NEWS

A Chinese human rights lawyer says his licence has been revoked three months after he wrote an open letter criticising the ruling Communist Party.

Yu Wensheng, 50, received the news in a letter from Beijing's Bureau of Justice on 15 January, a photo of which he has since tweeted (in Chinese).

Mr Yu has long been a frequent and vocal critic of the government.

He is among hundreds of human rights lawyers who have recently been detained and interrogated by authorities.

According to the letter, Mr Yu's licence was cancelled because he had not been employed by a licensed legal firm in the past six months.

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Mr Yu's wife, Xu Yan, said in a statement that her husband had tried setting up an independent legal practice after he left his old firm last year.

But he had received another letter on 12 January in which the Beijing municipal authority refused his application to set up a practice.

It said: "Through investigations, this organisation found you have openly expressed opposition to the [Communist] Party's leadership".

As a result, it said, his behaviour did not meet the standards required of practising lawyers.

Mr Yu, a former commercial lawyer, was first arrested in 2014. He disappeared for three months after staging a public protest over not being allowed to meet a client who had been detained.

He was again arrested in 2015 after he alleged that he had been tortured in police custody.

Mr Yu was in a team of lawyers that tried suing the Chinese government over its failure to improve air quality in the capital, Beijing.

He even tried defending a fellow lawyer, Wang Quanzhang, who was also detained by authorities.

Mr Yu has been especially outspoken about the government's crackdown on human rights lawyers, which intensified in the middle of 2015, halfway through President Xi Jinping's first term.

In 2017, China jailed a prominent human rights lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, and also tried another, Xie Yang, who allegedly admitted to being "brainwashed" overseas during his trial, which was not open to the the public or the media.

More than 300 lawyers, legal assistants and activists have been questioned, and more than two dozen have been formally investigated since 2015.

While some have been sentenced to long jail terms, others are still awaiting a sentence. At least one is reported to have disappeared.

 

An Israeli boy whose parents were killed in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks has for the first time returned to the site where they were murdered.

Moshe Holtzberg, 11, was accompanied by his adoptive grandparents. They are in India as part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's delegation.

The boy was saved by his Indian nanny when the Jewish cultural centre was stormed by Pakistani militants.

Mr Netanyahu is to open a memorial for victims of the attack on Thursday.

Moshe's nanny, Sandra Samuel, gave up her life in India to move to Israel and continue caring for the boy.

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Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky, who now runs cultural centre known as Chabad House, told reporters that Moshe's visit was "very emotional" for them.

"We are very excited to meet Moshe, who's not a baby anymore but will always remain a baby in our hearts," he added.

BBC correspondents say that Indian media, who covered his story extensively when he was saved, are still referring him to as "baby Moshe" and his return is generating great excitement.

Moshe's parents were among six people killed by gunmen at Chabad House in the Mumbai attacks, which began on 27 November 2008.

The luxury Taj Mahal Palace and Tower and Oberoi-Trident hotels were also targeted, along with the city's Chhattrapati Shivaji train station.

The attacks left 174 people - including nine gunmen - dead.

Pope Francis has said he feels "pain and shame" over a sex abuse scandal which has rocked the Catholic Church in Chile.

The Pope also asked the victims of sexual abuse committed by priests for forgiveness.

He made the remarks during his first official address in Chile.

The Pope had been criticised in Chile for his decision to ordain a bishop who is accused of covering up sexual abuse committed by a priest.

'Irreparable harm'
Pope Francis has said in the past that dealing with abuse is vital for the Church's credibility, and that "sanctions" must be imposed against perpetrators.

But critics in Chile say he failed to respond to their request to review the appointment of Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno.

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Parishioners in the southern Chilean city say Bishop Barros used his position in the Catholic Church to try to block an investigation into the actions of his mentor, Catholic priest Fernando Karadima.

The case of Fr Karadima, an influential priest who was found guilty by the Vatican of sexually abusing young boys and ordered to do penance, shook the Catholic Church in Chile.

Pope Francis said on Tuesday that he was sorry for the "irreparable harm" caused to the victims of sexual abuse by Church ministers.

On Monday, activists fighting for the rights of sexual abuse victims gathered in Santiago for a conference.

They launched an organisation called Ending Clerical Abuse which "seeks to stop child sexual abuse by the clergy" worldwide.

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, one of the activists, Juan Carlos Cruz, told the BBC that "the time for saying sorry and forgiving is over".

"[Saying sorry] is not sufficient for a survivor. What we want is for the Pope to take action."

"There are concrete things that he can do, like removing priests who have been accused and sentenced by the Chilean justice system or canon law and bishops who have covered up [sexual abuse]," he says.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke has said Pope Francis might meet victims of sexual abuse in private, as he has on past trips, but there has been no official confirmation of such a meeting.

Under Pope Francis, a Vatican committee has been set up to fight sexual abuse and help victims but Chilean victims of clerical sex abuse say more transparency is needed.

A motorway bridge under construction in Colombia has collapsed, killing at least nine workers and injuring five others.

The bridge in Chirajara was to be part of a highway connecting the capital, Bogotá, with the city of Villavicencio.

Photos from the scene show a large part of the 450m-long bridge lying in the ravine below.

Transport Minister Germán Cardona spoke of a "tragedy" and said the cause of the collapse would be investigated.

 

One of the workers injured in the collapse described the moment it happened.

"Everyone started shouting that the bridge was falling, I didn't have time to do anything and then I felt a blow to my head," Luis Alvarado told El Tiempo newspaper.

Construction officials said that fortunately not many workers were on the bridge at the time of the collapse as staff were receiving a safety briefing.

The bridge is part of an ambitious programme to improve the route leading from Bogotá to the eastern plains by turning parts of it into a dual carriageway.

The planned works include the construction of 18 new tunnels and 42 bridges and viaducts as well as new lighting and CCTV cameras.

The existing - winding and narrow - road faces frequent closures with lorries supplying the capital with produce often breaking down, blocking traffic.

The company tasked with the works is Coviandes, a firm which is majority-owned by a Colombian investment corporation.

Coviandes issued a statement on Monday (in Spanish) saying it would do everything it could to help the families of the workers who died or were injured in the collapse.

 

 

December set the record for the least amount of sunshine seen in Moscow, Russian weather experts say.

"The sun didn't come out even once for the entire month," said the weather website Meteonovosti.

According to Russia's main weather centre, the sun did shine for six minutes. But normally Muscovites get dozens of hours of December sunshine.

Russian winters are famously freezing, but this week the cold in Yakutia, in the far east, dipped below -60C (-76F).

It is about -7C in Moscow.

Yakutia - a remote region also known as the Sakha Republic - is historically the coldest part of Russia.

"Even for the Sakha Republic, famous for its harsh cold, this temperature is abnormal," Meteonovosti said.

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On Tuesday, the temperature remained below -50C across the vast region, whose capital Yakutsk lies 4,900km (3,045 miles) east of Moscow.

Russian children are usually kept indoors and schools are shut when the cold plunges below -50C.

Roman Vilfand, head of the Russian Meteorological Centre, attributed Moscow's exceptionally overcast weather in December to big cyclonic air masses, which had moved in from the Atlantic.

Moscow's previous record for December darkness was in 2000, when the capital got just three hours with the sun breaking through the cloud.

Russia's hot tips for cold weather:
Don't drink spirits - drunkenness causes great heat loss
Wear loose clothing to keep blood circulation normal
If you feel frost-bitten on a walk, find any warm place - a shop, cafe, doorway - and warm up
Don't remove your boots if your feet are frozen - they'll swell up and you won't be able to get your boots on again. Get to a warm place as quickly as possible. You could shove your frozen hands in your armpits to warm them up
If your car breaks down far away from habitation, you should stay in your car and phone for help or wait for another vehicle to come along the road
Avoid the wind, as it increases the risk of freezing
When children are outdoors they should return to the warmth every 15-20 minutes.
Source: Russian Emergencies Ministry

 

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