NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Chinese authorities seized the assets of a foreign-owned company and placed its Christian owners under house arrest in mid-October, according to a Christian human rights organization that monitors religious freedom in China.
Raids at the Enoch Group (www.enochgroup.com), an Australian company owned by naturalized Australians Daniel and Eliza Ng, began in August and authorities since have moved to shut down the company and freeze nearly $13 million in assets and patents, said Bob Fu of the China Aid Association (www.chinaaid.org). Mr. and Mrs. Ng were under house arrest from Oct. 12-25.
During the Aug. 21 raid, about three dozen employees were interrogated, with some reportedly beaten and detained at a district police station, Fu said. Fifty computers, checkbooks and sensitive company product formulas also were confiscated. On Sept. 13, the government reportedly froze both the company’s and Mr. & Mrs. Ng’s personal assets.
Enoch Group’s Guangzhou branch is a bio-engineering corporation focused on ecological agriculture, water quality improvement, environmental protection and human health care. High-level government sources told CAA that some central government leaders disapproved of the group’s hiring of Chinese Christians and suspected that the company’s motto, “Love, peace, joy and faithfulness,” promoted Christianity. Sources said the raid and seizures were intended as a warning to other foreign businesses in China owned by Christians.
ARGENTINA ELECTS FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT — Argentina’s first woman president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, elected Oct. 28 in a landslide victory, faces serious challenges in dealing with runaway inflation and crime when she takes office Dec. 10.
Fernandez, 54, won with 45 percent of the vote -– 22 percentage points above her closest rival, who also was a woman. Fernandez’ husband, Nestor Kirchner, is Argentina’s current president. His economic policies pulled Argentina out of severe economic crisis in 2001, and some political observers see her election as a vote for a Kirchner co-presidency.
Double-digit inflation and a looming energy crisis present serious challenges, and middle-class Argentines have criticized what they see as authoritarian tendencies of the Kirchner government. “She will have to continue with the economic policies of Kirchner but put a stop to the concentration of power and look to build more dialogue and consensus,” political analyst Graciela Roemer told The New York Times.
Although Nestor Kirchner led the country out of financial crisis to an economic growth rate of more than 8 percent a year, one in four Argentines live in poverty and 9 percent are unemployed. Energy prices are frozen but shortages make increases almost unavoidable. Spending increases are shrinking the government’s budget surplus and the country’s default on a $100 billion international debt has left investors reluctant to commit their resources.
Venezuela’s socialist president, Hugo Chavez, congratulated Fernandez: “This is a triumph of the women of Latin America, because women are going to save the world,” according to Venezuela’s state-run news agency.
DESPERATE IRAQI REFUGEES TURN TO SEX TRADE — Women and girls who have fled the war in Iraq are turning to prostitution in neighboring countries that won’t allow them to work at other jobs.
While no reliable statistics on the problem exist, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that around 2 million Iraqis have fled to neighboring countries since 2003, according to the Associated Press. Syria alone has taken in an estimated 1.5 million Iraqi refugees.
Iraqi women whose male relatives were killed or wounded in Iraq are most vulnerable, a representative of Syria Women’s Observatory, a human rights group, told the AP. A single sexual encounter can earn an Iraqi woman 10 times more than working a full day at a menial job. Women and girls have no protection from employer abuse and may even find themselves pressured by family members to resort to prostitution to earn income for the family.
One woman told a reporter that she fled Iraq with her three teenage children after her husband was murdered in Baghdad last year. She tells acquaintances that relatives pay the rent for their apartment because she doesn’t want neighbors or her children to learn what she does to pay the bills.
The shame she feels for turning to prostitution is overwhelming: “I ask myself every day, what did I get out of this life? No family, no home and no honor,” she told the AP. “The guilt is ripping my body to shreds.”
WAR-TIME RAPES ‘PANDEMIC,’ U.N. LEADER SAYS — Violence against women as a weapon of war has reached horrifying levels and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has decided to launch a worldwide campaign against rape and sexual abuse later this year.
“Violence against women has reached hideous and pandemic proportions in some societies attempting to recover from conflict,” Ban told the U.N. Security Council Oct. 24. The council was discussing the ineffectiveness of a resolution adopted seven years ago that called for the prosecution of crimes against women and increased protection of women and girls during war.
The council expressed concern that despite its repeated demands for an immediate end to violence against women as a weapon of war, “rape and other forms of sexual abuse, as well as all other forms of violence, … remain pervasive, and in some situations have become systematic, and have reached appalling levels of atrocity,” according to the AP. “The council stresses the need to end impunity for such acts as part of a comprehensive approach to seeking peace, justice, truth and national reconciliation,” a statement released by the council said.
“While rape is used as a weapon of war in situations such as … Congo and Darfur, addressing this war crime requires going beyond political compromise, power and resource-sharing agreements,” said Jean-Marie Guehenno, U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping. “Instead, combating rape and other forms of sexual violence calls for concerted, robust and ongoing action on the part of both national actors and also the international community at every level of engagement.”
GADHAFI LABELED AN ‘ENEMY OF ISLAM’ — Improved relations between Libya and the United States have led the Al Qaida terror network to label Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi an “enemy of Islam” and threaten the North African country with a wave of attacks.
In a 28-minute audio tape released in early November, Ayman al-Zawahri, the No. 2 leader of Al Qaida, announced that a Libyan jihadist group was joining the global terror network: “The Islamic nation is witnessing a blessed step…. The brothers are escalating the confrontation against the enemies of Islam: Gadhafi and his masters, the Washington crusaders,” the AP reported.
On the same recording, a Libyan Al Qaida commander said Gadhafi is a tyrant who “is dragging the country to the swamp.” Abu Laith al-Libi added: “After long years, he [Gadhafi] discovered suddenly that America is not an enemy … and is turning Libya into another crusader base.”
The United States restored full diplomatic relations with Libya last year after Gadhafi’s 2003 decision to dismantle the country’s secret nuclear program and financial settlements with families of victims killed by Libyan terror attacks on commercial airliners in 1988 and 1989. The U.S. State Department has praised Libya’s cooperation in the search for terror suspects in the region.
Mark Kelly is a freelance writer based in Gallatin, Tenn.