Palestine
Apartheid wall

Robo-Zionist policing of West Bank

The Israeli military has installed robotic weapons that can fire tear-gas, stun-grenades and “non-lethal” bullets in two volatile locations on the West Bank. One is atop a turret at al-Aroub refugee camp; the other in the nearby city of Hebron, where soldiers often clash with Palestinian residents. When young protesters pour into the streets hurling rocks and improvised firebombs at Israeli soldiers, the robotic weapons unleash gas and projectiles on them, according to witness accounts. The robo-weapons, produced by Israeli firm Smart Shooter, use artificial intelligence to track targets. Israel says the technology saves lives—both Israeli and Palestinian. But, as YNet states in its report on the installation, “critics see another step toward a dystopian reality in which Israel fine-tunes its open-ended occupation of the Palestinians while keeping its soldiers out of harm’s way.” (Photo: Filippo Minelli)

Central Asia
Xinjiang

Podcast: state capitalism and the Uyghur genocide

In Episode 149 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that the UN Human Rights Office determination that China may be guilty of “crimes against humanity” in its mass detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province is dismissed by the tankie-left ANSWER Coalition as “propagandistic.” Meanwhile, it falls to Radio Free Asia, media arm of the US State Department, to aggressively cover the very real conditions of forced labor faced by the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples of Xinjiang—and how Western corporations benefit from it. While the Western pseudo-left betrays the Uyghurs, US imperialism exploits their suffering for propaganda against a rising China in the Great Game for the Asia-Pacific region. Figures such as Australia’s Kevin Rudd incorrectly portray a “Return of Red China,” blaming the PRC’s increasingly totalitarian direction on a supposed neo-Marxism. Fortunately, the new anthology Xinjiang Year Zero offers a corrective perspective, placing the industrial-detention complex and techno-security state in the context of global capitalism and settler colonialism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

Iran
hijab protest

Iran: high-tech crackdown on hijab resistance

An Iranian government entity enforcing Islamic rules says the Intelligence Ministry has arrested 300 anti-hijab activist “ringleaders” working “for the enemy.” A spokesman of the Enjoining Good & Forbidding Evil Headquarters said that the activists were arrested in accordance with the new Hijab & Chastity Regulations, which officially extend the mandatory hijab to social media posts. This is to be monitored by the government’s facial recognition software that was used during the pandemic to track if people were wearing face masks. (Image: Iran International)

Central Asia
xinjiang

Leaked documents reveal abuse of Uyghurs

China’s President Xi Jinping held a video call with UN human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet during her visit to Xinjiang. But Bachelet’s fact-finding tour co-incided with new evidence of crimes against the Uyghur people of the province. A hacker broke into a computer network in Xinjiang’s so-called “Vocational Skills Education & Training Centers,” releasing a cache of files that document significant abuses. The Xinjiang Police Files, published by the Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies, include images from inside the camps, as well as thousands of detainee records. The records indicate that 12% of the 2018 adult Uyghur population of some counties was in camps or prisons. The files also include a 2017 internal speech by Chen Quanguo, then Communist Party secretary for Xinjiang, in which he apparently ordered guards to shoot to kill anyone who tried to escape the camps, and called for officials to “exercise firm control over religious believers.” (Image: Xinjiang Police Files)

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)

Europe
paris protest

France: mass protests over new security law

Police and demonstrators clashed in Paris as some 45,000 filled the streets to protest a new security law, with large mobilizations also seen in Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier and Nantes. The new law would severely restrict publishing of the images of police officers. The issue was given greater urgency by video footage of Paris police savagely beating local Black music producer Michel Zecler days earlier. President Emmanuel Macron said the images “shame us,” but critics point out that their release could have been barred if his new security law had already been in force. (Photo: @T_Bouhafs)

North America
It Can't Happen Here

Podcast: two faces of fascism

In Episode 54 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the twin threats of a totalitarian order that the United States faces at this history-making moment: Trump-fascism, perhaps to be lubricated by a “Reichstag Fire” scenario ahead of the November election, and a post-pandemic “new normality” of complete surveillance and social control. Eerily predictive of these twin dystopias are two works of “future fiction” from the 20th century—It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis and The Machine Stops by EM Foster. With the Black Lives Matter uprising deepening the ugly backlash from the Trump camp and a COVID-19 “second wave” looming, the US is poised on a razor’s edge between long-overdue leaps of social progress and descent into some kind of updated American variant of fascism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (1936 WPA Theatre Project poster via Minnesota Playlist)

East Asia
hong kong vigil

Hongkongers defy police on Tiananmen anniversary

Thousands gathered in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to attend the annual candlelight vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre—in defiance of an unprecedented police ban, ostensibly imposed as a measure to contain COVID-19. Attendees wearing surgical masks clambered over police barriers to enter the park. Thousands of riot police on stand-by did not interfere, although there were street clashes as troops broke up gatherings elsewhere in the city. The commemoration—the only one that can be freely held on Chinese soil—may no longer be possible in future, following Beijing’s passage of a “National Security Law” harshly limiting Hong Kong’s autonomy.  (Photo: HKFP)

Planet Watch
Warsaw riot

Biological police state preparations advance

As rising strongmen in places like Poland and Ethiopia exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to postpone elections and grab extraordinary powers, even democratic countries are putting unprecedented police-state measure into place in the supposed interest of a return to “normality.” In the latter category is New Zealand, where a bill has been passed giving police sweeping powers to enter homes without warrants while enforcing new “Alert Level 2” rules. The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act creates a new corps of “enforcement officers” to track social contacts among the populace and conduct raids on the premises of suspected violators. (Photo of Warsaw police action via Twitter)

Watching the Shadows
PNP_Checkpoints

Global COVID-19 police state escalates

Mounting police-state measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are now resulting in stand-offs between executive and judicial authorities. In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele is openly defying Supreme Court rulings to respect fundamental rights while enforcing the lockdown. His security forces have arbitrarily detained hundreds in containment centers, where rights observers charge they face an increased risk of spreading COVID-19. Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the government may not continue using tracking capabilities developed by the internal security service Shin Bet in efforts to contain COVID-19, imposing a deadline for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek legislative approval for the practice. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, already threatening to shoot lockdown violators, has escalated to warning of an imminent declaration of martial law. (Photo: Philippine National Police via Wikipedia)

Southern Cone
Plaza Dignidad

Chile: protest against ‘new normality’

For the first time since Chile was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, protesters gathered in Santiago’s Plaza Italia—which had been renamed “Plaza Dignidad” during last year’s popular uprising. Demonstrators were opposing President Sebastián Piñera’s call for the country to return to work under a “new normality,” in spite of the COVID-19 threat. The protesters wore masks, but were nonetheless quickly dispersed by the Carabineros, with 14 arrested. Gatherings of more than 50 continue to be banned nationwide. (Photo via Twitter)

Watching the Shadows
estado de emergencia

Podcast: COVID-19 and impending bio-fascism II

In Episode 50 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes frightening advances toward a fascist world order amid the COVID-19 crisis. With police-state measures being imposed worldwide, Donald Trump is claiming “total” executive power and threatening to “adjourn” Congress. That he is doing so in the name of lifting rather than enforcing the lockdown is certainly an irony, but either way it represents exploitation of the crisis for a power-grab. Even under a best-case scenario of a post-pandemic return to “normality,” it will be in the context of an unprecedented totalizing surveillance state. Yet at this grim moment for humanity, there are utopian as well as apocalyptic potentialities. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Peruvian Ministry of Defense via Flickr)