- Protestors in Hong Kong held a massive demonstration Sunday to oppose a bill that would allow the city to extradite people accused of certain crimes to mainland China.
- Police say 240,000 people attended, while organizers claim that more than one million turned out.
- Critics argue that the bill will be used to stifle dissent against the mainland, which has been exerting authority over Hong Kong and meddling in their internal affairs.
- Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, who proposed the bill has said she will still try to pass it despite the massive backlash.
Protests in Hong Kong
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to protest a proposed bill that would allow the government to extradite people to mainland China.
According to reports, protestors from all walks of life essentially took over the streets of downtown Hong Kong. The protest stretched for more than a mile and it was so crowded that people were reportedly stuck in the subway stations waiting to join the protests.
The Protestors wore white, symbolizing “light” and “justice.” Some of them carried umbrellas, which were a symbol of the city’s pro-democracy protests in 2014.
Many demonstrators could be seen holding various signs and posters, some of which called for the resignation of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, who proposed and has pushed for the extradition bill.
The protests were largely peaceful during the day, but a little after midnight, riot police began to clash with protestors in front of Hong Kong’s legislature. Police starting using pepper spray and hitting protestors with batons to get them to free up the area, and eventually, the protestors largely dispersed.
Currently, it is unclear how many people took part in the protests. Police officials have said that 240,000 people were in attendance, while the protest organizers say it was actually more than one million.
If the organizers’ numbers are correct, that would mean almost 1 out of every 7 Hong Kong residents participated. It would also make it the biggest protest in Hong Kong since the British gave China control of the colony in 1997.
History and Context
Hong Kong is an autonomous city-state in southeast China that used to be a British colony, but it was given back to China in 1997 under a policy called “one country, two systems.”
Under that system, Hong Kong was designated as a special administrative region (SAR) and allowed its own constitution which is known as Basic Law.
While Hong Kong technically part of China, it is given such a high degree of autonomy that it basically operates as its own country. The city has entirely separate political and economic systems, as well as a free press and open internet, which makes it very different from mainland China.
For the people of Hong Kong, independence from China is not only a point of pride but also a defining characteristic.
The proposed extradition bill has sparked a huge backlash among the residents of Hong Kong who are worried they could end up in the hands of mainland China’s legal system, where people are frequently prosecuted for political reasons. Residents generally perceive the bill as a threat to their freedom and civil liberties.
What is the Extradition Bill?
The bill would amend Hong Kong’s extradition laws to allow them to detain people suspected of certain crimes and turn them over to countries and territories with which Hong Kong does not have formal extradition agreements. Notably, this would include China.
Lam proposed the bill in March, in order to resolve a case where a man from Hong Kong named Chan Tong-kai was accused of killing his girlfriend while on vacation in Taiwan last year.
Chan is now back in Hong Kong, and even though he is accused of murder charges in Taiwan, he cannot be sent there to stand trial, because Hong Kong and Taiwan do not have a formal extradition agreement.
Lam argued the extradition bill is necessary to prosecute Chan. She also argues that it will help the rule of law in Hong Kong and “plug a loophole” in the city’s legal system.
Reportedly, the extradition bill would apply to 37 crimes and it would only pertain to people accused of crimes that have penalties of seven years or more in prison. Government officials have also said that anyone facing the death penalty would not be extradited.
Officials have also said that extradition cases will need to be approved by independent local judges, then they will be passed on to get approval from Hong Kong’s chief executive, which is currently Lam.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
After those two approvals, then suspects can be extradited. However, because Hong Kong is technically subordinate to mainland China, critics of the bill worry that it would be really difficult for the chief executive to reject an extradition request from her superiors.
Due to the fact that the chief executive proposed the bill herself, it seems unlikely that she would deny an extradition request at all.
Critics are also concerned the bill would basically allow anyone in to be picked up in Hong Kong and detained in mainland China, which means that the mainland could use the law to target political activists and dissidents, functionally legalizing abductions by mainland officials in Hong Kong that have been going on for a little while now.
Mainland officials are usually not allowed to operate in Hong Kong, but they have been known to illegally abduct people who work in bookstores that sell books that are critical of the mainland, as well as other critics of the Chinese government.
While the bill technically does not include extradition for political crimes, many people still worry that the legislation will just allow mainland Chinese authorities to further encroach on their independent territory.
Growing Chinese Influence
That concern is a valid one too. Over the last few years, mainland China has been steadily trying to exert more authority over Hong Kong by meddling in their internal affairs.
These efforts have risen significantly since Chinese President Xi took office in 2012. Since taking power, Xi has tightened control of his people and used all sorts of methods to stifle his critics, and because Hong Kong has a large community of pro-democracy activists and lawmakers, it is a clear target.
However, Hong Kong’s constitution specifically prohibits mainland authorities from restraining dissent in the city. Experts say that because of that protection, mainland China has been forced to slowly chip away at Hong Kong’s independence and institutions in other ways.
Already, mainland-aligned government officials in Hong Kong have ousted opposition lawmakers and denied civilian demands for free elections.
Lam’s decision to press ahead with the extradition bill is also an example of a mainland-affiliated lawmaker pushing ahead with a policy that appears to be largely opposed by the people.
The opposition to the bill also extends beyond the residents of Hong Kong. Business people worry the bill could hurt foreign interest in investment in Hong Kong because some companies may even be forced to leave.
A group of bipartisan legislators in the U.S. sent a letter last month to Lam, calling for the legislation to be immediately withdrawn, and saying they were concerned the law would “negatively impact the relationship between the United States and Hong Kong.”
Even Taiwan, which would have a trial for the man that Lam claims prompted the extradition bill in the first place, has stated it will comply with an extradition agreement because it’s politically motivated.
Taiwanese officials have also said that the authorities in Hong Kong have ignored three separate requests from Taiwan for governments to figure out an arrangement to deal with the murder case, which would bypass the need for the bill at all.
Regardless, Lam announced following the protest that she will still move forward with the legislation. Lawmakers will resume debating the bill this week, and a vote is expected on June 27. Due to the fact that pro-Beijing lawmakers have 43 of 70 seats in the legislature, it appears that bill will likely pass.
Protest organizers have scheduled another round of protests for Wednesday.
See what others are saying: (Vox) (The New York Times) (Hong Kong Free Press)
2 Million Protest In Hong Kong After Lam Suspends Extradition Bill
- After last week’s protests in Hong Kong over a controversial extradition bill, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that the bill would be suspended.
- However, many citizens in Hong Kong want the bill fully withdrawn and are calling for Lam to step down from her position.
- On Sunday, around two million people hit the streets for protests fighting for those conditions, as well as pushing for police to be investigated for using excessive force during the previous protests.
Protest After Bill’s Suspension
Organizers say that around 2 million people in Hong Kong turned out to protest a controversial extradition bill on Sunday after Cheif Executive Carrie Lam said she would suspend it.
Lam announced Saturday that she would suspend – not withdraw – an extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to China. This move followed a previous round of massive protests that gathered as many as one million Hong Kong residents.
“I want to stress that the government is adopting an open mind to heed comprehensively different views in society towards the bill,” Lam said in a press conference after announcing its suspension.
However, many thought her actions were not enough. On Sunday, a massive demonstration in Hong Kong saw citizens call for a full withdrawal, along with Lam’s resignation. While organizers claim 2 million people attended the protest, police officers say there were actually about 338,000.
Protesters also referenced last week’s demonstrations, where officers used pepper spray and other tactics to quell crowds. Officers later deemed the protest a riot, which is a crime in Hong Kong. Sunday’s protesters demanded an investigation into the use of police force and called for the “riot” labeling to be rescinded.
Many also honored a man who lost his life protesting on Saturday after he fell trying to hang a banner.
During these protests, police involvement was minimal. Reports say that officers sidelined themselves during the demonstrations and were able to clear the streets by Monday morning.
Lam also issued another statement later on Sunday apologizing for the controversies caused by the bill.
“The Chief Executive apologised to the people of Hong Kong for this and pledged to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public,” the statement read.
Responses After Protests
While the protests have lessened, many in Hong Kong still have the urge to keep fighting. Notably, Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy activist who was released from prison on Monday.
Upon his release, he tweeted similar sentiments to the protesters.
Around the globe, others are also responding to what is happening in Hong Kong. After Lam announced the bill suspension, officials in China made a statement.
“We support, respect and understand this decision,” they said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also told Fox News that the United States is monitoring the situation.
“We are watching the people of Hong Kong speak about the things they value,” he said.
Pompeo added that President Donald Trump would meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit at the end of the month and said the two would discuss the protests then.
Iran Threatens to Violate Nuclear Deal’s Limits on Uranium
- Iran announced Monday that it will surpass the amount of uranium it has been allowed to stockpile under the 2015 nuclear deal in 10 days if European nations do not do more to help them mitigate U.S. sanctions.
- The announcement comes after the U.S. blamed Iran for attacking two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday and provided what U.S. officials believed was video evidence of Iranian military officials removing a bomb.
- Iran has denied the allegations and Germany, as well as the Japanese owner of one of the tankers, have said the video the U.S. claims proves Iran launched the attack does not provide enough evidence.
Iran announced Monday that it has significantly ramped up its enrichment of uranium and said it will exceed the amount of uranium it has been allowed to stockpile under the 2015 nuclear deal in 10 days.
While certainly a big deal, Monday’s announcement does not necessarily come as a surprise. On May 8, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani announced that the country would stop complying with some of their commitments under the nuclear deal.
Rouhani said Iran would no longer respect certain restrictions under the deal, such as building stockpiles of enriched uranium and heavy water.
He also said Iran would give the other countries that signed the deal 60 days to help ease the sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Irans oil and banking industries, or Iran would slowly stop their compliance with the deal piece by piece.
While that 60-day period technically does not end for a few more weeks, Iran has made it clear that they are not happy with the progress that has been made.
In a televised speech earlier today, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesperson for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization specifically targetted the European signatories of the nuclear deal for not doing enough, but said they still had time to save the agreement.
“If it is important for them to safeguard the accord, they should make their best efforts,” Kamalvandi said. “As soon as they carry out their commitments, things will naturally go back to their original state.”
“There is still time for European countries, but if they want more time it means that they either can’t or don’t want to honor their obligations,” he continued later. “They should not think that after 60 days they will have another 60-day opportunity.”
Monday’s announcement comes as tensions between Iran and the U.S. have increasingly escalated in recent weeks.
On Thursday, two tankers were attacked just off the coast of Iran in the Gulf of Oman. The attack caused one of the boats to be set on fire and caused both to be set adrift. A few hours later, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of attacking the tankers.
In a press conference, Pompeo said attacks were part of a “campaign” of “escalating tension” by Iran. “It is the assessment of the United States that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks,” he said.
U.S. officials also later claimed that Iran had launched a missile at a U.S.-operated drone surveying the area after the attack.
Pompeo did not immediately provide any evidence for Iran launching the attack, but later on Thursday, U.S. Central Command released a video they claimed showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) removing an unexploded mine from one of the tankers hit by explosions.
While the administration of Donald Trump, backed by Saudi Arabia, believed that the video clearly proved the IRGC was guilty, others were not so sure.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, “The video is not enough. We can understand what is being shown, sure, but to make a final assessment, this is not enough for me.”
Additionally, the Japanese operator of one of the ships that was attacked also disputed the U.S government’s claim. In a statement, the president of the company that operates the ship, Yutaka Katada, said he did not believe there was a mine attached to the ship at all.
“I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship,” Katada said. “Our crew said that the ship was attacked by a flying object.”
Iran for its part has strongly denied the allegations. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the accusations in a tweet, referring to the incident as “sabotage diplomacy.”
The incident on Thursday and the U.S. response is only part of increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
It is not even the first tanker attack that the U.S. has blamed on Iran. Last month, four tankers were attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, which is close to the Gulf of Oman. Again, the U.S. was quick to blame Iran but did not provide any evidence, and again, Iran denied the accusation.
Over the last few months, numerous world leaders have come forward and called for the U.S. and Iran to de-escalate the situation, with many fearing the situation would lead to an all-out war.
Multiple European governments and leaders have called on the Trump administration to exercise “maximum restraint.”
Currently, it remains unclear what will happen next. In an interview with Fox & Friends on Sunday, Pompeo indicated that the U.S. had not ruled out military action.
“The United States is going to make sure that we take all actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise, to achieve that outcome,” he said. In a separate interview with CBS, Pompeo also said the U.S. might tighten sanctions on Iran in response to the country ramping up its nuclear program.
According to reports, Pentagon officials are considering tactical responses to the attacks, including deploying as many as 6,000 Navy, Air Force, and Army personnel to the Persian Gulf.
Last month, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that the U.S. was deploying an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Middle East in an effort to counter Iran.
At the same time, many are skeptical that Trump would send troops to directly engage Iran. Trump has repeatedly said he does not want a war in the Middle East.
During an interview with Fox & Friends on Friday, Trump said Iran did attack the tankers, but also said he was not looking for war. He even went as far as to say he wanted engagement with Iranian leadership.
“I’m ready when they are,” Trump said. “Whenever they’re ready, it’s O.K. In the meantime, I’m in no rush.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Al Jazeera) (CNN)
Brazil’s Supreme Court Votes to Criminalize Homophobic Acts
- Brazil’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of criminalizing homophobia under current legislation until Congress creates a law that specifically addresses the issue.
- Eight of the 11 justices voted Thursday to treat violent acts and other crimes against gay and transgender people like racism, which was made a crime in Brazil in 1989 with prison sentences of up to five years.
- President Jair Bolsonaro criticized the justices last month when it became clear that they would likely vote in favor of the move, and he suggested that it was time to appoint an evangelical Christian.
Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court voted Thursday to criminalize acts of hate and discrimination against the LGBT community.
Eight of the 11 justices voted in favor of the move arguing that Congress failed to fulfill its constitutional duty by passing similar legislation. According to the Wall Street Journal, the country’s constitution allows the high court to make these types of moves in the event that lawmakers fail to take action.
For now, any acts of violence or other crimes against gay or transgender people will be judged under current antiracism law until Congress passes a specific law that addressed the LGBT community. Racism was made a crime in Brazil in 1989 with prison sentences of up to five years.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity are essential to human beings, to the self-determination to decide their own life and seek happiness,” Justice Gilmar Mendes said, according to the court’s Twitter account.
It may take some time for Congress to act further. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that every state should recognize civil unions between same-sex couples. However, Congress has yet to pass legislation for those unions.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January, criticized the court last month when it became clear that most justices would rule in favor of criminalizing homophobia. He argued that the court was overstepping and suggested it was time to appoint an evangelical Christian to the Supreme Court.
Bolsonaro himself has been criticized for what many consider a long history of homophobic, racist, and sexist comments. The social conservative won the October election last year, promising to overturn years of liberal social policies. Many LGBT rights groups feared that he would try to roll back gay rights if elected.
The court’s decision “is a step forward, but it won’t make much of a difference unless we improve education and change attitudes,” Claudia Regina, president of the LGBT Pride Parade Association of São Paulo told the Journal.
“There’s been a subtle worsening of attitudes” since Bolsonaro was elected, she said, adding that he “is encouraging this, indirectly. He inspires his followers to behave this way.”
According to the rights group the Grupo Gay da Bahia, 420 LGBT people were killed across Brazil in 2018 and at least 141 others have been killed so far this year. On top of that, Brazil leads the world in transgender homicides with 171 in 2017, according to the organization Transgender Europe.