In Episode 34 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Rose Tang, veteran journalist, activist, artist, musician, and survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre. In an in-depth oral history, Tang recounts her experiences as a student leader in Beijing in the spring of 1989, her witness to the June 4 repression, and her work as a public voice for Tiananmen Square survivors. Books and works discussed include: Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang (Simon & Schuster 2009); The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited by Louisa Lim (Oxford 2014); "Tiananmen Massacre," Tang's contribution to The Princeton Reader: Contemporary Essays by Writers and Journalists at Princeton University (2010); and Jack London's "Credo." Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Seven soldiers imprisoned in Burma for killing 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys have received an early release—serving less time than the reporters who uncovered the massacre they were convicted of. The soldiers were sentenced in 2018 to 10 years in prison for the killings at the village of Inn Din, but they "are no longer detained," prison officials told Reuters. The news agency said the men were freed in November. This means they served less than one year of their 10-year terms. They are the only people to have been convicted for atrocities committed during the 2017 military campaign against the Rohingya in western Rakhine state, in which more than 700,000 were displaced. Meanwhile, the two Reuters reporters who were imprisoned on charges of revealing "state secrets" for reporting the massacre were also just released—after serving 16 months. The reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, received a presidential amnesty on May 6.
Four people were killed and three others injured in three explosions in Kathmandu on May 26, a grim reminder of the Maoist insurgency the shook Nepal for a decade before a 2006 peace agreement. Three were killed at a hairdressing salon; another improvised explosive device went off in a private home, and a third in a brickyard, possibly in transit toward the intended target. A dissident Maoist faction that has remained in arms since the peace agreement claimed credit for the blasts. The Netra Bikram Chand-led "Communist Party of Nepal" had declared a nationwide general strike for the following day. And in fact many businesses and transportation services were shut down, seemingly more due to fear of attack than support for the strike. (Kathmandu Post, Asia News, ANI)
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City on May 22 reversed a district court's dismissal of a class action lawsuit against French bank BNP Paribas over aiding atrocities in Sudan. The lawsuit was brought in 2016 by 21 refugees from Sudan's ethnic-cleansing campaigns Darfur and South Kordofan regions, alleging that the bank conspired with, and aided and abetted, the Sudanese regime. The plaintiffs' complaint alleges that BNP processed thousands of illegal transactions through its New York offices, which financed weapons purchases and funded militias in a "well-documented genocidal campaign." The reversal comes nearly five years after BNP pleaded guilty to committing large-scale violations of sanctions against Sudan, Cuba and Iran, which resulted in a record $8.97 billion fine.
A federal judge on May 24 blocked construction of Donald Trump's border wall, ruling that Trump cannot use a "national emergency" to take money from government agencies for the barrier. Judge Haywood Gilliam of the US District Court for Northern California ruled that the diversion of the money, largely from the US military, likely oversteps a president's statutory authority. The injunction specifically limits wall construction projects in El Paso, Tex., and Yuma, Ariz. Gilliam quoted Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, who said in a TV interview the wall "is going to get built, with or without Congress." The judge said presidential action "without Congress," when legislators refuse a funding request from the White House, "does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic."
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on May 6 described the abuse of detainees at a detention center in Cameroon's capital city of Yaoundé, identifying violations of domestic and international human rights law. Torture and arbitrary detention have been "endemic in Cameroon's law enforcement and military system," carried out by gendarmes and other security forces of the State Defense Secretariat. These tactics are employed against suspected members or supporters of Boko Haram or armed separatist groups.
The UN General Assembly on May 22 passed a resolution demanding the United Kingdom return control of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius within six months. There were 116 votes for the motion, with more than 50 abstentions, and just six votes against—the UK, United States, Hungary, Israel, Australia and the Maldives. The non-binding resolution follows an advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in February, finding that the UK is "under an obligation" to end its administration of the islands "as rapidly as possible." The UK retained control over the islands after Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968, following a supposed compensation deal between the two states. Mauritius now rejects the deal as having been imposed unilaterally.
For the second day, Turkish fighter jets struck Kurdish rebel positions across the Iraqi border May 21—part of a new offensive against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), apparently undertaken with the implicit consent of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government. Ankara's Defense Ministry said Turkish warplanes struck ammunition depots and shelters used by the rebels in the Avashin area of Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkish ground forces are also reported to have crossed the border, and engaged PKK fighters at the village of Sidekan, in the Khakurk area of Erbil province. The PKK issued a statement saying its fighters had clashed with the "Turkish invading army." (Al Monitor, Rudaw)