A Guide To What’s Happening In Hong Kong

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

A Guide To What’s Happening In Hong Kong

Organizers say more than a million demonstrators gathered Sunday in Hong Kong, which has been racked by protests over extradition legislation.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

For months, Hong Kong’s streets have seethed with discontent. Scenes from the semi-autonomous region show protesters, sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands, many wearing surgical masks and carrying umbrellas that have come to signify resistance.

The images are astonishing, and the issues that set them in motion are complex.

So here’s a primer breaking down the major players, why they have poured into the streets and the response so far from China.

Protesters gather for a rally Sunday in Hong Kong. Many of the pro-democracy demonstrators have brandished umbrellas in a nod to a symbol widely used during the semi-autonomous city’s massive 2014 protests.

Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images

Why are the protests happening?

The latest spasm of discontent traces to February, when members of Hong Kong’s government proposed an extradition bill known as the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019.

That measure would expand the range of countries where suspected offenders may be sent, beyond the list of those with which Hong Kong has mutual extradition agreements. Under the bill’s provisions, the region would be able to extradite suspects to other countries on a case-by-case basis, with the chief executive holding significant power over which cases apply.

Notably, this opens the door to extradition to mainland China, which has sought greater control over the former British colony since it was restored to Beijing in 1997 as a special administrative region with its own independent court system.

“There have been a number of serious crime cases in which the culprits have absconded to other jurisdictions to elude justice,” the region’s Security Bureau explained in a paper published in February. To illustrate the point, the security officials cited a recent incident in which a Hong Kong resident suspected of murdering someone in Taiwan could not be extradited to Taiwan to stand trial for murder.

“As a result,” the officials explained, “the court of Hong Kong could only handle the suspected money laundering offences committed by the suspect in Hong
Kong, leading to widespread public concern.”

The bill’s critics argue that it marks a clear erosion of the region’s judicial independence from Beijing and that it could nudge open the door to what some demonstrators have described as “legalized kidnapping.” Protesters fear Chinese authorities would pursue extradition of political dissidents under the guise of trumped-up charges.

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After massive protests erupted in June, the bill itself stalled. Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, indefinitely suspended the legislation and even apologized, saying that “our explanation and communication work has not been sufficient or effective.”

So if the bill is suspended, why have the protests continued?

That’s partly because the bill is not formally dead. Lam has refrained from withdrawing it entirely from the legislative process. That has raised suspicions among its critics that it could be revived, and these critics have staged multiple major rallies since Lam’s suspension of the bill.

“We demand that the bill be formally withdrawn now,” says Alvin Yeung, a member of the region’s Legislative Council and leader of the pro-democracy Civic Party. He also told All Things Considered that protesters are demanding “an independent inquiry to look into police misconduct and brutality.”

“That is something so simple that any open and civil society would do,” he added. “But then this government has been refusing to set up a commission to look into that. And more importantly, of course, is a democratic system.”

Yeung and others are frustrated at an electoral system that remains closed to the vast majority of Hongkongers (more on that below), and they’re alarmed by what they see as Beijing’s steady encroachment on their local affairs.

Who are the major players involved?

At the heart of the tumult is Lam, who was elected chief executive in 2017 by a pro-Beijing committee. In Hong Kong, the chief executive is determined not by a general vote, but by a group of about 1,200 people, consisting of prominent professionals and members of the Legislative Council.

Lam developed a strong relationship with Beijing during protests in Hong Kong that erupted in 2014. At the time, she was second in command and had proposed another series of controversial changes that would have allowed Chinese authorities to select the candidates for chief executive. Her proposal foundered in the face of massive demonstrations and eventually was withdrawn.

Lam has been backed by pro-Beijing lawmakers, who enjoy a majority in the region’s Legislative Council, and by activists who have recently held counter protests of their own in Hong Kong as well as in cities ranging from Vancouver to London.

Behind them is the police force in Hong Kong, which has come down hard on demonstrators, using tear gas, rubber bullets and what some — including the Hong Kong Bar Association — have criticized as “wholly unnecessary force against largely unarmed protesters.” Opposition lawmakers on Tuesday released a CCTV video showing two officers in a hospital beating a detained man, reportedly in his 60’s, appearing to punch him repeatedly in the crotch and stomach while he was still on a gurney.

Shortly after the video’s release — and about two months after the incident occurred — the Hong Kong government said in a statement that authorities are “highly concerned” and investigating it as a criminal matter.

On the side of the opposition are lawmakers such as Yeung, whose Civic Party has pushed back hard against the extradition bill. It also includes a pro-democracy group known as the Civil Human Rights Front, which has published protesters’ demands and organized several of the biggest protests, such as one last Sunday which it says attracted 1.7 million people out of a region of some 7.5 million.

Last month, the Hong Kong Bar Association also strongly urged authorities to “withdraw the bill for a full and proper consultation.”

How has Beijing reacted?

The reaction on mainland China has shifted generally from indifference to outright hostility, with authorities first ignoring the protests, then misrepresenting them and lately rejecting them entirely.

“Beijing [now] sees the unfolding crisis as something that is really destabilizing and challenges its rule, its control,” China specialist Adam Ni told NPR’s Emily Feng earlier this month.

“The recent protests and demonstrations in Hong Kong have turned into radical violent behaviors that seriously violate the law, undermine security and social order in Hong Kong, and endanger local people’s safety, property and normal life,” Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a news conference earlier this month.

He said Beijing “firmly supports” Lam and the police “in strictly enforcing [the] law.” To this point, Chinese authorities have not indicated whether they plan to intervene in the situation more directly.

“I need to reemphasize a plain truth,” he added less than a week later. “Hong Kong is part of China, and its affairs are entirely China’s internal affairs.”

Beijing’s effort to cultivate a counter-narrative ran into some push-back by social media companies, though. On Monday, Twitter said it was suspending nearly 1,000 accounts suspected of being linked with China and part of a “coordinated state-backed operation,” and Facebook announced the removal of several pages and accounts “involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong.”

Have any other countries gotten involved?

At least to this point, foreign intervention has been limited to words of caution and condemnation.

Most notably, President Trump, whose administration is embroiled in a deepening trade war with China, has encouraged Beijing to “work humanely with Hong Kong” and even suggested that Chinese leader Xi Jinping meet personally with the protesters.

Chinese officials have bristled suggestions such as these, repeatedly asserting that “Hong Kong affairs are entirely China’s internal affairs” and that, effectively, the rest of the world needs to mind its own business.

This isn’t the first time Hong Kong has seen this kind of unrest, is it?

Far from it.

Hong Kong is less than five years removed from another wave of massive protests in 2014 collectively known as the Umbrella movement. For nearly three months Hong Kong saw a series of sit-ins, rallies and road-clogging demonstrations. Several of the protest movement’s organizers were sentenced to prison time earlier this year for their role in the demonstrations.

In fact, Hong Kong has seen several spasms of unrest since the U.K. handed the region back to China in 1997. The agreement specified that Hong Kong was to be a “special administrative region” within Communist China, enjoying a “high degree of autonomy” — including the freedom to maintain its own economic and legal systems. In a word, Hongkongers were promised “one country, two systems.”

It hasn’t exactly worked out that way, however.

Hongkongers have complained of encroachment by Beijing virtually since the region’s handover. Those complaints have grown louder in recent years, particularly after a spate of Hong Kong booksellers disappeared only to turn up later in police custody in mainland China. Critics of the extradition bill believe such incidents presage what the future might look like if the measure were ever to become law.

What’s with all those umbrellas?

This one, at least, is really rather simple. They’re for protection — and not just from the elements. Protesters have been using umbrellas to shield themselves against police cameras and the deployment of pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Their near-ubiquitous use in 2014 lent a name to that 79-day movement. And now that people have returned to the streets, the umbrellas have, too.

India studying early Chinese proposals on boundary issue

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

India studying early Chinese proposals on boundary issue

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting.

INDIA Updated: Aug 18, 2019 08:15 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, Beijing/ New Delhi
Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way.
Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way. (HT File Photo )

The 22nd round of the India-China Special Representatives dialogue on the boundary issue will take place in New Delhi in mid-September. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting.

Dates for the meeting between Doval and Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi, the interlocutors, haven’t yet been finalized, Hindustan Times learns from Chinese and Indian diplomats.

The foreign ministers dialogue on August 11-13 in Beijing and the Special Representative talks are precursors to the October 11-12 informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in India for which Varanasi is being considered as the potential venue.

Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way, and that Wang had sent “early harvest” proposals to India.

Neither side is willing to share the contents of the proposals. However, Beijing, as indicated by HT’s conversations with Chinese diplomats, is showing no signs of changing any positions with New Delhi, be it India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or full political support to its “all weather ally” Pakistan.

The trust factor between the two sides has also taken a hit after China, joined by the United Kingdom, still living in its imperial past, supported Pakistan in the informal United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Monday against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to nullify Article 370 and Article 35 A of the Indian Constitution pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir.

The overall sense from the UNSC meeting was that both countries were hopelessly outnumbered and out maneuvered in their quest for a formal outcome by the remaining 13 members led by the US and France.

In his meeting this month in Beijing with State Councillor Wang, who is also foreign minister, external affairs minister S Jaishankar had made it very clear that both countries should be sensitive to each other’s core concerns. “If Beijing wants India to support One China that includes Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, then it also must support One India,” said a top official.

Indian diplomats based in the US said the latest Chinese move in support of Pakistan on Kashmir will lead to a cooling of ties; Article 370 and Article 35 A have nothing to do with beaching either the UN Charter or the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan, they say. Despite Chinese diplomats vehemently denying it, Beijing wants to play elder brother to South Asia as the dominant power in the region and will support Pakistan for its own economic and strategic interests.

In the circumstances, mutual trust between the two countries can only be built if President Xi, or Xi Dada (elder brother as he is called), can overrule the status quoits in Beijing and opt for a mutually beneficial and mutually acceptable solution to the long-pending dispute over the boundary.

First Published: Aug 18, 2019 07:07 IST

China to build Shenzhen into socialist demonstration area

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

 

China to build Shenzhen into socialist demonstration area

CGTN
China to build Shenzhen into socialist demonstration area

Imagine china

An aerial view of Shenzhen.

China is aiming to build its southern metropolis of Shenzhen into a “global model city with distinguished competitiveness, innovation capability and influence” by mid-century, according to a guideline supporting Shenzhen. The document supports the city in the construction of a pilot demonstration area of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

The guideline, released by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the State Council on Sunday, says that by 2025 Shenzhen should become a “modern international city of innovation” with its economic power and quality of development at the forefront of cities worldwide. By 2035, it should become a “hub for innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship” as well as a sample for China to build a “great modern socialist country” at the city level.

The coastal city in Guangdong Province should play a leading role in high-quality development and position itself as a demonstration city of the rule of law, the guideline stressed, calling for the creation of a “stable, fair, transparent and predictable” business environment.

It added that Shenzhen should become a model for a civilized society and decent livelihoods for its residents and a pioneer in pursuing sustainable development.

The guideline was made public more than three weeks after it was reviewed at the ninth meeting of the central committee for deepening overall reform.

Key role in Greater Bay Area

Hailing Shenzhen an “important window” of China’s reform and opening-up, the guideline said supporting the city in building a pilot demonstration area of socialism with Chinese characteristics will be conducive for better implementing the strategy of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and enriching the practice of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

It underscored support for Shenzhen to play a key role in developing the Greater Bay Area into an international innovation and technology hub.

Shenzhen will also be supported in building innovation-oriented bodies in fields such as 5G, artificial intelligence, cyberspace science and technology and laboratories on life information and bio-medicine, according to the guideline.

It seeks to encourage overseas personnel who have permanent resident status in Shenzhen to set up scientific and technological enterprises.

The plan vowed to deepen reform and opening-up in the Shenzhen-Hong Kong modern service industry cooperation zone in Qianhai of Shenzhen and upgrade the city’s level of opening-up to Hong Kong and Macao.

Meanwhile, people from Hong Kong and Macao working and living in Shenzhen will be treated the same as residents of the city in terms of their livelihoods, it said.

In February, the central government unveiled a blueprint for the development of the Greater Bay Area, which covers nine cities in Guangdong Province – Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing – as well as Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions.

Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macao are positioned as core cities in the Greater Bay Area.

India studying early Chinese proposals on boundary issue

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

India studying early Chinese proposals on boundary issue

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting.

INDIA Updated: Aug 18, 2019 08:15 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, Beijing/ New Delhi
Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way.
Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way. (HT File Photo )

The 22nd round of the India-China Special Representatives dialogue on the boundary issue will take place in New Delhi in mid-September. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting.

Dates for the meeting between Doval and Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi, the interlocutors, haven’t yet been finalised, Hindustan Times learns from Chinese and Indian diplomats.

The foreign ministers dialogue on August 11-13 in Beijing and the Special Representative talks are precursors to the October 11-12 informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in India for which Varanasi is being considered as the potential venue.

Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way, and that Wang had sent “early harvest” proposals to India.

Neither side is willing to share the contents of the proposals. However, Beijing, as indicated by HT’s conversations with Chinese diplomats, is showing no signs of changing any positions with New Delhi, be it India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or full political support to its “all weather ally” Pakistan.

The trust factor between the two sides has also taken a hit after China, joined by the United Kingdom, still living in its imperial past, supported Pakistan in the informal United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Monday against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to nullify Article 370 and Article 35 A of the Indian Constitution pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir.

The overall sense from the UNSC meeting was that both countries were hopelessly outnumbered and outmanoeuvred in their quest for a formal outcome by the remaining 13 members led by the US and France.

In his meeting this month in Beijing with State Councillor Wang, who is also foreign minister, external affairs minister S Jaishankar had made it very clear that both countries should be sensitive to each other’s core concerns. “If Beijing wants India to support One China that includes Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, then it also must support One India,” said a top official.

Indian diplomats based in the US said the latest Chinese move in support of Pakistan on Kashmir will lead to a cooling of ties; Article 370 and Article 35 A have nothing to do with beaching either the UN Charter or the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan, they say. Despite Chinese diplomats vehemently denying it, Beijing wants to play elder brother to South Asia as the dominant power in the region and will support Pakistan for its own economic and strategic interests.

In the circumstances, mutual trust between the two countries can only be built if President Xi, or Xi Dada (elder brother as he is called), can overrule the status quoits in Beijing and opt for a mutually beneficial and mutually acceptable solution to the long-pending dispute over the boundary.

First Published: Aug 18, 2019 07:07 IST

Hong Kong Rally For Support Of Government And Peace Draws 476,000

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

 

476,000 call for support for HKSAR govt, police, in ‘Oppose Violence, Save Hong Kong’ rally

CGTN
476,000 call for support for HKSAR govt, police, in 'Oppose Violence, Save Hong Kong' rally

Xinhua

Hundreds of thousands of people participate in an anti-violence rally in Hong Kong on Saturday.

Hong Kong residents waved the national flag and repeated slogans like “uphold the rule of law and safeguarded Hong Kong,” calling for an end to violence during Saturday’s anti-violence rally.

The rally themed “Oppose Violence, Save Hong Kong” took place near Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Complex. According the organizers, around 476,000 residents and representatives from all walks of life participated.

Speeches were made by family members of the police, the educational community, the government, taxi drivers and the legal community.

Organizers also made seven appeals to the public in the hope of bringing peace and order back to the city.

The appeals include stopping the endless unlawful assemblies, ending violence, preventing disruption from disturbing people’s daily lives, upholding the rule of law, stopping behaviors that break society apart, and getting Hong Kong back on the right track.

Some foreigners living in Hong Kong also joined the rally.

Noting that China is a peaceful country, Peter Bently, a foreigner who said he has lived most of his life in China said “I simply want to ask why these people who are violent protesters even those are peaceful protesters, why they are afraid of China. I love Hong Kong, I love China.”

476,000 call for support for HKSAR govt, police, in 'Oppose Violence, Save Hong Kong' rally

Xinhua

People participate in an anti-violence rally in Hong Kong on Saturday.

Su Changrong, member of the National Committee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region told CGTN, “Hong Kong is now in a serious and bad situation. I believe that the vast majority of Hong Kong people supporting our mainstream anti-violence. They support to maintain a good order and a stable environment in Hong Kong. This is for sure. My friends around me are holding such faith and expectations.”

A National People’s Congress deputy also said “Hong Kong’s chaos has reached a dangerous level. If it continue like this, Hong Kong will suffer even more.”

“We can’t let the rioters bully us like this. We support our government and the police to safeguard the rule of law. This is Hong Kong’s only hope. We need to unite together with the support of the motherland to build Hong Kong into a better place,” Li Yingsheng told CGTN.

When talking to CGTN many Hong Kong residents also expressed their opposition to the violence of some recent protests and voiced their support for the government.

Meanwhile, in Sydney Chinese demonstrators also held a peaceful rally on Saturday voicing their support for Hong Kong authorities.

Demonstrators were heard chanting “Hong Kong is part of China.” Other rallies were also held in different cities across Australia.

On Friday night, many students and other supporters of the Hong Kong authorities had already gathered for the same reason in a series of protests calling for an end to the riots in Hong Kong.

The organizers also called on Chinese-Australians to raise their voices against attempts to undermine the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ policy.

476,000 call for support for HKSAR govt, police, in 'Oppose Violence, Save Hong Kong' rally

Xinhua

People participate in an anti-violence rally in Hong Kong on Saturday.

476,000 call for support for HKSAR govt, police, in 'Oppose Violence, Save Hong Kong' rally

Xinhua

People participate in an anti-violence rally in Hong Kong on Saturday.

476,000 call for support for HKSAR govt, police, in 'Oppose Violence, Save Hong Kong' rally

Xinhua

A man holds a banner during an anti-violence rally in Hong Kong on Saturday.

476,000 call for support for HKSAR govt, police, in 'Oppose Violence, Save Hong Kong' rally

Xinhua

A group of people pose for photo in an anti-violence rally in Hong Kong on Saturday.

4 Chinese Cities You’ll Want to Get Lost In

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

4 Chinese Cities You’ll Want to Get Lost In

When you travel to a large country, you know that there are countless options for places to visit. Just like in the United States, China is a massive place with a number of major cities that make for excellent stops on your itinerary. If you’re thinking of planning a trip that will take you through the land of the Great Wall, be sure to consider stopping into one of these four cities.

Beijing

Credit: Sean Pavone / iStock

Of course, with any trip to China, Beijing should be on your “must-see” list. In addition to being a bustling home to 20 million residents and the nation’s capital, the city is also rich in history and centrally located to a number of popular attractions. If your goal is to walk the Great Wall, Beijing is close to some of the best-preserved stretches of the structure. Even if you don’t want to leave the city, you should check out the Forbidden City, a former imperial palace that also has the distinction of being the world’s largest palace.

The city is full of countless museums and historical sites, making Beijing a perfect stop to understand the nation’s rich culture and history. But don’t fall under the impression that Beijing can offer a window into only the past. The 798 Art District is full of modern and quirky pieces ranging from sculptures to paintings. And at night you can head to Nanluoguxiang for a taste of Beijing’s nightlife and foodie culture.

Hangzhou

Credit: gaoshanshan / iStock

If the hustle and bustle of bigger Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing leave you feeling a tad overwhelmed, then dial it back with a more laid-back city like Hangzhou. The southern city is part of the original Silk Road and is best known as a blend of “old world meets new world.” Tourists from China and around the world can enjoy the countless shrines, temples, bridges and pagodas dotted throughout the city and around West Lake.

But Hangzhou is also a popular business destination that has encouraged the metropolitan and tech vibe that can be felt in the newer parts of the city. The city is home to the Alibaba headquarters — the e-commerce platform and Amazon rival. And even if you’re not into the tech world, enjoy a bit of whimsy with the Hello Kitty Park, the only theme park outside of Japan that’s dedicated to that anthropomorphic sweet cat.

Xi’an

Credit: MediaProduction / iStock

History buffs should make sure that Xi’an (pronounced “shee-ahn”) is on their priority list. Xi’an is most famously known for the 1974 archeological discovery of the Terracotta Warriors. The UNESCO site showcases more than 8,000 statues of warriors, horses, and weapons—and that number is still growing as excavators continue to unearth more. Expect to spend about half a day visiting the Terracotta Warriors as they’re located about an hour outside of the city.

If you prefer to stay close to town, Xi’an still has plenty to offer. The city wall closely resembles the Great Wall because it was built within the same time period during the Ming Dynasty. And it is one of the best-preserved defense walls that isn’t part of the Great Wall. For a unique experience, rent a bicycle and cycle on the wall to get a different view of the city.

Lhasa

Credit: iPandastudio / iStock

Depending on who you talk to, Lhasa can be a technicality. According to most travel guides, Lhasa is considered a Chinese city. However, it is located in Tibet and is an important place for Tibetan Buddhists. Regardless of the geography, Lhasa is a high-elevation city (11,647 feet above sea level), so you should plan to spend quite a few days here to give your body time to acclimate and avoid altitude sickness.

5 Lies You Were Taught About the Earth

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Lies You Were Taught About the Earth

When it comes to our home planet, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. For instance, in spite of what you may have heard in history or science class, it’s not, in fact, possible to see the Great Wall of China from outer space.

And that’s not the only common misconception about Earth. Here are some of the biggest lies you were probably taught about Earth.

Columbus Discovered That the Earth Is Round

An old model ship
Credit: Theera Disayarat / Shutterstock.com

You’ve probably heard the famous “in fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” poem. As the legend goes, against all odds, Christopher Columbus headed out on a voyage to East Asia by heading west instead of east from Europe. The monarchy (who funded the trip) was worried that Columbus would never return because, of course, Earth was a big flat pancake and he might fall off.

Even by the 1400s, flat Earth theories had already been debunked, and the orb shape was already accepted after being proposed by Pythagoras thousands of years before. In fact, the voyage was plotted out based on the fact that the Earth was round! Coming upon America was a surprise, however.

You Can See The Great Wall of China From Space

The Great Wall of China
Credit: zhao jiankang / Shutterstock.com

It makes for a great story: Way up from outer space, astronauts can gaze upon the Great Wall of China. We hate to tell you, this not true.

While the wall may be great, according to NASA, it’s less visible than you might think from outer space. In fact, Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei reported that he wasn’t able to see the structure from space. Other astronauts have reported that it’s barely visible with a telephoto lens but not to the naked eye.

However, there’s still some good news for astro-followers: Certain landmarks, like cities and major reservoirs, are visible from space.

Earth Is Closer to The Sun in Summer

The sun rising above Earth in outer space
Credit: Skylines / Shutterstock.com

It seems like sound logic: it’s hotter in the summer because the Earth is closer to the sun at that time of year, right? Sorry, but no.

Consider this. If that were the case, how could it be summer in the southern hemisphere at the same time it’s winter in the northern hemisphere?

While it’s a little harder to wrap your mind around, it’s all based on the angle of the Earth. The Earth tilts, and its axis can vary throughout the course of its cycle. This is what causes the difference in seasons. A greater tilt means hotter summers and colder winters.

A Compass Always Points Due North

A compass sitting on a rock
Credit: R_Tee / iStock

If you trust movies and TV, then you’re apt to think that a compass will always point due north. However, this isn’t quite the case. A compass points to the magnetic north. This is an important distinction because the magnetic pole changes based on activity in the Earth’s core.

That’s right: the magnetic pole that attracts all compasses is a moving target. It has been moving rapidly in recent years — as much as 30 or more miles per year. So be sure to take your compass reading with a grain of salt!

Deserts Are Always Hot

A desert landscape in Joshua Tree National Park
Credit: Joke van Eeghem / Shutterstock.com

While the term “desert” probably makes you think of miles of sand and heat-induced mirages, deserts are not always hot.

A desert is considered any place that receives less than 10 inches of rain per year. This isn’t limited to hot places. For example, many of the polar regions of the world could be considered deserts because they don’t get much precipitation.

Doesn’t it feel good to unearth (get it?) the truth? There are plenty of misconceptions about the planet that we call home. But as time goes on and we learn more, we’re correcting these long-held, so-called “truths.”

UN Security Council to discuss J&K in closed-door consultation today

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

UN Security Council to discuss J&K in closed-door consultation today

China on Wednesday threw its weight behind its all-weather ally Pakistan’s call for convening an “urgent meeting” of the Security Council to take up the agenda item “India-Pakistan Question” to discuss the situation in Jammu and Kashmir following India’s decision to end the state’s special status and split it into two Union Territories.

INDIA Updated: Aug 16, 2019 08:11 IST

Yashwant Raj and Rezaul H Laskar
Yashwant Raj and Rezaul H Laskar

Hindustan Times, Washington/New Delhi
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard in Srinagar on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019.
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard in Srinagar on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. (AP)

The UN Security Council is set to take up the situation in Kashmir during closed door informal consultations on Friday, instead of the open and formal meeting Islamabad sought along with the right to address it, people familiar with developments said on Thursday.

China on Wednesday threw its weight behind its all-weather ally Pakistan’s call for convening an “urgent meeting” of the Security Council to take up the agenda item “India-Pakistan Question” to discuss the situation in Jammu and Kashmir following India’s decision to end the state’s special status and split it into two Union Territories.

China’s statement backing Pakistan’s call for the meeting said the 15-member Security Council should hold “closed consultations under the agenda ‘India-Pakistan Question’” and invite the Department of Political and Peace building Affairs and Department of Peace Operations to brief the body. If China had wanted a broader formal meeting, it would have said so instead of seeking “consultations”, the people said.

Watch | Jaishankar meets Chinese minister amid Beijing’s objection to Art 370 move

Jaishankar meets Chinese minister amid Beijing’s objection to Art 370 move
India’s External Affairs Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, is in China.
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“The UN Security Council will discuss the Jammu and Kashmir situation behind closed doors most likely on August 16,” Poland’s permanent representative to the UN and current Security Council president, Joanna Wronecka, was quoted as saying by Geo News channel. Poland holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency for August.

Russia’s acting UN envoy, Dmitry Polyansky, told reporters that Moscow did not object to the holding of such a meeting but that the issue should be discussed behind closed doors. Security Council members need to coordinate their positions first because the Kashmir issue hasn’t been on the agenda for quite a while, he added.

“Consultations” and an “open” or a “closed meeting” are technically and substantively different, reflecting the gravity of the issue. According to the UN’s definitions, both open and closed meetings are formal meetings of the Security Council, though closed meetings are not open to the public and no verbatim record of statements is kept and the council issues a communiqué. Consultations are informal meetings of the council members and aren’t covered in the repertoire.

The Security Council holds such consultations frequently, sometimes thrice a week, and members can raise any issue and several topics can come up at these discussions. China has inserted Kashmir into the agenda and it will be one of them on Friday, the people cited above said. The session will neither be recorded nor telecast live and Pakistan won’t get to address the members, they added.

France had even proposed the council should discuss the issue in a less formal manner – known as “any other business” – next week, Reuters quoted unnamed diplomats as saying.

Russia has already said India and Pakistan should address their differences bilaterally, a position also adopted by Poland and the European Union. The US, too, has ruled out mediation on the Kashmir issue and called for a dialogue between India and Pakistan.

A letter sent by Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to the Security Council president on August 13 said a representative of the Pakistani government should be allowed to join the meeting. Experts said if this request were to be accepted by the council, an Indian representative would also have to be allowed to participate in the discussions.

The experts said much depends on the format of discussions and their outcomes – such as whether there is a binding or non-binding resolution and whether the minutes are recorded.

The people cited above also said that though Pakistan had tried many times to internationalise the Kashmir issue, the situation on the ground had changed since the Indian government’s decision on August 5 to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

“In the past, such efforts to internationalise the matter were aimed at discussing the status of Kashmir. This is no longer the case now as the status has changed,” said a person who did not want to be identified.

The people noted that Pakistan was persisting with efforts to portray a “doomsday picture”, including Prime Minister Imran Khan’s public remarks and tweets, and Qureshi’s letter to the Security Council. Qureshi wrote in his letter that the situation in Kashmir poses “an imminent threat to international peace”. Qureshi also referred to Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, killed by security forces in 2016, as a “popular resistance leader”.

“There is, furthermore, a clear and present danger that India will provoke another conflict with Pakistan to divert attention from its recent actions in Jammu & Kashmir,” Qureshi wrote in the letter.

He added, “Pakistan will not provoke a conflict. But India should not mistake our restraint for weakness. If India chooses to resort again to the use of force, Pakistan will be obliged to respond, in self-defense, with all its capabilities.”

The Indian government hasn’t formally responded to the remarks by the Pakistani leadership and the people cited above said the changes in Kashmir were purely an internal issue.

First Published: Aug 15, 2019 23:28 IST

The History of Hong Kong in 2 Minutes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

The History of Hong Kong in 2 Minutes

The territory of Hong Kong, officially known as the Hong Kong Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, has a fascinating and tumultuous history on the world stage. While we know it today as a global hub of international trade and exotic exports, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, given its divisive history, it’s a bit surprising that it even still exists.

Hong Kong’s Origins

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The Hong Kong we know today is home to over 7.4 million people spread across 426 square miles and stands as the fourth most densely populated region in the world. But getting there was a long road, with its story beginning as far back as BCE 214.

Even then, the Hong Kong island region had been occupied by humans for thousands of years. Early settlers migrated into the region from inland China and used their knowledge of agriculture to begin farming the land. These settlers wouldn’t be independent for long, as the dominant Chinese government—the Qing dynasty—saw the value of the region and integrated the island into the fold. The Hong Kong area would change hands over the years as Chinese dynasties rose and fell, each laying new claim to the territory.

Its value came from its location: Hong Kong was situated at a strategic point between the Pearl River Delta and the South China Sea, making it an ideal port for maritime trading. This defining feature was the key driver of Hong Kong’s development over the years, particularly as the region began to draw international interest.

The Rise of International Trade

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Beginning in the early 1500s, Portuguese and European merchants began trading in Hong Kong, bringing significant prosperity to the region. This prosperity would continue over the next several hundred years, sparked by European interest in Chinese products—spices, silk, tea, and porcelain.

And while the Chinese markets didn’t care as much for European goods, there was one product that caught their attention: Indian opium. European traders funneled so much opium into the area that Hong Kong (and China as a whole) realized that they were facing a full-fledged opioid crisis.

In response, the Emperor sought to snuff out the opium trade altogether by prohibiting the trade of opium and forcing his subordinates to destroy all existing opium stockpiles. This culminated in a complete stop to all foreign trade in 1839, something that didn’t sit well with British merchants.

The Opium Wars

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The British responded to this trade embargo with aggressive military action, resulting in the First Opium War. This conflict raged for three years until the Qing dynasty surrendered, ceding control of Hong Kong to the United Kingdom in 1842.

Under new rule, Hong Kong experienced an economic upturn that greatly improved the region, aided in part by an influx of wealthy Chinese who fled to Hong Kong in the wake of the Taiping Rebellion. Unfortunately, hostilities over the opium trade weren’t resolved, and tensions between the British and the Chinese escalated to the point of a Second Opium War in 1856.

This war lasted four years, ending in another Chinese defeat, which did little to stop the expansion of Hong Kong as a port of international trade. The rapid economic growth brought on by the administrative infrastructure of British rule combined with the influx of wealthy Chinese made Hong Kong a desirable region for international investors, despite its political troubles.

This international interest would set the stage for Hong Kong as a region of great global significance, if it survived that long.

The World at War

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The beginning of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 spelled further trouble for the region.

Although the governor of Hong Kong declared Hong Kong a neutral zone during the war, the Japanese army attacked Hong Kong on December 8, 1941—the same morning as the attack on Pearl Harbor. As a result, Hong Kong was occupied by Japanese forces for nearly four years until the British re-took control in 1945.

Hong Kong’s population suffered during this occupation, but it bounced back thanks to further influxes of those fleeing from the Chinese Civil War and those who fled from the Communist Party takeover of China in 1949. This influx of population would be a crucial part of Hong Kong’s post-war restoration.

Hong Kong’s Growth and Modernization

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In the 1950s, Hong Kong saw tremendous advancements to its infrastructure and public services. While Hong Kong’s production capabilities were limited compared to those of mainland China, Hong Kong’s diverse international population gave it an advantage in the service economy. It wasn’t long before Hong Kong established itself as a global center for shipping, finance, and trade.

But this economic growth did little to ease political tensions in the area that had been growing throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s. In the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, it was decided that Hong Kong would be returned to Chinese control when Britain’s lease ended, triggering a mass emigration of citizens concerned for the future of their civil liberties. In 1997, Hong Kong was officially transferred back to China after 156 years of British rule.

Today, Hong Kong is supposedly an autonomous entity, but there are serious concerns about Hong Kong’s being truly independent from China, as was promised in the transfer. But as we’ve seen, Hong Kong’s history is characterized by political unrest—and against all odds, the territory always seems to endure, no matter what challenges it faces.

Kashmir cross-border fire ‘kills 3 Pakistani, 5 Indian soldiers’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL JAZEERA NEWS)

 

Kashmir cross-border fire ‘kills 3 Pakistani, 5 Indian soldiers’

India denies Pakistani army’s statement that five of its troops were killed in exchange of fire across Line of Control.

Indian soldiers patrolling near the LoC on Tuesday [Channi Anand/AP Photo]
Indian soldiers patrolling near the LoC on Tuesday [Channi Anand/AP Photo]

Pakistan‘s army has said at least three Pakistani and five Indian soldiers have been killed after a cross-border soldiers killed

exchange of fire in the disputed region of Kashmir, prompting a denial by New Delhi that there were fatalities among its forces.

Major General Asif Ghafoor, spokesman of Pakistan armed forces, wrote on Twitter on Thursday that its three soldiers had died along with five of India’s when Indian forces opened fire along the contested border, known as the Line of Control (LOC).

“Intermittent exchange of fire continues,” Ghafoor tweeted.

He told Al Jazeera that three civilians were also killed on Thursday in the same cross-border firing at Batal sector on the Pakistani side of the LoC.

DG ISPR

@OfficialDGISPR

In efforts to divert attention from precarious situation in IOJ&K,Indian Army increases firing along LOC.
3 Pakistani soldiers embraced shahadat. Pakistan Army responded effectively. 5 Indian soldiers killed, many injured, bunkers damaged. Intermittent exchange of fire continues.

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An Indian army spokesperson denied the Pakistani army’s statement. “No casualties. This assertion is wrong,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

In a statement quoted by news agencies, the Indian army said that from around 7am Pakistan violated a ceasefire between the two nations in the heavily militarized LoC.

Kashmir status scrapped

The developments come during a period of increasing tensions between India and Pakistan after New Delhi’s Hindu nationalist government last week revoked special status for Indian-administered Kashmir.

The decision by India blocks the right of the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir to frame its own laws and allows non-residents to buy property there.

Telephone lines, internet and television networks have been blocked and there are restrictions on movement and assembly.

READ MORE

Kashmir: India’s Modi hails ‘path-breaking’ changes amid lockdown

In the lead-up to its controversial move on August 5, India also deployed thousands of additional troops and arrested political leaders in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

“Details are emerging that there were some damage to homes in the area. Tensions remain high on this border,” Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid, reporting from Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, said.

“We’ve have been visiting some of these villages, where people have been telling us it is very difficult for normal life to continue there because they live under constant fear.”

On Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the local legislative assembly of the Pakistani-administered Kashmir in Muzaffarabad.

He vowed the time had come to teach New Delhi a lesson and promised to “fight until the end” against any Indian aggression.

Khan has also likened India’s moves in Kashmir to Nazi Germany, accused them of ethnic cleansing, and appealed to the international community to take action.

Pakistan formally asked the United Nations Security Council late on Tuesday to hold an emergency session to address the situation.

READ MORE

Indian activists release report after visiting ‘desolate’ Kashmir

Islamabad has also expelled the Indian ambassador, halted bilateral trade and suspended cross-border transport services.

“I think there is huge lack of trust on the part of the Kashmiri people and more importantly because India jailed a number of moderate pro-India politicians and leaders of the political party, there are really no intermediaries between the Muslim majority population of Indian citizens in the Kashmir valley,” Adnan Naseemullah, a senior lecturer at King’s College London, told Al Jazeera.

“That I think, the lack of ability for representation, to be part of this process, is also going to be very concerning in terms of economic development moving forward.”

Earlier this year Pakistan and India came close to all-out conflict yet again, after a militant attack in Indian-held Kashmir in February was claimed by a group based in Pakistan, igniting tit-for-tat air strikes.

UN to meet Pakistan and China

The UN Security Council is due to meet behind closed-doors on Friday at the request of China and Pakistan to discuss India’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, diplomats said.

Any action by the 15-member council is unlikely as the United States traditionally backs India and China supports Pakistan.

READ MORE

Kashmir special status explained: What are Articles 370 and 35A?

“Pakistan will not provoke a conflict. But India should not mistake our restraint for weakness,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi wrote in a letter to the Security Council on Tuesday.

“If India chooses to resort again to the use of force, Pakistan will be obliged to respond, in self-defense, with all its capabilities.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on India and Pakistan to refrain from any steps that could affect the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Guterres also said he was concerned about reports of restrictions on the Indian side of Kashmir.

The Security Council adopted several resolutions in 1948 and in the 1950s on the dispute between India and Pakistan over the region, including one which says a plebiscite should be held to determine the future of the mostly Muslim Kashmir.

Another resolution also calls upon both sides to “refrain from making any statements and from doing or causing to be done or permitting any acts which might aggravate the situation”.

Is Pakistan able to counter India's move in Kashmir?

INSIDE STORY

Is Pakistan able to counter India’s move in Kashmir?

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES