California airline passenger ‘stunned’ that he was asked to move seats on a flight because of his prosthetic leg
A California man traveling through China was forced to move seats on an airplane when a crew member questioned if his prosthetic leg was functional, reports ABC 7. Tim Seward, 31, was flying from Beijing, China, to Seoul in South Korea with Asiana Airlines sitting in the exit seat on the airplane. A cabin crew member approached Seward and told him he had to move because he couldn t prove whether or not he would be able to use his leg properly in the case of an emergency. He told Seward, I cannot prove if your leg is functional. Seward had paid extra money to get an exit row seat because of the extra leg room the seat provides. The seat requires the passenger sitting next to it to be physically able to open the emergency door in the event of a crash landing.
The industrial designer said that he is more capable than most people physically. He was even a professional skater in his 20 s. When the crew member asked him to move, Seward asked him so the company told you to move a disabled person because in this seat according to your policy you do not allow a disabled person to sit in this seat because I wear a prosthetic leg? He filmed the incident on his cellphone.
Seward demanded to speak to the cabin manager but was instead brought three security guards to escort him to another seat. He said they threatened to kick him off the plane if he didn t move seats.
It caught me off-guard completely. Even with everything that s happening on flights these days I couldn t believe what happened and that I am the one having to deal with it.
[Feature photo: Facebook]
By MATTHEW BROWN, The Associated Press
BEIJING China appears to be laying the groundwork for the mass collection of DNA samples from residents of a restive, largely Muslim region that’s been under a security crackdown, rights observers and independent experts said Tuesday. Police in western China’s Xinjiang region confirmed to The AP that they are in the process of purchasing at least $8.7 million in equipment to analyze DNA samples. Observers from Human Rights Watch said they’ve seen evidence of almost $3 million in additional purchases related to DNA testing. They warned such a collection program could be used as a way for authorities to beef up their political control. The move comes after Chinese authorities last year reportedly required Xinjiang residents to submit DNA samples, fingerprints and voice records to obtain passports or travel abroad.
Xinjiang borders several unstable Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan. It’s experienced numerous bombings and vehicle and knife attacks blamed on ethnic separatists from the native Uighur Islamic minority. In one of the most recent attacks, eight people, including three assailants, were killed in a February knife attack in southern Xinjiang’s Pishan County, which borders Pakistan. Chinese authorities seeking to counter religious extremism among the Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) have taken increasingly aggressive steps to quell the unrest. Those have included mandatory satellite tracking systems for vehicles in some areas, rewards for terror-related tips and prohibitions against women wearing veils and men growing beards. The purchases of DNA testing equipment in Xinjiang were confirmed by an official at the regional Public Security Bureau. The official said a supplier already had been found. In Xinjiang’s Sheche County, suppliers were being sought for voiceprint collection systems and 3-D portrait systems, according to another security official, who declined to give further details.
If used at full capacity, the new equipment could be used to profile up to 10,000 DNA samples a day and several million a year, said Yves Moreau, a computational biologist specializing in genome analysis and DNA privacy at the University of Leuven in Belgium. The scale of the purchases raises “a legitimate concern that Chinese authorities could be planning to DNA profile a large fraction, or even all” of the Uighur people in Xinjiang, Moreau said. Since it started collecting DNA profiles in 1989, China has amassed the unique genetic information on more than 40 million people, constituting the world’s largest DNA database, according to a study last year by forensic researchers at the China Ministry of Public Security. Unlike many other countries, China lacks legal protections to guard people’s privacy and prevent their genetic information from being misused, said Helen Wallace, founder of the British group GeneWatch.
“Xinjiang is already an oppressive region with a high level of surveillance,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Maya Wang. “To collect even more information on a mass scale unrelated to criminal investigation opens the door for an even greater level of surveillance and control.”
Government-sponsored DNA databases compile the genetic markers present in each individual, typically from blood, saliva or hair samples. They’re used by law enforcement agencies around the globe as evidence in criminal prosecutions and to monitor prior offenders. In the United States, where laws generally limit DNA collection to people who have been arrested, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has 12.8 million offenders in its DNA database, according to the agency. That’s almost 4 percent of the total U.S. population. The United Kingdom has 5.2 million people in its database, or about 8 percent of its population, according the British government. China’s database now covers about 3 percent of its population. It’s been used by authorities to reunite abducted children with their parents. It was also used in a highly publicized case last year to help track down a serial killer who authorities said admitted to the murders of 11 women and girls over a 14-year period.
“It’s clear there’s a fairly large infrastructure being built for DNA collection and they’re planning to expand that further,” Wallace said. “I would like to see China put their legal database on clear legal footing. That includes the kinds of safeguards we see in other countries.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping said Friday he’s willing to help ties with South Korea return to a “normal track” amid a rift over Seoul’s deployment of a high-tech U.S. missile-defense system to guard against North Korean threats. Xi’s remarks came in a meeting with South Korean special envoy Lee Hae-chan, who was dispatched to Beijing by new President Moon Jae-in on a mission to reopen contacts and seek a way out of the current impasse that has hit South Korean businesses hard. China “is committed to resolving any issues through dialogue and coordination, which is in the fundamental interests of both countries and the region,” Xi was quoted as saying by China’s official Xinhua News Agency.
Earlier in the day, Lee met with State Councilor Yang Jiechi, Xi’s senior foreign policy adviser, and on Thursday with Foreign Minister Wang Yi. They were believed to have held talks on prospects for containing North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons activities as well as the economic fallout over the deployment in South Korea of the U.S. missile defense system called THAAD. It wasn’t clear if THAAD came up in Xi’s talks with Lee, during which the Chinese leader sat at the head of the table in a manner usually reserved for meetings with lower-ranking Chinese officials. However, Lee was quoted by Xinhua as saying that South Korea “understood China’s major concerns and was ready to strengthen coordination with China to remove any obstacles to the development of bilateral ties.”
Lee earlier said Moon had sent him to China to keep communications open “at a critical time.”
Seoul and Washington have argued that the missile system is aimed at North Korean aggression, while China sees it as a threat to its own security because its radar can peer deep into northeastern China. China is North Korea’s biggest economic partner and source of diplomatic support and has come under heavy pressure to use its influence to rein in the North’s missile and nuclear activities.
China says its influence has been exaggerated and has called on South Korea and the U.S. to end large-scale wargames seen as threatening by North Korea in exchange for the North suspending its missile launches and nuclear tests. Beijing has retaliated against Seoul over THAAD by suspending visits to South Korea by Chinese tour groups and trips to China by South Korean entertainers. South Korean businesses have faced boycotts, especially the retail group Lotte which provided the land on which the missile shield is being constructed. Wang on Thursday reiterated calls for its dismantling.
“We’re now at a crossroads in our relations,” Wang told Lee as he urged the new South Korean administration to make a decision to “remove the obstacles” that stand in the way of healthy ties between the two Asian economic powerhouses.
In recent weeks Beijing and Seoul have signaled a desire to repair relations following the election of Moon, who has taken a friendlier stance toward China than his conservative predecessor. Although he has sometimes criticized the THAAD deployment, Moon has not said he will remove it.
When Xi called Moon last week to congratulate him on his election, Moon reportedly asked Xi for help in ending the economic retaliation that has taken a toll on South Korean businesses.
Beijing has maintained its hard line, and in an editorial Thursday, the Communist Party newspaper Global Times said China’s opposition “cannot be traded for the new government’s friendly posture toward China.”
“Stopping the deployment of THAAD is the bottom line of China,” the newspaper said. “Seoul needs to make a choice between deploying THAAD and resuming Sino-South Korean relations. It should not hope to have it both ways.”