China's Ministry of Justice on Friday began soliciting public opinions on a draft law aiming to promote the country's cultural industry.
According to an introduction to the draft law, legislation is needed to help tackle the challenges facing China's emerging cultural industry in terms of supply, structure and enterprise development, among others.
The draft states that the country encourages and supports the production of quality cultural works such as those dedicated to promoting core socialist values and Chinese culture, the innovation of cultural expressions and the protection of the lawful interests of practitioners in cultural sectors.
The draft stipulates that the country shall establish a financial service system for the industry and improve relevant mechanisms under which the development of the cultural industry is backed by financial support. Preferential tax policies shall be put in place to boost the growth of the industry.
With regard to the development of the cultural market, the draft makes it clear that the country will establish a credit system and form an incentive and punishment mechanism in a bid to maintain market order.
Authorities in Pakistan's capital Islamabad on Friday temporarily closed a major university following overnight armed clashes between rival groups that left one student dead and and several others wounded.
Police said the decision to close the International Islamic University was made by university administrators to avoid more clashes.
Authorities have deployed additional police to the campus to avoid further violence.
The decision came after clashes Thursday night in which both sides used batons and guns, spreading panic among students and prompting parents to ask their children to leave the hostels at the campus for their safety.
Police said the fighting was sparked when two groups of students disagreed over the organizing of a book exhibition. But the melee came amid a broader campaign by students across the country to lift a decades-long ban on peaceful political activities at educational institutions.
Slain student Syed Tufail belonged to the student wing of a radical Islamic party.
Hong Kong's much-maligned police force has slipped on a banana peel by trying to make light of its liberal use of tear gas during the territory's protest movement.
Mimicking an artist who duct-taped a banana to a wall, the force tweeted a photo of a canister similarly taped, with the words: "Say NO to violence. Let's leave the tear gas cartridge on the wall forever."
"For a Police officer, using force, including tear gas, is always the last resort. If rioters don't use violence, Hong Kong will be safe and there's no reason for us to use force," the post on its Twitter account said.
Respondents to the post called it crass. Some, in turn, posted videos of Hong Kong police officers' use of gas and other riot control measures, which protesters say have been excessively violent.
The police force has fired nearly 16,000 tear gas rounds and made more than 6,000 arrests during the six months of pro-democracy demonstrations that have at times been marked by violent clashes and vandalism of government buildings, transit hubs and commercial spaces.
The protesters' demands include an independent investigation of police actions, amnesty for protesters who have been arrested and retraction of the description of protesters as "rioters." They say the label characterizes peaceful demonstrators as criminals who could face long imprisonments.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has refused to meet those demands, saying an internal police investigation is sufficient and that dropping criminal cases against the protesters would not follow the rule of law.
The police watchdog agency that is investigating suffered a blow this week when foreign experts it recruited to bolster the credibility of its work quit, saying its probe lacked the powers and tools it needs.
The police force's make-light tweet about tear gas initially included a "Bananaart" hashtag, but that was then deleted. The force then reposted its tweet without it.
The hashtag referred to a talked-about artwork from artist Maurizio Cattelan that stole the show at Art Basel Miami. Titled "Comedian," it was a spotty banana duct-taped to a wall.
Despite online incredulity, the police force stuck by its tweet.
"Police respect the public's freedoms of expression and welcome public's feedback for further constructive discussion," it said in response to an Associated Press question about the reaction.
Policing the protests has stretched the force's resources. The government said in a briefing paper for a legislative meeting Friday that the bill for police overtime from June, when the mass demonstrations began, to November was about 950 million Hong Kong dollars (US$122 million).
"More than 900 protests, processions and public meetings have been staged in Hong Kong, many of which eventually turned into illegal acts of violence," the government note said. "During the ongoing conflicts in the past few months, front-line police officers had to handle massive and unlawful violent acts in various districts on the one hand, and to maintain regular police duties and public services in the territory on the other."
Courts are being kept busy, too. A 13-year-old girl was sentenced Friday to one year of probation for burning China's flag at a protest in September, her lawyer, Douglas Kwok, said. The court also sentenced to her an overnight curfew between the hours of 7 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., he said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday postponed traveling for a summit with India's leader in the violence-wracked northeast, where two people were killed in ongoing protests over a new law that grants citizenship based on religion and excludes Muslims.
Thousands of protesters began a hunger strike in Gauhati, the capital of India's northeastern state of Assam, the morning after rioters defied an overnight curfew and police fatally shot two demonstrators.
Abe was scheduled to travel to Assam and Manipur states on Sunday for a three-day trip to discuss security and economic ties with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Both sides have decided to defer the visit," Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in a statement.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga had earlier told reporters in Tokyo that security was being assessed.
Violence in Assam has been raging since late Wednesday, when India's upper house of Parliament passed the citizenship bill.
Indian police had to escort an advance team of Japanese security officials to their hotel on Thursday as protesters uprooted telephone poles, set buses and other vehicles on fire and attacked homes of officials from Modi's governing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Authorities relaxed the curfew for six hours on Friday in parts of Assam but shut schools until next week.
The protesters in Assam oppose the legislation out of concern that migrants will move to the border region and dilute the culture and political sway of those who already live there.
The new citizenship act, which the ceremonial president signed into law late Thursday, will grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh because of religious persecution before 2015. It does not, however, extend to Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar.
Critics have said the law violates India's secular constitution.
Challenges have already been filed with the Supreme Court.
Home Minister Amit Shah rejected criticism the legislation was anti-Muslim, saying it did not affect the existing path to citizenship available to all communities.
Bangladesh's foreign minister postponed a scheduled trip to India on Thursday for reasons Kumar said were unrelated to the citizenship bill.
Protesters in Hong Kong wrote hundreds of Christmas cards on Thursday for people jailed in the city's pro-democracy movement, promising they won't be forgotten as they face spending the festive season behind bars.
"Please know that u are not alone," said one of the cards, a sentiment expressed by many. "We will NEVER forget u."
Police have made more than 6,000 arrests during the six months of protests. The cards are destined for those who have been denied bail. Organizers said they will be delivered via defendants' lawyers and lawmakers. Protesters said they believe dozens of people arrested during the movement could remain in jail during the holidays.
"We love you! We wait you! We support you!" said another of the cards.
Organizers said they handed out some 2,000 cards at a rally attended by hundreds of people Thursday night marking the half-year mark for the protest movement that has convulsed the semi-autonomous city.
The protesters gathered amid the skyscrapers of central Hong Kong's business district, some of them lit up in festive Christmas-season lighting. Those who filled out cards did so quietly, lost in their thoughts, and addressed detainees as "brothers and sisters in arms."
"We are inseparable and we are like one body," said one of the organizers. Like many protesters who are fearful of repercussions from their activism, she gave just a first name, Emma.
"Most people are writing: 'We care about you and we would like to wait for you,'" she said.
Another organizer, Vivica, said: "It's Christmas. Everybody is happy outside and we are enjoying freedom (but) freedom is not for granted. The price is being paid by someone else who is now in prison."
Many of the demonstrators came from work to join the evening "United We Stand" protest. They chanted "Hong Kong people, revenge!" in anger at police use of tear gas and widespread arrests during the mass demonstrations that erupted in June.
Office worker Judy Leung said she protests every week, in part because attending rallies sustains her morale for a long battle.
"Maybe our bodies are tired but our hearts are not," she said. "We give power to each other so we can carry on."
As she spoke, another protester, a stranger, came up with a packet of cookies and asked if she wanted one.
"This is how society should be," Leung said. "We share our love."
The rally came before Hong Kong's leader, Carrie Lam, travels to Beijing this weekend to report to Communist Party leaders.
Protesters said they don't expect that trip will produce any concessions to their demands. They're pushing for full elections, a probe of police actions and amnesty for those who have been arrested.
"She just listens to what her Beijing bosses tell her to do," protester Fergie Chan, a shipping industry worker, said of Lam. "I have a feeling that we might be in a very long fight. That's why we're still out after six months."