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)

East Asia
Open the Gate for All

Japan: protest against restrictive immigration bill

A rally in Tokyo highlighted opposition to a proposed immigration law currently under consideration in Japan’s National Diet, seen as a yet further tightening of the country’s already highly selective refugee system. The rally, under the slogan “Open the Gate for All,” was organized by opposition lawmakers and human rights organizations including Amnesty International Japan and the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, all seeking to halt the legislation currently under consideration in the Diet. The proposed reform would permit asylum-seekers to be deported after a third failed application, and introduce new procedures for forcible deportation of individuals who entered Japan illegally or overstayed their visas. As the bill includes no cap on the length of detention or judicial review of cases, it has been criticized by human rights experts at the United Nations. (Photo via Twitter)

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)

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)

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)

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)

East Asia
Teng Biao

Trump co-opts Chinese dissidents —stirring dissent

Chinese-diaspora opponents of the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship who have swallowed the Trumpian enemy-of-my-enemy kool-aid bait a principled dissident who opposes Trump and the CCP alike as an agent of the latter because he will not toe their reactionary line. The dissident in question is legal scholar and exiled democracy activist Teng Biao, who has faced protests at his New Jersey home. The protesters are followers of exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui who now runs conservative GTV Media in a partnership with far-right operative Steve Bannon. Further evidence that there is no more honorable place in this world than to be a dissident among dissidents. (Photo: Princeton Planet)

East Asia
LegCo

Opposition lawmakers arrested in Hong Kong

Hong Kong authorities arrested eight opposition politicians in relation to a violent incident during a Legislative Council meeting earlier this year.  Back in May, a clash broke out in the chamber over control of a House Committee meeting. During this incident, a pro-Beijing politician dragged opposition lawmaker Ray Chan to the ground; he suffered a slipped disk as a result. Thus far, no pro-establishment lawmakers have been arrested over the incident—yet Chan is among those now detained. The new arrests have been widely condemned as political. (Image of protest occupation of the LegCo chamber in July 2019 via Wikipedia)

Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

East Asia
Kamchatka

Mysterious ‘ecological catastrophe’ in Kamchatka

Fears are mounting over an environmental disaster of still unknown origin in Russia’s Far East after residents reported dozens of dead sea animals washed onto a beach from the Pacific. Greenpeace Russia said tests conducted on water samples taken from Khalaktyrsky beach in Kamchatka krai showed petroleum levels four times higher than usual, and phenol levels 2.5 times higher. “The scale of the contamination has not yet been determined, but the fact that dead animals are found all along the coast confirms the seriousness of the situation,” the organization said in a statement, warning of an “ecological catastrophe.” Residents who used local beaches also complained of vomiting, fever and rashes. Krai authorities have launched an investigation. Some scientists suggest that rocket fuel may have leaked into the sea from the military’s Radygino firing range, which is six miles from the seashore and was used for missile tests as recently as August. (Photo: Einar Fredriksen via WikiTravel)

East Asia
Yau Tsim Mong

Hong Kong protesters defy ban and repression

On the day Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections were originally scheduled before being postponed under pandemic emergency measures, hundreds of protesters defied a ban on street demonstrations to march in opposition to the postponement and the new National Security Law. Some 300 were arrested, and police fired tear-gas and pepperballs to disperse the crowd in Yau Tsim Mong district of Kowloon. Days earlier, the UN special rapporteur for Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights Protection, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, and six other UN experts jointly sent a letter to the Chinese government stating that the National Security Law “infringes certain fundamental rights,” and expressing concern that the law may be used to prosecute political dissidents in Hong Kong. (Photo: Studio Incendo)