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)

Planet Watch
Narsaq

Mining project behind Greenland political upheaval

In snap elections, Greenland’s indigenous-led left-environmentalist party Inuit Ataqatigiit(Community of the People) won 37% of the vote, overtaking the longtime incumbents, the social-democratic Siumut (Forward) party. At the center of the race was a contentious mining project that Inuit Ataqatigiit aggressively campaigned against. The Kvanefjeld rare-earth mineral project, near Narsaq in Greenland’s south, has divided the territory’s political system for more than a decade. Greenland Minerals, the Australian company behind the project, says the mine has the “potential to become the most significant Western world producer of rare earths,” adding that it would also produce uranium. But the Chinese giant Shenghe Resourcesowns 11% of Greenland Minerals—raising concerns about Beijing’s perceived design to establish control over the planet’s rare earth minerals. (Photo of Narsaq via Polar Connection)

Watching the Shadows
Alexander Reid Ross

Podcast interview: Alexander Reid Ross

In Episode 66 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep and a fellow at the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), who has faced threats of litigation as well as relentless online harassment for his exposĂ©s of Russian propaganda and Red-Brown Politics. After his recent piece in the Daily Beast on leftist flirtation with the far right around conspiracy theories concerning COVID-19 and the war in Syria, the odious Max Blumenthal quickly retaliated with a piece on his Grayzone website charging in its headline that Reid Ross “works with ex-cops, CIA spies, and DHS agents.” This refers to the fact that former CIA, Homeland Security and NYPD officials are now also researchers with the NCRI. The accusation is hilariously ironic given that Blumenthal himself has shared platforms with former CIA analyst (and now a star of the conspiracy set) Ray McGovern. As well as (of course) avidly cooperating with Russian and Chinese state propaganda efforts. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Wikipedia)

East Asia
hong kong protest

Hong Kong: pro-democracy activists found guilty

A Hong Kong court found seven prominent democracy activists guilty of unauthorized assembly for their involvement in a 2019 peaceful anti-government protest. The defendants, all 60 years or older, include media figure Jimmy Lai and veteran Democratic Party lawmaker Martin Lee, hailed as Hong Kong’s “Father of Democracy.” Also appearing in the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court were former Labour Party lawmakers Lee Cheuk-yan and Cyd Ho, former League of Social Democrats lawmaker “Longair” Leung Kwok-hung, former Civic Partylawmaker Margaret Ng, and former Democratic Party chair Albert Ho. “Shame on political prosecution! Peaceful demonstration is not a crime!” Leung Kwok-hung shouted from dock after the conviction was delivered. (Photo via HKFP)

Southeast Asia
R2P

Burma: protesters demand ‘R2P’ as massacres mount

The death toll since the Feb. 1 coup in Burma has now exceeded 100 as security forces continue to fire on pro-democracy protesters. Most recent repression has been in Yangon’s outlying townships, where protesters have barricaded off streets in an attempt to secure territory. Martial law was declared in six of these townships, giving the military broad authority over those areas. Protesters have started using the hashtags #WeNeedR2P and #WeNeedR2PForMyanmar. In images seen from the air, protesters have arranged placards or lights from their mobile phones to spell out “WE NEED R2P.” This is a reference to the “responsibility to protect” doctrine developed in the 1990s following the disastrous failures to prevent genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda. (Photo: Myanmar Now)

Afghanistan
afghan army

Afghanistan: US withdrawal on hold?

With a May 1 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approaching but a final peace deal stalled, the White House is said to be considering an extension beyond this date for removal of its 2,500 troops remaining in the country. “Intra-Afghan” negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul opened in Doha in September, but remain deadlocked over fundamentals of the power-sharing deal—with the Taliban rejecting President Ashraf Ghani’s insistence on remaining in office for the remainder his five-year-term. Predictably, they haven’t even got around to discussing protection of minority and women’s rights, or the role of sharia law in the new order. Meanwhile, civilian casualties are mounting, and the Taliban has just launched a spring offensive. (Photo: Khaama Press)

East Asia
qiaochu

China: rights defender detained in ‘quarantine’

Li Qiaochu, a feminist, labor researcher, and human rights defender who has especially advocated for the rights of migrant workers in China, is being held incommunicado following her arrest for “subversion of state power.” Li was detained in Beijing, where she lives, and taken to Linyi city in Shandong province, where her partner and fellow human rights defender Xu Zhiyong is also detained and facing the same charge. Li’s detention follows her disclosure of Xu’s torture and mistreatment in detention. When Li’s lawyer formally requested that the Linyi Municipal Public Security Bureau grant access to her, he was told she is being held in quarantine at a local hospital. She is apparently to be transferred to the Linyi Municipal Detention Center once the quarantine is completed. (Image: FrontLine Defenders)

Planet Watch
Mars probe

Podcast: US robo-imperialism hands off Mars!

In Episode 64 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the maddening and telling irony that while we’re all supposed to be ga-ga with triumphalism over NASA’s latest Mars probe, it has received practicailly no attention that Afro-Brazilian peasant communities are being forcibly removed from their traditional lands to make way for a US-backed expansion of the Alcântara Satellite Launch Center in impoverished MaranhĂŁo state. This juxtaposition of news stories is paradigmatic of the whole global struggle—sustainable, Earth-rooted cultures against a hypertrophing technosphere that is now colonizing the very heavens. Meanwhile, there are already so many satellites in orbit that near-Earth space is experiencing a fast-growing “space junk” problem. And economic austerity down here on terra firma is compounding the agonizing impacts of the pandemic. Whatever useful knowledge may be gleaned from the Mars probe, accounts don’t note that Halliburton is drawing up plans for mining operations on Mars. We recall Gil Scott Heron’s wry reaction to the 1969 Moon landing (“Whitey on the Moon“), and say with Marvin Gaye: “Spend it on the have-nots!” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image adapted from NASA photo)

East Asia
Free Taiwan

Taiwan & Puerto Rico: forbidden symmetry

In Episode 63 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg draws a parallel between the self-determination struggles in Taiwan and Puerto Rico. Each is an island nation in the “backyard” of an imperial power, struggling for independence. Taiwan is de facto independent from China, with a movement to make it official. Puerto Rico is a de facto colony (officially an “unincorporated territory”) of the United States, with a movement for independence. Taiwan is being particularly threatened at this moment by the imperial power that covets it; Puerto Rico is being particularly fucked over at this moment by the imperial power that controls it. Yet the emergence of Taiwan-Puerto Rico solidarity is held back by the fact that their respective imperial metropoles are rivals on the geopolitical chassboard—another illustration of how a global divide-and-rule racket is the essence of the state system. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Wang LeWei, Josh MacPhee, Mac McGill via Art for a Free Taiwan)

East Asia
Guo Feixiong

China: another human rights lawyer ‘disappeared’

Chinese rights activist and attorney Guo Feixiong was detained at Shanghai’s international airport after border police prevented him from boarding a flight to visit his ailing wife, Zhang Qing, who is being treated for cancer in the Washington DC area. Guo had time to get out a text message saying he was accused of “endangering national security,” and announcing that he would immediately begin a hunger strike in protest, before his phone went silent. Family and friends have not heard from him since. He was at the Shanghai airport for a connecting flight from Guangzhou, where he had spent the previous weeks, and reported that he was being followed by plainclothes police. (Photo: New Citizens’ Movement via RFA)

Planet Watch
United Nations

Treaty on prohibition of nuclear arms takes force

The first nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades has come into force, following its 50th ratification last October, which triggered the 90-day period required before the treaty entered into effect. The UN completed negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at its New York headquarters in July 2017. The treaty constitutes “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination.” However, the US and the world’s eight other nuclear powers—Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel—have not signed the treaty. (Photo: Pixabay)

Central Asia
Uighurs

Huawei ethnicity-recognition tech tracks Uighurs

Top Chinese technology firms have registered patents for tools apparently designed to detect, track and monitor Uighurs, according to research by the Pennsylvania-based video surveillance watchdog group IPVM. A 2018 patent filed by Shenzhen-based tech giant Huaweiwith the State Intellectual Property Office lists attributes by which an individual may be targeted, including “race (Han, Uighur).” IPVM also released details of a document issued by Huawei and its Beijing-based corporate partner Megvii, dubbed an “Interoperability Test Report,” which boasted of a “Uighur alarm” among the “basic functions of Megvii’s facial recognition system.” Said Rushan Abbas, executive director of the DC-based Campaign for Uyghurs: “We cannot ignore the fact that these technologies have been developed in order to be able to efficiently carry out…brutal oppression.”  (Photo: Mvslim.com)