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Japan parliament adopts resolution on human rights in China

Japan’s parliament on Tuesday adopted a resolution on the “serious human rights situation” in China, and called Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government to take steps to relieve the situation, as the Beijing Winter Olympics loom just days ahead.

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Japan has already announced it will not send a government delegation to the Games, following a US-led diplomatic boycott over concerns about China’s human rights condition, although Tokyo avoided explicitly labelling its move as such.

Since taking office in October, Kishida has said on multiple occasions that Japan would not mince words with China when necessary, and in November appointed former defence minister Gen Nakatani as his aide on human rights.

The resolution, adopted by the lower chamber, said the international community has expressed concerns over such issues as internment and the violation of religious freedom in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Tibet and Hong Kong.

“Human rights issues cannot just be domestic issues, because human rights hold universal values and are a rightful matter of concern for the international community,” the resolution said.

“This chamber recognises changes to the status quo with force, which are symbolised by the serious human rights situation, as a threat to the international community,” it said.

US President Joe Biden in December signed into law legislation that bans imports from China’s Xinjiang region over concerns about forced labor. Washington has labelled Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority genocide.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang, a major cotton producer that also supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels.

The conservative wing of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) sought the adoption of the resolution ahead of the Feb. 4 opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics although there were worries in the government about a potential economic impact, Jiji news agency has said.

There have long been competing views within the LDP about the approach to China. The party’s more conservative wing is hawkish on China policy and seen as concerned primarily with defence issues. Other members of the party have pushed to preserve Japan’s deep economic ties with its neighbour.

The parliamentary resolution called on the Japanese government to work with the international community in addressing the issue.

“The government should collect information to grasp the whole picture…, monitor the serious human right situation in cooperation with the international community, and implement comprehensive relieving measures,” it said.

The resolution did not directly use the word “China” anywhere in the text, and steered clear of such expression as “human rights violation”, saying, instead, “human rights situation”, in a possible nod to close bilateral economic ties.

Japan relies on China not only as a manufacturing hub, but also as a market for items from automobiles to construction equipment.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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