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VOA Asia Weekly: An Exiled Chinese Journalist's Story


VOA Asia Weekly: An Exiled Chinese Journalist's Story
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Solomon Islands lawmakers elect new prime minister. Southeast Asia May Day protests. Record heat wave temperatures. Why sumo wrestlers held crying babies.

A Chinese journalist fled from Beijing to Berlin, but still experiences harassment from China.

Welcome to VOA Asia Weekly. I'm Chris Casquejo in Washington. That story is coming up, but first, making headlines:

Lawmakers in the Solomon Islands elected former Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele as Prime Minister on Thursday. Analysts say he’s expected to continue the pro-Beijing stance of outgoing Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who withdrew from the race on Monday and endorsed Manele.

“They don't hesitate to use brute force, to violate international law.”

The Philippines accused China of damaging its boats with water cannons in the disputed South China Sea early Tuesday. China defended its action, claiming the Philippine ships had intruded without permission. Both China and the Philippines claim Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea as their own.

Thousands of workers participated in May Day protests in cities across Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Korea demanding wage increases, job security and better working conditions. May Day falls on May 1st, and is celebrated around the world as International Workers Day.

Much of Asia is in the grip of a severe heat wave that is shattering high temperature records. In Myanmar and the Philippines, authorities closed schools. Vietnam reported fresh water shortages. Crops are drying up and power grids strained. Experts say the cause of this extreme heat is this year’s El Nino weather pattern combined with higher than normal ocean temperatures.

China’s Shenzhou-17 craft carrying three astronauts landed safely in the Gobi Desert Tuesday. The three men spent six months onboard China’s Tiangong space station. They were replaced by a crew who will conduct experiments and teach classes to students back on earth. The space station is part of China’s ambitious space program that also includes a plan to land an astronaut on the moon by the year 2030.

May 3rd marks World Press Freedom Day. When Chinese journalist Su Yutong fled her home country in 2010, she thought she would find safety. But even while living in exile in Germany, she discovered she is not free from China’s reach. From Berlin, VOA’s Liam Scott has her story.

Su Yutong has become a skilled chef. Cooking dishes she loved in Beijing connects the journalist with her home country and helps fill the long periods spent home alone.

The reason for her self-imposed isolation: years of attacks and threats from China.

“I keep telling the truth, so they [China] want me to shut up, including by threatening me.”

Sharing a banned book on Tiananmen Square back in 2010 began Su’s troubles. Police raided her home in Beijing and held her under house arrest.

But with the help of friends, she escaped to Europe.

For a while, Germany’s capital provided a sense of safety. Su wrote human rights stories for Deutsche Welle and then Radio Free Asia. But the sense of safety soon disappeared.

In 2022, strange men started turning up at her building, brought there by an underground sex website that listed her address.

“I felt very disgusted and very humiliated, and I had some mental health problems at the time. I was afraid to walk down the street.”

The worst was yet to come. In 2023, assailants used Su and two Chinese activists’ identities to book rooms at luxury hotels in Berlin and other cities. Then, they called in fake bomb threats.

Experts say that Su’s case is extreme even for Beijing, which ranks among the worst perpetrators of transnational repression.

“The basic tactics of transnational repression are usually geared toward showing people that they can’t get away from the Chinese government.”

The driving goal, says Ohlberg, is to stop any criticism of China overseas.

Neither China’s embassy in Berlin nor its foreign ministry responded to VOA’s requests for comment.

Being targeted is a lonely experience. Over a two-year period, Su barely left her apartment. She says even something as simple as a walk in the park can feel tinged with danger.

But now, Su says she feels less afraid.

“They didn’t expect me to slowly come out of that shadow. I think they should be afraid, not me. They can't shut me up. They can’t achieve this goal.”

Her life is fuller again, but Su’s apartment is still sparse. After the 2023 incidents, police recommended she move. When she did, she left nearly everything behind.

Except the tools needed to keep reporting.

In one way, says Su, there’s a sense of comfort in knowing that Beijing is scared too. If they weren’t, Su believes, they wouldn’t try so hard to silence her.

Liam Scott, VOA News, Berlin.

Visit voanews.com for the most up-to-date stories.

I’m Chris Casquejo.

Finally, to a crying competition.

100 babies faced off in the Nakizumo Festival, a century-old event in which 100 sumo wrestlers each hold a baby. Their goal is to make the baby cry, with the first crier declared the winner.

Thanks for watching VOA Asia Weekly.

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