Lindt coroner says police took too long to storm cafe

After a long stand-off with police at Sydney’s Lindt Cafe back in December of 2014, Man Haron Monis fired his weapon at a group of six escaping hostages.


New South Wales coroner Michael Barnes says that is the moment officers should have known the time for talking was over.

“The 10 minutes that la psed without decisive action by police was too long. Tori Johnson was executed in the meantime before the decision to enter the cafe was made.”

Mr Barnes has handed down his findings from an inquest into the siege that resulted in the deaths of hostages Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson.

The coroner concludes commanders relied on flawed advice from negotiators, who overestimated their chances of a peaceful solution and underestimated the risk Monis posed.

“The negotiators and the consultant psychiatrist continued to advise commanders that negotiations were progressing, that the stronghold was calm, that Monis’s behaviour was not consistent with Islamic State methodology, he was merely ‘grandstanding.'”

New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller told the ABC he accepts that assessment – albeit, with the benefit of hindsight.

“In hindsight, knowing everything we know now, New South Wales police should have gone in earlier. But, again, hindsight is a wonderful thing.”

When police did move in after Tori Johnson was shot, Monis was shot dead as well, but Katrina Dawson was wounded by fragments of a police bullet and later died.

Michael Barnes has ruled the two police shooters did not fire excessively or indiscriminately.

“Even if every aspect of the response adopted had ben executed to the highest possible standard, there is no certain that the outcome would have been any better, that more of the hostages would have left the cafe alive.”

Despite the shortcomings detailed in his report, Mr Barnes stresses the blame for the deaths and injuries caused that night is entirely on Man Haron Monis.

Mr Barnes says Monis created an intensely dangerous situation and deserves to be the sole focus of condemnation.

But Mr Johnson’s former partner, Thomas Zinn, says, while he respects the police officers’ bravery, he and Mr Johnson’s family remain deeply affected by what he calls “systematic failures.”

He points to what he calls failures both before and during the siege.

“The pain deep in our hearts from losing Tori is as strong now as it was in December 2014. Everybody who knew Tori would agree that we lost a guardian angel that night.”

The coroner is also critical of how Monis had been on bail at the time, awaiting trial for 46 offences – including being an accessory to his ex-wife’s murder.

And Mr Barnes accuses police of failing to keep the families of the hostages well-informed during the siege.

Among the report’s key recommendations are better family liaison policies for high-risk situations and reconsidering the police philosophy of “contain and negotiate.”

It also calls for an overhaul of police negotiator training and creating a specialist group of counterterrorism negotiators.


Timor-Leste turns focus to nation building

Francisco Guterres has fought for his country before.


The former guerilla fighter was a key leader in Timor-Leste’s struggle for independence.

Now he is ready to fight again.

“Even though I spent over 24 years in the jungle fighting for my country, I considered that I didn’t do much, or it wasn’t completed. There’s lots more to be done.”

The new president takes the helm of a country that has made tremendous improvements to development since independence in 2002.

But he inherits a dilemma: an economy heavily reliant on oil and gas, with reserves that may run out within a decade.

Mr Guterres says he plans to continue a strategy of spending on infrastructure in the hope of attracting tourism and foreign investment.

“First, Timor-Leste is prepared for this. But we need to have more investment in infrastructure.”

In the western enclave of Oecusse, construction dominates the rural landscape.

A vision to reform the poorest district in the country to a modern city ready for investors is coming to life.

Mari Alkatiri is a former prime minister of Timor-Leste and the current head of the Oecusse Special Economic Zone.

“The triangle for development is financial centre, tourism and agribusiness industries.”

Bridges, roads, a new airport and a new irrigation system are under construction, spurred by a $400 million investment of public money.

Across the road from Reuban Landos’s small rural village on the edge of a paddy field, a new 56-room hotel is being built.

He says he welcomes it.

“It’s good for Oecusse Timorese, because they didn’t have the work and, now, they all have work.”

But many in Oecusse and across the country still do not have access to running water or sanitation.

Charlie Scheiner, a researcher with the Dili-based analysts L’ao Hamutuk, says the government’s infrastructure priorities are wrong.

He suggests there should be more spending on areas such as health care, education and child nutrition.

“This is a very young country, and it has tremendous challenges. And so we think that investing in things that will make people’s lives better in the short term will also help economic development in the long term.”

The new president says all development spending is well-considered.

“Just by way of an example, we don’t withdraw money from the petroleum fund to go shopping for vegetables for us to share.”

But what he does prioritise from here will be critical to the young nation’s future – at a time of major economic change.

Rhiannon Elston travelled to Dili at the invitation of the Timor-Leste government.


Now on the outside, Voller insists he’s ready for new life

“There were times where I thought that that was the only place for me was to be stuck in detention and stuff like that, because I’d become so used to it, it was like a normal thing to be staying in detention, or even staying in my room 24/7.


It had just became normal.”

The past four months are the longest Dylan Voller has been out of jail since he first entered the youth justice system eight years ago – at age 11.

In 2014, he was sentenced to three years and eight months for aggravated robbery.

He says he punched a man and stole his wallet, and is ashamed.

“I’m disgusted at my behaviour and really not proud of the things I did and said when I was younger, but I was a young kid, you know, a fair bit of trauma, and I didn’t know how to cope with it, and I acted out and that. All I can do is apologise to everyone that I did offend.”

Earlier this year, Mr Voller was released eight months early so he could undergo a 16-week rehabilitation program.

The idea is to help him reintegrate back into society with support before being released from prison entirely.

During his time on the outside, he has been at BushMob, a residential rehabilitation centre for young people in Alice Springs.

“It’s completely different. You’ve got workers there that actually care, that actually come in to make a difference, and supporting you, not just locking you in a cell and expect you to change automatically by yourself.”

Dylan Voller’s caseworker is a man named Rusty, who says he has seen Mr Voller’s progress over the past few months.

He says Mr Voller has, in fact, become a big role model for the younger youths at Bush Mob.

“He’s had a hard run right from the get go, and certainly in the last decade. He’s been through a lot of trial and tribulation, and I think that’s paying dividend now.”

He says it is not easy at Bush Mob but Dylan Voller has been a consistent example.

“We haven’t had a single major incident since Dylan came, which is testimony to him and the hard work that he’s put into it. This place runs 24/7, and young people are here for 16 weeks, so there’s always somebody having a bad day. And he’s just there sometimes, you know, just to help them calm down a bit, and say, ‘Hey, you know, pull your head in, staff are busy.’ You know that sort of middle ground between the staff and the younger clients.”

But Mr Voller says the media attention surrounding the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and his time there has caused him unwanted attention on the outside.

“I find it, like, if I put in for a job or go see somewhere, some people don’t want anything to do with me because of my history and because of all that media attention and stuff like that. I guess I’m not a bad person. I’ve made a lot of bad mistakes, and it took me a long time to learn from them, but I have learned from them, and now I’m on the right path.”

He says he has also received threats from online trolls, as well as from former Don Dale officers.

“I’ve had a couple of people threaten me on Facebook, like saying they’re going to do stuff, or even just make comments. Even some of the officers from Don Dale commenting on posts about me. I had someone say that they were going to dig me a hole and they had a hole waiting for me when I was to be released from prison.”

Mr Voller says he has been left traumatised by his time at Don Dale and it is going to be a long journey to his recovery.

“It’s all going to be over, in terms of royal commissions and stuff like that, but, in me, it will never be over. I’ll still relive and keep going through all that sort of stuff. It’s going to take a long time to get over all that sort of stuff.”

Dylan Voller says he hopes the royal commission will bring needed change for other youths, though..m

He says his hopes are that the government makes changes not only to the youth detention system but to help keep youths from entering the system.

Meanwhile, his sister Kirra Voller says she has seen a major improvement in her little brother.

“The amount that he has changed and grown just since he got let out has been amazing. It’s a clear example of how much the system was holding him back.”

And Rusty, the caseworker, also expresses faith, saying he is finally on the right path.

“And he’d be the first to admit that, you know, he made some dumb decisions in his life, he was a ratbag. He was a kid, you know, and kids do that. That’s what being a kid is for.”

Dylan Voller, himself, says, now, he wants to prove his doubters wrong.

“All you’ll have to do is keep watching and see all the good success that comes out of my life now that I’m on the right path.”



Ariana Grande suspends world tour after Manchester attack

US entertainer Ariana Grande has suspended her Dangerous Woman tour following the attack on her Manchester show which killed 22 people.


A spokesman for the 23-year-old announced the decision on Wednesday evening following widespread speculation that dates would be affected.

“Due to the tragic events in Manchester the Dangerous Woman tour with Ariana Grande has been suspended until we can further assess the situation and pay our proper respects to those lost,” a statement said.

“The London O2 shows this week have been cancelled as well as all shows through June 5 in Switzerland.

“We ask at this time that we all continue to support the city of Manchester and all those families affected by this cowardice and senseless act of violence.

“Our way of life has once again been threatened but we will overcome this together. Thank you.”

Grande is scheduled to perform six dates in Australia and New Zealand in September.

Police arrest 6th person in connection to #Manchester attack – a woman detained during raid of apartment block in city’s north @SBSNews

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) May 24, 2017

Police have arrested six more suspects in Libya and Britain, including the father and brother of the man believed to have carried a bomb into Manchester Arena, as the attack was linked to a terrorist network.

Libyan authorities said special forces had arrested the brother of Salman Abedi, the suspected Manchester attacker, on Tuesday.

Hashem Abedi, the alleged attacker’s brother, confessed that he and Salman Abedi were both members of the Islamic State extremist movement, according to a statement by Libyan special forces on Facebook.

Hashem Abedi also said he had visited Britain to help prepare the Manchester attack and he was “clearly aware of the details of this terrorist operation,” the statement said.

He had been under surveillance since he left Britain in mid-April and had remained in constant contact with Salman Abedi, it said.

Ramadan Abedi, the father of Salman, was arrested near his home in Tripoli, Libyan authorities said.


In Britain, police arrested four more suspects linked to Salman Abedi, who killed 22 people at Manchester Arena at the end of a concert by US singer Ariana Grande.

Grande has cancelled all upcoming concerts through June 5 following the bombing, a statement from her manager said.

“I think it’s very clear that this is a network that we are investigating,” Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins told reporters when asked whether police are looking for a possible bomb maker.

Hopkins declined to elaborate and gave no details about Wednesday’s three arrests in south Manchester and one in the town of Wigan, 25 kilometres from Manchester.

Police arrest 6th person in connection to #Manchester attack – a woman detained during raid of apartment block in city’s north @SBSNews

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) May 24, 2017Watch: Manchester police arrest suspect in Wigan

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The Wigan suspect was carrying a package which the police were investigating, police said, without giving further details. The most recent arrest was a woman at a Manchester block of flats.

Police announced the arrest of the first suspect, a 23-year-old man rumoured to be the older brother of the attacker, on Tuesday.

The Times, citing CCTV footage recovered by police, said Salman Abedi had placed a suitcase in the foyer of the concert hall shortly before the explosion.

The newspaper quoted a friend as saying Abedi, who died in the explosion, had returned to Britain from Libya just days before the attack.

British and French officials said earlier Wednesday that Abedi probably had accomplices and had links to Islamic State.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told French broadcaster BFMTV that British officials had said Abedi had been “radicalised” and had probably travelled to Syria during a trip to Libya.

Collomb said Abedi’s links with the Islamic State group were “proven.”

May raises UK threat level to ‘critical’ 0:00 Share

The British government has not confirmed those details about Abedi, whose parents are from Libya, but Home Secretary Amber Rudd told Sky News that he had been known to security services “up to a point” before Monday’s attack.

In a separate interview with BBC Radio 4, Rudd said it appears likely that Abedi was not acting alone.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that at least two Polish citizens died and one was among the 59 injured in the attack in the northern English city.

Many of Monday’s victims, who included an eight-year-old girl, have yet to be named, with desperate relatives still appealing for help in finding those missing.

Hopkins confirmed on Wednesday that an off-duty policewoman was among those who died.

Prime Minister Theresa May raised Britain’s terrorism threat level to the highest level of “critical” late Tuesday, meaning a further attack is likely or “imminent.”

Armed police will increase patrols and military personnel will be deployed at events such as concerts and sports matches.

US leaks ‘irritating’

Britain also has a national election scheduled for June 8.

All campaigning was suspended after the attack, although major parties said they would resume some activities on Thursday and national-level campaigning on Friday.

The government said a minute’s silence would be held at all official buildings at 1000 GMT (6.00 a.m. ET) on Thursday.

Greater Manchester Police said they were now confident they knew the identity of all the people who lost their lives and had made contact with all the families. They said they would formally name the victims after forensic post-mortems, which would take four or five days.

The bombing also left 64 people wounded, of whom 20 were receiving critical care for highly traumatic injuries to major organs and to limbs, a health official said.

Interior minister Amber Rudd said the bomber had recently returned from Libya. Her French counterpart Gerard Collomb said he had links with Islamic State and had probably visited Syria as well.

Rudd also scolded US officials for leaking details about the investigation into the Manchester attack before British authorities were ready to go public. The New York Times later published detailed photographs of the suspected remnants of the bomb.

Rudd was asked by the BBC about the fact that information about Abedi, including his name, had come out of the United States before it was cleared by British authorities.

“The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise, so it is irritating if it gets released from other sources, and I have been very clear with our friends that should not happen again.”

France, which has repeatedly been hit by devastating militant attacks since 2015, extended emergency powers.

Quadrant article claiming Manchester attacker should have hit ABC ‘sick, unhinged’: Fifield

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has joined a chorus of condemnation against conservative publication Quadrant after its online editor said it would have been preferable had the Manchester bomb exploded in the ABC’s Q&A studios.


“Unlike those young girls in Manchester, their lives snuffed out before they could begin, none of the panel’s likely casualties would have represented the slightest reduction in humanity’s intelligence, decency, empathy or honesty,” Roger Franklin wrote of Monday night’s events.

Franklin labelled Q&A panellist Lawrence Krauss a “filthy liar” for his characterisation of the threat of Islam, and then imagined him being blown up by the terrorist bomb.

“Mind you, as Krauss felt his body being penetrated by the Prophet’s shrapnel of nuts, bolts and nails, those goitered eyes might in their last glimmering have caught a glimpse of vindication.”

ABC chief Michelle Guthrie says the comments were a vicious and offensive attack on the ABC, its staff and program guests.

“Like many others, I am appalled at your willingness to turn an act of terrorism in the United Kingdom into a means of making a political point against those you disagree with,” she said in a strongly-worded letter to the editor of Quadrant.

She called on the journal to remove Franklin’s article from its website and apologise.

Senator Fifield, appearing before an upper house hearing in Canberra on Wednesday, sided with Ms Guthrie.

“I think this constitutes a new low in Australian public debate,” he said.

“We can all disagree with what particular media outlets do and say – that is appropriate in a democracy – but the comments by Quadrant are sick and unhinged.”

‘He is something’: Trump promises peace push after ‘fantastic’ pope talks

Meeting for the first time, the president and the pontiff sidestepped deep differences over issues ranging from the environment to the plight of migrants and the poor.


“Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis,” a star-struck Trump wrote on Twitter before leaving Rome for Brussels and the next leg of his first overseas trip as US president.

“I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world,” the billionaire former reality TV star said.

In Brussels, a city he once dubbed a “hellhole”, Trump however faced thousands of protesters ahead of his first summits on Thursday with wary leaders of NATO and the European Union.

Trump sparked fears of an end to the transatlantic alliance when he dismissed NATO as “obsolete” while on the campaign trail and mortified the EU by backing Brexit.

Trump said that the most important issue during his time in Belgium was terrorism after the “horrible situation” in Manchester, England, where a suicide bomber killed 22 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State.

“We are fighting very hard, doing very well under our generals. Making tremendous progress,” Trump told Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

“But when you see something like what happened a few days ago you realize how important it is to win this fight. And we will win this fight.”

Trump and Melania visit Vatican’s Sistine Chapel

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‘Fantastic meeting’

Trump had left Rome declaring his determination for peace following his keenly anticipated encounter with Pope Francis, the 80-year-old former Jesuit priest who has made championing the poor and the third world major themes of his papacy.

In their world view and tastes, the Argentine pontiff who eschews the use of the palaces at his disposal and the luxury hotel tycoon appear worlds apart.

But despite the pope looking initially grim-faced, both men ended up mostly all smiles, relaxed and even jovial.

Accompanied by his wife Melania and daughter Ivanka, Trump met Francis in the private library of the Apostolic Palace, the lavish papal residence that the current pope eschews in favour of more modest lodgings.

“He is something,” Trump later said of his host. “We had a fantastic meeting.”


There was even a light-hearted moment when Francis made an apparent allusion to Trump’s imposing physical size.

“What do you feed him on? Potica?” Francis asked Melania, in a reference to a calorie-laden cake that comes from her native Slovenia and is pronounced “potteezza”. Reporters initially thought he said “pizza”.

Trump also told the pope he was committing more than $300 million (270 million euros) to help prevent or tackle famine in Yemen and several countries in Africa.

The Vatican described the discussions as “cordial” and emphasised the two men’s joint opposition to abortion and shared concern for persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

The pope presented Trump with a medallion engraved with an olive tree, the international symbol of peace.

Francis also gave Trump copies of the three major texts he has published as pope, including one on the environment which urges the industrialised world to curb carbon emissions or risk catastrophic consequences for the planet.

Trump, who has threatened to ignore the Paris accords on emissions and described global warming as a hoax, vowed to read them.

First Lady Melania Trump arrives at the San Damaso courtyard for a private audience with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 24, 2017.AP

‘An instrument of peace’

Trump told his host as he left, “Thank you. Thank you. I won’t forget what you said.”

“I give it to you so you can be an instrument of peace,” the pope said in Spanish. “We can use peace,” Trump replied.

Trump’s gifts included a collection of first editions by Martin Luther King and a bronze sculpture.

A Vatican statement on the meeting highlighted “the joint commitment in favour of life, and freedom of worship and conscience.”

Afterwards, the US first couple were given a private tour of the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.

In Brussels, Trump met Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde and held talks with Michel, while around 6,000 people rallied against his policies in the centre of the city.

On Thursday, he first meets EU President Donald Tusk and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, having previously backed Britain’s shock Brexit vote and saying the EU was a doomed would-be superstate.

He will then hold his first summit with NATO leaders, who are holding out for a public show of Trump’s commitment in return for joining the US-led coalition against Islamic State in the wake of the Manchester attacks.

Trump’s Vatican visit was the third leg of his overseas trip, after stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The high-profile trip has diverted attention from Trump’s domestic pressures over alleged campaign collusion with Russia.



Morgan ton leads England to opening win over South Africa

With the Champions Trophy starting next week, tournament hosts England look in fine shape with bat and ball after a highly disciplined performance.


“It was very pleasing, it has been a pretty good day at the office for us,” said Morgan.

“I thought the partnerships we built, we gave ourselves the best opportunity to get a par score or more,” added Morgan, whose century was his 11th in ODIs.

England’s spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali, who was given the man of the match award, struck a crucial unbeaten 77, including five sixes, in a match-winning 117 run partnership with Morgan.

Ali also played a key role with the ball, picking up the wicket of South African skipper AB de Villiers just as the strokemaker was beginning to look dangerous on 45.

The only concern for England was a knee injury for all-rounder Ben Stokes which hampered his ability with the ball.


The Yorkshire venue of Headingley welcomed the world’s visiting number one ranked ODI team with bright sunshine before Morgan’s 107 from 93 balls put the spine in England’s total.

Ali’s contribution was essential after the two strong-hitting middle order batsmen – Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler – had been dismissed for 25 and seven respectively.

Alex Hales (61) and local favourite Joe Root (37) had laid the foundations with a 98-run second wicket partnership after opener Jason Roy was caught behind for one by Quinton de Kock, attempting to drive Wayne Parnell.

South Africa made an excellent start in response, with Hashim Amla scoring 73 before he was trapped lbw by Mark Wood, departing at 145 for two.

Faf du Plessis, who had batted beautifully for his 67 in a 112 run partnership with Amla, quickly followed after edging Liam Plunkett with keeper Jos Buttler safely pocketing.

But, with England bowling a consistent and tight line and length, South Africa’s middle order was unable to respond, De Villiers running out of partners before going on the attack and being caught by Plunkett at deep mid-wicket off Ali.

England seamer Chris Woakes did the bulk of the damage picking up 4-38.

The three-match series continues at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Saturday and finishes at Lord’s on Monday.

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)

‘We are in constant fear’: Manus Island detainees appeal to New Zealand PM for asylum

Asylum seekers on Manus Island have penned a letter to New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Bill English, urging him to resettle them.


New Zealand has previously offered to take in refugees from the Australian-run immigration detention centres, and the letter asks Mr English to again broach the issue with Australia.

“We humbly request that you revisit your offer to take asylum seekers from offshore camps and take us to New Zealand. We are confident that if you properly assess our claims for asylum you will find that we are genuine refugees,” the letter reads.

“We promise to commit ourselves to helping build New Zealand and will work towards making it one of the best countries in the world. We sincerely request that you allow us to come to New Zealand.”

In the letter, the asylum seekers say they don’t feel safe in Papua New Guinea are in “constant fear” of their lives.

“We are routinely attacked and robbed when we go into Lorengau town. We are not welcome in this country and have no place in it.”


They also mention the death of Reza Barati at the Manus Island detention centre in February 2014 – which left them “traumatised”, as well as this year’s Good Friday incident where gun shots were fired into the centre.

“Luckily none of us was killed but many people were nearly hit by bullets coming through the walls into their rooms … We are not protected by the Australian government who brought us here or the PNG government who have been given responsibility for our welfare.

“After the attack in 2014 many of us lost confidence in the refugee assessment process and did not continue with it.”

In April 2016, PNG’s Supreme Court ruled the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island as illegal, with asylum seekers notified they will be asked to leave the centre in the coming months.

“On 15 May 2017 we were told that the Manus Island camp is to close and that those without refugee status would be returned to their home countries, abandoned in PNG or moved ‘to a third country where you have a right to reside’.”

While United States officials have been on Manus Island assessing refugees as part of a deal brokered between Australia and the US.


Tiger has no plans to retire, ‘no hurry’ to return either

“I want to say unequivocally, I want to play professional golf again,” Woods, commenting for the first time since his surgery, said on his website (tigerwoods.



“Presently, I’m not looking ahead. I can’t twist for another two and a half to three months. Right now, my sole focus is rehab and doing what the doctors tell me. I am concentrating on short-term goals.”

Woods, second on the all-time list with 14 major titles, has played sparingly since returning to golf in December after a 16-month layoff following back surgery.

He missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and withdrew from a European Tour event in Dubai after a first-round 77.

Woods only decided on surgery because he could no longer live with the pain, adding that even lying down hurt and that he tried every possible non-surgical route but nothing worked.


He said the fusion surgery provided instant nerve relief.

“I haven’t felt this good in years,” said Woods, a 79-times winner on the PGA Tour.

“My surgeon and physiotherapist say the operation was successful. It’s just a matter of not screwing up and letting it fuse.

“I’m walking and doing my exercises, and taking my kids to and from school. All I can do is take it day-by-day. There’s no hurry.”

Woods also said he did everything he could to play in last month’s U.S. Masters, where he has not competed since 2015, but that the pain was too great.

“The pain was post-impact when I swung the club. I figured, ‘Can I handle it?’ This time the answer was, ‘Probably not.’ That shows the effect nerve pain can have,” said Woods, a four-time Masters champion.

“Obviously, it was a huge disappointment not to play. I hate to miss any major, especially the Masters, but the reality is I just couldn’t play.”

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Chinese outrage after international student praises US democracy

What began as a graduation speech at the University of Maryland has turned into an international social media storm.


Graduating student Yang Shuping gave a commencement speech in which she praised America’s support of critical thinking and freedom of expression.

Ms Shuping recalled the first day she stepped off a plane in America and was surprised by how clean the air was, something she said she was not used to in her home city of Kunming in China’s south.

In her speech she used fresh air as a metaphor for the way she felt about America’s focus on personal liberty and freedom, contrasting her experience in the US to the oppression she felt growing up in China’s stifling political climate.

Related reading

“I used to believe that one individual’s participation could not make a difference,” Ms Shuping said.

“I have the opportunity to speak freely here, my voice matters, your voice matters – our voices matter.”

“Democracy and free speech should not be taken for granted, democracy and freedom are the fresh air that is worth fighting for.”

“Together we can push our society to be more just, open and peaceful.”

The speech drew applause and cheers from the packed university hall, but also triggered a swift backlash from mainland China and other Chinese students at the university. 

Social media users criticised Ms Shuping’s assessment of Chinese air quality, calling her a “liar” and “devious”.

I can’t understand Yang Shuping’s words about the air of KunMing.Kun Ming is one of the cleanest cities in china. pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/5UDDZSDQj0

— 王夕兮 (@bu1fIX41Jt6AlyJ) May 22, 2017

Her home town of Kunming, which is known as one of China’s least polluted cities, also posted on Weibo upholding their “fresh and sweet” air.

The University of Maryland said in a statement that they “proudly support” Ms Shuping’s speech.

“Listening to and respectfully engaging with those whom we disagree are essential skills, both within university walls and beyond,” the institution said.

But Ms Shuping herself has publicly apologised on social media, saying she didn’t aim to insult her country and was “sincerely sorry for the speech” and hoped to be “forgiven”.Related:


This incident comes after concerns in Australia over Chinese influence in higher education institutions.

Just this month, Monash University came under fire when it suspended a lecturer after a Chinese student complained that a quiz implied China’s officials only told the truth while drunk. 

After seeing the post on Wechat the Chinese consulate became involved, encouraging Monash to investigate.

Earlier this year, Professor Chongyi Feng from the University of Technology Sydney, an Australian permanent travelling on a Chinese passport, was blocked from leaving China following his research on human rights issues.

Professor Feng was a known critic of the Chinese Communist Party, but was released several days later with little explanation.

The incidents have raised questions about how educational institutions deal with Chinese political sensitivities while relying on the country’s students for international student fees. 

More than a quarter of Australia’s 480,000 international students are Chinese.