China suspends ties with Rockets after GM shows support for Hong Kong protests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

Chinese businesses suspend ties with Rockets after GM shows support for Hong Kong protests

CGTN

The general manager of the NBA Houston Rockets team, Daryl Morey has embroiled himself into trouble due to his tweet on last Friday supporting Hong Kong’s protests. Some Chinese companies stated their actions even before officials.

Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Credit Card Center was the first to speak out, saying on Sunday that it “opposes and protests against” Morey’s “erroneous” remarks and has suspended all marketing and publicity activities related to the Rockets.

Following the bank, sports brand Li Ning denounced the post and said it had stopped all forms of cooperation with the Rockets. Meanwhile, Shanghai Jiayin Finance Technology notified the Rockets that all partnerships between the two sides have been halted.

Tencent Sports, which signed a five-year, 1.5-billion-U.S.-dollar deal with the NBA in July, announced that all live streaming and news reporting of the Rockets will be suspended. It also gave customers, who bought a subscription to watch the Rockets games online, a chance to opt for another team.

Starbuck’s China rival Luckin Coffee and smartphone maker Vivo also announced they would suspend cooperation with the NBA on Tuesday.

A small tweet can bring big trouble

Morey’s tweet, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” was quickly deleted last Friday, but not before it generated huge controversy in China. China’s consulate general in Houston urged the team to “clarify and immediately correct the mistakes” in a statement last Sunday. Beijing repeatedly said that some protesters in Hong Kong were mobs and rioters, instead of the so-called “peaceful pro-democracy protesters” described by the Western media.

But, the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement Tuesday on how NBA will not “put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues,” concerning Morey’s improper remarks.

On the same day, the China Central Television (CCTV) Sports channel of China Media Group (CMG) announced that it will suspend the NBA broadcasting because Silver supported improper remarks. Before that, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) had already announced the termination of cooperation with Houston Rockets.

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in China. Here are some facts and figures showing how vital China and its 500-million-fan base is to the NBA:

The NBA has had a presence in China for almost three decades. It now has relationships with a number of television and digital media outlets throughout China, including a long-standing partnership with CCTV.

The Houston Rockets is widely followed especially in China. That’s because the franchise drafted Chinese player Yao Ming in 2002. The eight-time NBA All-Star was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

NBA China was launched in 2008. Seventeen NBA teams have played 26 games in Beijing, Guangzhou, Macao, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Taipei in the past five years. NBA China alone is now worth over 4 billion U.S. dollars, according to Forbes.

Hong Kong’s Leader Warns ‘No Options Ruled Out’ If Protests Continue

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Hong Kong’s Leader Warns ‘No Options Ruled Out’ If Protests Continue

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she still believes that the people of Hong Kong “should find solutions ourselves.”

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hong Kong’s leader has issued a veiled warning that Beijing could intervene with force to quell the territory’s violent anti-government protests, but after months of unrest, she said she still believes “we should find solutions ourselves.”

Chief Executive Carrie Lam spoke at a news conference on Tuesday days after invoking a colonial-era law to prohibit the wearing of face masks during protests, which are now in their 18th week. She said she has no plans to enact further emergency powers despite “limitless and lawless” acts of violence by demonstrators over the weekend.

“I still strongly feel that we should find the solutions ourselves,” Lam said.

“That is also the position of the central government that Hong Kong should tackle the problem on her own but if the situation becomes so bad, then no options could be ruled out if we want Hong Kong to at least have another chance,” she said.

Thousands of Chinese troops are stationed throughout Hong Kong but so far have not left their barracks, allowing instead the territory’s police to put down the protests.

Although Lam’s statement on Tuesday is the closest she’s come in the weeks of protest to a direct warning about the possibility China could use force to restore order, a spokesman for Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council has been less reticent. In August, Yang Guang issued a stark admonishment, saying China has “tremendous power” to put down the protests and that “those who play with fire will perish by it.”

Most of the protesters have worn masks as a way to hide their identities from video surveillance cameras. Although the protesters appear to have almost universally ignored the anti-mask law put in place on Friday, Lam said it was too early to gauge whether the law would work.

“For any new … legislation, it would take time for it to be effectively implemented,” she said.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to China 22 years ago on a promise of “one country, two systems” that was to have granted it substantial control over its own affairs. However, protesters have accused Beijing of reneging on those promises.

The protests, which began peacefully in June, have increasingly become violent, with pro-democracy activists clashing with police, who have responded with tear gas and batons. One week ago, an officer shot and seriously wounded a protester.

The demonstrations began ostensibly as a protest against a law that would have allowed some in Hong Kong accused of crimes to be extradited to mainland China to face justice there. Although the controversial extradition bill has since been scrapped, the demands of the mostly student-led movement have expanded to include a freely elected legislature and the right to choose a replacement for Lam, who was appointed by Beijing. They are also demanding an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality in their handling of the protests.

The economy of Hong Kong, a vital international financial hub, has taken a beating during the months of protests, which have been exacerbated by the U.S.-China trade war.

CNN reported last week that during a private phone call in June between China’s President Xi Jinping and President Trump, Trump had promised his administration would stay silent on the situation in Hong Kong as long as trade talks continued.

On Monday, however, Trump urged Xi to ensure a “humane solution” in the territory.

“If anything happened bad, I think that would be a very bad thing for the negotiation[s],” Trump said. “I think politically it would be very tough, maybe for us and maybe for some others and maybe for [Xi].”

More Than 100 Killed And Thousands Injured In Anti-Government Protests In Iraq

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

More Than 100 Killed And Thousands Injured In Anti-Government Protests In Iraq

Anti-government protesters set fires and close a street during a demonstration in Baghdad on Sunday after nearly a week of unrest throughout Iraq.

Khalid Mohammed/AP

Iraqi authorities say at least seven more people were killed in clashes between protesters and police in eastern Baghdad on Sunday, bringing the death toll from nearly a week of anti-government rallies throughout Iraq to more than 100 with thousands of others injured.

Protesters, who took to the streets on Tuesday frustrated over joblessness and corruption, have been met with live ammunition from security forces attempting to break up the mass demonstrations that have convulsed Baghdad and parts of southern Iraq for days.

So far, 104 people have been killed and 6,107 have been wounded in the unrest, according to figures released by Iraqi security officials. More than 1,200 security members are among the injured.

Demanding better basic public services like electricity and water and renouncing corruption, a small group of protesters assembled seemingly spontaneously last week before being dispersed by security forces.

Then the protesters put out a call to re-converge on social media and the response took observers and government officials aback: Thousands of mostly young adults in their 20s, outraged over inadequate services and poor job prospects in the oil-rich country, came out to push for more opportunity and an end to corruption.

The Iraqi army and police have responded by firing live rounds, tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds. As protests spread to other parts of the country, the bloody clashes continued.

The six days of street demonstrations mark the most serious challenge Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has faced since he assumed office last October. He has committed to meeting with protesters without armed forces to have a dialogue about their demands.

“I will go and meet them without weapons and sit with them for hours to listen to their demands,” Abdul-Mahdi said on Saturday in remarks on state television.

Anti-government protesters run for cover while Iraqi security forces fire live ammunition in the air during a demonstration in Baghdad on Sunday.

Khalid Mohammed/AP

Abdul-Mahdi announced a plan to pay out unemployment assistance and provide government-backed housing for low-income residents in an attempt to satisfy the demonstrators who have set buildings aflame and sparred with authorities.

The United Nations envoy for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, took to Twitter on Saturday to denounce the violence, saying: “This must stop.”

“I call on all parties to pause and reflect. Those responsible for violence should be held to account. Let the spirit of unity prevail across Iraq,” wrote Hennis-Plasschaert.

Protesters called for top government officials to step down, as authorities cut of Internet service in Baghdad and across much of the country.

Demonstrators on Sunday also called for Iran to stop meddling in Iraqi politics.

Amid growing unrest, Marta Hurtado, a spokeswoman for the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, urged the Iraqi government to allow citizens to peacefully assembly and exercise their rights to freedom of expression without fear of a violent crackdown.

“The use of force should be exceptional, and assemblies should ordinarily be managed without resort to force,” Hurtado said in a statement.

All incidents in which security forces killed or injured protesters should be promptly and transparently investigated by the government, Hurtado said.

Hurtado also said reports that three journalists covering the protests were detained and the government cutting off Internet service were alarming and should be examined.

“Blanket internet shutdowns are likely to contravene freedom of expression, unduly restricting the right to receive and impart information and may exacerbate tensions,” she said.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin contributed to this report.

Hong Kong’s chief executive vows greatest resolve to end violence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

HKSAR chief executive vows greatest resolve to end violence

Xinhua

Chief Executive of China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam said Saturday that the government will take the greatest resolve to end violence, after rampant rioters Friday wreaked havoc in various areas of Hong Kong.

Lam said in a video address that Hong Kong witnessed “a very dark night” on Friday and the society was half-paralyzed, describing the extreme acts as “unprecedented and appalling.”

Violent and disruptive acts were staged again in Hong Kong on Friday as masked rioters blocked roads, set fires, damaged public facilities, and assaulted police officers and passersby, leaving the transport network paralyzed and forcing numerous shops to close.

“The extreme violence is a clear indication of the widespread danger to public security in Hong Kong,” Lam said.

Given the escalating violence recently, the HKSAR government has invoked the power under the Emergency Regulations Ordinance and put in place the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation. The anti-mask law, designed to end violence and restore order, came into effect on Saturday, Lam said.

The move has received support from 40 Legislative Council members and many chambers of commerce, media outlets and social organizations, she said.

Lam reiterated the legality of the action and said the HKSAR government adopted appropriate measures using the power conferred by the existing law.

Lam urged foreign officials and lawmakers to understand the nature of the violent incidents. “Hong Kong is facing unprecedented violence and the government needs to adopt resolute legal measures to stop violence, restore peace and order, and protect the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents from the threats of rioters.” She said anti-mask legislations were also adopted in a number of Western countries.

Lam also called on Hong Kong residents to support the HKSAR government in stopping the violence, make a clean break with rioters, and work together to bring back peaceful lives as soon as possible.

Hong Kong society strongly condemns act of flinging Chinese national flag into sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

Hong Kong society strongly condemns act of flinging Chinese national flag into sea

Xinhua

People from all walks of life in Hong Kong have expressed their indignation over the act by some radicals of flinging the Chinese national flag into the sea.

They strongly condemned the act as a flagrant trampling on the national dignity and the principle of “one country, two systems,” calling on the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to hold the perpetrators accountable.

A video posted online on Saturday showed some black-clad radicals scaled a flagpole near Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor, and removed from it the Chinese national flag, while some accomplices used umbrellas to keep the whole act from public view.

With playful laughters, they later flung the flag into the water, according to Hong Kong media.

Leung Chun-ying, vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, issued three posts on the social media to express his “strongest condemnation” of the act.

He also offered a reward of 1 million Hong Kong dollars (about 128,000 U.S. dollars) for those who offer useful information leading to the capture of whoever committed the crime.

Chan Man Ki, founding president of the Small and Medium Law Firms Association of Hong Kong, also expressed her strongest condemnation of the act, saying that it is punishable for fines and a jail term of three years according to relevant Hong Kong regulations.

Chan said from storming and vandalizing the Legislative Council (LegCo) building, storming the institution of the central government in Hong Kong and defacing the Chinese national emblem, to throwing the national flag into the sea, some radicals have been escalating their behaviors in an attempt to abuse the principle of “one country, two systems” and trample on the national dignity.

The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions issued a statement to express strong condemnation of the crime.

Noting that the misdeed of the perpetrators is an outrage and has crossed the bottom line, the statement denounced the “wirepullers” for inciting young people to undermine Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.

A statement issued by the Friends of Hong Kong Association condemned the act and called on the SAR government to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The New People’s Party also slammed the act as being “lawless” and “an insult and challenge to state sovereignty.”

Kaizer Lau Ping-cheung, a Chinese national political advisor, said the extremist act was an “outrage” and a “serious crime” and must be punished.

Hong Kong: Police In Hong Kong Fire Tear Gas As Demonstrators Rally In Response To Attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)
(HONG KONG IS IT GOING TO BE THE NEXT TIANANMEN SQUARE MASSACRE BY THE COMMUNIST MURDERERS OF BEIJING?)(oped: oldpoet56)

Police In Hong Kong Fire Tear Gas As Demonstrators Rally In Response To Attack

A protester helps a fellow demonstrator after police fired tear gas in the district of Yuen Long in Hong Kong on Saturday. Demonstrators defied a police ban to rally.

Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Protesters in Hong Kong defied orders to not demonstrate on Saturday, gathering to denounce the police and government in an area where pro-democracy activists were attacked last weekend.

Protesters swarmed a major road in the district of Yuen Long clutching umbrellas to shield themselves from police cameras and tear gas that was later used against them at various sites along the route of their march.

The rally stemmed from an attack last Sunday at a train station in Yuen Long that left dozens of locals and pro-democracy activists wounded. The masked assailants, who wore white shirts and carried clubs, are suspected of having ties to organized crime groups known as triads.

On Saturday, the standoffs between police and protesters resulted in blocked roads and canisters of tear gas being fired. Police officers tried to disperse crowds on Castle Peak Road, Hong Kong’s longest road, and outside of a village where protesters had marched toward a police line.

Roy Kwong, a leading pro-democracy lawmaker, accused the police of firing tear gas near a home for the elderly, according to Hong Kong Free Press.

The demonstrations appear to have started peacefully, as one prominent protester, the singer Denise Ho, autographed hard hats for smiling demonstrators. A protester strung an anti-police banner outside of the Yuen Long police station and “a very friendly policeman came out of the watch tower to tell him to be careful not to fall,” said Hong Kong-based writer and lawyer Antony Dapiran.

At the Yuen Long train station, funeral bouquets were placed on the ground for Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive whom critics call “Beijing’s puppet,” and Stephen Lo, the police commissioner. Chants of “Reclaim HK! Revolution of our time!” could be heard as people moved through the station.

As the day wore on, the Hong Kong government warned people to leave Yuen Long, saying that some protesters were hurling brickscarrying iron poles and blocking roads with fences.

The Hong Kong Police Force said that officers would disperse demonstrators from Yuen Long, but that protesters remained at the train station. They said a maximum penalty of five years in prison could be imposed on protesters.

Faceoffs between protesters and police broke out during a demonstration in the district of Yuen Long in Hong Kong on Saturday.

Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Washington Post reporter Shibani Mahtani told NPR that both protesters and police appeared to be digging in, with people “basically pulling up bricks from the sidewalk” and arming themselves with iron rods and makeshift shields from wood found nearby.

Mahtani said that children and elderly people participated in the rally, but that protesters were predominantly young and appeared ready to “suit up” and “start essentially building weapons.”

One of the protest organizer’s, Max Chung, told Radio Television Hong Kong that he was “not concerned about my safety, but of course, I am concerned about everyone else’s safety.”

Protesters reportedly circumvented the police’s orders not to assemble, using social media channels to organize under the pretext of a “full-gear shopping day” and playing Pokémon Go in the area.

The police also banned a protest scheduled to take place Sunday in Sheung Wan, a lively neighborhood known for shopping and traditional Chinese medicine shops. Police said they denied the authorization because of public safety and order concerns, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

On Friday, as part of a summer racked by protests, thousands of people filled the arrivals terminal of the bustling Hong Kong International Airport, demanding change.

A crowd of protesters blocks a police van during a demonstration on Saturday.

Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

The original protests started in response to a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, prompting fears that vocal Hong Kong activists would face prosecution in courts controlled by Beijing’s Communist Party. Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive has since declared the bill “dead,” but she has refused to formally withdraw the measure.

After weeks of protests, the demands of demonstrators have expanded. They have called for an independent inquiry into the police’s use of force at rallies and condemned the authorities for what they decry as a sluggish response to Sunday’s attack at the train station. Protesters have also pushed for the right to directly elect their leaders, who must now be approved by Beijing.

Lo, the police commissioner, told reporters that officers were slow to respond to last weekend’s attack because nearby stations were closed during the protest and police needed to “redeploy manpower from other districts.” He vowed to bring the offenders to justice and denied accusations that the police had worked with triads to target anti-government protesters, according to Reuters.

The recent unrest has also prompted a new contingent of protesters — those who are coming out to support the police and Beijing.

In China, one of the country’s most popular television shows denounced the protest on Saturday and blamed “external forces” for causing chaos, according to the South China Morning Post. Beijing also reportedly blocked mainlanders’ access to international news sites, denying them a chance to hear the voices of people fighting for democracy in Hong Kong.

Once a British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” framework. Under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the city is guaranteed “a high degree of autonomy” for 50 years. But fears of encroachment on democratic institutions have grown.

“Protesters aren’t even thinking that far,” Mahtani says. “They’re thinking about tomorrow; they’re thinking about next week.”

This week, China’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Wu Qian, told reporters that the Chinese military could be deployed to Hong Kong to maintain public order if Hong Kong asks the central government for help.

A government spokesperson for Hong Kong said authorities would not turn to the Chinese army for assistance because they were fully able to maintain order and deal with local affairs.

Russia: Putin’s Goon Squads Arrest At Least 1,000 Citizens At A Moscow Rally

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Russia protests: Thousand arrests at Moscow rally

Media caption Police marched away detainees

Police in Moscow have detained more than 1,000 people at a rally, in one of the biggest crackdowns in years.

Demonstrators were dragged away from the city hall as security forces used batons against the crowd.

People were protesting against the exclusion of opposition candidates from local polls. The opposition say they were barred for political reasons.

Some of the candidates banned from standing in the 8 September election had been detained earlier.

Officials disqualified about 30 people, saying they had failed to collect enough valid signatures to stand.

At least 1,074 arrests were made at the banned rally, officials say, while monitors reported 1,127 detentions.

Moscow’s Mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, has called the demonstration a “security threat”, and promised to maintain public order.

Anger is widespread among opposition supporters at the way the city is run and the ruling United Russia party.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was jailed for 30 days on Wednesday after calling for Saturday’s unapproved demonstration.

Mr Putin was on a trip to the Baltic Sea on Saturday for a dive in a submersible. “There are a lot of problems on Earth, so to diminish their amount one has to go up and deep down,” he remarked.

What happened this Saturday?

Last Saturday, more than 20,000 Russians took to the streets, demanding fair elections, and dozens were arrested.

It is unclear how many people turned up for the new unauthorised rally on 27 July but the numbers seem to have been sharply down.

According to police, about 3,500 people gathered, including about 700 journalists.

Police detain a protester in Moscow, 27 JulyImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Riot police detained hundreds of protesters on Saturday

Police in riot gear pushed back the crowd from barriers surrounding the mayor’s office in central Moscow, hauling off detainees to police stations.

A number of protesters could be seen bleeding while at least two members of the security forces reportedly received eye injuries from pepper spray.

Presentational grey line

A powerful message to the regions?

Oleg Boldyrev, BBC News, Moscow

No -one was under any illusion that the large gathering would impress authorities into letting people express themselves peacefully. This rally went very much the same way others have done – arbitrary detentions, standoffs, crowds breaking off into the side streets.

The question is whether the anger over not being able to nominate a candidate – even for lower-level, city elections – would galvanise Muscovites into bigger, sustained expressions of dissent. After all, there are lots of residents not happy with the way Moscow government and Mayor Sobyanin run the city, or respond to popular concerns.

Police detain a protester in Moscow, 27 JulyImage copyrightREUTERS

Certainly, the would-be candidates, most of them seasoned anti-Putin activists, are hoping that the resentment will linger. That is exactly why policy handlers in the Kremlin are desperate to put a lid on it.

With both Mr Putin’s ratings falling and the United Russia party deeply unpopular, chanting crowds in the capital may send a very powerful message to other regions preparing to hold their elections.

Presentational grey line

How did we get here?

Local elections usually attract little attention in Russia.

The Moscow authority does not control the city’s budget or choose key official appointments, and previous votes have passed without major protests or press interest.

But this year some Muscovites are infuriated at what they see as brazen attempts to disqualify independent politicians from running.

Lyubov SobolImage copyrightAFP/GETTY
Image captionLyubov Sobol is one of the opposition candidates barred from standing

Candidates were asked to collect 5,000 signatures to stand. This limit was made even harder to match because a signature “means volunteering one’s personal information for the government’s database of opposition supporters”, democracy activist Vladimir Kara-Murza wrote in the Washington Post.

Many candidates managed to meet the threshold but the electoral commission ruled some signatures ineligible, saying they were unclear or the addresses provided were incomplete, and barred the candidates from taking part.

Opposition groups say the authorities had no reason to rule them ineligible – claims that electoral officials denied. “We have no reason to doubt our experts,” commission member Dmitry Reut said, according to media reports.

Mr Navalny, who addressed the crowds last Saturday, is not one of the candidates, although he stood in Moscow’s mayoral elections in 2013 and won 27% of the vote in a result he disputed.

Ella Pamfilova, the head of the electoral commission, said the protests would not change their decisions. “It doesn’t matter, not even a bit of it,” she said, dismissing the demonstrations as “political”.

The authorities banned this Saturday’s rally on the grounds that there were threats of violence against the commission.

Police then raided the homes of several opposition politicians, and called them in more for questioning.

What’s been the reaction?

Election candidate and opposition leader Dmitry Gudkov tweeted that the council had “died under Putin”.

“The last illusion that we are able to participate legally in politics has disappeared.”

Some newspapers also denounced the raids. Novaya Gazeta ran the headline Moscow City Terror on Friday, while Vedomosti said authorities were using force to suppress the protest “having failed to counter it with political means”.

Presentational white space

Russian government paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, however, accused the opposition of “blackmail” and “an unacceptable attitude to the statutes of law”.

Political analyst Abbas Gallyamov told BBC Russian that the official response was designed to dissuade people from taking part. Any mass action would suggest the opposition had taken the initiative from the government.

Some believe the demonstrations could actually benefit the local authorities by reducing turnout.

“Young opposition supporters will not come to the polls, while the older generation whom the authorities are counting on vote out of habit,” Denis Volkov, an expert at independent think tank Levada Center, told the BBC. “The authorities will orient themselves towards them.”

Sudan’s democratic spring is turning into a long and ugly summer

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

Sudan’s democratic spring is turning into a long and ugly summer

Protestor’s near the Sudanese army headquarters in Khartoum in April 2019. Photo by M. Saleh (CC BY-SA 4.0)

When protesters forced Omar al-Bashir out of power in Sudan this April after 30 years of dictatorial role, it was an unalloyed good for the world. Bashir has been wanted by The Hague since 2008 for genocide and war crimes in Darfur, and his ouster was a key step towards a free and democratic Sudan, as well as justice for Darfuris.

But what’s followed in Sudan has been far less encouraging. Sudan’s military has promised elections, but not for as much as two years. The Transitional Military Council (TMC), the military leaders now in charge of the country, have included Bashir confidantes like Lt. General Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, who was suspected of leading Janjawid militia massacres in Darfur. Many Sudan observers Believe that Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, is the person really pulling the strings on the TMC, where he serves as vice president. Hemedti not only recruited and led many of the Janjawid fighters who brutally suppressed dissent in Darfur—he has also been accused of having recruited child soldiers from Darfur to fight in Yemen’s bloody civil war on behalf of the Saudis.

Despite the obvious dangers, Sudanese pro-democracy protesters are back out in the streets, demanding immediate transition to a civilian government. Their demands have been met with brutal violence. On June 3, security forces including the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)—whose members are veterans of the Janjawid militias responsible for Darfur’s worst massacres—killed over 100 protesters, dumping bodies into the Nile River, raping and robbing civilians stopped at military checkpoints.

Despite these horrific incidents, Sudanese citizens have continued to fight, launching a mass general strike on Sunday June 9.

The struggle over the internet

As with most conflicts today, there’s an important information component to the struggle between activists and the Sudanese military. The protests that ousted Bashir and have confronted the military have been organized by groups of middle-class Sudanese like the Sudanese Professionals Association and the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors using social media, especially Facebook. Since the June 3 massacre, Sudan’s mobile internet has been largely shut down, making online organizing and reporting on conditions on the ground vastly more difficult. Sudan’s government previously shut down the internet for 68 days to combat the protests that ultimately led to Bashir’s ouster.

Facebook was an especially significant force in bringing women into the streets to protest against Bashir. Tamerra Griffin reported on a set of women-only Facebook groups that were initially used to share gossip, but which were mobilized to identify abusive state security officials, who were then hounded and sometimes chased out of their own neighborhoods. The presence of women in the protest movements and the Zagrounda chant—a women’s ululation—has become a signature of the uprising. Bashir memorably declared that the government could not be changed through WhatsApp or Facebook. His ouster suggests that the power of social networks as tools for mobilization is routinely underestimated by governments.

But now social media seems to be leveraged at least as much by the military as by the opposition. The internet has not been completely shut down—the government has been able to maintain its presence on Facebook, which features at least four pages controlled by the RSF, which are advertising the militia veterans’ version of events. Sudanese activist Mohamed Suliman is organizing a petition campaign, demanding Facebook remove these pages in recognition that they promote violence against peaceful protesters in Sudan.

In addition to combatting Sudanese propaganda on Facebook, Sudanese activists inside the country and in the diaspora are looking for ways to return internet access to the general population, so they can continue organizing protests and document government violence. Activists are organizing information-sharing networks on top of SMS and voice phone calls, but I’m also getting calls from Sudanese friends who wonder whether technologies like Google’s Loon could be used to put a cloud of connectivity over Khartoum. (The answer: maybe. Loon acts as an antenna for existing telecoms networks, and those networks in Sudan have been forced to cut off connectivity. In addition, a balloon floating 20km over a city is a very attractive missile target.)

Until very recently, the few Sudanese who had access via ADSL had been opening their wifi networks or sharing passwords with friends and inviting them to post messages from their houses. A couple of days ago I was seeing reports—unconfirmed—that even ADSL has been turned off. This may signal the start of a new phase of the crackdown.

Space Cadet@nourality

🔻🔻🔻
Last available internet route “Sudani ADSL” is now reported to be down.

This completes a dark ring over sudan as internet are now Almost completely disabled, this gives the TMC milita “janjaweed” enough lack of media attention to continue abusing and killing the Sudan.

Ahmed Abdalla@A_Abdalla

الآن قطع خدمة انترنت سوداني ADSL أيضاً
الخدمة الوحيدة التي استمرت تعمل منذ إيقاف المجلس الانقلابي الانترنت في السودان قبل عدة أيام.
الآن اكتمل التعتيم على جرائم الجنجويد في السودان والعالم يتفرج#العصيان_المدني_الشامل

85 people are talking about this

On the morning of June 10 Yassir Arman, a major figure in the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement, which fought a war against Khartoum leading to the independence of South Sudan, was deported from Khartoum to Juba by military helicopter.

Yassir Arman@Yassir_Arman

I have been deported against my will by a military helicopter from Khartoum to Juba. I was not aware of where they were taking me. I asked them many times. They tied me up in the helicopter together with Comrade Ismail Khamis Jalab and Mubarak Ardol.

1,201 people are talking about this

One major channel for information from Sudan in the future may be from Sudanese who are in touch with organizers on the ground who have been forced to flee the country and report from neighboring countries.

Countries are known by the company they keep, and the military government’s supporters are well resourced: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have provided $3 billion in aid to the military leaders. Given the Trump administration’s tight ties to the Saudi and UAE governments—which have extended to overruling Congress in selling arms to those regimes—it seems unlikely that a petition to the White House to recognize the RSF as a terrorist organization will meet with approval any time soon. (By contrast the African Union—which has a regrettable history of ignoring misbehavior by African military rulers— has suspended Sudan after this weekend’s crackdown.

A few things we can do to help

It’s hard to know what to do as a private citizen when faced with a situation like the one in Sudan. Some thoughts on what might actually be helpful:

– Pay attention and ask others to do so as well. All governments, including military governments, are limited in what actions they can take by public perception. If Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates understand that people are actually watching what the Sudanese military is doing, it may limit their willingness to support a government run in part by experienced génocidaires. Reporter Yousra Elbagir is reporting from the ground in Khartoum and her Twitter feed is deeply helpful. Declan Walsh, the New York Times bureau chief, is doing excellent reporting from the groundReem Abbas, a Sudanese journalist and blogger, is sharing excellent content, much of it in Arabic. Al Jazeera’s synthesis of the conflict has been excellent, but I worry that their reliance on Skype interviews to cover events may limit their coverage going forward:

– In the spirit of getting people interested in what’s going on in Sudan, I recommend Hasan Minhaj’s occasionally silly but good-hearted Patriot Act episode on Sudan’s pro-democracy movement and the military government’s violent reaction.

– Pressure organizations that are helping legitimate the military government. That includes Facebook, which should not be hosting pages for the Rapid Support Forces, or for any entities associated with the transitional military government.

Sudan’s two telecom operators—MTN and Zain—are international companies which could (in theory) be pressured to violate the military’s demands that they shut down. Zain is a Kuwaiti company, which means they are heavily influenced by Saudi Arabia, but MTN as a South African company might be susceptible to shareholder pressure, lawsuits, etc. The Internet Society has released a statement calling for Sudan to turn the internet back on. It’s unclear whether they would be an organizing point for protests to pressure MTN.

– It can be difficult to get money to the ground in Sudan. While the Trump administration removed some financial sanctions on Sudan in 2017, other sanctions stemming from the Darfur conflict remain in place. My friends in Sudan have pointed me to Bakri Ali and the University of Khartoum Alumni Association USA, a US 501c3 which is using their tax-exempt status to deliver aid to democracy protesters.

It can be hard, in retrospect, to remember the excitement and enthusiasm that accompanied the Egyptian revolution and the broader Arab Spring. But after only a year of a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government, a military dictatorship took over. The fear right now is that Sudan could go directly from one dictatorship to another—from one Arab winter to another without an intervening Spring. Some Sudanese protesters have been using the slogan “Victory or Egypt”, looking at the return to dictatorship as the worst possible outcome. The worse outcome is even worse—it’s the prospect of systemic military violence like in Darfur, without intervention by the international community. The same folks are in charge, and we are already looking away.

Hundreds of thousands protest in Hong Kong against the extradition bill

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Hundreds of thousands protest in Hong Kong against the extradition bill

Huge protesting crowd against the extradition bill paralyzed a large part of Hong Kong Island on June 9 2019. Photo from inmediahk.net

Hundreds of thousands of people in Hong Kong took to the streets on Sunday, 9 June 2019, to stop the government from passing amendments to the existing extradition laws – the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance.

The rally started at 2:30 p.m. and it quickly paralyzed a large part of Hong Kong island. Anna Pearce recorded the crowd near Victoria Park, the starting place of the rally:

Anna Pearce@stilltalkin

No to China extradition.. incredible mass protest turnout in Hong Kong pic.twitter.com/DmE643iKVx

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Streets flooded with protesters

The organizer of the rally, Civil Human Rights Front, estimated that there were more than a million protesters in the rally as the scale of the protest was larger than the anti-national security law mobilization on 1 July 2003. But the police said there were about 240,000 in the streets during the peak of the rally. As South China Morning Post reporter Jeffie Lam put it, Hongkongers made history today:

Jeffie Lam

@jeffielam

are making history today. All lanes of the Hennessy Road – including those which police refused to open before – are flooded by protesters against the @SCMPNews pic.twitter.com/UTr2ui7Fix

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Protesters said the proposed amendments would make it easier for mainland China to cause the arrest of critics, dissidents, and even journalists in Hong Kong. They were chanting “no evil law” and calling for the city’s chief executive Carrie Lam to step down.

Protester placard: No China extradition; Liar Carrie Lam, step down. Image via inmediahk.net CC: AT-NC

A social worker told reporter from inmediahk.net that she rallied to defend the people working in the social work sector because under China’s judicial system, those who tried to bring positive change in society would be arrested. Another student protester believes that once the amendment is passed, the city will cease to exist as the constitutional principle of “One Country Two Systems” would come to an end.

Denise Ho (HOCC)

@hoccgoomusic

Today, Hongkonger are telling the world we oppose the Extradition Bill! pic.twitter.com/fNvaBjRhRm

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There have been several mass protests against the extradition bill. On 30 March, about 12,000 rallied from Wanchai to Admiralty right before the government presented the amendment bill to the legislature. One month later on 28 April, about 130,000 took to the streets demanding the scrapping of the bill.

The series protests has caught the world’s attention. Many are now monitoring if the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam would withdraw the controversial bill which is scheduled for second reading in the legislative chamber this week.

The amendments were first proposed by the Hong Kong government in February to provide further legal grounds for the Chief Executive and local courts to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements, specifically Taiwan and China. By citing the murder case of a pregnant woman in Taiwan, the government claimed that amending the extradition laws was meant to address ‘legal loophole’ that allow fugitives to escape punishment.

However, legal experts pointed out that the so-called ‘loophole’ was in reality a firewall to prevent crime suspects from being handed over to mainland China where there is no fair trial.

Human rights defenders, journalists, NGO workers and social workers at risk

Various sectors have warned that if extradition requests are processed without legislative oversight, the amendments would provide a legal basis for mainland Chinese authorities to arrest political dissents. This concern was stated in an open letter jointly signed by over 70 non-government organizations:

Given the Chinese judiciary’s lack of independence, and other procedural shortcomings that often result in unfair trials, we are worried that the proposed changes will put at risk anyone in the territory of Hong Kong who has carried out work related to the Mainland, including human rights defenders, journalists, NGO workers and social workers, even if the person was outside the Mainland when the ostensible crime was committed. We are calling on the Hong Kong government to immediately withdraw the bill…

Instead of addressing the concerns raised by the petitioners, the Beijing Liaison Office met representatives of the local business sector and demanded them to back the bill. At the same time, the Hong Kong government gave some concessions to the business sector by exempting nine white-collar crimes in the bill and raising the threshold for extradition from crimes punishable by three years in jail to crimes with a seven-year prison penalty.

But on the other hand, it decided to by-pass the legislative committee-level deliberations and tabled the bill for full legislative council discussion.

The direct intervention of the Beijing Liaison Office and the Hong Kong government’s violation of legislative procedure have given a strong and clear signal to the public that the amendment bill is a controversial political decision which is far from protecting Hong Kong people’s interest.

Under the current bill, foreigners who traveled to Hong Kong could also be handed over to mainland Chinese authorities upon extradition requests. Diplomats from the U.S, Canada and European Union have expressed a concern about this. Against the background of the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, some are worriedthat the amendments would turn Hong Kong into a battlefield of international politics:

The intended effects of the amendments can be regarded as a mirrored counterpart of the legal rights utilised by the US government in Meng’s case [Note: the arrest of Meng Wanzhou in Canada upon the extradition request filed by the United State on 1 of December 2018]. If the amendments are passed, then any person who happens to come to Hong Kong can be arrested and surrendered to mainland China with the consent of a court or the Chief Executive, and without deliberation in the Legislative Council of Hong Kong.

More than 2500 lawyers demonstrated against the amendment of extradition law on June 6. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

The Hong Kong government responded by accusing the opposition of misleading the public.

Lawyers stage “Black March”

But among those who have spoken out against the bill were not just opposition politicians but also members of the professional legal sector. On 6 June, the legal sector staged a “black march” against the controversial bill. Dressed in black, about 2,500 lawyers gathered outside the Court of Final Appeal and marched to government headquarters in silence. Prior to the “black march”, both the BAR society and the Law society have submitted opinions to the government demanding an extensive consultation with the legal sector and other stakeholders.

While debate in the legislature has been muted by the Hong Kong government, grassroots opposition voices have taken over. In the past few weeks, social media platforms have been flooded with joint signature campaigns against the amendments initiated by hundreds of university and secondary schools alumni groups, Christian groups, and neighborhood associations.

Hongkongers abroad have also spoken out. Diaspora Hong Kong communities from at least 25 cities, including London, New York, Berlin, Toronto, Melbourne, and Tokyo among others also held a coordinated protest against the amendment bill.

Roydon Ng@RoydonNg

Chants of We Love Hong Kong and We Love Freedom are shouted from central CBD (). Protesters oppose the law that would allow for extradition to mainland China. Police estimate 2000 attending. pic.twitter.com/AycfpKVNjO

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The whole world is now watching if Carrie Lam would redraw or continue to push through the extradition bill in Legislature this week.

Protesters Fill Prague Square Again, in New Struggle for Country’s Soul

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Protesters Fill Prague Square Again, in New Struggle for Country’s Soul

Tens of thousands rallied in the Czech capital on Tuesday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis. Credit David Josek/Associated Press

PRAGUE — In the square in the heart of Prague, where crowds gathered three decades ago in their bid to wrest freedom from Communist rule and where independence was proclaimed seven decades before that, protest songs rang out again on Tuesday night.

Tens of thousands of men, women and children, coming from across the Czech Republic, waving flags and carrying signs attacking the government, gathered for what they said was yet another struggle for the soul of their democracy.

What started six weeks ago as a relatively contained protest — over the appointment of a justice minister many believe will protect Prime Minister Andrej Babis from potential fraud charges — has grown into something broader and possibly harder to control. Organizers said Tuesday that as many as 120,000 people had attended the protest, a count that would make it one of Prague’s largest demonstrations since 1989.

“This is about more than just corruption,” said Tomas Peszynski, 44, holding the corner of an oversize European Union flag. “This is about an abuse of the system of government and a fight to protect the institutions of democracy.”

Mr. Babis has responded with his characteristic bravado — he said the large crowd size was a reflection of the nice weather — and he has condemned those leading investigations into his business dealings as being part of vast political conspiracy.

“We have Babis hysteria again,” he recently told lawmakers. “Try to do something for the people instead, don’t just take a swipe at Babis.”

Mr. Babis has been battling accusations of corruption for years and, in an interview last year, he did not hide his anger, saying it was impossible to defend himself from the constant stream of attacks. But he has proved resilient, having already survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

However, the large demonstrations — with organizers promising more in the weeks to come — present a different challenge.

In neighboring Slovakia, months of protests fueled by anger over corruption forced the government to collapse and paved the way for a newcomer, Zuzana Caputova, to win the presidential election this year. The success of the movement there was closely watched by organizers in their brother nation, as the two countries have called themselves since their peaceful separation in 1993.

In fact, Mr. Babis was elected to Parliament in 2013 in part because of a promise to battle corruption.

With a net worth estimated at around $4 billion, he presented himself as someone who could not be corrupted. And as a businessman who came from outside the familiar cast of political elite tainted by years of scandal, he promised a new era.

The voters agreed. In 2017 parliamentary elections, Mr. Babis and his party won a resounding victory, and he was named prime minister.

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Mr. Babis in Parliament last week. “Try to do something for the people instead, don’t just take a swipe at Babis,” he has told his critics.Credit Martin Divisek/EPA, via Shutterstock

Now, many accuse him of betrayal, and worse, engaging in an effort to bend the legal system to protect himself as he faces increased scrutiny over how his sprawling conglomerate — which includes more than 200 businesses, from agriculture to media — used funds provided by the European Union.

“We believed what he was saying when he was first elected,” said Dagmar Pavelkova, 27. “But there were just too many stories about his corruption and now he is trying to manipulate the legal system to get off.”

She traveled three hours from Hranice na Morave with her husband, who carried a sign with the famous words of the anti-Communist hero Vaclav Havel: “Truth and Love Will Prevail.”

Mr. Babis has been dogged by accusations of corruption for years, but the recent protests began in April, shortly after the police recommended that he face fraud charges in connection with a European Union subsidy to finance construction of a resort near Prague, called the Stork’s Nest.

The next day, the justice minister, Jan Knezinek, resigned. He was replaced by Marie Benesova, who is close to the country’s president, Milos Zeman, an ally of Mr. Babis. The move set off immediate outrage.

Under the Czech system, while the police can recommend an indictment, only the state’s prosecutor, who is appointed by the justice minister, can file charges.

For his part, Mr. Babis dismissed the police investigation as a politically orchestrated attack.

An audit by the European Commission made public last week has been harder to ignore. It found that Mr. Babis’s company, Agrofert, has benefited from European Union funds. Since he stands to gain from the success of his company — even though he maintains he has divorced himself from its operation — the audit found that his impartiality was compromised, first when he served as finance minister and later when he became prime minister.

“I strictly reject this opinion and I will fight for it to be changed,” Mr. Babis said. “The Czech Republic certainly won’t have to return any subsidies. There’s no reason for that, because I’m not violating any Czech or European legal norms.”

Speaking in a session of Parliament on Tuesday, Mr. Babis stepped up his attacks on his opponents.

“I consider the audit an attack on the Czech Republic, an attack on the interests of the Czech Republic,” he thundered. “It is a destabilization of the Czech Republic.”

While the crowd of protesters on Tuesday was large, Mr. Babis’s Anos party still has a solid base of support. In the recent European Parliament election, affiliated candidates got some 20 percent of the vote, the highest of any party.

But more than anything else, the results showed how fractured the political landscape in the country has become.

The Social Democrats, who were at the center of Czech politics for a quarter-century, are now just one of a handful of parties fighting for the vote of an angry and disillusioned electorate.

Many of those on the square on Tuesday rejected party labels.

Jitka Cvancarova, a famous Czech actress who spoke from the stage in front of the National Museum, said that values should be at the core of any decent society.

“Mr. Babis,” she said, addressing the prime minister directly. “You can probably buy a lot, but you cannot buy our honor, our hearts or our freedom.”

Hana de Goeij contributed reporting from Prague.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A5 of the New York edition with the headline: Crowds Fill Prague Again, Provoked by Corruption. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe