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Earth Day Summit Yields Global Pledges to Reduce Emissions; COVID Surge Devastates India's Healthcare System; Search Intensifies for Missing Indonesian Submarine; China Responds to CNN Report on Separated Uyghur Families. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 23, 2021 - 00:00   ET


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, I'm John Vause. And coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, America's do-over on climate. President Biden announcing an ambitious goal to drastically reduce CO2 emissions, but no such commitment from the world's other big carbon polluters, China and India.


Indonesia's missing submarine could be resting on the ocean floor 700 meters below the surface and with less than 24 hours of oxygen.


VISHWAROOP SHARMA, FATHER DIED OF COVID-19: He knew he was going to die. He was saying, I'm going -- I won't be able to breathe. I need something, I need -- I need more medicine. But nothing is provided to him. And he died in front of me, in front of my eyes.


VAUSE: No beds, no oxygen, no help. And for many, the harsh reality of India's COVID crisis now means no hope.

A restart in international efforts to fight climate change. During a virtual global summit, a number of world leaders promised big cuts in carbon emissions driving global warming. And notably, for the first time in four years, the U.S. took a leading role in addressing the crisis, which President Joe Biden said was a moral imperative.

Day two of the summit, hosted by the White House, will begin in the coming hours. On day one, President Biden made a bold commitment to cut America's greenhouse gas emissions by half by the end of the decade.

Japan's prime minister announced a goal of 46 percent reductions within 2 decades. And President Xi Jinping of China, the world's biggest producer of CO2 gases, is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2060. Canada is the only G-7 country where carbon emissions have increased since the Paris Accord. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised big cuts over the next 20 years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: Today, Canada is in a position to raise our climate ambition once again. Our new climate target for 2030 is to reduce our 2005 emission levels by 40 to 45 percent.


VAUSE: Even the leader of Brazil seemed to be on board, despite the unprecedented destruction of the Amazon rain forest during his time in office.


JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Accordingly, I have determined that our climate neutrality in Brazil be achieved by 2050. Therefore, bringing forward by 10 years the previously announced commitment levels. Among the measures that are required to that end, may I highlight here, our commitment to eliminate illegal deforestation in Brazil by 2030.


VAUSE: But talk is cheap, while reducing carbon emissions is not. Ending a global addiction to fossil fuels will take time, money, and commitment. And therein lies a challenge. We begin our coverage with CNN's Bill Weir.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. But the cost of inaction keeps mounting.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF ENVIRONMENTAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You could call it a renewal of American vows. And despite their massive reliance on coal, even China showed up, joining the promise to break an addiction of fuels that burn to save both life and treasure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Green mountains are gold mountains. To protect the environment is to protect productivity.

WEIR: Yes, promises are just promises. But considering that the last four Earth Days came under a president who refused to even acknowledge the emergency --

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're at the cleanest we've ever been.

WEIR: -- those who trust the science, have fresh hope.

JOHN OPPERMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EARTH DAY INITIATIVE: The environmental movement and the climate community is really hopeful but very anxious about where we go from here.

WEIR: Even as the pandemic forces virtual rallies with avatars on screens instead of protests in the streets, and the Capitol lockdown prevents the kind of sunrise movement sit-ins that forced the promise of a Green New Deal --




WEIR: -- there are worries that members of Congress and corporate greed will get in the way of transforming every sector of the economy.

OPPERMAN: People are concerned that we're just not taking it seriously. And whatever gets proposed, history tells us will likely get watered down.

WEIR: There are actual very smart people at Harvard, considering what is called solar geo engineering to mimic volcanoes, to send sorties of airplanes or balloons or rockets to basically try to dim the sun with various substances. What do you think of that idea?


GAVIN SCHMIDT, ACTING HEAD OF CLIMATE SCIENCE, NASA: As a scientist, I think that's an interesting process. And like it mimics what we see with the volcanoes, and you think, OK, well, that could work. And then, as a citizen, right, so it's my other hat, I'm thinking, no. This is -- this is a terrible, terrible idea.

WEIR (voice-over): As part of this effort to inject climate science into every department in government, President Biden recently made Gavin Schmidt the acting head of climate science at NASA, where they not only measure planet-cooking pollution in the sky but are now using their tools on everything from wind-farm planning to carbon-free aviation.

SCHMIDT: For the first time since I've been working on this, people are talking about solutions and reactions that are commensurate with the size of the problem. You know, it's not, oh, well, let's just recycle our plastic straws. You know, people are talking about, you know, seriously about how we -- how we cut emissions. And personally, that gives me optimism.

WEIR: So on the 51st Earth Day, it seems like the age of denial is finally becoming the age of cost/benefit analysis and action. And for a young activist like Xiye Bastida, who closed out the morning session, it's about time.

XIYE BASTIDA, CLIMATE ACTIVIST, FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE: You are the ones waiting on finding loopholes in your own legislation, the solutions, policies, and agreements. You are the naive ones, if you think we can survive this crisis in the current way of living.

WEIR: Biden's pledge success will come down to how many around the world understand the enormous cost of doing nothing.

Bill Weir, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: Fred Krupp is president of the Environmental Defense Fund and is with us this hour from Norwalk in Connecticut.

Mr. Krupp, thanks for taking the time. Good to see you.


VAUSE: OK. The big headline from day one of this two-day summit is the U.S. commitment to reduce emissions by more than 50 percent by the end of the decade. Many saw that as a clear sign the U.S. is again serious about taking on the climate crisis. One of those people, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Here she is.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMANY CHANCELLOR (through translator): I'm delighted to see the United States is back and is back to work together with us in climate politics, because there can be no doubt about the world needing your contribution if we really want to fulfill our ambitious goals. And the national contribution of the United States for 2030 is a clear illustration of your ambitions. It is a very clear and important message to the international community.


VAUSE: OK, so given the Trump administration not only refused to act on climate change, but implemented policies which made the problem worse. Is this current administration, the Biden administration, is it on track to make up for those lost four Trump years? Is this 50 percent cut in emissions enough to begin with?

KRUPP: Well, we can never make up for the time we've lost, because the climate crisis is, you know, so urgent. But yes, it's a breath of fresh air to have Biden and the team in there. And they've had a great first hundred days, and certainly, this commitment is one we're very pleased about. It is ambitious enough. And now the question is they've got to have a great next hundred days to begin to detail how they're going to achieve it.

VAUSE: And that's the rub. The devil's in the detail, you know, often with these sort of things. But while Biden was outlying specific goals, at the same time China and India were not, which means that you now have a situation with two of the three biggest carbon polluters on the planet are yet to commit to a reduction target. That's a point which is not lost on the critics who are opposed to spending trillions of dollars on this climate crisis. One of those, Senator Lindsey Graham. Here he is.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I believe climate change is real. I believe the Green New Deal is a terrible deal for the United States. You can't really solve the problem unless India and China are involved.


VAUSE: So, is he right when it comes to India and China? They need to be involved and steadfastly involved with goals and targets? How -- if they're not, how does that complicate the overall global effort?

KRUPP: Well, absolutely. You know, China is the world's biggest emitter, bigger than the United States and India's coming on fast.

But China is involved. They have begun to act. They've pledged, in this agreement, or today, for the first time, to really limit their coal burning over the next five years.

But we'd like to see more. We need concrete action so that they stop financing the countries around them, noting coal power plants in the Belt and Road Initiative. And we need them to set an ambitious goal for 2035, part of President Xi's Beautiful China Initiative. It needs to be stronger.

India, on the other hand, has a very ambitious renewable energy target. We need them to implement it.

VAUSE: Yes. I guess how important, though, is it, just having the U.S. as the leader in this, as setting out those goals, setting out those targets, and taking the lead?


KRUPP: It's so important. You know, all the countries in the world want the applause of the world, and without the U.S. in the game, there was a very low bar. You know, now, with the U.S. back in the game, we can resume having a race to the top. And so Biden's leadership here and how that sets off that race to the top is critically important.

VAUSE: There are those who still argue that the economic cost of green energy is just too high compared to fossil fuels. And it's part -- here's part of an opinion piece that was in "The New York Post."

"Biden told us that his climate policy would make Americans more prosperous. That is implausible. If climate policies really were making us richer, everyone would scramble to shed fossil fuels and pile on the renewables. And there's a certain childlike logic to that claim, but I want you to listen to the British prime minister, the conservative prime minister, Boris Johnson, who refutes that. Here he is.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We can build back better from this pandemic by building back greener. And don't forget that the U.K. - the U.K. has been able to cut our own CO2 emissions by about 42 percent on 1990 levels, and we've seen our economy grow by 73 percent. You can do both at once.

Cake, have, eat is my message to you.


VAUSE: Cake, have, eat. It's not a bad message. But moving forward, are you experiencing much opposition, you know, from the fossil fuel industry, from conservative politicians, climate skeptics? Are you concerned they could derail global efforts at some point?

KRUPP: Well, absolutely there are opponents to taking action. There's vested interest, no doubt.

But Boris Johnson is right. And I had dinner with him many years ago, and he was already very good on the climate issue. And since then, just in the last 10 years, we've seen the cost of solar energy go down 90 percent. Wind power, 75 percent. Battery storage has gone down in the last 10 years and cost 85 percent.

So while that "New York Post" editorial might have been right, you know, years ago, it's way outdated. To make this transition, we can create a lot of jobs.

And frankly, if we aren't making those electric cars here, because they're better, consumers like them better. In a few years, they're not only going to be cheaper to run and fuel, as they already are. But they're going to be cheaper to buy.

If we're not making those cars here, we're going to be importing them, you know, from -- from Asia and from Europe. So getting on with this transition is going to be good for climate. But it's going to be good for people. It's going to make their lives better with more economic prosperity here in the United States. And also, just cleaner air in our communities.

VAUSE: Cake, have, eat. Fred Krupp, thank you for being with us.

KRUPP: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Please join CNN for a special town hall on climate change. Senator Biden's administration officials will answer questions on how the president plans to remake U.S. climate policy and combat global warming. That's Friday night, 10 p.m. in New York, 10 a.m. Saturday in Hong Kong.

Five doctors treating Alexei Navalny have urged the jailed opposition leader to immediately end his weekslong hunger strike. After Navalny was taken to a civilian hospital on Tuesday, his doctors published a joint letter, saying he received something like an independent assessment by the area's top kidney and urology experts. But Navalny's own doctors are yet to examine him.

Thousands protested nationwide on Wednesday, demanding Navalny's release. And according to one watchdog group, nearly 1,900 demonstrators were detained by the authorities.

Well, after weeks of tension along the border with Ukraine, Russia is ordering troops back to barracks. The defense minister continues to say the exercise was a snap military inspection. It was also the largest build-up of troops near the Ukraine border since 2014. That's when Russian annexed Crimea.

India continues to battle a search in the coronavirus like no other country has seen. The nation reported nearly 315,000 new cases on Thursday. That's the world's highest daily increase for one country in cases since the pandemic began.

Crematoriums are struggling to keep up with a rising death toll. This as the country's health system is quickly reaching breaking point. Hospital beds are filling, and oxygen running low nationwide. The government has now banned the supply of oxygen for industrial use.

It's a crisis that's leaving many families with nowhere to turn. Healthcare officials warn the numbers we're seeing could get worse.

Details now from CNN's Anna Coren.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-two-year-old Vishwaroop Sharma believes he is living in hell. Three days ago, he drove his critically-ill father, who contracted COVID, to a Delhi hospital and pleaded for help. With no beds, no oxygen, they were forced to wait outside, Sharma rubbing his father's back, trying to offer reassuring words, but no help came.


SHARMA: He knew he was going to die. He was saying, I'm going -- I won't be able to breathe. I need something, I need -- I need more medicine. But nothing is provided to him. And he died in front of me, in front of my eyes.

COREN: Sharma told CNN he returned home to find his mother, now a widow, struggling to breathe. She, too, had contracted the deadly virus.

With the help of friends, he purchases an oxygen cylinder on the black market. And for the next few days, he drives from hospital to hospital with his mother in the backseat, breathing through an oxygen mask. Finally, he finds an available bed at a hospital 100 kilometers away.

SHARMA: She was controlling me that don't be worried. I'll be back. I'll be back. Don't worry. If God is with us, I'll be back.

COREN: India is facing a second wave that's turned into a tsunami, catching the nation's government completely off-guard that failed to stockpile or prepare for this moment.

On Thursday, the country reported almost 315,000 new COVID cases and more than 2,100 deaths, the highest number of daily infections, and deaths, ever recorded in any country since the pandemic began. And medical experts say that number is only going to rise.

DR. SRINATH REDDY, PRESIDENT, PUBLIC HEALTH FOUNDATION OF INDIA: Given the number of infections we already have, and the people that might have already been infected, I do not expect the case count to go down for three or four weeks, and the death count to go down, until at least two to three weeks thereafter.

COREN: Hospitals are at breaking point, with an acute shortage of beds and oxygen. The capital, Delhi, has less than half the required oxygen for COVID patients, despite India being one of the world's largest producers of medical and industrial oxygen.

The high court has criticized the central government's handling of the oxygen crisis, describing the shortage as ridiculous. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced measures to increase the production and supply of oxygen, but the duty of the government now falling to private citizens.

TEHSEEN POONAWALLA, ACTIVIST, TV HOST: It's a horrible situation. It's as if the government has completely abdicated its responsibility. There is no helping there. The health system has completely collapsed.

COREN: Activist and TV host Tehseen Poonawalla and his wife, Monica, are using their celebrity influence and resources to help desperate Indians source oxygen, cylinders, and hospital beds, which, they believe, shouldn't be a privilege but a fundamental right.

Thousands are appealing to them on social media, but for every 50, they say they can only manage to help one.

POONAWALLA: They call us with hope, and we can't fulfill it. It's very difficult. Imagine you have oxygen, and you don't have (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Imagine you have oxygen in the country and can't transport the oxygen. And therefore, people are dying of oxygen. It's criminal.

COREN: For Sharma, a student studying law, he knows firsthand how much his country is now suffering. As he prepares to pick up his father's remains from the crematorium, he is praying that COVID doesn't take his mother, as well.

SHARMA: I'm totally helpless, because I have -- I have lost my father just three days ago, and I've left my mom in a hospital. And I'm so helpless. I'm all alone now.

COREN: Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


VAUSE: And in western India, criminal negligence charges have been filed after an oxygen leak killed at least 22 COVID patients at a hospital in Nashik.

Well, still to come, a race against the clock to find Indonesia's missing submarine. More countries joining this search efforts as the vessel's oxygen supply dwindles.


VAUSE: Search efforts continue this hour to try and find Indonesia's missing submarine. Officials calculate, with 53 people on board, there's less than 15 hours of oxygen. The navy lost contact with the sub Wednesday during state-run military

exercises in the Strait of Bali. The sprawling search effort about to get even bigger. The U.S. pledging to send airborne assets to assist.

To Sydney now, and we're joined by Frank Owen with the Submarine Institute of Australia. He's a 30-year veteran of the Royal Australian Navy and not just a specialist in submarines but also submarine rescue.

Frank, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

FRANK OWEN, SUBMARINE INSTITUTE OF AUSTRALIA: Hello, John. Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: I don't want to sound too pessimistic here, or too harsh, but looking at the facts, what are the chances that a 44-year-old submarine, maintained by the Indonesian navy, retrofitted a decade ago with a maximum operational depth of 250 meters, and a crush depth of 500 meters, is now on the ocean floor, in one piece, 700 meters beneath an oil slick?

OWEN: Well, you've joined many of the dots that are around there, John. And it's not for me to speculate, but if I were to add the facts up, and -- and put them together, I'd come -- it wouldn't be unexpected for me to come to a similar conclusion. If I was to try and skirt around the issue.

VAUSE: Fair enough. I take your point. But let's just assume the submarine is in one piece, there's not significant damage, it's sort of operational in a way. The next challenge is time and oxygen. Here's some officials from Indonesia on that.


ADMIRAL YUDO MARGONO, INDONESIA NAVY CHIEF OF STAFF (through translator): So, the ability of KRI (ph) oxygen in a blackout condition can last for 72 hours, or three days. So that if contact is lost at 3 o'clock, so that it will last until Saturday at 3 o'clock. Until now, we still have not had contact with our submarine, KRI Nanggala, while the search has been done intensively.


VAUSE: So that 72-hour countdown began a while ago. We're now at a situation where there's probably about 15 hours of oxygen. This submarine normally has a crew of six officers, 28 enlisted, for a total complement of 34. Authorities in Indonesia say 53 people are on board, an extra 19 people. We don't know what they were doing, but if they weren't there, how much more time would the crew have before depletion of oxygen?

OWEN: Well, that's an extra 55 percent of the crew, so you'd be able to extend the -- the time of that oxygen, probably by another 30 percent. Because it's the inverse of 50.

But the reality is, you can conserve oxygen by getting people to slow down their metabolism. All those estimates are based on a standard consumption of oxygen and, of course, generation of carbon dioxide. They're the two gases that are vitally important. Either the lack of oxygen or the excess of carbon dioxide are a problem.

But the -- the Indonesian navy said they had extra on board. They've probably got extras because they're traveling the size of the submarine force, and they need to have trainees on board, to learn the art of submarining.

VAUSE: With 19 extra blokes on board on board this type of submarine, is that within the safety parameters? Is that what it's designed for?

OWEN: It's not what it's designed for, but you manage safety in various ways. It's not like an airplane that has a certain fixed number of seats for passengers. You actually can manage -- you manage your life support system in terms of the capacity of the system, to carry it, to deal with extending life, while you wait for your -- the support that might be.

The fact is, though, that this submarine is not designed to sit on the bottom and wait for rescue forces to come alone, because it doesn't have a rescue seat. So, its salvation is entirely in its own hands.


VAUSE: There was a report back in 2016, that the crew of the Nanggala did receive a submarine escape immersion equipment, NK-10 suits. Correct me if I'm wrong, but they allow survivors to escape a disabled submarine at depths down to 600 feet, at a rate of eight or more men per hour, apparently.

Six hundred feet, less than 200 meters. The sub could be at the depth of 700 meters. Would there be any other options here for the crew? If this had been an Australian navy submarine, what is the crew actually trained to do in this sort of circumstance?

OWEN: Well, the crew is still limited to 180 meters for escape. But they also have the ability to sit and wait for rescue. The submarine -- the Australian submarines have -- do have a rescue seat, so -- and the rescue system that's based in Australia regularly practices with submarines.

So they have extended life -- life-support systems, the means of posting, in many submarines, to post extra stores inside the submarine, using pressure-type pods. And those systems can keep the buck going for a while.

The challenge here is that they don't -- the ways out of that submarine are to get to the surface and abandon or to be in waterless and 180 meters.

Neither of those conditions are there. The only other thing that might be the case is that they're stuck mid-water. Because a submarine is neutrally buoyant. It doesn't sink or -- it doesn't need air or change of everything to change its depth. It actually drives itself to different depths using its hydroplane. It flies, if you like. And the -- if the submarine was stuck at, say, 150 meters, 200 meters,

and unable to propel because of an electrical failure, unable to pump because of electrical failure, but it's too deep to blow air into the ballast tanks, because the air then becomes re-compressed by the depth of water, pressure of the water.

And so, you end up with a situation where it could, it could -- and this is probably the flimsiest of hopes that I'm expressing here -- it could be sitting there, not able to go. But they also would know that people are searching for them, and they'd be able to send candles and smoke signals to the surface to say, We're here. And that hasn't happened.

VAUSE: Yes. Frank, thank you so much. Frank Owen there, in Sydney, an expert on submarine experts. And we appreciate your time, Frank. Thank you.

OWEN: You're welcome. Thank you.

VAUSE: Last month, CNN reported on children from China's Xinjiang region being forcibly being separated from their families. Now, weeks later, the Chinese government has finally responded. That's next.



VAUSE: British lawmakers have unanimously passed a motion accusing the Chinese government of genocide against Uyghur Muslims. The motion is symbolic; does not compel the U.K. government to act, though.

The Chinese government is accused of detaining up to 2 million people in camps in Xinjiang province. Survivors alleging widespread abuse.

The Chinese embassy in Britain released this response a short time ago: "The unwarranted accusation by a handful of British MPs that there is genocide in Xinjiang is the most preposterous lie of the century, an outrageous insult and an affront to the Chinese people and a gross breach of international law."

It goes on to say, "Whitewashing domestic human rights issues while at the same time staging human rights farces concerning other countries smack of sheer hypocrisy and double standards."

Meantime, China's government has now responded to a CNN investigation which shed light on a human -- humanitarian crisis. Last month, we reported on children from China's Xinjiang region who were taken from their families. Amnesty International believes policy towards ethnic Uyghur Muslims has split up thousands of families.

The U.S. and other countries have labeled China's treatment of Uyghurs genocide. You just heard Chinese authorities vehemently deny allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, claiming their actions are justified to combat religious extremism and prevent terrorism.

CNN's David Culver brings us an update now on his team's investigation.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We begin looking into this after the parents of these children reached out to us, desperate for answers, and hopeful that they might be reunited with their kids.

We took their concerns to Chinese officials throughout our news gathering effort, sending them dozens of detailed questions about the families. We didn't hear back, despite giving them ample time to reply.

Since the broadcast of our story, however, the Chinese government and state media have launched a concerted campaign to discredit our reporting and claim the parents are terrorists.

(voice-over); It's a familiar sight by now. Families of Uyghur exiles, profiled by international media, suddenly showing up on air and online in Chinese state media stories and posts. Here, 10-year-old Muhisa Mojan (ph) telling state broadcaster CGTN she's living a happy life in her grandparents' house, along with her younger brother.

(on camera): Let's try this.

(voice-over): But just days earlier, when we unexpectedly found her in Kashgar's maze-like Old Town, telling her our colleagues had interviewed her father, her reactions were quite different.

But amidst her innocence and awareness not to say too much, she told us she'd not spoken to her father since 2017.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their passport's confiscated.

CULVER: And when we asked her --

(on camera): What would you want to say if you could talk to him?

(voice-over): "I miss him," she later told me.

(on camera): Can you tell me some of what you're feeling?

(voice-over): "I don't have my mom with me right now. I don't have my dad either. I just want to be reunited with them," she told me.

We later showed Mohisa's (ph) father, Mamojana Delahin (ph), the video of our encounter with his daughter and parents in Kashgar. He watched from his home in Adelaide, Australia, overcome by grief for the years lost.

MAMOJANA DELAHIN (PH), FATHER (through translator): What kind of country does this to people, to the innocent people?

CULVER: More than a week after our story aired, in a written statement sent to CNN, the Chinese government accused Mamojana (ph) of influencing his wife with "extremist religious and violent terrorist views." China claims she returned to the country with an assignment of "encouraging others to join overseas terrorist groups."

(on camera): It's locked on the outside, so unless they're gone for the day, or they're gone permanently.

(voice-over): The authorities added that Mamojana's (ph) wife, whom we tried to track down in Kashgar, was sentenced to nine years in prison last June. The charge? Inciting ethnic hatred. CNN's request to see additional details in the court verdict was rejected.

DELAHIN (ph): My name's Mamojana Delahin (ph).

CULVER: Mamojana (ph) released a video statement in response to China's statement, calling it laughable, and again pushing for his wife to be freed.

DELAHIN (ph): My demand: for the Chinese government to release my wife, Maharma (ph), and so many other innocent Uyghurs.

CULVER: CNN's report last month also highlighted the plight of another Uyghur family living near Rome. Nihadan (ph) and Ablikan (ph) are still desperately trying to reunite with their four children.


Last year, Chinese officials stopped the kids from flying to Italy after they escaped to Shanghai. They were sent back to Xinjiang to live in a state orphanage.

After making a pass by the orphanage, we head to one of the schools to see the kids. Eventually, a local official showed up and asked for about 30 minutes to get back to us.

(on camera): It was more than two hours ago. But they've yet to let us talk to the children.

(voice-over): We later made contact with Yaha (ph) through video chat.

(on camera): Do you want to be with them? Do -- do you miss them?

(voice-over): "I do," he says. He answered quickly and kept looking off camera. Someone was directing him to answer.

"Tell them that you see your sister every day," the voice said.

(on camera): He's being coached.

(voice-over): Despite the pressure that the children face every day, they even risked sending out a photo message to their parents. The four of them lined up, holding a sign in Chinese saying, "Dad, Mom, we miss you." A rare glimpse of an uncensored truth.

Following our report, the children say a state media team went to film them at the orphanage. A video was later circulated online, showing an edited interview with the eldest sibling, Zumadian (ph), who said, "My life is colorful and happy every day." The Chinese government told CNN in a statement that the four children

are leading a normal life and attending local schools. The authorities alleged that the kid's parents had abandoned them to become key members of a violent terrorist group, but declined to provide CNN with evidence.

The Uyghur parents in Italy told us the Chinese accusations are baseless.

Their eldest boy, Yafia (ph), has since been in touch with his mother. He told her that he and his siblings have faced repeated interrogations since our attempt to visit them.

The children even try to send a handwritten note to the Chinese authorities, formally requesting to join their parents in Italy, who have secured Italian visas for them.

Their case has captured international attention since our story aired, and was brought up in Italy's parliament, where the foreign affairs undersecretary said the government is working to help the family.

Italian officials have been debating a resolution on condemning human rights violations in Xinjiang and following the U.S. and other countries in labeling China's actions as genocide.

Even with Beijing becoming increasingly forceful and pushing back criticisms of its Xinjiang policy, the parents hope that added international pressure will help them reunite with their children.

David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.


VAUSE: Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, the Oscars are this Sunday. And movie theaters at the same time struggling to survive. Looking at how one theater owner -- about this battle and how the Oscars can play a role.



VAUSE: Just two more sleeps now before Hollywood's favorite night of the year, the glitzy annual celebration of all things Hollywood. Yes, the Academy Awards is set for this Sunday.

But this year, amid the navel gazing and self-congratulations, Tinseltown might just be on a mission to save movie theaters, hit by a one-two punch of streaming services and a global pandemic.

Here's Clare Sebastian.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All those years in the big city.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Cinema Village in New York's West Village, they've been turning on the projectors every few months, just to check they're working.

Over the past year, owner Nick Nicolaou says he's exhausted his savings, burned through government aid, and risked a divorce to keep his three independent theaters from going under.

NICK NICOLAOU, MOVIE THEATER OWNER: This past year has been a bad horror movie, because one thing right after the other was going wrong. At one point, we had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Department of Finance for property tax. So that cleaned us out.

SEBASTIAN: He can now open in limited capacity, according to New York rules. But first, he has to repair the damage from frozen pipes that burst, the result of the building sitting empty for so long.

(on camera): The posters are still up from the last movie they showed here in March of last year. Business came to a sudden stop, and it's now been more than a year with zero customers. And this is a story that's been repeated in movie theaters around the world.

(voice-over): In 2020, the global box office fell by almost three- quarters, according to Box Office Pro. Some theaters, including the iconic Cinerama Dome in L.A., have now closed for good. And big chains like AMC Entertainment came close to bankruptcy.

Not the kind of climate up and coming director Sasie Sealy would have chosen to release her debut feature film, "Lucky Grandma."

SASIE SEALY, DIRECTOR, "LUCKY GRANDMA": We made the decision to do a virtual release in May, versus a physical release in August, just because we had no idea, like, what was going to be happening in August. Our red carpet was over Zoom. We had, like, Q&As with audiences were over Zoom. So it's just a very surreal thing. I'm like, did that really happen?

SEBASTIAN: Virtual releases, be it through independent theaters or on streaming services like Disney+ and HBO Max, became commonplace in 2020, the pandemic accelerating an ongoing power shift in the industry.

SEALY: Netflix makes more movies per year now than, like, you know, Warner Brothers. I mean, the number of movies that they're financing is crazy. So, I mean, if you have a film that you want to get made, it's sort of like where you're going for financing, I think, is changing.

SEBASTIAN: For new filmmakers, Hollywood's future talent pipeline, the survival of both movie festivals and independent theaters, where they traditionally got exposure, will be critical.

NICOLAUO: You will not be allowed to sit anywhere another patron within six feet.

SEBASTIAN: And despite strict new safety rules, Nick Nicolauo isn't giving up.

NICOLAUO: I've succeeded through many difficult times. And I will succeed again. That energy that's in a movie house, when you're watching and crying and laughing together, these are the memories that should mean something to people.

SEBASTIAN: Clare Sebastian, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: I'm John Vause. I'll be back at the top of the hour with more CNN NEWSROOM. In the meantime, stay with us, please. WORLD SPORT starts after the break.