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General Strike in Hong Kong Paralyzes the City as Protests Enter Week 9

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  • Protest over the now-suspended extradition bill in Hong Kong have entered their ninth week, with demonstrators participating in a general strike across the city.
  • The move forced the cancellation of over 200 flights, blocked several roads, and shut down train services, but also lead to violent clashes in the streets.
  • Over 80 people were arrested on Monday alone, which is the most on any single day since the start of demonstrations on June 9. 
  • Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam said the city is “on the verge of a very dangerous situation,” and accused activists of using the extradition bill as a cover for other motives.

General Strike 

Tens of thousands of protestors in Hong Kong brought parts of the city to a standstill on Monday during the city’s first general strike in over 50 years. 

Workers from around 20 different sectors participated in the massive general strike and attended coordinated rallies held in seven different districts. Strikers included teachers, security workers, construction workers, and almost 14,000 people from the engineering sector. 

The demonstrations left Hong Kong’s transportation systems in shambles. Strikes from more than 2,300 workers in the aviation sector forced over 200 flight cancellation at Hong Kong’s International airport, one of the busiest in the world. 

In other places in the city, crowds of protestors set up barricades, blocking roads, and shutting down train services. Several police stations were also forced to close after they were surrounded by protestors who threw projectiles and started fires outside the buildings.

Authorities used more than 1,000 tear gas canisters and 160 rubber bullets while responding to the gatherings. 

For the second time since the start of the protests, demonstrators were attacked by armed mobs who rushed at them with wooden poles. 

One video circulating online showed a car in the district of Yuen Long rushing through a barricade set up by protestors, injuring at least one person.

In another incident across town, a taxi ran through a group of protestors walking on the street, pushing at least one to the ground. 

Monday marked the fifth straight day of protests in Hong Kong and was possibly the biggest day of protests so far. Police said that on Monday alone, they made over 80 arrests by 7:30 pm local time, which is the most on any single day since the start of demonstrations on June 9. That number is expected to rise as the clashes escalate. 

What Launched the Protests? 

In recent weeks, the demonstrations in Hong Kong have become increasingly violent. The protests, which started off peaceful, were initially prompted by anger over a controversial extradition bill, which would have allowed the transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China.

Opponents of the bill saw it as Bejing’s attempting to extend its authority over the people of Hong Kong and their personal freedoms.

Although the bill has been suspended, protestors want it completely withdrawn. They have also called for Lam’s resignation, an investigation into alleged police brutality, and amnesty for arrested protestors, among other demands. 

Leaders in Hong Kong said that so far, 420 individuals have been arrested since the start of the protest on charges including rioting, unlawful assembly, possessing offensive weapons, assaulting officers, and obstructing police operations. Last week, more than 40 activists appeared in court for rioting charges. If convicted, they could be jailed for up to 10 years.

China has, for the most part, stayed out of the dispute, but China’s top policy office in Hong Kong previously condemned the protests, calling them “horrendous incidents” that have caused “serious damage to the rule of law.”

However, Beijing will announce ‘something new’ for Hong Kong on Tuesday according to the South China Morning Post which cited an anonymous source.

Lam Responds 

Protests over the bill have now entered their ninth week, with Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam saying the city is “on the verge of a very dangerous situation.”

Lam made her first media address in two weeks on Monday, where she accused activists of using the extradition bill as a cover for other hidden agendas. 

“We continue to allow these violent protesters to make use of the fugitive offender bill to conceal their ulterior motives,” she said. “Those ulterior motives are going to destroy Hong Kong.”

Lam further outraged many when she refused to resign and said it was not within her power to demand the release of those who had been arrested during protests. 

However, she acknowledged that her attempting to move the extradition bill forward had been a “failure” and pledged to “engage more, listen more and do more to meet the wishes of Hong Kong.”

See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Guardian) (CNN)

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India’s High Court Rules Groping Child Through Clothing Is Not Sexual Assault

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  • 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)

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Wealthy Canadian Couple Posed as Motel Workers To Jump Vaccine Queue

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  • 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)

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Protests Erupt Across the Netherlands Over COVID-19 Curfew

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  • 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.

Source: Google Coronavirus Statistics

Due to the imposed restrictions, cases began to fall again, although they are still far higher than they were in the summer of 2020.

See What Others Are Saying: (The Guardian) (BBC) (NPR)

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