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China opens trial of prominent rights lawyer amid tight security | China News

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Chinese police have locked down a courthouse in the northern city of Tianjin at the start of the trial of Wang Quanzhang, a prominent human rights lawyer who is accused of subverting state power.

Wang, who took on sensitive cases of complaints of police torture and defended practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, went missing in August 2015 during a sweeping crackdown on rights activists.

Most cases from that summer, known as the 709 cases for the first day of detentions on July 9, 2015, have concluded. Wang, however, was incommunicado for more than 1,000 days.

An investigation said he had “for a long time been influenced by infiltrating anti-China forces” and had been trained by overseas groups and accepted their funding, according to a copy of the indictment seen by Reuters news agency.

Police outside the court in Tianjin told reporters they could not get near the building because it was a closed trial, according to Reuters.

The indictment says Wang worked with Peter Dahlin, a Swedish rights worker who was detained in China for three weeks before being deported in 2016, and others to “train hostile forces”, as well as actively providing investigative reports overseas.

It also says Wang had hyped up and distorted the facts in his online statements about the case of a policeman who killed a petitioner in Heilongjiang in 2014 and of “cults” that he had defended.

Dahlin, now in Spain’s capital, Madrid, said on Twitter they had kept all documentation dating back to 2009 “and will release anything needed to dispel that it constitutes subverting state power”.

The trial could last just a single day, although a verdict may not come immediately. Western diplomats were expected to be outside the courthouse.





Li Wenzu has shaved her head in protest at her husband’s detention [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

Wang’s wife, Li Wenzu, says she has been unable to visit her husband since he went missing. She said seven lawyers she appointed to try to represent Wang had also been unable to visit him.

Li, who last week shaved her head in protest at her husband’s detention, on Tuesday said authorities have placed her under de facto house arrest to stop her from attending his trial

She was quoted as saying by AFP news agency that there were “more than 20” security personnel outside her Beijing apartment by early afternoon.

One of them explicitly told her not to visit Tianjin, she wrote on social messaging app WeChat.

“I wish I could grow a pair of wings, free and unconstrained, and fly freely, fly to Tianjin”, Li said.

It was not possible to reach the State Security Ministry for comment because it has no website or publicly available telephone number. Local police in Beijing did not immediately respond to news agencies’ request for comment.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has strengthened efforts to quash dissent since coming to power six years ago, with hundreds of rights lawyers and activists detained and dozens jailed.

China routinely rejects foreign criticism of its human rights record, saying all Chinese are treated equally in accordance with the law and that foreign countries have no right to interfere.

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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