World briefs 07/07/03

Monday, July 7, 2003

Landslides kill 21 in central China

BEIJING -- Landslides killed 21 people in central China, while authorities prepared Sunday to blast earthen flood barriers to divert river waters running at their highest level in more than a decade, officials and state media reported.

The landslides occurred Friday across a swathe of the Chongqing and Sichuan regions, which were pounded by torrential rains, newspapers and the official Xinhua News Agency reported. No details were given.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 people were evacuated from areas along the Huaihe River in the province of Anhui ahead of explosions to rip open a dike and allow waters to flood into a low-lying plain, said an official with the local anti-flood office in the nearby city of Yingshang. He gave only his surname, Ma.

The Huaihe's waters registered 91 feet Saturday evening, the China Youth Daily newspaper said. That was almost 3.3 feet higher than in 1991, when high waters caused massive flooding throughout central and eastern China.

Hong Kong to delay anti-subversion bill

HONG KONG -- In a surprise reversal, Hong Kong's leader agreed today to delay an anti-subversion bill that has set off massive street protests and thrown his government into its biggest crisis since the territory returned to Chinese rule.

The decision by Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa came despite a statement by China's government earlier in the day that it wanted the bill passed on Wednesday as scheduled.

The legislation has raised fears it will lead to mainland-style repression of dissident viewpoints. It would outlaw subversion, sedition, treason and other crimes against the state, with life prison sentences for many offenses.

Critics see it as a betrayal of the "one country, two systems" form of government that was promised -- along with Western-style civil liberties -- at the Hong Kong handover.

Fundamentalists gain ground in Kuwait

KUWAIT CITY -- Kuwaitis elected a Parliament that further tightened the grip of fundamentalist Muslims and supporters of the royal-led Cabinet on the all-male legislature, while reducing the influence of Westernized liberals, results showed Sunday.

Voters ousted most of the Parliament's liberals, raising fears of spreading extremism.

The government's firmer control of the legislature following Saturday's vote makes it easier to pass long-delayed economic reform plans, including the sale of state utilities, in a country that has relied on oil wealth to maintain pampered lifestyles.

Fundamentalists who seek to impose a more wide-ranging version of Islamic law to preserve Kuwait's Muslim identity won 21 seats -- one more than in the previous parliament.

Voters also elected 14 pro-Cabinet members, up from the 12 in the outgoing 50-seat Parliament.

Explosion in Chinese coal mine kills 22

BEIJING -- A coal mine explosion in northeastern China has killed 22 people and injured six others, a mine official said Sunday.

Another 15 miners who were in the pit were rescued uninjured after Friday morning's blast at the Yakeshi mine in the Inner Mongolia region, said the official with the mine's Safety Production Office.

Authorities were investigating the cause of the accident, said the official, who identified himself only as Mr. Zhang.

Such explosions are usually caused by gas that seeps from the coal and builds up due to poor ventilation. Explosions, floods, cave-ins and other accidents killed more than 5,000 Chinese miners last year, making the country's mines the world's deadliest.

-- From wire reports

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