27 Aug 2019

Tuesday's world news: What's making the headlines around the globe

8:54 pm on 27 August 2019

Australian writer faces spying charges in China

Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun attends a lecture at Beijing Institute of Technology in Beijing, November 2010.

Photo: AFP / Imaginechina

Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun has been formally arrested on espionage charges in China, Australian officials have confirmed.

The Australian citizen has been held in Beijing since January under "harsh conditions", said the foreign ministry.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia was "very concerned and disappointed" to learn of the arrest.

"We have serious concerns for Dr Yang's welfare, and about the conditions under which he is being been held," she said.

Dr Yang's supporters told the BBC the formal arrest on 23 August was an expected but concerning development in his case.

He had been held without charge for more than seven months, during which Canberra has repeatedly pressed Beijing to release him.


Read more:

  • Chinese authorities formally arrest Australian writer Yang Hengjun on suspicion of spying
  • Johnson & Johnson helped fuel opiod epidemic, Oklahoma Court says

    Logo of US multinational medical devices and pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson at the entrance of the research and development plant, in Val-de-Reuil, northwestern France.

    Photo: AFP

    Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson must pay $572 million for its part in fuelling Oklahoma's opioid addiction crisis, a judge in the US state has ruled.

    The company said immediately after the judgement that it would appeal.

    The case was the first to go to trial out of thousands of lawsuits filed against opioid makers and distributors.

    Earlier this year, Oklahoma settled with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma for $270m and Teva Pharmaceutical for $85m, leaving Johnson & Johnson as the lone defendant.

    Judge Thad Balkman of Cleveland County District Court in Norman, Oklahoma, said prosecutors had demonstrated that Johnson & Johnson contributed to a "public nuisance" in its deceptive promotion of highly addictive prescription painkillers.

    "Those actions compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans. The opioid crisis is an imminent danger and menace to Oklahomans," he said in his ruling.

    The payment would be used for the care and treatment of opioid addicts, he said.

    - BBC

    Read more:

  • Opioid crisis: Oklahoma judge rules against Johnson & Johnson
  • Trump says he may meet Iranian leader

    French President Emmanuel Macron (R) gestures past US President Donald Trump at the Biarritz lighthouse, southwestern France,

    US President Donald Trump with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Biarritz lighthouse, southwestern France, for the G7 summit. Photo: AFP

    US President Donald Trump said he would meet Iran's president under the right circumstances to end a confrontation over a 2015 nuclear deal and that talks were under way to see how countries could open credit lines to keep Iran's economy afloat.

    Mr Trump, speaking at a G7 summit in the French resort of Biarritz, ruled out lifting economic sanctions to compensate for losses suffered by Iran.

    He told reporters it was realistic to envisage a meeting between him and Iran President Hassan Rouhani in coming weeks, describing Iran as a country of "tremendous potential".

    "I have a good feeling. I think he is going to want to meet and get their situation straightened out. They are hurting badly," Mr Trump said.

    French President Emmanuel Macron, host of the G7 summit, told the same news conference that Mr Rouhani told him he would be open to meeting Mr Trump. Mr Macron said he hoped a summit between the two could happen in coming weeks. Mr Trump and Mr Rouhani head to the United Nations General Assembly in September.

    Anything agreed at a Trump-Rouhani encounter would be subject to approval by Iran's top decision maker, the fiercely anti-American Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    European leaders have struggled to calm the deepening confrontation between Tehran and Washington since Mr Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran. Mr Macron has spent the last few months trying to create conditions that would bring the sides back to the negotiating table.

    - Reuters

    Hong Kong's leadership says dialogue with protestors possible

    Carrie Lam speaks to press at the weekend to apologise to the people of Hong Kong over the Beijing-backed China extradition bill.

    Carrie Lam speaks to press at the weekend to apologise to the people of Hong Kong over the Beijing-backed China extradition bill. Photo: AFP

    Violence in Hong Kong's anti-government protests is becoming more serious but the government is confident it can handle the crisis itself, according to the territory's embattled leader Carrie Lam.

    Ms Lam was speaking in public for the first time since demonstrations escalated on Sunday, when police fired water cannon and volleys of tear gas in running battles with protesters who threw bricks and petrol bombs.

    The Chinese-ruled city is grappling with its biggest political crisis since its handover to Beijing in 1997 and Communist Party authorities have sent a clear warning that forceful intervention is possible to quell the violence.

    Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader said she would not give up on building a platform for dialogue, although the time was not right to set up an independent inquiry into the crisis, one of the cornerstone demands of protesters.

    "We should prepare for reconciliation in society by communicating with different people ... We want to put an end to the chaotic situation in Hong Kong," Ms Lam said, adding she did not believe her government had lost control.

    More demonstrations are planned over coming days and weeks, posing a direct challenge to authorities in Beijing, who are eager to quell the unrest ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on 1 October.

    - Reuters

    Brazil rejects G7 fire-fighting help as fires rage in the Amazon

    The Brazilian government has said it will reject an offer of $20 million in aid from G7 countries to help tackle fires in the Amazon.

    Officials did not give a reason for turning down the money, which the environment minister initially welcomed, however one official was quoted suggesting French President Emmanuel Macron keep the money to take care of "his home and his colonies".

    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has also questioned the motives behind the offer - accusing France of treating Brazil like a colony.

    His defence minister has said the fires in the Amazon - though difficult - are not out of control.

    - BBC

    Read more:

  • Amazon fires explainer: Why are they sparking a crisis?
  • Amazon fires: G7 leaders 'close to agreeing' on plan to help
  • Here there be Dragons - and nobody else

    A Komodo dragon on Komodo Island.

    A Komodo dragon on Komodo Island. Photo: 123rf

    The Indonesian government has confirmed its plans to close Komodo Island completely to the public from January next year, in a bid to conserve the rare reptiles.

    The scheme also involves moving about 2000 villagers off the island, part of the province of East Nusa Tenggara.

    It is hoped that closing the island to tourists will cut the risk of poaching and allow a recovery in the numbers of the animals' preferred prey, such as deer, buffalo and wild boar.

    Local authorities say the island could reopen after a year, but the plan is to make it a premium tourist destination.

    More than 176,000 tourists visited Komodo National Park, a conservation area between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores, in 2018.

    The whole area was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

    About 1700 Komodo dragons are estimated to live on Komodo island. Other islands in the national park that are home to more than 1400 of the giant lizards will remain open to tourists.

    - Reuters