South Korea US Envoy Mustache

Protesters stage a rally to denounce a recent U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris's briefing near the U.S. embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. Harris has some unusual explanations for the harsh criticism he's faced in his host country. His mustache, maybe? Or a Japanese ancestry that raises unpleasant reminders of Japan's former colonial domination of Korea? The sign reads "Exile colonial governor Harris." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Personal contact spreads Chinese coronavirus

BEIJING (AP) — The head of a Chinese government expert team said Monday that human-to-human transmission has been confirmed in an outbreak of a new coronavirus, a development that raises the possibility that it could spread more quickly and widely.

Team leader Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert, said two people in Guangdong province in southern China caught the virus from family members, state media said. Some medical workers have also tested positive for the virus, the English-language China Daily newspaper reported.

The late-night announcement capped a day in which authorities announced a sharp uptick in the number of confirmed cases to more than 200, and China’s leader called on the government to take every possible step to combat the outbreak.

“The recent outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan and other places must be taken seriously,” President Xi Jinping said in his first public statement on the crisis. “Party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels should put people’s lives and health first.”

Xi’s remarks were reported by state broadcaster CCTV on its main 7 p.m. evening news broadcast.

In Geneva, the World Health Organization announced it would convene an Emergency Committee meeting on Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak warrants being declared a global health crisis.

Such declarations are typically made for epidemics of severe diseases that threaten to cross borders and require an internationally coordinated response. Previous global emergencies have been declared for crises including the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo, the emergence of Zika virus in the Americas in 2016 and the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014.

The spread of the viral pneumonia comes as the country enters its busiest travel period, when millions board trains and planes for the Lunar New Year holidays. The outbreak is believed to have started late last month when people picked it up at a fresh food market in Wuhan, a city in central China.

Wuhan health authorities said Monday an additional 136 cases have been confirmed in the city, raising the total to 198. Three have died.

Authorities elsewhere also announced cases in other Chinese cities for the first time.

Five individuals in Beijing and 14 in Guangdong have also been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, CCTV reported Monday evening. A total of seven suspected cases have been found in other parts of the country, including in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in the southwest and in Shanghai.

Zhong said the two people in Guangdong had not been to Wuhan but fell ill after family members had returned from the city, the China Daily said.

Migrants ford Guatemalan Suchiate River

TECUN UMAN, Guatemala (AP) — Hundreds of Central American migrants began crossing the Suchiate River into southern Mexico Monday in a new test of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Central America strategy to keep them away from the U.S. border.

The migrants moved off the border bridge and toward the river after Mexican officials told them they would not be granted passage through the country.

With a letter copied to the “migrants located on the border bridge,” Mexican officials rejected migrants’demands to cross freeely through Mexico. But the letter relayed by an official of Mexico’s immigration agency restated the Mexican government’s position that the migrants would be allowed to enter in orderly fashion.

Edwin Chavez, a 19-year-old from Tegucigalpa, said, “By river, that’s the way it will be.”

“There’s no fear,” Chavez said. “We’re already used to repression. In your country they repress you, they hit you. It’s always like that.”

Amid shouts and even some fireworks they began wading across the shallow river.

Earlier, a migrant who refused to give his name stood near the shuttered gates on the bridge over the Suchiate River and read an open letter from the group to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

“We have come peacefully to try to start a dialogue with the government, in order to reach an agreement in which all the members of the caravan will be allowed permission to freely pass through Mexican territory,” he read.

Trump has forced asylum seekers to remain in Mexico, or apply in Central American countries, effectively removing one of the escape valves for previous caravans.

Monday’s standoff was a contrast to Saturday, when Mexican troops scuffled with some migrants and slammed the gate shut as hundreds of others pressed forward in an effort to start new lives in the United States.

Denis Contreras, a Honduran making a second try at reaching the U.S., laid out the plan Sunday night to his fellow migrants marooned in this Guatemalan border town: First the men will go, then the families and the women traveling alone with children.

Contreras, the pint-sized Honduran leading Monday’s charge, said he won’t give up. He was already denied political asylum and deported from San Diego, California. But if he returns to Honduras, he said, criminal gangs will kill him or his family.

Around him, hundreds of migrants chanted: “Here we are, and we’re not going anywhere, and if you throw us out, we’ll return!”

Mexico has stepped up efforts to prevent migrants from reaching their desired final destination — the U.S. — under threat of trade and other sanctions from President Donald Trump.

After two caravans successfully reached the U.S. border in 2018 and early 2019, Mexico began cracking down, and by April 2019 raided the last attempt at a caravan, rounding up migrants as they walked down a highway.

Huawei exec faces extradition hearing in Canada

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The first stage of an extradition hearing for a senior executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei begins Monday in a Vancouver courtroom, a case that has infuriated Beijing, caused a diplomatic uproar between China and Canada and complicated trade talks between China and the United States.

Canada’s arrest of chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s legendary founder, in late 2018 at America’s request shocked Beijing.

Huawei represents China’s progress in becoming a technological power and has been a subject of U.S. security concerns for years. Beijing views Meng’s case as an attempt to contain China’s rise.

China’s foreign ministry complained Monday the United States and Canada were violating Meng’s rights and called for her release.

“It is completely a serious political incident,” said a ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang. He urged Canada to “correct mistakes with concrete actions, release Ms. Meng Wanzhou and let her return safely as soon as possible.”

Washington accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It says Meng, 47, committed fraud by misleading the HSBC bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

Meng, who is free on bail and living in one of the two Vancouver mansions she owns, left her home dressed in a black dress and black coat in a black SUV surrounded by security. She waved at reporters as she arrived at court.

Meng denies the allegations. Her defense team says comments by President Donald Trump suggest the case against her is politically motivated.

Meng was detained in December 2018 in Vancouver as she was changing flights — on the same day that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for trade talks.

Prosecutors have stressed that Meng’s case is separate from the wider China-U.S. trade dispute, but Trump undercut that message weeks after her arrest when he said he would consider intervening in the case if it would help forge a trade deal with Beijing.