Planet Watch
PLARF

China: rapid expansion of nuclear missile silo fields

Satellite images reveal that China is building two new nuclear missile silo fields. The Federation of American Scientists reports that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) appears to be constructing new missile silos near Yumen, Gansu province, and at another site some 380 kilometers to the northwest, near Hami in Xinjiang. The construction at Yumen and Hami constitutes the most significant expansion ever of China’s inter-continental ballistic missile silos. China has for decades operated about 20 silos for its DF-5 ICBMs. With 120 silos under construction at Yumen, another 110 silos at Hami, a dozen silos at Jilantai, and possibly more silos being added in existing DF-5 deployment areas, the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) appears to have approximately 250 silos under construction—more than ten times the number of ICBM silos currently in operation in China. (Photo: Federation of American Scientists)

Planet Watch

Podcast: climate change and the global struggle

In Episode 81 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the fast-mounting manifestations of devastating climate destabilization—from Oregon to Siberia, from Germany to Henan. In Angola, traditional pastoralists are joining the ranks of “climate refugees” as their communal lands are stricken by drought. In Iran’s restive and rapidly aridifying Ahwazi region, protests over access to water have turned deadly. These grim developments offer a foreboding of North America’s imminent future. Yet media commentators continue to equivocate, asking whether these events are “linked to” or “caused by” climate change—rather than recognizing that they are climate change. And the opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by last year’s pandemic-induced economic paralysis, when already depressed oil prices actually went negative, is now being squandered. Oil prices are again rising, with the return to pre-pandemic dystopian “normality.” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo of Ahwazi protesters in Iran: Ahwazna)

Syria
syria refugees

Syria: Russia plays ‘political games’ with aid access

The UN Security Council unanimously voted to extend the sole humanitarian aid crossing into Syria—one day before it was set to close. The vote on the Bab al-Hawa crossing came after weeks of intense negotiations between Washington, which wants to expand the number of aid corridors into Syria, and Moscow, which had threatened to block continuation of the aid program altogether in the name of protecting Syrian sovereignty. Some 1,000 truckloads of aid pass through Bab al-Hawa each month—and humanitarian agencies say this is insufficient to address the scale of the disaster in Syria’s north. In 2014, the Security Council approved four border crossings for aid into Syria. But Russia has since used its veto to restrict aid access to the rebel-held north, leaving only Bab al-Hawa open. (Photo: UNICEF via UN News)

East Asia
anti-ccp

Podcast: democracy or separatism for China?

In Episode 78 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg offers a report and analysis of the “100 Years of Chinese Communist Party Oppression” rally outside the Chinese consultate in New York City, jointly organized by groups including Project Black Mask Hong Kong, Students for a Free Tibet, the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress NY-NJ, and the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center. But amid all the cries to free Hong Kong, free Tibet, free East Turkestan and free Southern Mongolia, it was only Tiananmen Square massacre survivor Fengsou Zhou of the group Humanitarian China who raised the demand “Free China!” Will liberation of the Hongkongers, Tibetans, Uyghurs and Southern Mongolians be possible without buildng solidariy against the dictatorship with Han Chinese? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: CounterVortex)

East Asia
hongkong leaflet

Hong Kong police thwart Handover anniversary demos

Hong Kong police arrested 11 for distributing “seditious publications,” as the force erected tight cordons across the city on the 24th anniversary of its handover to China. Citing pandemic restrictions, the Security Bureau warned that those taking part in unauthorized demonstrations may face jail. Police pre-emptively sealed off Victoria Park—the traditional starting point for pro-democracy marches on the date. But there were scattered small gatherings at other points around the city. The 11 arrests took place in Mong Kok commercial district, where activists from the group Student Politicism distributed leaflets. They were detained under the Crimes Ordinance, which dates to the British colonial era. (Photo: HKFP)

The Amazon
bloc 58

Peru: indigenous opposition to Chinese gas project

A new coalition of Amazonian indigenous groups and environmentalists has come together in Peru to demand oversight and accountability in the development of a huge new hydrocarbon exploitation bloc in the rainforest. The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won exploitation rights in 2017 at Bloc 58, in the Upper Urubamba zone of Cuzco region, after explorations revealed some 3.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, enough to increase Peru’s total gas reserves by nearly 28%. But Bloc 58 overlaps with the traditional territories of the Asháninka and Machiguenga indigenous peoples. The newly formed Amazon Indigenous Platform for Monitoring Chinese Investment in Peru is demanding that exploitation proceed at Bloc 58 only in compliance with the internationally recognized right to “prior and informed consent” of impacted indigenous peoples. (Photo via Andina)

East Asia
Victoria park

Hong Kong authorities shut down Tiananmen massacre vigil

For the second year running, authorities in Hong Kong banned the annual vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Citing the ongoing restrictions imposed to contain COVID-19, hundreds of police officers closed off Victoria Park, where the vigil has traditionally been held, and dispersed crowds who gathered with candles or their phone lights lit. Police also arrested activist Chow Hang Tung, vice chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organizes the annual vigil. She faces charges of promoting an unauthorized assembly. Last year, activists successfully defied the ban, so this marked the first year that no commemoration of the massacre was held in Hong Kong. (Photo: Jimmy Lam/HKFP)

Mexico
torreon

Mexico: apology for 1911 massacre of Chinese

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador officiated over a ceremony in Torreón, Coahuila, where he issued an apology for the 1911 massacre of more than 300 members of the city’s Chinese community at the hands of revolutionary troops. The president said the objective of the apology was to ensure “that this never, ever happens again.” Also on hand was Coahuila Gov. Miguel Ángel Riquelme, who said racist ideas fueled “genocidal killings” during a “convulsive” period of Mexico’s history. Also attending the ceremony was Chinese Ambassador Zhu Qingqiao. (Photo of 1911 taking of Torreón via Wikipedia)

Central Asia
uighur women

‘Genocide’ seen in PRC Uighur birth-control policy

An Australian think-tank released a report on the declining birth rates among the Uighur population in China’s western Xinjiang province, concluding that birth-control policies imposed on the Uighurs by the People’s Republic of China may constitute genocide. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) analyzed the publicly-available data on birthrates in China from 2011 to 2019, and found that birth rates among the Uighur ethnic minority dropped precipitously starting in 2017. The birth rate fell by almost half in the predominately Uighur province of Xinjiang, where a campaign to eliminate “illegal births” is being carried out. (Photo of Uighur women in Xinjiang: mikepryan via Wikimedia)

East Asia
hong kong vigil

Joshua Wong pleads guilty to Tiananmen vigil charge

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong and three others pleaded guilty to charges related to their participation in last year’s June 4 vigil commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre. Wong, one of the city’s most prominent pro-democracy advocates, is already serving a term of 17 months in prison. Last December, he was sentenced to 13 months imprisonment for organizing an illegal assembly during the height of the 2019 anti-government protests. This sentence was extended by four months in April after Wong pleaded guilty to fresh charges of unauthorized assembly and violating an anti-mask law. Also pleading guilty in the Tiananmen vigil case were longtime activists Lester Shum, Jannelle Leung and Tiffany Yuen. (Photo: HKFP)

Planet Watch
air pollution

Biden: cut US carbon emissions in half by 2030

President Joe Biden announced at the Leaders Summit on Climate that the US will aim to reduce carbon emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030. Climate experts have urged world leaders to cut carbon emissions in order to limit the warming of the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement sets a 2 C rise within the current century as a maximum, but urges countries to work toward a 1.5 C rise. Recent studies have found that the 1.5 C rise will be reached within five years. (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)

East Asia
Hong_Kong

Hong Kong: pro-democracy activists sentenced

Ten veteran Hong Kong pro-democracy activists—all aged 60 or older—were sentenced for participating in two unpermitted demonstrations, both in August 2019. They include Martin Lee, 82, hailed as Hong Kong’s “Father of Democracy,” and former lawmaker Margaret Ng, 73, who both received suspended sentences. Newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai, 72, will have to serve 14 months in prison. Also receiving between eight and 18 months were Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Yiu-chung, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Albert Ho Chun-yan, Yeung Sum, Au Nok-Hin and Leung Kwok-hung. The sentences fell short of the maximum of five years the defendants had faced. But Amnesty International said: “The wrongful prosecution, conviction and sentencing of these 10 activists underlines the Hong Kong government’s intention to eliminate all political opposition in the city.” (Photo: Iris Wong/Wikimedia)