Militants Attack Pakistani Air Force Base

Militants Attack Pakistani Air Force Base

A group of Taliban militants attacked an air force base in northwestern Pakistan early Friday, killing at least 29 people and wounding many others.

Military spokesman Major-General Asim Bajaw told reporters that militants wearing paramilitary forces’ uniforms and entered the residential compound of the Badhaber base near Peshawar in two groups.

One of the groups stormed a mosque where base staff were offering early morning prayers, he said, adding that the attack left 16 worshipers dead. The other group of militants attacked another area of the compound, killing several other people.

Bajwa said a quick reaction force reached the base and engaged the attackers, killing 13 of the militants.  He said an army officer and five security personnel were killed in the gunbattle, while 29 others, mostly soldiers, were wounded.

General Bajwa alleged that the terrorist attack was planned in Afghanistan and those involved in it came from across the border.

After the hourslong siege, Pakistan military chief General Raheel Sharif visited the base and met with security forces who took part in the counterterror operation.

Video confirmation

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Mohammad Khurasani, said its suicide bombers carried out the assault on the base, surrounding dozens of personnel and killing most of them.

The claim could not verified independently.

The Taliban spokesman later emailed a video to VOA. It shows 16 men being seen off by their superviser, saying they are the suicide bombers who took part in the air base attack.

The Pakistani Taliban has been waging a bloody insurgency to impose its extreme brand of Islamic fundamentalism on the country and to avenge military attacks against its bases in northwestern tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Tens of thousands of Pakistanis have died in the decade-long insurgency.

However, authorities report a 70 percent decline in the violence, attributing it to the ongoing army offensive called Zarbe Azb launched in June 2014 in tribal areas and urban parts of Pakistan.


Cyber Hacking Looms Over Xi’s US Visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first trip to the United States next week comes at a time of growing tension between the two countries, particularly over cybersecurity.

President Barack Obama says cyber theft is “probably one of the biggest topics” that he will discuss with President Xi. Earlier this week Obama told U.S. business leaders that China’s theft of trade secrets is an “act of aggression that we have to stop.”

Cyber espionage is “fundamentally different from your government or its proxies engaging directly in industrial espionage and stealing trade secrets, stealing proprietary information from companies,” the president said.

Possible sanctions?

U.S. officials have suggested they could impose sanctions in response. Obama told members of the Business Roundtable that the U.S. government is preparing “a number of measures that will indicate to the Chinese that this is not just a matter of us being mildly upset.”

An editorial in China’s state-backed Global Times newspaper Friday called the U.S. president’s comments “disappointing” and said the U.S. exaggerates the severity of the cyber security threats. China’s government claims it also is a victim of cyber attacks.

China has repeatedly stressed that it is cracking down on cyber crime. This week, Zheng Zeguang, an assistant foreign minister, voiced the government’s opposition to any kind of hacking activity.

“Whoever is carrying out hacking attacks or business espionage in China is violating the country's law and will be punished by law," Zheng said.

China has denied past reports that showed evidence linking the hacking of foreign targets to Chinese military units.

High-tech summit

Ahead of what could be a tension-filled stop in Washington, Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with top U.S. and Chinese technology executives, part of a high-profile attempt to showcase China’s importance and influence over the industry both as a consumer and producer of high-tech products.

The forum, which will be co-hosted by Microsoft in Seattle Wednesday, is expected to include tech tycoons such as the CEOs of Apple, IBM, Facebook, Google and Uber from the U.S. as well as their Chinese rivals from Baidu, Alibaba and ZTE.

Despite the commercial allure of China’s billion plus market, it remains unclear how high-tech companies are going to respond to the event. China’s Internet Tsar Lu Wei, the man responsible for keeping in place restrictions that are key obstacle to companies wanting to do business in China is expected to be a keynote speaker.

And the meeting comes at time when there is increasing uncertainty about regulations in China for high-tech firms.

According to the 2015 business climate survey, conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, 61 percent of the chamber’s members in the information and communications technology sector said China’s rule-making is unclear or inconsistent, which has an impact on companies’ ability and willingness to invest there.

Some feel the forum could help both sides address the issues.

“Governments and standardization agencies can also work together with their counterparts from different countries on common security standards. That’s really the key thing I am expecting — that such [a] dialogue will provide some framework for the future joint efforts,” Cheng Lixin, chairman and CEO of ZTE USA, told VOA. Cheng is among those expected to attend the event next week.

Understanding on cyber theft

But reaching a framework might be difficult given that cyber security is a new terrain that all countries are trying to navigate.

U.S. officials have struggled to formulate a response to allegations of cyber hacking from abroad, partly because the phenomenon is still relatively new. It is also difficult to determine who carried out specific cyber attacks: activists, government employees or corporations.

Peter Yu, law professor at Texas A&M University, said that uncertainty makes imposing sanctions extremely difficult, but talks could help both sides come up with a common understanding.

“The condition of the sanctions will allow the U.S. government to draw a more clear line about what is acceptable, and what’s not. It will also be a good stepping stone to have more discussions about how we can actually contain [hacking] activities,” Yu said.

Help for Chinese tech industry?

Chinese officials at the summit likely want to focus on developing local brands and technologies with the help of foreign companies, said Kitty Fok, managing director of IDC China.

“If the discussion is going to be focused on how the American companies partner with local companies… or to develop something in China together. That would be a very good first step,” Fok said.

That echoes with the Chinese leader’s pledge of promoting “indigenous innovation” in a bid to wean off the country’s dependency on foreign technology. However, Fok said many initiatives China has in place to grow its economy cannot be achieved by Chinese brands alone. She says that means China will have to carefully strike a balance between its protectionist approach and growth strategy.


Is Hong Kong’s Top Official Above the Law?

Nearly one year after pro-democracy protests riled Hong Kong’s politics, the territory’s top official is coming under criticism for suggesting that his position “transcends” the other branches of government.

Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying’s remarks this week endorsed the views of a top Beijing official who said that the chief executive was in a “special legal status which transcends the territory’s executive, legislative and judiciary branches.”

Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong, also denied that Hong Kong’s system endorses the separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers, saying such concept applies to sovereign states, not Hong Kong.

Zhang’s comments immediately triggered an uproar in the former British colony a little more than a week before the anniversary of last year's massive Occupy Central protests that saw thousands turn out in the streets for weeks protesting Beijing’s plan for electing Hong Kong's next chief executive

Deep divide

The election decision, which said only Beijing-approved candidates could participate, and limited the field to three candidates, was taken as the latest sign of eroding freedoms in the former British colony.

When Hong Kong was returned to China from the British in 1987 it was guaranteed freedoms that do not exist in mainland China under what is called the "one country two systems" model. Key parts of these differences include Hong Kong’s freewheeling capitalistic market system and freedom of the press and speech.

The comments made by both Leung and Zhang highlight the deep divide that exists between those that feel the central government in Beijing should determine how Hong Kong's democracy develops and those who feel it is a matter for the port city's citizens to decide.

They also highlight differences over basic ideas such as the rule of law.

Albert Ho, a member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council says few Hong Kongers see eye to eye with Leung and Zhang.

“Everybody should be equal before the law. Obviously he [Leung] should be subject to the Basic Law and to the laws in Hong Kong. So, I think what he [Zhang] said is really nonsense,” said Ho.

In a rebuke to the chief executive, the city’s Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma also took a strong stance to emphasize that the city has long ensured equality before law.

“Judicial independence, this is specified in the Basic Law in three separate places. And I would ask people to read article 2, 19 and 85,” Ma told reporters this week.

Article 2 stipulates that the legislature in Beijing authorizes the city “to exercise a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication.”

Article 19 states that the city shall be “vested with independent judicial power,” while Article 85 say the courts in Hong Kong “shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference.”

Sinking popularity

Critics say Zhang’s controversial remarks reflect Beijing’s long-held views, and came at a time when chief executive Leung’s popularity was at a new low.

“Beijing would like to rescue his [Leung’s] plunging authority in the remaining two years of his term, in particular, when Beijing sees the danger of the further plunging of his popularity given the possible, imminent economic trouble ahead of Hong Kong,” said Dixon Sing, associate professor of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's social science division.

Though Leung may not be Beijing’s choice for running in the city’s next chief executive election in 2017, Sing said authorities in China cannot allow his credibility to further weaken because it will undermine the central government’s control.

The professor said Zhang’s comments, apparently aimed at boosting the chief executive, have backfired as they pose a threat to the city’s legal cornerstone.

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