- Protests in Hong Kong over the weekend became violent after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators who vandalized the Chinese liaison office.
- Protestors in a train station returning home were later attacked by a group of men who beat them with batons and metal pipes, leaving at least 45 injured.
- Many were outraged by the attack and claimed that it had been initiated or at least supported by pro-government authorities and the police.
- Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam condemned both the vandalism and the attacks during a press conference Monday.
Violent Attack in Train Station
A mob of men attacked antigovernment protestors in a Hong Kong train station on Sunday, after protests turned violent when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators who had vandalized the Chinese government’s liaison office.
Pro-democracy protestors were reportedly returning from a demonstration when they were attacked by a group of men wearing white t-shirts who chased after them and beat them violently with bats and metal bars.
The protestors tried to flee, and the attackers chased some people into open train cars, where they continued to beat them. The attackers reportedly injured 45 people, leaving one in critical condition.
Those injured included pro-democracy protestors, as well as journalists and pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting.
“They repeatedly went into the train and were using batons to indiscriminately attack all the people in the train,” the lawmaker later told reporters. “Many journalists, even a pregnant woman, all ordinary citizens of Hong Kong, were attacked by those gangsters.”
It is not clear who the attackers were. Many believe they were members of organized crime groups known as triads. The incident angered people across the country, with critics and protestors accusing pro-government officials of hiring the men to launch the attack.
Video footage that has surfaced showed pro-China lawmaker Junius Ho, shaking hands with some men in white and giving them a thumbs-up. Ho later denied that he had any connection to the attacks and was just greeting people who approached him.
Many also accused the police of ignoring the attack and not doing enough to help. Some argued that it was hypocritical for the authorities to crack down on the pro-democracy protestors but not the men who attacked them.
Lam Cheuk-ting told reporters that the police response was slow and inadequate. He said that the men were seen gathering hours before the attack, so the police should have had time to properly assess the situation and respond.
He also said that the police did not show up until after the attack, and when they did come, it nearly an hour and a half after the first emergency call. When the police finally did show up, they initially reported that they did not find any weapons and let the attackers leave without making any arrests.
However, footage taken by photojournalists showed the riot police speaking with two men in white shirts holding metal bars or sticks, and then patting one on the shoulder before walking off.
Some have even argued that the attackers colluded with the police, but during a press conference on Monday, police officials denied that they conspired with the men, and said they later arrested some people associated with the attacks.
The police also claimed that they were slow to show up because they were busy responding to the protests.
However, pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan pointed out in a tweet that “Hong Kong has one of the world’s highest cop to population ratio.”
The attacks at the train station came after a long day of protests took a violent turn.
Over the last few months, Hong Kong has seen massive and ongoing protests over a bill that would let the government extradite people accused of committing specific crimes to countries or territories that Hong Kong does not have extradition agreements with.
Many oppose the bill because it would allow extraditions to China, and see the bill as Beijing attempting to extend its authority over the people of Hong Kong and their personal freedoms.
Lam suspended the bill in June, and earlier this month she said the bill was “dead,” but protesters have continued to call for a full withdrawal.
They have argued that even if Lam’s administration keeps its promise to not pursue the bill, any leader after Lam could still take up the bill and pass it unless it is withdrawn.
In addition to calling for the bill to be withdrawn, the demonstrators have also expanded their list of demands to call for Lam’s resignation, an investigation into the police’s actions against demonstrators, amnesty for arrested protestors, and universal suffrage, among other things.
As the protestors’ demands have changed, so have the nature of the protests. While the first wave of protests were largely peaceful, over the last few weeks they have become increasingly violent.
Protestors have clashed with police, who used pepper spray and hit the demonstrators with batons and shields as well as other forceful tactics.
On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets for a previously planned peaceful march.
However, the demonstration escalated when thousands of protestors marched past the point where the police had said the demonstration should end. The police had tried to keep the protestors away from an area with government buildings, but the protestors went past them.
Many of the protestors went to the Chinese government’s liaison office where they reportedly covered the office with spray paint and graffiti. They also threw ink and eggs on the crest of the Chinese government that is displayed on the building.
The protestors were eventually pushed back by police who used tear gas and rubber bullets. It was also reported that the protesters threw eggs and other things at the police as well.
The Hong Kong government condemned the protests in a statement.
“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government strongly condemns the protesters who blatantly challenged the national sovereignty by maliciously besieging and storming the CPGLO building as well as defacing the national emblem,” the statement said.
“The HKSAR Government is concerned that a small number of radicals incited the masses in an organised manner, challenged the rule of law, and even stormed the CPG’s office in Hong Kong,” it continued. “Such acts threaten the law and order in the SAR and ‘one country, two systems.’”
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam responded on Monday, condemning both the attacks and vandalizing of the liaison office, which she said: “hurt the nation’s feelings.”
“Violence will only breed more violence,” she later added.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (BBC)
India’s High Court Rules Groping Child Through Clothing Is Not Sexual Assault
- An Indian appeals court judge drew widespread outrage last week after ruling that groping a child over their clothes does not constitute sexual assault since there is no “skin-on-skin” contact.
- Activists and rights lawyers pointed out that nowhere in the 2012 Protection of Children From Sexual Offenses Act does it state that skin-on-skin contact is required for a sexual assault charge.
- Since a High Court made the decision, many are concerned that it makes the “skin-on-skin” requirement a precedent that other Indian courts need to heavily consider when ruling on cases.
- Supreme Court lawyers and the National Commission for Women are now petitioning the Supreme Court to review and reject the decision.
Judge Rules Sexual Assault Needs Skin-on-Skin Contact
In an extremely controversial decision last week, Bombay High Court judge Pushpa Ganediwala ruled that groping a child over their clothes does not constitute sexual assault
The case started in 2016 when a 39-year-old man groped a 12-year-old girl’s chest and attempted to forcibly remove her underwear. He was found guilty of sexual assault by a lower court and sentenced to three years in prison. He later appealed the decision where it ended up in Judge Ganediwala’s appeals court.
Judge Ganediwala came to her decision by writing that the incident didn’t feature any “skin-on-skin” contact, meaning it failed to achieve the statutory requirements for sexual assault. While she acquitted the man of his sexual assault charge, she did find him guilty of molestation and sentenced him to one year in prison.
Challenging the Ruling
The ruling was met with extreme backlash by activists and rights lawyers all across India. Their largest point of contention is that nowhere in the 2012 Protection of Children From Sexual Offenses Act does it state that skin-on-skin contact is required. Beyond obvious and overt sexual acts, only intending to commit an act is enough to meet the statute.
Adding to their concerns is the prominence of the court. The High Court is about the equivalent of a U.S. District Appeals Court, meaning that it has the power to set a precedent. Like in the U.S., precedence plays an important factor in deciding cases and can often act as a way to clarify laws. Judge Ganediwala’s decision effectively makes the “skin-on-skin” metric the rule when deciding future sexual assault cases.
That requirement may be relatively short-lived. Lawyers from India’s Supreme Court Bar, as well as officials and lawyers from the National Commission for Women, are petitioning the Supreme Court to review and reject the decision. It’s unclear what exactly will happen at this time, but for many, the decision touches on a large issue in India: sex crimes.
The country has long struggled with sexual assaults against women and minors, with many thinking the laws and punishments are too lax against perpetrators.
The issue is so prevalent that in 2018, official figures showed that the rape of a woman was reported every 16 minutes.
See what others are saying: (Times of India) (CNN) (CBS NEWS)
Wealthy Canadian Couple Posed as Motel Workers To Jump Vaccine Queue
- Rodney Baker, the CEO of a Canadian casino company, resigned this week after he and his wife were caught traveling to a remote area in Yukon that is home to many indigenous people to jump the coronavirus vaccine queue.
- The two allegedly posed as motel workers and were given the first dose of the vaccine but raised suspicions when they asked to be taken straight to the airport immediately afterward.
- Both individuals received two fines, one for failing to self-isolate and a second for failing to follow their signed declarations, adding up to $1,150 each.
- The White River First Nation is calling for stiffer penalties, saying the small fine would be meaningless to the wealthy duo. For reference, the former CEO was paid a salary of more than $10.6 million in 2019.
Couple Dupes Local Healthcare Workers
Like many other countries, officials in Canada have been working hard to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations. In the Yukon territory specifically, health workers have been giving priority to remote communities with elderly and high-risk populations, as well as limited access to healthcare.
One of those areas is Beaver Creek, which is home to many members of the White River First Nation. However, Beaver Creek is now making headlines after two wealthy Vancouver residents traveled there to jump ahead in the vaccine queue.
The two culprits were identified as 55-year-old Rodney Baker, president and CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Corp, and his wife, 32-year-old actress Ekaterina Baker.
They reportedly flew from Vancouver to Whitehouse, then chartered a private plane to the remote community. Afterward, they went to a mobile clinic where they were able to receive the Moderna vaccine after saying they were new hires at a nearby motel.
Their presence raised suspicions given how small the population is in Beaver Creek, but the two raised even more eyebrows when they asked to be taken straight to the airport after receiving their doses.
Workers from the vaccination clinic checked with the motel and alerted law enforcement when they learned that the Bakers had lied about working there.
The couple was stopped just as they were preparing to fly back to their luxury condo in downtown Vancouver. According to CBC, both individuals received two fines, one for failing to self-isolate and a second for failing to follow their signed declaration, adding up to $1,150 each.
Indigenous Community Responds
“We are deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put our Elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes,” the White River First Nation’s Chief Angela Demit said in a Facebook statement addressing the situation.
She also told The Washington Post that she wants to see stiffer penalties for the couple because the relatively small fines would be “essentially meaningless” for such wealthy individuals. For reference, Mr. Baker’s annual compensation in 2019 was reported to be more than $10.6 million.
Janet Vander Meer, the head of the White River First Nation’s coronavirus response team, also called the incident, “another example of ongoing acts of oppression against Indigenous communities by wealthy individuals that thought they would get away with it.”
“Our oldest resident of Beaver Creek, who is 88 years old, was in the same room as this couple. My mom, who’s palliative, was in the same room as this couple,” she told Globalnews.ca. “That’s got to be jail time. I can’t see anything less. For what our community has been through the last few days. The exhaustion. It’s just mind-boggling.”
To prevent situations like this in the future, a spokesman for the Yukon government said it would implement new requirements for proving residency in the territory.
As far as the Bakers, Rodney resigned from his role at Great Canadian this week. A spokesperson for the company, which is currently the subject of a separate money-laundering probe, says it “has no tolerance for actions that run counter to the company’s objectives and values.”
See what others are saying: (CBC) (The Washington Post) (Yukon News)
Protests Erupt Across the Netherlands Over COVID-19 Curfew
- For the third night in a row, Dutch police clashed with protesters and rioters in ten cities across the Netherlands.
- The protests are a result of frustrations over the 9:00 p.m. – 4:30 a.m. curfew the country imposed to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
- Rioters looted across major cities and even burned down a coronavirus testing site. So far, 184 people have been arrested and thousands have received fines for their participation.
- The Prime Minister has said that when possible, the curfew would be the first safety measure to go, but he also made it clear that those rioting over it were criminals and will be treated as such.
Violence Over Coronavirus Curfew
The Netherlands faced riots and protests over coronavirus curfews and lockdown measures for the third night in a row.
The protests raged across ten cities, including major ones such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague. Authorities say that 184 people have been arrested so far, and thousands have received fines for their participation.
Protesters are particularly upset with an ongoing curfew in the country that puts restrictions on travel between 9:00 p.m.- 4:30 a.m.. It’s meant to slow the spread of the virus by preventing nightlife activities; however, critics have questioned just how effective those measures actually are.
Beyond the skepticism, the Netherlands is also facing a spread of misinformation about COVID-19, leading many to downplay how dangerous it is.
Last night’s protests led to violence with police, as well as a COVID-19 testing site being burnt to the ground. Wider Dutch society has been shocked by the violence since protests of this nature are relatively rare in the nation.
Mayors across the country vowed to introduce emergency measures that are intended to help deal with the protests.
Coping With the Virus
Regarding the curfew itself, the government has refused to budge on the issue. When responding to last night’s violence, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that when possible, the curfew would be the first safety measure to go. Still, he also made it clear that those rioting over it were criminals and will be treated as such.
The Netherlands had managed to maintain the virus relatively successfully, six months ago, it had among the lowest new daily cases in Europe, with around 42 daily new cases in July. That all changed in September when cases began to rise dramatically, peaking of 11,499 daily new cases on Dec. 24.
Due to the imposed restrictions, cases began to fall again, although they are still far higher than they were in the summer of 2020.