Seoul, slum fire symbolizes inequality

Today's headlines: Chinese students forced to sign a contract on Party loyalty to attend foreign universities; Education minsiter Chris Hipkins to replace Jacinda Ardern at the helm of New Zealand's government; Lebanon's UN voting rights suspended over debts; New crackdown on newspapers, TV and internet in Tajikistan.


In Seoul, a fire swept through part of the Guryong slum, which is located just across the highway from the exclusive Gangnam district. The flames forced the evacuation of about 500 people. Guryong is one of the last remaining slums in the capital and has become a symbol of inequality in Asia's fourth-largest economy.


Tens of thousands of Chinese students before going abroad on government-supported scholarships must sign a document pledging allegiance to the ruling Communist Party, as well as presenting guarantors who could be forced to return the funds if they violate the agreement.

Bringing the case to light was the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported that 30 doctoral students coming to the country had signed such contracts. Radio Free Asia later found evidence that this practice had been carried on in silence for more than a decade, with different versions of the contract and related regulations available for consultation online.


The current Minister of Education and Policing Chris Hipkins, 44 will take over from resigning premier Jacinda Ardern at the helm of New Zealand's government. Hipkins' choice is expected to be ratified Sunday by the Labor parliamentary group. He would thus prevail over current Justice Minister Kiri Allan, who if chosen would become the first Maori premier in New Zealand's history. The Hipkins government will face a general election campaign, which even before Jacinda Ardern's resignation was set for Oct. 14, 2023.


In Bangladesh at least a thousand acres of land have been rendered uncultivable by pollution in the Dokhola area of Gazipur. At issue is the overflow of a canal into which some industrial plants in the area allegedly discharge wastewater without any controls. 


Lebanon has had its voting rights at the UN General Assembly suspended for failing to pay annual dues. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the Beirut government must pay arrears of about .8 million to regain its status. The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said Friday that the debt will be paid "immediately, so as to preserve Lebanon's rights within the United Nations."


The Timirjazevo district court in Moscow is trying 23-year-old mathematics student Dmitry Ivanov, author of the Telegram channel "Protest University," who was arrested in June for public anti-war actions. According to his lawyer, he was subjected to violence in prison and during transfers. The Archbishop of the Apostolic Orthodox Church, Grigory Mikhnov-Vajtenko, spoke in his defense at the trial.


An amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code has come into effect in Tajikistan, under which it will be possible to issue arrest warrants for publications in print, radio, and television, and now on the Internet, that cause social unrest or create security hazards. This has allowed more than 130 people to be arrested in Karakalpakstan, the area of the protests.