Chinese leader hoped to accomplish. Xi and Putin declared they had a “no-limits friendship” before the February 2022 attack on Ukraine, but China has tried to portray itself as neutral. Beijing called for a cease-fire last month, but Washington said that would ratify the Kremlin’s battlefield gains.
The Chinese government said Xi would visit Moscow from Monday to Wednesday but gave no indication when he departed. The Russian government said Xi was due to arrive midday and meet later with Putin.
China looks to Russia as a source of oil and gas for its energy-hungry economy and a as partner in opposing what both see as American domination of global affairs.
The meeting gives Putin and Xi a chance to show they have “powerful partners” at a time of strained relations with Washington, said Joseph Torigian, an expert in Chinese-Russian relations at American University in Washington.
“China can signal that it could even do more to help Russia, and that if relations with the United States continue to deteriorate, they could do a lot more to enable Russia and help Russia in its war against Ukraine,” Torigian said.
Beijing’s relations with Washington, Europe and its neighbors are strained by disputes over technology, security, human rights and the ruling Communist Party’s treatment of Hong Kong and Muslim minorities.
Some commentators have pointed to a possible parallel between Russia’s claims to Ukrainian territory and Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. The Communist Party says the self-ruled island democracy, which split with China in 1949 after a civil war, is obliged to unite with the mainland, by force if necessary. Xi’s government has been stepping up efforts to intimidate the island by flying fighter jets nearby and firing missiles into the sea.
Taiwan voters will choose a new president next year, and in an apparent bid to sway sentiment, former president Ma Ying-jeou of the opposition Nationalist Party will visit China next week.
Ma presided over a period of warm ties with Beijing, but left office under a cloud after China’s legislature rejected a trade deal amid the country’s largest protests since the 1990s.
China’s campaign of diplomatic isolation and military threats have prompted a backlash against Chinese companies overseas and growing support for Taiwan in the U.S. House and European parliaments.
In the latest in a chain of delegations, Bob Stewart, chair of the British-Taiwanese All-Party Parliamentary Group, arrived Sunday in Taipei. Other members of the delegation include Members of Parliament Rob Butler, Sarah Atherton, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Afzal Khan, and Marie Rimmer.
Along with India and other countries who claim neutrality in the Ukraine conflict, China has stepped up purchases of Russian oil and gas, helping to top up the Kremlin’s revenue in the face of Western sanctions.
Beijing appears largely to have complied with U.S. warnings not to give military support.
This week’s meeting follows the ICC announcement Friday of charges that Putin is personally responsible for the abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine. Governments that recognize the court’s jurisdiction would be obligated to arrest Putin if he visits.
Putin has yet to comment on the announcement, but the Kremlin rejected the move as “outrageous and unacceptable.”
In a show of defiance, Putin over the weekend visited Crimea and the occupied Ukrainian port city of Mariupol to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. Russian news reports showed him chatting with Mariupol residents and visiting an art school and a children’s center in Sevastopol in Crimea.
Xi said in an article published Monday in the Russian newspaper Russian Gazette that China has “actively promoted peace talks” but announced no initiatives.
“My upcoming visit to Russia will be a journey of friendship, cooperation and peace,” Xi wrote, according to text released by the official Xinhua News Agency.
“A reasonable way to resolve the crisis” can be found if “all parties embrace the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security,” Xi wrote.
The trip follows the surprise announcement of a diplomatic thaw between Iran and Saudi Arabia following a meeting in Beijing, a diplomatic coup for Xi’s government.
Xi wants to be seen as a global statesman who is “playing a constructive role” by talking about peace but is unlikely to press Putin to end the war, said Torigian.
Beijing is worried about “potential Russian losses on the battlefield” but doesn’t want to be seen to “enable Russia’s aggression,” said Torigian.
“They won’t spend political capital” on pressing Moscow to make peace, “especially if they don’t think it will get them anything,” he said.
New Democrat MP says she is target of foreign interference by China
New Democrat member of Parliament Jenny Kwan says she was briefed by Canada’s spy agency, who informed her that she is an ongoing target by the People’s Republic of China. Kwan speaks during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, May 5, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
New Democrat MP Jenny Kwan said Monday that Canada’s spy agency has confirmed her long-held belief that she is being targeted by the Chinese government over her advocacy for human rights in Hong Kong and for the Uyghur Muslim minority in China.
Kwan said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service spent an hour with her on Friday laying out the intelligence it possesses that she has been targeted by China since before the 2019 federal election.
But Kwan said she can’t divulge the nature of the alleged actions against her, nor has she noticed them happening.
“What CSIS confirmed with me is that I was a target and I continue to be a target,” Kwan said outside the House of Commons. “They use the term ‘evergreen’ meaning that I will forever be targeted.”
The news is further evidence of the need for a full public inquiry on foreign interference, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said. He said the NDP will put a motion to the House of Commons on Tuesday asking MPs to vote in favour of a public inquiry, as well as for the ousting of former governor general David Johnston as the government’s special rapporteur on foreign interference.
Johnston was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March to look at the intelligence collected about attempts by foreign governments, including China, to interfere in the last two Canadian elections, as well as whether the government’s protections against, and response to, such interference are sound.
The Conservatives have accused Johnston of being biased because he has old family connections to Trudeau. Singh said while he has not seen evidence that Johnston was biased, he believes the very appearance of any bias is reason enough for Johnston to be replaced.
Last week Johnston said a public inquiry was not warranted, in part because too much of the information is classified for national security reasons. Opposition parties agree that the elections were not compromised but several still say a public inquiry is the only way for Canadians to feel confident in their electoral system.
Kwan said it is troubling that MPs were not given information about possible threats against them for years. A party official confirmed to The Canadian Press Kwan is not concerned about any physical threats to her safety or that of her family.
Kwan said MPs should be told immediately if CSIS has information about threats or tactics being used against them. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino issued a new directive earlier this month requiring that to happen.
Kwan squirmed as reporters tried to get more information about exactly how she was being targeted, repeating over and over she cannot say because the information is classified.
While she has long suspected she may be fodder for attempted interference by the Chinese government, she was not aware of any actions and those suspicions were only confirmed in the briefing on Friday.
“The short answer is, no, I didn’t know until this moment when I’ve been informed. Did I suspect that there might be something, especially in light of the information that’s coming forward? I did wonder. I can’t help but to wonder, because of my outspokenness.”
Kwan said she has no intention of backing down in her advocacy work, pointing out that in the last week she participated in two rallies including a photo exhibition marking anti-democratic events in Hong Kong and a democracy walk over the weekend.
“Out of this briefing it is more clear to me than ever that I will not be intimidated, that I will not be silenced in any way,” Kwan said. “Whoever is trying to put pressure on me in whatever way that they’re trying to do it, they will not succeed.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2023.
Nun whose body shows little decay since 2019 death draws hundreds to rural Missouri
Hundreds of people flocked to a small town in Missouri this week and last to see a Black nun whose body has barely decomposed since 2019. Some say it’s a sign of holiness in Catholicism, while others say the lack of decomposition may not be as rare as people think.
Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster was exhumed in April, according to a statement from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Gower, Missouri.
The nuns had been preparing for the addition of a St. Joseph shrine, and that involved “the reinterment of the remains of our beloved foundress, Sister Wilhelmina,” the statement said.
When they exhumed Lancaster, they were told to expect only bones, since she had been buried in a simple wooden coffin without any embalming four years ago.
Instead, they discovered an intact body and “a perfectly preserved religious habit,” the statement said. The nuns hadn’t meant to publicize the discovery, but someone posted a private email publicly and “the news began to spread like wildfire.”
Volunteers and local law enforcement have helped to manage the crowds in the town of roughly 1,800 people, as people have visited from all over the country to see and touch Lancaster’s body.
“It was pretty amazing,” said Samuel Dawson, who is Catholic and visited from Kansas City with his son last week. “It was very peaceful. Just very reverent.”
Dawson said there were a few hundred people when he visited and that he saw many out-of-state cars.
Visitors were allowed to touch her, Dawson said, adding that the nuns “wanted to make her accessible to the public … because in real life, she was always accessible to people.”
The monastery said in a statement that Lancaster’s body will be placed in a glass shrine in their church on Monday. Visitors will still be able to see her body and take dirt from her grave, but they won’t be able to touch her.
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph also released a statement.
“The condition of the remains of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster has understandably generated widespread interest and raised important questions,” the diocese said. “At the same time, it is important to protect the integrity of the mortal remains of Sister Wilhelmina to allow for a thorough investigation.”
“Incorruptibility has been verified in the past, but it is very rare. There is a well-established process to pursue the cause for sainthood, but that has not been initiated in this case yet,” the diocese added.
The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, also said that Lancaster has not yet reached the required minimum of five years since death for the sainthood process to begin.
Rebecca George, an anthropology instructor at Western Carolina University in North Carolina, said the body’s lack of decomposition might not be as rare as people are expecting.
George said the “mummification” of un-embalmed bodies is common at the university’s facility and the bodies could stay preserved for many years, if allowed to.
Coffins and clothing also help to preserve bodies, she said.
“Typically, when we bury people, we don’t exhume them. We don’t get to look at them a couple years out,” George said. “With 100 years, there might be nothing left. But when you’ve got just a few years out, this is not unexpected.”
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