East Asia
tamtakchi

Hong Kong activist jailed under colonial-era ‘sedition’ law

Pro-democracy activist and popular radio DJ Tam Tak-chi, also known as “Fast Beat,” was found guilty of “seditious speech” and sentenced to 40 months in prison by the Hong Kong District Court. The former vice-chair of the People Power party is the first person since Hong Kong’s 1997 handover to stand trial for “sedition” under a law dating to the period of British colonial rule. Tam was arrested in July 2020, shortly after China imposed a sweeping National Security Law on the city, and has been in detention ever since, having been denied bail. He was found guilty of using the slogans “Liberate Hong Kong” and “Revolution of our times” at protests between January and July 2020. He was also accused of cursing at the police. Tam said that he would appeal the decision, stating that “my sentencing will affect Hongkongers’ freedom of speech.” Human Rights Watch senior China researcher Maya Wang stated that Tam’s sentence “exemplifies the dizzying speed at which Hong Kong’s freedoms are being eroded.” (Photo: Chan Cheuk-fai/Initium via HRW)

Europe
mariupol

Ukraine: Russian chemical attack on Mariupol claimed

Ukrainian officials are accusing Russian forces of having used chemical weapons on the besieged Azov Sea port city of Mariupol, causing troops and civilians alike to develop respiratory symptoms. The claim first emerged from the Azov Battalion, a unit of the Ukrainian National Guard involved in the defense of the city, which said a substance believed to be sarin gas was sprayed from a drone. The fact that this report emerges from the Azov Battalion, with its notorious far-right proclivities, will doubtless provide an excuse for those predisposed in favor of Russia to dismiss the claims. However, that same day, a far-right militia commander on the Russian side had openly threatened to use chemical weapons on defenders of Mariupol. Immediately dismissing an atrocity claim at Mariupol—or assuming it was a “false flag” by Ukrainian forces against their own people—amid the destruction of the city by Russia’s war machine is perverse and dishonest on its face. (Photo via Twitter)

Planet Watch
fracking

Ukraine war windfall for US fracking industry

US President Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced a joint Task Force to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian hydrocarbons and “strengthen European energy security as President Putin wages his war of choice against Ukraine.” The press release states: “The United States will work with international partners and strive to ensure additional LNG volumes for the EU market of at least 15 bcm [billion cubic meters] in 2022, with expected increases going forward.” This means liquified natural gas from the US fracking industry. Environmental group Global Witness reacted with alarm to the announcement, stating: “If Europe truly wants to get off Russian gas the only real option it has is phasing out gas altogether.” (Image: FracTracker)

Watching the Shadows
antivax

Podcast: antivax is fascist II

In Episode 103 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg, still suffering from possible COVID-19 symptoms, again notes how the radical right, including neo-Nazi elements, is in the vanguard of anti-vax protests, from Germany to Romania to England to Brooklyn. A virtual industry churns out relentless online disinformation that is easily refuted by anyone who makes the effort to break out of the confirmation-bias bubble. Contrary to the conspiranoid propaganda, COVID-19 deaths are actually being underestimated. The juvenile Nazi-baiting of the anti-vax machine is another example of the propaganda device of fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Meanwhile, Tuskegee experiment survivors are encouraging vaccinations, and the Peoples Vaccine Alliance protests the actual crimes of Big Pharma—failing to make the vaccine available to Africa and the much of the Global South, in what has been decried as “vaccine apartheid.” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Twitter)

Oceania
solomon islands

Solomon Islands uprising in the New Cold War

Australia has dispatched some 100 police and military troops to the Solomon Islands following days of rioting and looting in the capital Honiara. Calling for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to resign, protesters set the parliament building ablaze, and torched and looted shops, causing millions of dollars in damages. The looting centered on the city’s Chinatown, where three charred bodies have been found amid the ruins. Tensions between Guadalcanal and Malaita islanders have been enflamed by massive Chinese capital flows into the former island, while the latter remains comparatively impoverished. The two provincial governments are bitterly at odds over Sogavare’s recent decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic. (Map: University of Texas Libraries)

Planet Watch
anthropocene

Glasgow: ‘climate-vulnerable’ protest ‘compromise’ pact

The COP26 UN climate summit concluded a deal among the 196 parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement on long-delayed implementation measures. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the deal a “compromise,” and indeed it was saved through eleventh-hour haggling over the wording. Just minutes before the final decision on the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, India, backed by fellow major coal-producer China, demanded weaker language on coal, with the original call for a “phase-out” softened to “phase-down.” And even this applies only to “unabated” coal, with an exemption for coal burned with carbon capture and storage technology—a technofix being aggressively pushed by Exxon and other fossil fuel giants, in a propaganda blitz clearly timed for the Glasgow summit. Another corporate-backed fix that allows polluters to go on polluting was also embraced at Glasgow: the pact calls for establishment of a global carbon-trading market in 2023. (Photo: CounterVortex)

East Asia
chunma

Hong Kong: second conviction under national security law

A Hong Kong district court found delivery worker-turned-activist Ma Chun-man guilty of incitement to secession for his actions at over 20 protests and in several interviews last year. Famously dubbed “Captain America 2.0” by local news media for dressing like the comic-book character at demonstrations, Ma is the second person to be convicted under China’s Law on Protection of National Security of Hong Kong. He was charged under articles 20 and 21 for advocating “separating Hong Kong from China, unlawfully changing its legal status or surrendering it to foreign rule.” (Photo: Twitter via The Telegraph)

Central Asia
Uyghur

Uyghur Tribunal in UK hears testimony on abuses

The Uyghur Tribunal, an “independent people’s court” convened by exile and human rights groups, concluded after months of hearings in London. Following a request from the World Uyghur Congress, the Tribunal was organized last year by Sir Geoffrey Nice­, the lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The Tribunal heard testimony from some 500 witnesses, including survivors of the detention camps in Xinjiang, on torture, sexual abuse, coerced labor, and forced sterilization. (Photo via Coda)

Oceania
Nauru

Pact indefinitely keeps open ‘Australia’s Gitmo’

A new memorandum of understanding was signed allowing Australia to continue to indefinitely detain asylum seekers at a facility on the Pacific island of Nauru. Since 2012, asylum seekers arriving by boat have been barred from settlement in Australia and sent to offshore detention centers instead. The deal extending use of the Nauru facility comes just as the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) finally reached an agreement to close the contentious Manus Island Regional Processing Center, which was found to be illegal by the PNG Supreme Court in 2016. Most of those held there are now to be transferred to Nauru. Both the Manus Island and Nauru facilities have been criticized by rights groups as “Australia’s Guantánamo.” (Photo of Nauru facility via Wikipedia)

Africa
Djibouti

Djibouti: Horn of Africa’s next domino?

At least three people are dead following an outbreak of inter-communal violence in Djibouti. Fighting erupted in several areas between members of the Afar ethnic group, which straddles Djibouti’s borders with Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the Issa, the country’s other main ethnicity, which is a sub-group of the Somali people and straddles the borders with Ethiopia and Somalia. Issa protesters blocked the rail line and road connecting Djibouti’s port to Ethiopia, a key artery for the landlocked Horn of Africa giant. The violence came in response to a deadly attack on Somali Issa civilians four days earlier within Ethiopia. Fighters from Ethiopia’s Afar region raided the town of Gedamaytu (also known as Gabraiisa) in neighboring Somali region, reportedly killing hundreds of residents. The two regions have long been at odds over three contested kebeles (districts) on their shared border, which are predominately inhabited by Issa but located within the regional boundaries of Afar. (Map: ISS Africa)

Planet Watch
BLM

UN: end systemic racism in law enforcement

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged states to dismantle systematic racism against African and African-descendent peoples, in a report focusing on law enforcement around the world. The report features an analysis of 190 deaths at the hands of law enforcement, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the United States, as well as cases in the United Kingdom, France, Brazil and Colombia. “The status quo is untenable,” Bachelet said. “Systemic racism needs a systemic response… We need a transformative approach that tackles the interconnected areas that drive racism, and lead to repeated, wholly avoidable, tragedies like the death of George Floyd.” (Photo: The Village Sun)