Facebook ‘trialling censorship tools to satisfy Chinese government’
Facebook has reportedly built a tool for geographically censoring posts on the leading social network as it seeks a path back into China. The New York Times cited three current and former Facebook employees, who asked for anonymity, as saying that the tool could filter users’ news feeds in specific places. “We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement. “However, we have not made any decision on our approach to China.” Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has supported the effort to build the tool for censoring posts, according to the Times story.
What next? The social network has been banned in China since 2009, evidently due to the interest by authorities there in controlling information shared, or movements organised using, the internet. But Facebook is determined to regain access. Zuckerberg has spent years studying Putonghua and has met Chinese leaders.
Pressure mounts on Myanmar over Rohingya plight
Myanmar is carrying out “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims, a UN official has reportedly said, as horrifying stories of gang rape, torture and murder emerge from among the thousands who have fled the country to Bangladesh. Up to 30,000 from the impoverished ethnic group have abandoned their homes to flee the unfolding violence, the UN said, after troops poured into the region earlier this month. John McKissick, head of the UN refugee agency UNHCR in the Bangladeshi border town of Cox’s Bazar, told the BBC troops were “killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses, forcing these people to cross the river” into Bangladesh. Dhaka has resisted urgent international appeals to open its border to avert a humanitarian crisis, telling Myanmar it must do more to prevent the stateless Rohingya minority from entering.
What next? Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, indicated international intervention may be necessary, telling a closed meeting of the UN Security Council: “Initial enthusiasm of [the] international community to let Myanmar continue on this path of reform on its own seems to be dangerous at this stage.”
President Park’s office insists Viagra order was ‘for altitude sickness’
The office of South Korean President Park Geun-hye had to explain why it bought dozens of Viagra pills while preparing for her trip to Africa this year. Apparently it was not for anyone’s erectile dysfunction, but to treat possible altitude sickness. The presidential Blue House bought 364 pills in December, including 60 blue Viagra pills and the rest a generic version of the drug, according to the Democratic Party MP Kim Sang-hee. Park’s spokesman, Jung Youn-kuk said the pills were bought to treat altitude sickness for presidential staff during a visit to Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. “We bought them, but they were left unused,” Jung said. Viagra has been reported as helpful in treating high-altitude pulmonary edema, or altitude sickness.
What next? The news of the Viagra purchase created yet more embarrassment for Park, who is currently fighting a deepening scandal about her relationship with her aide and confidante Choi Soon-sil, who is accused of peddling influence. A vote to impeach Park could take place as early as next week, lawmakers said.
Racist rant over parking space costs Daimler executive his job in China
Rainer Gaertner can thank the internet for making his bad day much worse. The senior executive from car manufacturer Daimler was axed from his post in China over a foul-mouthed rant, apparently sparked by a dispute over a car park space in Beijing. A report of the incident was first posted on microblogging site Weibo on Sunday and was soon picked up by mainstream media. Gaertner reportedly lost his temper and shouted: “I am in China one year already. The first thing I learned here is that all you Chinese are b*****ds”. He is also alleged to have pepper-sprayed an onlooker who tried to intervene. Daimler, the parent of Mercedes-Benz, did not identify Gaertner but confirmed a member of a management team in China had been stood down.
What next? Daimler said the dispute was eventually resolved “amicably” and the authorities had closed their investigation. “Such an incident reflects in no way the values of Daimler AG and we sincerely apologise for the concerns raised by this matter”, the statement read.
Singaporean tanks held in Hong Kong on their way home from Taiwan
Hong Kong was pitched into the South China Sea dispute after intercepting nine Singapore-bound armoured personnel carriers on a container ship from Taiwan. Customs officers’ find on Wednesday came amid cool relations between Beijing and Singapore after the city state backed the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China. Singapore’s armed forces conduct overseas training in about 12 countries including the US, Australia and Germany, and usually hire commercial shippers to transport military equipment, its military said. But sources said Singaporean authorities would need to contact the Chinese foreign ministry to get the kit back.
What next? China sees Singapore as backing Manila in an arbitration case on Beijing’s territorial claims. “Singapore will probably be in big trouble this time because Beijing could use this chance to give the city state a hard time [in retaliation for] Singapore’s stand,” said Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Dong.
Philippine senator says protection allegations are Duterte slurs
A drug dealer whose father died in an alleged gun fight in prison told a Philippine senate probe he gave police officials and an opposition senator millions of pesos in protection money. Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr said he gave 8 million pesos (HK$1.24 million) to Senator Leila de Lima’s bodyguard last year. De Lima, who started an investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly anti-drug campaign, denied getting money from Espinosa, saying Duterte was trying to ruin her.
What next? Later, national police chief Ronald dela Rosa vowed to clean up the force, saying: “I will not surrender, I will clean up the national police.”
Compiled by Tom Sturrock