By AUDREY JENKINS -STAFF WRITER
China: If you think that a ‘re-education through labor’ camp sounds a bit terrifying, you will probably be glad to know that as of Nov. 15, 2013, the Chinese government has finally decided to close these facilities in favor of ‘protecting human rights.’ The laijiao, as they are known in Mandarin, were originally established in 1957 as a way for the government to punish petty criminals without having to waste time and money sending them through the formal legal system.
The labor camps have since become an easy way for the government to punish activists who challenge their domain. Reports have posed that as many as 190,000 ‘criminals’ have been detained at one time through the camps and forced into corrective manual labor.
Though this is a step in the right direction on behalf of Chinese Communist Party’s Third Plenum, the government is still being pressured to close other shady punishment facilities like the black jails and the ‘mental hospitals’ and ‘rehabilitation centers’ where dissenters can sometimes disappear to for months upon upsetting the government.
Kampala, Uganda: Erias Lukwago, the official lord mayor of Kampala, has recently been declared by a governmental tribunal to be guilty of incompetence and misconduct, office abuses for which he faces being ousted from his position.
Lukwago claims that these sanctions have come against him because his political opponent, longstanding Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, is attempting to seize dictator-like control of the country.
In an interview with Time, Lukwago is quoted as self-righteously speaking out against Museveni and his less-than-noble intentions. “I know President Museveni wants to break our spirit to fight for the rule of law, social justice, constitutionalism, and good governance. I want to send a message to Mr. Museveni that no amount of intimidation or suppression will make me bow before you. I want to assure you that come what may, I am ready to pay even the ultimate price,” Lukwago said.
Although Lukwago initially challenged the legality of the case, the courts ruled against him in favor of allowing the tribunal to conduct their investigation and make a ruling. The political situation remains tense in Uganda as local authorities now have two weeks to decide what course of action should be taken in response to the tribunal’s claims.
Buenos Ares, Argentina: It has always seemed like a cruel and unusual fact of life that chemotherapy patients who are already battling a life-threatening disease and undergoing crippling pain in order to do so are also subjected to what can be an identity-compromising loss of hair and the degradation of other aspects of their appearance. To combat this physical and emotional trauma, an organization called “Look Good Feel Better” was started 25 years ago in the United States to teach cancer patients how to use make-up and skincare techniques to disguise the altered parts of their appearance, such as the loss of eyebrows and the appearance of dark circles.
Argentina is the first Latin American country to have adopted the program. According to the Pan American Health Organization, cancer is the second-highest cause of death in the country of Argentina and the mortality rate of the disease is the third highest in Latin America. ‘Look Good Feel Better’ operates on the mentality that ‘Hope is beautiful,’ and that cancer patients who are optimistic have been proven to have a higher rate of survival. Indeed, this program is more than just a purely vain or aesthetic mission—it is a way for community members and industries to come together to support some of society’s most vulnerable.
Europe: Last Thursday, the European Union’s top court, the European Court of Justice, ruled that asylum may be provided in the E.U. for refugees who face imprisonment in their home countries because of their homosexuality. According to the courts, sexuality is an inherent aspect of a person’s identity and cannot be a cause for persecution.
This ruling is a reaction to the dozens of countries, most of them throughout Africa and the Middle East, who have governmental sanctions in place against homosexuality. Although this decree by the E.U. seems to have been made in an act of good will and promotion of human rights, it is yet unclear as to how authorities will be able to confirm a refugee’s claim of homosexuality in order to grant asylum.
Taiwan: Last Sunday, Taiwan executed one of the biggest drug busts of the year when they stopped a $380 million shipment of heroin at the Taoyuan International Airport. This bust, the culmination of a two-year intelligence effort on the part of the Taiwanese government, saw the confiscation of 229 kg of heroin disguised and stored inside music equipment coated with scent-disguising chocolate.
Official details have yet to be released, but it is believed that the heroin originated in Myanmar and came to Taiwan through Vietnam. Although this is only one of a string of drug busts Taiwan has made in recent years to combat their country’s growing drug abuse problem, it is by far the largest bust they have executed in over two decades.