Swedish court acquits ex-Swedish China envoy over dissident talks
Stockholm, July 10,2020 A Swedish court on Friday acquitted Sweden’s former ambassador to China, Anna Lindstedt, of overstepping her diplomatic brief in efforts to free a jailed Chinese-Swedish bookseller.
Lindstedt had denied any wrongdoing in her efforts to free Gui Minhai, but had potentially risked prison if convicted.
Gui’s case has strained ties between China and Sweden.
The case centered on a meeting Lindstedt organised in January 2019 at a Stockholm hotel.
It was attended by, among others, two businessmen with links to China and Angela Gui, the daughter of Gui Minhai.
As part of the deal discussed to free her father, Angela Gui said she was to agree to stop criticising China in public.
She described how she felt pressured and contacted the Swedish Foreign Ministry which said they were unaware of the meeting and that it was not how consular matters were handled.
Lindstedt had said she did not conduct any negotiations and that the meeting was only aimed at discussing ideas.
The Stockholm’s district court said Prosecutor Henrik Olin had not proved that Lindstedt had negotiated with any person who represented the Chinese state.
The court also noted that Lindstedt would have been in her authority to do so, noting that an ambassador had a wide-ranging scope, Judge Anna Flodin said.
Flodin said the court was unanimous.
Prerequisites for the alleged crime labelled arbitrary conduct in connection with negotiations with a foreign power were not fulfilled, the judge added.
The legislation was several hundred years old and not tested in recent times, Flodin said.
Lindstedt’s lawyer, Conny Cedermark welcomed the acquittal, saying the ruling was wise, while Lindstedt said she was happy and relieved.
“Now I will try to return to a normal life,’’ she was quoted as telling Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter.
In a brief comment, Prosecutor Henrik Olin told Swedish Radio he wanted to read the ruling before determining whether to appeal.
The two businessmen did not testify during the trial, but several former ambassadors were summoned as well as Angela Gui, Foreign Ministry officials, activists, academics and reporters.
Parts of the hearing were held behind closed doors.
Shortly after Friday’s decision, Angela Gui told Stockholm daily Expressen that “the damage has already been done.
“It does not change anything for me or my father because it is the state that is the plaintiff. This whole process has just been tragic for me.”
Olin had in his closing statement in June said that a suspended sentence was sufficient, citing that the Foreign Ministry had stated it would likely fire Lindstedt if she was convicted.
Borje Ljunggren, another former Swedish ambassador to China, said he was not surprised by the ruling.
“The meeting exhibited remarkable cluelessness by Lindstedt, but this should not have gone to trial,’’ he told Swedish public broadcaster SVT.
Ove Bring, professor emeritus of International Law at Stockholm University and the Swedish National Defence University, told Swedish Radio he concurred that there were no grounds for a prosecution.
Lindstedt joined the Foreign Service in 1990 and has held a number of posts including ambassador to Vietnam and Mexico, and at the UN climate talks in France 2015.
Gui owned a publishing house in Hong Kong that sold titles banned in mainland China. He disappeared in 2015 while on holiday in Thailand.
In 2016, he appeared on Chinese state television where he admitted to leaving China without having served a two-year suspended sentence for his role in a drink-driving death more than a decade ago.
After serving that sentence he was rearrested in 2018.
In February of this year, a Chinese court sentenced the bookseller to 10 years in prison for `illegally providing intelligence abroad.’
Sweden maintains that he has Swedish citizenship, but China does not recognise dual nationality for any Chinese national and also claims he has renounced his Swedish citizenship.
Edited By: Kevin Okunzuwa/Tajudeen Atitebi (NAN)
Dollar slips as yields dive on recovery worries
The dollar fell in Asia on Wednesday, hitting a five-month low on the yuan.
A hardening perception that the United States recovery is lagging Europe has buttressed the euro, which has repelled a rebound in the dollar and rose back above $1.18 on Wednesday.
At the same time speculation that stalemate over fiscal policy in Washington could leave the Federal Reserve with more to do, has hastened a steady decline in United States yields – undermining the dollar more broadly.
Sterling, the Australian dollar and the kiwi all climbed back toward pre-pandemic highs, while the yen rose and gold soared as real yields plumbed record lows.
“United States economic outperformance, relative to the eurozone and Japan, is no longer guaranteed given the damage from the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ said Tai Hui, J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s chief strategist in Asia.
“Dollar interest rates are also converging to other developed economies’ interest rates, which means that the dollar is less appealing,’’ Hui said.
He added it is difficult to see the Fed easing policy ahead of its global peers.
The Australian dollar led gains among the majors with a 0.4 per cent rise to $0.7189.
Ten-year Australian government debt now yields about 31 basis points more than 10-year United States government debt, up from 16 basis points two months ago.
The New Zealand dollar rose 0.3 per cent to $0.6646, catching some support from a surprise dip in the jobless rate.
The yen rose 0.1 per cent to 105.60 per dollar and sterling edged higher to $1.3091.
Even the Chinese yuan, which had struggled to capitalise on the dollar’s weakness amid simmering Sino-United States tensions, forged higher to a five-month top of 6.9570 per dollar in onshore trade.
Other Asian currencies also made gains, notably the Malaysian ringgit, which was stronger than 4.2 per dollar for the first in five months.
The dollar has been sliding since March, but its prime antagonist in recent weeks has been the euro, which in July posted its best month in almost 10 years.
That has the common currency more or less back where it began life in 1999 and has many investors convinced it can keep climbing as a Europe-wide fiscal relief package anchors recovery and allays perennial worries about the bloc’s stability.
“Right now, looming long-term negative United States issues – like the dollar’s reserve status as the United States and China decouple – are at the forefront of FX concerns and not the euro’s structural problems,’ said Deutsche Bank strategist, Alan Ruskin.
“The door to $1.20+ remains wide open,’’ he said.
For now, eyes are on Washington where White House negotiators have vowed to work “around the clock” with congressional Democrats to try to reach a deal on coronavirus relief by the end of this week.
Investors expect steady services growth in Europe and a slowdown in the United States in hiring, with surprises on any front likely to illuminate the apparent divergence between Europe and the United States
Analysts at ING have also noted that equity investors have yet to really buy into the European recovery story – and say a pile-in could provide even more support to the currency.
“Buy-side surveys suggest that investors are still heavily overweight United States equities, especially tech stocks, and are minded to rotate into the Eurozone and see the euro as cheap,’’ said ING’s global head of markets, Chris Turner.
“If that rotation comes to pass … then euro/dollar may be a $1.25 story after all.’’
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)
UN, United States commiserate with Lebanon over deadly explosions
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has commiserated with the people and government of Lebanon over Tuesday’s explosions in the capital, Beirut.
No fewer than 70 people died while 2,700 others were injured in the massive blasts at the city’s port, the Minister of Health, Hamad Hassan, said.
Officials said the two blasts originated from highly explosive materials stored in a warehouse although investigations were ongoing to determine the exact cause.
The UN chief’s reaction came in a statement by his deputy spokesman, Mr Farhan Haq.
“The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences to the families of the victims as well as to the people and government of Lebanon following the horrific explosions in Beirut today.
“He wishes a speedy recovery to the injured, including several United Nations personnel working in Lebanon.
“The United Nations remains committed to supporting Lebanon at this difficult time, and is actively assisting in the response to this incident,” Haq said.
United States Ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, also reacted to the incident with a condolence message, in which she described the explosions as horrific.
“Having witnessed the horrific explosions at the port this evening, our heartfelt sympathies go out to the victims and their families.
“We mourn each loss from this terrible tragedy alongside the Lebanese people,” the embassy quoted her as saying in a tweet.
Edited By: Mufutau Ojo) (NAN)
Risks of COVID-19 infection through breastfeeding negligible — WHO
Dr Laurence Grummer-Strawn, Head of the organisation’s Food and Nutrition Action in Health Systems unit, stated this on Tuesday, according to the United Nations.
In a report, the UN quoted Grummer-Strawn as making the statement at a news briefing on the 2020 World Breastfeeding Week where he appealed for greater support for the practice.
“WHO has been very clear in its recommendations to say absolute breastfeeding should continue.
He said that the advantages included the fact that breastmilk, including milk which is expressed, provides lifesaving antibodies that protect babies against many childhood illnesses.
“This is only one of the reasons why new mothers should initiate skin-to-skin contact and room-in with their babies quickly.
He explained that the conclusion followed the testing of the breastmilk of many mothers around the world in a variety of studies.
Grummer-Strawn said although a few samples had the virus followup tests showed that the virus was not viable and could not be infective.
Edited By: Tayo Ikujuni/Maharazu Ahmed (NAN)
Digital economy: Nigeria must shift focus from certificate to skills – Pantami
The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, has advocated for shifting of focus from certificate to skills education for the actualisation of Nigeria’s digital economic drive.
Pantami made the call at the Graduation Lecture of the National Defence Collage Course 28, titled; “Digital Economy and National Development in Nigeria”, on Tuesday in Abuja.
The minister added that emphasis on certificate must be reduced in engaging labour force, urging that focus should be shifted to skills if the nation must catch up with development.
He said that many developed and developing countries such as China, United States and Morocco had shifted attention to skills rather than certificate, adding that many of them had established skills centres.
According to him, certificate is important but secondary to skill and that is why we must pay attention to skills in our journey to digital economy.
“The digital literacy and skills pillar recognises the fact that citizens are the greatest assets in any economy, including the digital economy. It will support the development of a large pool of digitally literate and digitally skilled citizens.
“We recently provided a platform, the DigitalNigeria.gov.ng platform, to enable Nigerians receive training in diverse digital skills. Over 36,000 Nigerians have enrolled on the platform since the 2nd of April, 2020.
“We are championing a paradigm change that lays emphasis on skills, in preference to merely having degrees without skills.
“The National Defence College is an institution that supports the development of skills and there are many digital techniques that can support the great work that you are doing here,’’ he said.
Pantami stated that the digital economy was a prime catalyst for development, adding that in less than one year, government’s modest efforts had already yielded remarkable results.
According to him, the recent first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that ICT contributed an unprecedented 14.07 per cent to Nigeria’s total real GDP.
He explained that emerging technologies came with different solutions to security challenges of every nation such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, robotic technology, drone and many more.
“These are some of the emerging technologies that will go a long way in promoting security of nations. The security officials are in better position to look into and see how to customize them and make use of them.”
Also, the Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi, said the Federal Government had taken steps to adopt, adapt and internalise the digital economy in a functional manner.
Magashi, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Sabiu Zakari, said it was important that security and defence establishments show more than a cursory interest in the digital economy.
He added that the adaptation of digital economy could result in increased cybercrimes thus undermining national security.
“I wish to commend the Commandant, staff and the entire College community for their collective efforts in pursuing the ideals of the College.
“In particular, I commend you for organising the graduation lecture, which was exciting, educative and would be helpful to the economic and security needs of the Nigerian nation,’’ he said.
Earlier, the Commandant of the collage, Rear Adm. Markson Kadiri, said the lecture had become a key component of the training programme of the College and a major highlight of its annual graduation ceremonies.
Kadiri said that a total of 107 participants had successfully completed the course comprising 67 officers of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, seven Senior Police Officers and 15 participants from key Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Others according to him, include 18 senior military officers from the Armed Forces of friendly nations.
“The Course was conducted under the theme “Economic Diversification and National Development in Nigeria”. Economic diversification is a broad based strategy designed to cause positive and multi-sectoral economic growth and development,’’ he said.
Edited By: Ismail Abdulaziz (NAN)