US diplomats have left the US consulate in south-western Chinese city of Chengdu, following Beijing's decision to close the mission.
China ordered the closing of the consulate on Friday in retaliation for a US order to close the Chinese Consulate in Houston, reports AP.
The tit-for-tat closings marked a significant escalation in tensions between the two countries over a range of issues, including trade, technology, security and human rights.
The American flag has been taken down at a US consulate in southwestern China, according to state media.
Besides, officials have vacated the premises under order of the Chinese government.
State broadcaster CCTV said on its social media account that the flag was lowered at 6:18am on Monday (local time) at the US mission in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan provine.
Police have closed off a two to three block area around the consulate, cutting off virtually any view of the property.
Vehicles could be seen moving in the distance behind multiple police lines.
Moving trucks arrived at the US consulate Sunday afternoon and left a few hours later. Late at night, flatbed trailers entered the complex. One later emerged carrying a large shipping container and a crane.
Before the area was closed, the impending closure of the consulate drew a steady stream of onlookers over the weekend as Chengdu, like Houston, found itself in the limelight of international politics.
People stopped to take selfies and photos, jamming a sidewalk busy with shoppers and families with strollers on a sunny day in the city of Chengdu. A little boy posed with a small Chinese flag before plainclothes police shooed him away as foreign media cameras zoomed in.
Police had shut the street and sidewalk in front of the consulate and set up metal barriers along the sidewalk on the other side of the tree-lined road.
Uniformed and plainclothes officers kept watch on both sides of the barriers after scattered incidents following the Chengdu announcement on Friday, including a man who set off firecrackers and hecklers who cursed at foreign media shooting video and photos of the scene.
A man who tired to unfurl a large placard late Sunday that he called an open letter to the Chinese government was quickly taken away.
Earlier, a bus left the consulate grounds and what appeared to be embassy staff spoke with plainclothes police before retreating back behind the property's solid black gates. It wasn’t clear who or what was on the bus.
Three medium-size trucks arrived and left a few hours later, and cars with diplomatic plates departed in between.
The US alleged that the Houston consulate was a nest of Chinese spies who tried to steal data from facilities in Texas, including the Texas A&M medical system and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. China said the allegations were “malicious slander.”
South Africa’s COVID-19 response is marred by corruption allegations around its historic 26 billion USD economic relief package, as the country with the world’s fifth highest number of COVID-19 cases braces for more.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a wide-ranging investigation into claims that unscrupulous officials and private companies are looting efforts to protect the country’s 57 million people.
“More so than at any other time, corruption puts our lives at risk,” he said in a national address Thursday night.
South Africa is seen as the best-prepared of any country in sub-Saharan Africa for COVID-19, but years of rampant corruption have weakened institutions, including the health system.
In October, the head of the government’s Special Investigating Unit said fraud, waste and abuse in health care siphoned off $2.3 billion a year.
The unit is already investigating more than 20 cases of corruption related to the COVID-19 relief money, spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said.
South Africa now has more than 434,000 confirmed virus cases — well over half of the continent’s total — and over 6,600 deaths, while a new report has suggested the real death toll could be higher.
Public hospitals struggle and some health workers are openly scared.
More than 5,000 of them have been infected.
While nurses and others plead for more protection, overpricing scams for badly needed supplies are on the rise.
After inflating face mask prices by up to 900%, companies Sicuro Safety and Hennox Supplies admitted guilt and were fined.
In South Africa's new virus epicenter, Gauteng province, a company supplying the government with PPE, Royal Bhaca, charged more than four times the regular price — or about $3.50 — per surgical mask. Sanitizer was almost twice the price, or $5 for a 500ml bottle, according to an investigation by The Sunday Independent newspaper.
Pandemic-related corruption has been reported across South Africa.
More than 6,000 Pakistani insurgents are hiding in Afghanistan, most belonging to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban group responsible for attacking Pakistani military and civilian targets, according to a UN report.
The report released this week said the group, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), has linked up with the Afghan-based affiliate of the Islamic State group.
Some of TTP's members have even joined the IS affiliate, which has its headquarters in eastern Afghanistan.
The Afghan government did not respond Sunday to requests by The Associated Press for comment.
The report said IS in Afghanistan, known as IS in Khorasan province, has been hit hard by Afghan security forces as well as U.S. and NATO forces, and even on occasion by the Afghan Taliban.
The report was prepared by the U.N. analytical and sanctions monitoring team, which tracks terrorist groups around the world.
The report estimated the membership of IS in Afghanistan at 2,200, and while its leadership has been depleted, IS still counts among its leaders a Syrian national Abu Said Mohammad al-Khorasani.
The report also said the monitoring team had received information that two senior Islamic State commanders, Abu Qutaibah and Abu Hajar al-Iraqi, had recently arrived in Afghanistan from the Middle East.
“Although in territorial retreat, (the Islamic State) remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul. It also aims to attract Taliban fighters who oppose the agreement with the United States,” the report said, referring to a U.S. peace deal signed with the Taliban in February.
That deal was struck to allow the U.S. to end its 19-year involvement in Afghanistan, and calls on the Taliban to guarantee its territory will not be used by terrorist groups. The deal is also expected to guarantee the Taliban's all-out participation in the fight against IS.
The second and perhaps most critical part of the agreement calls for talks between the Taliban and Kabul's political leadership.
A big worry for Pakistan is the presence in Afghanistan of militants, particularly linked to the TTP or Jamaat-ul-Ahrar or Lashkar-e-Islam, as well as those with the Baluchistan Liberation Army, which has taken responsibility for high-profile attacks this month in the southern Sindh province as well as in southwestern Baluchistan Province. Several Pakistan military personnel have been killed this month in southwestern Baluchistan province in battle with insurgents.
The TTP took responsibility for one of the most horrific attacks in Pakistan in 2014, when a Pakistani army school was attacked and 140 were killed. Most were students, and some were as young as 5.
“The total number of Pakistani foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan, posing a threat to both countries, is estimated at between 6,000 and 6,500, most of them with TTP," the report said.
Malaysian authorities said Sunday that they were searching for two dozens Rohingya refugees who are feared to have drowned after jumping off their boat off the northern resort island of Langkawi.
Zawawi Abdullah, a senior official with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, said initial police information showed that only one of 25 Rohingya men who jumped off the boat had managed to swim ashore.
The lone survivor sought help from police late Saturday and has been detained for further investigation, Zawawi said.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled Myanmar due to a military crackdown, and many live in densely crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Muslim-dominated Malaysia has been a common destination of boats arranged by traffickers who promise the refugees a better life abroad.
Zawawi said two vessels and an aircraft were deployed in the search. He said the agency will also alert local fishermen and authorities in neighboring Thailand to assist in the search. He didn't provide further details on the boat.
Last month, Malaysian authorities detained 269 Rohingya refugees and found a body on board a suspected smuggling boat off Langkawi that they said had been intentionally damaged so it couldn’t be turned back to sea.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency later said that the 269 were transferred from a larger vessel on which dozens of people were believed to have died and their bodies thrown into the sea.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Malaysia cannot accept any more Rohingya refugees as it struggles with an economic slowdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. But he said those already in the country will not be sent back out to sea.
Malaysia is home to over 2 million illegal immigrants as well as some 180,000 refugees and asylum seekers — including 101,000 Rohingya — who are registered with the U.N. refugee agency.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to join a groundbreaking ceremony of bhoomi pujan for the Ram temple on a disputed site in northern India next month, reports AP.
The 16th century mosque was torn down by Hindu hard-liners in 1999. The ceremony is set for August 5, a date organisers said was astrologically auspicious for Hindus.
However, the date also marks a year since the Indian Parliament revoked the semi-autonomous status of its only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir.
The symbolism was impossible to miss for both supporters and opponents of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, whose manifesto had for decades included pledges to strip restive Kashmir’s autonomy and to build a temple to Hindu god Ram where the Mughal-era mosque once stood, a site in the city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state that devotees believe to be Ram's birthplace.
As the coronavirus is still increasing across India, which has reported the world's third-highest caseload, the ceremony will be broadcast live on state television and the number of participants and spectators will be limited, according to Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or the World Hindu Organization, a Hindu nationalist group allied with the BJP.
The temple will serve as “an enduring and immortal beaming center of social harmony, national unity and integration and awakening of the feeling of Hindutva,” or Hindu way of life, the organization's spokesperson Vinod Bansal said in a news release Saturday.
A century-long dispute over the site was resolved last year following the BJP's landslide election victory.
In November, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the temple trust, saying that Muslim petitions would be given five acres at an alternative site.
Hindus hard-liners have long contended that Mughal Muslim invaders built a mosque on top of a preexisting temple in the ancient city of Ayodya.
A December 1992 riot following the destruction of the mosque sparked communal violence in which about 2,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims.
Meanwhile, the trial in the demolition court case continues to be heard in a special court.
An architect from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Modi's home state, has proposed a towering sandstone structure 161 feet (49 meters) high with five domes.
Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister and a Hindu monk, requested that Ayodhya hold a special cleaning and purification ceremony and for all of the city's temples to light oil lamps ahead of Modi's visit, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Adityanath said the occasion marked the end of a “500-year struggle,” PTI reported.