Justice Muhammed Sani of the Federal High Court sitting in Ilorin on Wednesday, October 19, 2022, convicted and sentenced a 29-year-old Chinese National, Gang Deng, to five years imprisonment for offences bordering on illegal mining and possession of minerals without lawful authority.
Gang was arrested along Tsaragi Road in Share, Edu Local Government Area of Kwara State on Friday, September 9, 2022 by the Ilorin Zonal Command of the EFCC. He was found to be in possession of 25 tons of minerals suspected to be Lepidolite, a raw material used for the production of batteries for vehicles, cell phones, cameras and other electronic devices.
It would be recalled that operatives of the EFCC, in collaboration with the Kwara State Command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC and the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development on August 30, 2022, arrested 13 suspected illegal miners operating in Kakafu village in Patigi Local Government Area of Kwara State.
Mining without license is a criminal offence under the law. It is an act of economic sabotage, punishable under Section 1 (😎 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, which stipulates life imprisonment for offenders.
The Chinese National who is the Managing Director of Sinuo Xinyang Nigeria Ltd, confessed to the crime.
Consequently, the Ilorin Command of the EFCC arraigned Gang alongside his company Sinuo Xinyang Nigeria Ltd on one count amended charge before Justice Sani. When the charge was read to the defendant, he pleaded guilty, but entered “not guilty plea” for his company.
The court, thereafter adjourned till November 17, 2022 for hearing in the case of the convict’s company, Sinuo Xinyang Nigeria Ltd.
Twelve Chinese sailors have died and nine others are critically ill after a suspected case of food poisoning on board their vessel near Vietnam’s southern Con Dao island, a rescue official and state media said Friday.
The Chinese-registered Wu Zhou 8 cargo vessel was on its way from Thailand to China when the 21 crew members fell ill, state media reported.
“We were told of 10 bodies on the vessel. All died because of food poisoning, we were told,” an official involved in the rescue effort told AFP from Vietnam’s southern Ba Ria Vung Tau province.
The cause of death was yet to be confirmed, he added.
Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Saturday after 183 days in space, ending China’s longest crewed mission as it continues its quest to become a major space power.
The Shenzhou-13 spacecraft was the latest mission in Beijing’s drive to rival the United States, after landing a rover on Mars and sending probes to the Moon.
Live footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed the capsule landing in a cloud of dust, with the ground crew who had kept clear of the landing site rushing in helicopters to reach the capsule.
The two men and one woman — Zhai Zhigang, Ye Guangfu and Wang Yaping — returned to Earth shortly before 10 am Beijing time (0200 GMT), after six months aboard the Tianhe core module of China’s Tiangong space station.
Ground crew applauded as the astronauts each took turns to report that they were in good physical condition.
Zhai was the first to emerge from the capsule roughly 45 minutes after the landing, waving and grinning at cameras as he was lifted by the ground crew into a specially designed chair before being bundled into a blanket.
“I’m proud of our heroic country,” Zhai said in an interview with CCTV shortly after leaving the capsule. “I feel extremely good.”
The trio originally launched in the Shenzhou-13 from China’s northwestern Gobi Desert last October, as the second of four crewed missions during 2021-2022 sent to assemble the country’s first permanent space station — Tiangong, which means “heavenly palace.”
Wang became the first Chinese woman to spacewalk last November, as she and her colleague Zhai installed space station equipment during a six-hour stint.
Mission commander Zhai, 55, is a former fighter pilot who performed China’s first spacewalk in 2008, while Ye is a People’s Liberation Army pilot.
The trio have completed two spacewalks, carried out numerous scientific experiments, set up equipment and tested technologies for future construction during their time in orbit.
The astronauts spent the past few weeks tidying up and preparing the cabin facilities and equipment for the crew of the incoming Shenzhou-14, expected to be launched in the coming months.
China’s previous record spaceflight mission length was set by last year’s Shenzhou-12 deployment, which lasted 92 days.
Six months will become the normal astronaut residence period aboard the Chinese space station, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
The world’s second-largest economy has poured billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a permanently crewed space station by 2022 and eventually sending humans to the Moon.
The country has come a long way in catching up with the United States and Russia, whose astronauts and cosmonauts have decades of experience in space exploration.
But under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the country’s plans for its heavily-promoted “space dream” have been put into overdrive.
Besides a space station, Beijing is also planning to build a base on the Moon, and the country’s National Space Administration said it aims to launch a crewed lunar mission by 2029.
China has been excluded from the International Space Station since 2011 when the US banned NASA from engaging with the country.
While China does not plan to use its space station for global cooperation on the scale of the ISS, Beijing has said it is open to foreign collaboration although the scope of that cooperation is not yet clear.
The ISS is due for retirement after 2024, although NASA has said it could remain functional until 2030.
Chinese recovery teams on Tuesday picked through the debris of a crashed China Eastern jet after it inexplicably plummeted from the sky into a mountainside with 132 people on board.
Hopes of finding any survivors had all but vanished a day after the Boeing 737-800 passenger jet nosedived into the mountain — likely making it China’s deadliest air crash in nearly three decades.
Questions mounted over the cause of the crash, which saw the stricken jet drop 20,000 feet (6,096 metres) in just over a minute before plunging into rugged terrain in southern China on Monday afternoon.
The airline has acknowledged that some aboard the jet, which was travelling from the city of Kunming to the southern hub of Guangzhou, had died, but there has been no official confirmation of the number of dead.
President Xi Jinping quickly called for a full probe following the crash as search teams armed with drones descended upon the site in a forested, rural area of Guangxi province.
On Tuesday, scorch marks were visible from the crash and resulting fire, rescue workers told AFP, with one speculating that passengers had been “totally incinerated” from the intensity of the blaze.
A villager near the sprawling crash site, giving only his surname Ou, recounted hearing a “sound like thunder” followed by a blaze that blistered the surrounding hills.
State media showed uniformed search teams clambering over upturned earth, blasted trees and scattered debris, including a section of plane bearing the carrier’s blue and red livery.
A torn wallet and a burned camera lens were among the eviscerated possessions captured on video by a reporter from the state-run People’s Daily who was able to enter the crash site.
But AFP journalists were blocked at a hillside checkpoint by a group of men identifying themselves as Communist Party members who said they had “orders from above” to prevent access.
The disaster occurred after a high-speed vertical nosedive, according to a video carried by Chinese media. AFP could not immediately verify the video’s authenticity.
– ‘Miss you forever’ – Flight MU5735, which took off from Kunming shortly after 1:00 pm (0500 GMT), lost contact over Wuzhou, a city in the Guangxi region, according to China’s aviation authority.
The foreign ministry said Tuesday they believed all passengers on board were Chinese nationals.
In Guangzhou airport, staff assisted loved ones of the 123 passengers and nine crew members aboard the plane, which stopped sending any flight information after dropping a total of 26,000 feet in altitude in just three minutes.
Relatives and friends of those onboard endured a grim wait for news.
A user on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, wrote that he was a friend of a crew member on the crashed plane.
“I will miss you forever,” he wrote, describing the “enthusiasm” his friend took to his new job this year.
The disaster prompted an unusually swift public reaction from Xi, who said he was “shocked” and called for “absolute safety” in air travel.
State media said Vice Premier Liu He, a powerful official close to Xi who usually deals with economic matters, had been dispatched to the area to oversee rescue and investigation work.
The US National Transportation Safety Board said it had named a senior investigator as a representative to the probe, and that officials from Boeing, General Electric and the Federal Aviation Administration would be technical advisers.
Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 showed the plane sharply dropped from an altitude of 29,100 feet to 7,850 feet in just over a minute.
After a brief upswing, it plunged to 3,225 feet, the tracker said.
Jean-Paul Troadec, former director of France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety, told AFP it was “far too early” to draw conclusions, but said the FlightRadar data pattern was “very unusual”.
China had enjoyed an enviable air safety record in recent years, despite a huge boom in travel.
Chinese media reported that the airline will now ground all the 737-800 jets.
The deadliest Chinese commercial flight accident was a China Northwest Airlines crash in 1994 that killed all 160 onboard.
China’s foreign minister spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart on Tuesday and called for a resolution to the crisis through negotiation, Chinese state media said, as Beijing started evacuating its citizens from the conflict-hit country.
China has been walking a diplomatic tightrope on the Ukraine conflict, balancing its oft-repeated insistence on the sanctity of state sovereignty with an unwillingness to call out its close ally Russia.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Dmytro Kuleba during a phone conversation that Beijing “deeply regrets that conflict has broken out between Ukraine and Russia, and is paying extreme attention to the harm suffered by civilians,” state broadcaster CCTV reported.
CCTV said the call took place at Ukraine’s request, and that Wang urged for the two countries to “find a way to resolve the issue through negotiations.”
“(China) supports all constructive international efforts that are conducive towards a political resolution,” Wang said.
According to CCTV, Kuleba said Ukraine “looks forward to China opening mediations in order to realise a ceasefire”.
China began evacuating its citizens from Ukraine in the last few days as fears grow for their safety with anger reportedly rising over Beijing’s refusal to condemn the Russian invasion.
One Chinese national was shot in the waist while travelling by road from eastern Ukraine to the western city of Lviv Tuesday, CCTV reported, adding that they were receiving hospital treatment. No further details were given.
A group of around 600 students had fled the capital Kyiv and the southern port city of Odessa on Monday, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported.
They travelled by bus to neighbouring Moldova under an embassy escort and local police protection, with one evacuee saying the six-hour journey was “safe and smooth”.
An updated report said around 700-800 Chinese nationals were evacuated by road to Moldova on Tuesday.
While countries including the United States, Britain and Japan evacuated diplomats and urged citizens to leave in the weeks leading up to the invasion, China waited until Thursday to announce it would organise charter flights out.
But those flights have not yet materialised and Ukraine has now closed its airspace.
The Chinese ambassador in a video message Sunday denied he had fled Kyiv and said he was “waiting until it is safe” to evacuate.
China has said around 6,000 of its citizens are in Ukraine for work or study.
Its embassy in Kyiv initially urged those planning to leave to fix a Chinese flag to their vehicles, but reversed course after unverified social media claims emerged of rising hostility towards Chinese citizens.
China’s foreign ministry said Tuesday it was helping citizens leave the country but did not offer further details.
A top health official in China’s locked-down Xi’an apologised on Thursday over the miscarriage of an eight-month pregnant woman, after footage went viral of a hospital refusing her entry without a Covid test.
The city of 13 million has been under strict home confinement for two weeks to stamp out an outbreak, in line with Beijing’s firm “zero Covid” strategy.
The distressing incident was detailed in a social media post by the woman’s niece on January 1, which included photos and video of the woman sitting on a plastic stool outside the hospital surrounded by a pool of blood.
The post was later removed but not before it got hundreds of millions of views and sparked widespread anger online about the hardships faced by Xi’an residents.
“I deeply apologise to this patient on behalf of the city’s health commission,” Xi’an health commission director Liu Shunzhi told reporters, before standing and bowing to the audience.
Liu said the hospital had been told to “compensate” the woman and said he apologised that the “access to medical care was not smooth during the epidemic.”
The city government said in an earlier statement Thursday on social media that the incident at Xi’an Gaoxin Hospital had aroused “widespread concern and caused a bad social impact”, adding that the local health bureau was investigating.
The hospital’s general manager has been suspended over the incident, as have “responsible persons” at the outpatient department.
The statement got more than 700 million views Thursday — illustrating the huge interest the case has generated within China.
According to the January 1 post that went viral on the Twitter-like Weibo platform, staff refused to admit the heavily pregnant woman for two hours because she did not have a negative Covid test within the last 48 hours.
Her niece wrote that her negative test result had expired just a few hours earlier.
AFP could not verify the post, and calls to the hospital went unanswered.
– ‘Heart attack’ –
The reports follow complaints from Xi’an residents over chaotic handling of the lockdown, including poor access to food and daily essentials during the lockdown.
On Wednesday, officials told reporters that Xi’an was opening “green channels” to provide quick access to medical services to certain groups — such as pregnant women and patients with critical illnesses.
The pledge came as a second woman took to social media to say she had miscarried last week after being turned away from several hospitals.
The woman, who said she was in the first trimester of pregnancy, wrote that she was unable to reach anyone on the public service hotline and did not get help from the police.
“I don’t understand why couldn’t I get through at the public hotline, and why I got given the runaround everywhere. Maybe ordinary people’s lives are worthless,” she wrote in a post from Wednesday.
Another Xi’an resident said her father died Monday after several hospitals declined to treat his heart ailment “due to pandemic-related rules”.
In a social media post from Thursday that has been viewed more than 500 million times, she recounted driving for over eight hours searching for a hospital while her father complained of severe chest pains.
After he was finally admitted, “the doctor said that the delay was too long,” she wrote.
It was unclear why hospitals had declined to admit the 61-year-old.
Coronavirus cases in China remain very low by international standards. But in recent weeks, infections have reached a high not seen since March 2020.
There were 189 cases reported Thursday, including 63 in Xi’an.
Those deemed to have failed in preventing virus outbreaks in China are often sacked or punished.
Gunmen killed a police officer and kidnapped five Chinese nationals working at a gold mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s conflict-plagued east on Sunday, military sources said.
Regional army spokesman Major Dieudonne Kasereka said that “at around 2 am, the camp of the Chinese group was attacked by armed bandits” in the village of Mukera in Fizi territory of South Kivu province.
“There were 14 in total, five were taken away by the attackers to an unknown destination,” he said, adding that the other nine were safely evacuated.
Colonel David Epanga, head of the armed forces in Fizi, said one policeman was killed and another was wounded in the attack.
The five abducted Chinese workers were employees of a company that has been operating a gold mine in the area for four to five months, Fizi civil society head Lusambya Wanumbe said.
“The company had difficulties starting its activities because of protests by the population which accused it of not respecting the rules,” Wanumbe said.
In August, South Kivu authorities suspended the work of half a dozen Chinese-financed companies, after residents accused them of mining for gold without permission and wrecking the environment.
Gorilla park raid
In neighbouring North Kivu, the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) said that suspected rebels linked to the M23 movement killed a guard in Virunga National Park on Saturday night.
The ICCN said the attack was “carried out by around a hundred heavily armed individuals” near the village of Bukima, in the Mikeno area.
“The presumed perpetrators are former M23 members gathered on the Rwandan and Ugandan borders, who are seeking to establish bases on the territory of the Virunga National Park,” the ICCN said in a statement on Sunday.
The M23 is one of more than 120 armed groups which roam eastern Democratic Republic of Congo — a legacy of regional wars more than two decades ago.
It is a Congolese Tutsi group that was largely defeated in 2013 after launching a rebellion.
The militants were accused of attacking army positions close to the park and the Ugandan border on November 8, which the group’s leadership denied.
The Virunga National Park, a UNESCO listed world heritage site, is home to endangered mountain gorillas — particularly in the Mikeno area.
Also in North Kivu on Sunday, the road to Uganda was blocked by angry residents who blamed the police for not acting overnight on the kidnapping of four people in the Rangira area, local civil society sources said.
The protesters set fire to the local police station before going to block the road with tree trunks and burning tires.
The road was eventually cleared after talks with military authorities.
Chinese astronauts successfully performed the country’s first tandem spacewalk on Sunday, working for seven hours on the outside of the new Tiangong station in orbit around Earth.
Tiangong’s construction is a major step in China’s ambitious space programme, which has seen the nation land a rover on Mars and send probes to the Moon.
Three astronauts blasted off last month to become the station’s first crew, where they are to remain for three months in China’s longest crewed mission to date.
On Sunday morning, two of them exited the station for around seven hours of work in the first spacewalk at Tiangong, the China Manned Space Agency said.
“The safe return of astronauts Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo to the Tianhe core module marks the complete success of the first spacewalk in our country’s space station construction,” the space agency said.
Their tasks involved elevating a panoramic camera outside the Tianhe core module, as well as testing the station’s robotic arm which will be used to transfer future modules around the station, state media said.
The astronauts installed foot stops on the robotic arm and, with its support, carried out other assembly work, added the space agency.
In a video clip of Liu leaving the cabin, he exclaimed: “Wow, it’s too beautiful out here.”
Television footage showed the astronauts preparing for the spacewalk by donning gear and conducting health checks while exercising.
Liu and Tang were later shown opening the hatch and exiting the module separately, wearing newly developed suits said to weigh some 130 kilograms.
They were supported from inside the station by the mission commander Nie Haisheng, a decorated air force pilot who is on his third space mission.
This was the first of two spacewalks planned for the mission, both expected to last six or seven hours.
It was also the first time since 2008 that Chinese astronauts went outside their spacecraft. Back then, Zhai Zhigang made China the third country to complete a spacewalk after the Soviet Union and the United States.
This is China’s first crewed mission in nearly five years, and a matter of huge prestige as the country marks the 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party this month with a massive propaganda campaign.
To prepare, the crew underwent more than 6,000 hours of training.
The Chinese space agency is planning a total of 11 launches through to the end of next year, including three more crewed missions. They will deliver two lab modules to expand the station, along with supplies and astronauts.
– ‘Beyond words’ –
On Sunday, state television showed footage of the astronauts’ daily lives on Tiangong, including setting up an exercise bike and working out on a treadmill.
One crew member was shown eating with chopsticks, while another did a handstand and somersault after mealtime.
The mission attracted a flurry of discussion online, with a hashtag about the spacewalk garnering 200 million views on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo.
One user wrote: “How much I’m moved by each step of achievement is beyond words.”
President Xi Jinping has said the construction of China’s first space station is opening “new horizons” in humanity’s bid to explore the cosmos.
China’s ambition to build an orbiting outpost of its own was fuelled in part by a US ban on its astronauts on the International Space Station, a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan.
The ISS is due for retirement after 2024, although NASA has said it could potentially remain functional beyond 2028.
Tiangong is expected to have a lifespan of at least 10 years, and China has said it would be open to international collaboration on the station.
A rare uncensored app that had attracted Chinese internet users to freely discuss taboo topics, including the mass detention of Uighurs, democracy protests in Hong Kong and the concept of Taiwanese independence appeared to have been blocked on Monday night.
Authoritarian China deploys a vast and sophisticated surveillance state to scrub the internet of dissent and prevent citizens from accessing international social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter in what is often known as the “Great Firewall”.
But the Clubhouse app had for a brief while side-stepped the censors and drawn crowds of Chinese internet users — but appeared to quickly fall foul of the censors.
The American invite-only audio app allows users to listen and participate in loosely moderated live conversations in digital “rooms”.
And in recent days, Chinese online users have filled those rooms discussing highly censored subjects — such as Beijing’s sweeping incarceration of mostly Muslim minority Uighur communities in the far western Xinjiang region.
By Monday night, however, the app showed an error message to users without a VPN to establish a secure connection, and Chinese-language rooms quickly turned to discussion over the app’s ban.
Top trending groups turned to topics about the ban, and some Chinese language users began to discuss security implications of being on the app and whether they would face official monitoring.
“I saw many rooms chatting cross-Straits issues and sensitive issues… and thought this app wouldn’t last too long,” one Chinese-language user lamented after the app was blocked, referring to the thorny issue of Taiwan.
“What comes after the block is compiling the list of people on the platform,” worried another.
– ‘The real internet’ –
Clubhouse was launched in May last year and is currently only available on Apple devices, something only wealthier Chinese consumers can afford.
It rocketed in popularity after billionaire Elon Musk participated in a conversation on the app earlier this month.
Over the weekend the number of Chinese language discussions had drawn wider attention including on social media platform Twitter.
“A young woman from mainland China just said on Clubhouse: this is my first time getting on the real internet,” Isabelle Niu, a journalist listening to a conversation, tweeted on Sunday.
Taobao, a popular online marketplace used by millions daily, and other e-commerce sites was selling membership invitations for sale with prices ranging from 10 to 100 yuan ($1.5-$15), allowing some to bypass restrictions placed on invitations.
Kaiser Kuo, host of the China-focused Sinica Podcast, live-tweeted on Sunday some of the conversations he was hearing in a room discussing the Uighur situation.
He noted how Han Chinese — the dominant ethnic group in China — and people from the persecuted Uighur community were interacting in the space.
An AFP reporter heard a speaker identifying as mainland Chinese express opposition to the term “concentration camps” — although acknowledging the existence of facilities.
Many of those listening in were fascinated by the candour of the online discussions.
“I’m in a Taiwanese-run room in Clubhouse where 4,000 Mandarin speakers — including Uyghurs and Han Chinese IN CHINA, and outside are talking about… everything,” Berlin-based journalist Melissa Chan tweeted.
“From surveillance, to friends who’ve left re-educations camps, to normal stuff.”
But analysts had warned that it was likely Beijing would prevent access to the app before long.
“The window for listening in on frank Clubhouse conversations about politics in Chinese is already closing,” said Fergus Ryan, at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, ahead of the ban.
Rescuers in east China on Sunday pulled 11 miners from hundreds of metres underground where they had been trapped for two weeks, state media reported, as the race to locate the remaining 10 intensified.
The miners were brought to the surface starting from around 11 am Sunday, state broadcaster CCTV reported — a major breakthrough for a rescue operation that has captivated the nation.
One miner was in “extremely weak physical condition” and rushed to hospital, CCTV said.
The 11 miners were rescued after the air ventilator shaft was cleared, the official state news agency Xinhua reported, citing the operation’s command centre.
A further ten remain unaccounted for.
Specialist teams have been battling difficult conditions since an explosion at the Hushan mine in Shandong province trapped the miners underground amid rising waters on January 10.