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China Slams U.S. for Travel Restrictions as More Countries Ramp Up Efforts to Stop Coronavirus Spread

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  • Many countries have implemented travel restrictions on China and foreigners who have visited China to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
  • In Hong Kong, hospital workers launched a 5-day strike after leader Carrie Lam refused to fully close the city’s border with China, despite pressure from across the political spectrum and the fact that other countries have closed their shared border with China.
  • China slammed the U.S. in particular for its strict travel restrictions, arguing that U.S. media condemned the Trump administration’s decision to impose the new rules.
  • Some disputed that claim, noting that media outlets in the U.S. have received criticism for sensationalist headlines and fostering xenophobia.

WHO Announces More Coronavirus Cases and Deaths

More and more countries around the world have ramped up travel restrictions as fears over the coronavirus continue to spread.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that there have been 17,238 confirmed cases and 361 deaths in China.

He also said that there were 151 confirmed cases in 23 other countries and one death, which was reported by the Philippines on Sunday. 

In a warning to his colleagues at the WHO executive board meeting, Tedros stated that “panic and fear” were the real challenges in addressing the coronavirus outbreak.

“It’s no reason to really panic now,” he said. “The chances of getting this going to anywhere outside China is very low, and even in China, when you go to other provinces, it’s very low.”

Tedros also reiterated that there was no need for measures that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade,” a point the WHO has repeated since it declared that the coronavirus an international emergency.

U.S. Travel Restriction

But global leaders appear to be ignoring that warning.

The U.S., for example, has already implemented some of the strongest measures. On Friday, President Donald Trump’s administration declared the coronavirus a public health emergency and imposed strict travel restrictions.

In the announcement, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that all foreign nationals who have been to China in the past 14 days will be barred from entering the states starting Sunday. 

Those restrictions do not apply to immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

The secretary also described restrictions for the Hubei province, which houses Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus first broke out. Under the new rules, U.S. citizens who visited the Hubei province in the last two weeks will be subject to quarantine for 14 days.

U.S. citizens who have been to other areas of mainland China in the last two weeks will be subject to screening for 14 days as well.

Following Azar’s announcement, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman criticized the Trump administration’s response. 

“Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the U.S. rushed to go in the opposite way,” she said. “Certainly not a gesture of goodwill.” 

Other Countries Impose Restrictions

The U.S. is not the only country to impose travel restrictions.

According to reports, Australia, Singapore, and New Zealand have implemented similar travel bans on foreign nationals who have gone to China.

Other countries like Japan and South Korea have denied entry from foreigners who visited the Hubei province. 

Italy and Israel have reportedly stopped all incoming air traffic from China, while airlines all over the world have also announced they will not fly to or from the country. 

North Korea and Mongolia, which share borders with China, have sealed them entirely.

But Hong Kong, which is an autonomous city-state of China and shares a land border, has not fully closed its borders with the country.

That decision, however, has been highly contested in Hong Kong, which has reported 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Pro-democracy protestors, hospital workers, businesses, and even some pro-government lawmakers have all called on the city’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, to close the border shared with China immediately.

Lam put some travel restrictions in place last week. On Monday she announced the closure of four more crossing points along the city’s border with mainland China, defying calls for full closure and leaving three crossing points open.

In response, thousands of hospital workers in Hong Kong have launched a five-day strike calling for all border crossings to be sealed. Lam, for her part, has said a full closure would be “a discriminatory approach.”

But others have argued that Lam is just listening to directives from the Chinese Communist Party, and is putting her obligations to the party before her own people in the face of a growing public health crisis.

Chinese Response and Media Criticism

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said in a statement Monday that China respects the decision of some countries to “adopt or enhance quarantine measures at border entry,” but added, “some countries, the US in particular, have inappropriately overreacted, which certainly runs counter to WHO advice.”

The spokeswoman said that the U.S. response “could only create and spread fear, which is a very bad example.

“Even American media and experts doubted the government’s decision, saying that the US government’s restrictions on China are precisely what the WHO rejects, that the US is turning from overconfidence to fear and overreaction, and that banning the entry of visitors who traveled to China in the past 14 days is suspected to be violating civil rights instead of reducing risks of virus spreading,” she continued.

Following this statement, some argued that the opposite may be true, noting that the media, especially in the U.S., has been criticized for creating hysteria and fearmongering around the coronavirus outbreak.

Some have even blamed the media for fostering a recent spike in xenophobia. According to reports, the University of California Berkeley faced backlash after the administration stated that “xenophobia” is a “common” or “normal” reaction to coronavirus.

However, reports of xenophobia are not limited to the U.S. Chinese Canadians have also reported an uptick in nationality and race-based prejudice, which they say is largely due to social media.

On Monday, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte called on his country to stop stirring up anti-Chinese sentiments.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (BBC) (Al Jazeera)

International

American Influencer Kristen Gray To Be Deported From Bali

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  • In a viral Twitter thread, influencer Kristen Gray encouraged people to move to Bali like she did while promoting her eBook and other resources on how to do so amid COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Many criticized her for encouraging an influx of travelers during the pandemic. She also sparked conversations about gentrification and was slammed for falsely characterizing Indonesia as queer-friendly.
  • The local government promised to deport her Tuesday, arguing that selling her book and offering paid consultations on traveling to Bali violated the purpose of her visitor stay permit. They also say she was “spreading information that could unsettle the public.”
  • “I am not guilty. I have not overstayed my visa. I have not made money in Indonesian rupiah in Indonesia,” Gray told reporters. “I put out a statement about LGBT and I am being deported because of LGBT.”

Kristen Gray Goes Viral

Officials in Indonesia said Tuesday that they will deport Kristen Gray, an American influencer who has caused international outrage in the last week.

Gray moved to Bali with her girlfriend in 2019 with plans to stay for six months. In reality, the couple ended up staying much longer because of the coronavirus pandemic, and in a viral Twitter thread, Gray shared how positive their experience has been.

Gray pointed to several benefits of moving to Bali in her posts, like its safety, low cost of living, luxury lifestyle, as well as its queer-friendly and Black communities.

She also encouraged others to make the same move and promoted their $30 eBook “Our Bali Life Is Yours” for tips on how to do it. “We include direct links to our visa agents and how to go about getting to Indonesia during COVID,” she even wrote in one post.

Backlash

The thread sparked outrage for encouraging an influx of travelers to a country that has closed its borders over the worsening pandemic. On top of that, it sparked conversations about the gentrification of neighborhoods there.

Bali is a major tourist destination for Americans, Europeans, and Australians in particular, and like areas all over the world, it has suffered from the loss in visitors this year.

However, many online noted that locals have been steadily priced out of certain areas of the island as foreigners open businesses to cater to tourists. Others argue that poorly regulated development is also destroying industries that Balinese people have historically relied on.

Aside from those criticisms, many people also took issue with Gray characterizing Bali as a queer-friendly when the reality for locals is far different.

“It well may be the case for you. However, please recognize that it is because a) you’re a foreigner and b) you have economic leverage since the Indonesian local community is financially dependent on keeping you happy so they don’t mess with you,” a user named Kai Mata said in a viral TikTok.

“Please realize for the rest of us Indonesians on the island, this is not a queer-friendly place. Our gay communities are often shut down and raided by authorities and Indonesia at large has tried to mandate conversion therapy for us the LGBTQ+ Community.

Government Responds

The local government responded to the public outrage over Gray’s thread Tuesday. In a statement, it said selling her book and also offering paid consultations on traveling to Bali violated the purpose of her visitor stay permit, which was valid until January 24.

Gray was also accused of “spreading information that could unsettle the public” by saying Bali is queer-friendly and suggesting foreigners travel there during the pandemic.

According to Reuters, she was being held at an immigration detention facility Tuesday and was to be deported as soon as a flight was available.

In a brief statement to the Balinese press, Gray defended herself. “I am not guilty. I have not overstayed my visa. I have not made money in Indonesian rupiah in Indonesia. I put out a statement about LGBT and I am being deported because of LGBT,” she explained.

Many of her fans believe her and also argue that she is seeing this level of criticism because she is a Black woman.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Reuters) (Vulture)

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International

Petition Calls for Ban on Sexualized Fanfiction in South Korea

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  • A petition circulating across South Korea calls for sexualized fanfiction depicting K-pop stars and other real people to be outlawed and classified as sex crimes.
  • The petition particularly focuses on the way male stars are depicted in same-sex relationships and argues that they often feature people who are minors.
  • A similar petition was submitted last week to President Moon Jae-in; however, it focused on deep fakes. Because both petitions have over 200,000 signatures, they will need to be addressed by President Moon.

K-Pop Fanfiction Causes Chaos

A petition began circulating across South Korea this week demanding that “real person slash” fanfiction works be outlawed and charged as sex crimes.

“Real person slash” refers to a specific form of fanfiction that most often features sexualized versions of K-pop stars and other real people.

In particular, the petition focuses on the way male stars are depicted in same-sex relationships and the age of some of the people being portrayed. The petition notes, “due to the nature of the profession of idols, whose average age is young, many of the victims are still minors or children.”

The petition was submitted to the Blue House, South Korea’s version of the White House, and currently has over 200,000 signatures. It received a big boost in attention after K-pop star Nancy, from the group Momoland, was secretly filmed by a member of her agency while she was changing backstage. This person then doctored some of the images and uploaded them online.

While Nancy’s case isn’t hand-drawn fanfic, it did fuel outrage at what’s seen as an ineffective approach towards sex crimes in the country. Signers of this petition believe that these fanfics fall into the same category of likely illegality as deep fakes.

Deep Fakes Also Being Targeted

Additionally, just last week deep fakes – which often feature k-pop stars – had its own petition submitted to the president last week with over 300,000 signatures.

Because both petitions have over 200,000 signatures, they will need to be addressed by President Moon Jae-in

For years South Korea has struggled with secret cameras, deep fakes, revenge porn, and more violent sex crimes, such as the infamous Nth Room case that saw certain stars filming themselves having sex with women against their consent.

See What Others Are Saying: (CNA) (The Korea Herald) (South China Morning Post)

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Italy Begins Largest Mob Trial in Decades

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  • Italian prosecutors have started their trial against more than 320 defendants linked to the  ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.
  • The charges range from murder and drug trafficking to extortion and money laundering.
  • The case is so large, high-profile, and potentially dangerous that the government built a bunker for the event in Calabria, the home territory of the ‘Ndrangheta.
  • Details uncovered could deliver a massive blow to organized crime in Italy and potentially across the world as the ‘Ndrangheta has major dealings in Europe, Australia, and the Americas.

Hundreds of ‘Ndranghetisti Facing Charges

A major mob trial kicked off in Italy Wednesday involving more than 320 defendants who are part of or associated with the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.

In addition to these defendants going on trial, 90 others have elected for a fast-tracked trial elsewhere in Calabria.

While this is a massive affair, it’s still not the country’s largest mob-related trial in history. That happened in the ’80s against the Cosa Nostra from Sicily.

The trial is so high-profile and potentially dangerous that the government built a bunker for the event in Calabria, close to the home territory of the ‘Ndrangheta.

The court is looking at many charges against the defendants, including extortion, drug and arms trafficking, money laundering, and Mafia association – a term used in Italy’s penal code for members of organized crime.

Breaking Into the Family

Investigators hope that the trial will show just how entrenched organized crime is in the territory, as it’s believed that the ‘Ndrangheta has dealings with local politicians and businessmen. These dealings are believed to not only stem from their illicit activities but also from their legitimate businesses that were initially funded via crime-related funds. Either way, the trial is seen as a major blow for the group.

The organization is made up of multiple groups of tight-knight families that are all interconnected. For years investigators have tried to get more information on the group but following the arrest and prosecution of Luigi Mancuso, a boss in the ‘Ndrangheta, investigators finally had a way to look more closely at 12 families who make up part of the ‘Ndrangheta.

During their investigation police and prosecutors managed to turn some members of those families and use them as informants. They are expected to take the stand as witnesses during the trial. In total, prosecutors hope to put bring out over 900 witnesses.

If successful, this could be a massive blow to organized crime in Italy and potentially across the world as the ‘Ndrangheta has major dealing in Europe, Australia, and the Americas.

See What Others Are Saying: (ABC News) (LA Times) (Chicago Tribune)

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