- 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.
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.
A clip showing riot police in action in Tin Shui Wai a few moments ago. Source: telegram groups pic.twitter.com/JBBFVuHKj7— antiELAB (@anti_elab) August 5, 2019
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.
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)
Egypt Seizes Ship That Blocked Suez Canal Until Owners Pay Nearly $1 Billion
- Egyptian authorities seized the Ever Given, a mega-ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week last month, after a judge ruled Wednesday that the owners must pay $900 million in damages.
- The ship was seized just as it was deemed fit to return to sea after undergoing repairs in the Great Bitter Lake, which sits in the middle of the Suez Canal.
- The vessel’s owners said little about the verdict, but insurance companies covering the ship pushed back against the $900 million price tag, saying it’s far too much for any damage the ship actually caused.
Ever Given Still in Egypt
An Egyptian court blocked the mega-ship known as the Ever Given from leaving the country Wednesday morning unless its owner pays nearly $1 billion in compensation for damages it caused after blocking the Suez Canal for nearly a week last month.
The Ever Given’s ordeal started when it slammed into the side of the canal and became lodged, which caused billions of dollars worth of goods to be held up on both sides of the canal while crews worked round the clock to free the vessel. An Egyptian judge found that the Ever Given becoming stuck caused not only physical damage to the canal that needed to be paid for but also “reputational” damage to Egypt and the Suez Canal Authority.
The ship’s Japanese owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha, will need to pay $900 million to free the ship and the cargo it held, both of which were seized by authorities after the ship was transported to the Great Bitter Lake in the middle of the canal to undergo now-finished repairs. Shoei Kisen Kaisha doesn’t seem to want to fight the judgment in court just yet. It released a short statement after the ruling, saying that lawyers and insurance companies were working on the claims but refused to comment further.
Pushing Back Against The Claim
While Shoei Kisen Kaisha put in a claim with insurers, those insurance companies aren’t keen on just paying the bill. One of the ship’s insurers, UKP&I, challenged the basis of the $900 million claim, writing in a press release, “The [Suez Canal Authority] has not provided a detailed justification for this extraordinarily large claim, which includes a $300 million claim for a ‘salvage bonus’ and a $300 million claim for ‘loss of reputation.’”
“The grounding resulted in no pollution and no reported injuries. The vessel was re-floated after six days and the Suez Canal promptly resumed their commercial operations.”
It went on to add that the $900 million verdict doesn’t even include payments to the crews that worked to free the ship, meaning that the total price tag of the event could likely be far more for Shoei Kisen Kaisha and the multiple insurance companies it works with.
See what others are saying: (Financial Times) (CNN) (The Telegraph)
Treated Radioactive Water From Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Will Be Released Into Ocean
- The Japanese government confirmed Tuesday that it will officially move forward with plans to dump millions of gallons of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
- The government spent a decade decontaminating the water, only leaving a naturally occurring isotope in it that scientists recognize as safe for people and the environment.
- Despite the safety claims, protesters took to the streets in Tokyo to show disapproval of the decision. Local business owners, in particular, have expressed fears that more municipalities worldwide could ban Fukushima products, including fish, because of distrust in the water.
- Meanwhile, officials have insisted that the dump is necessary as the water takes up a massive amount of space, which is needed to store highly radioactive fuel rods from the remaining cores at the now-defunct nuclear facility.
Editor’s Note: The Japanese government has asked Western outlets to adhere to Japanese naming conventions. To that end, Japanese names will be written as Family Name followed by Given Name.
Radioactive or Bad Publicity?
After years of discussions and debate, the Japanese government announced Tuesday that it will dump radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.
Government officials consider the move necessary, but it’s facing backlash from local businesses, particularly fisheries, over potential consequences it could have. Many are especially concerned that the decision will create bad press for the region as headlines about it emerge. For instance, a headline from the Guardian on the issue reads, “Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea.”
While the water is contaminated and radioactive, it’s not nearly what the headlines make it out to be. The government has spent the last decade decontaminating it, and now it only contains a trace amount of the isotope tritium. That isotope is common in nature and is already found in trace amounts in groundwater throughout the world. Its radiation is so weak that it can’t pierce human skin, meaning one could only possibly get sick by ingesting more than that has ever been recorded.
According to the government, the decontaminated water at Fukushima will be diluted to 1/7 of the WHO’s acceptable radiation levels for drinking water before being released into the ocean over two years.
Something Had To Eventually Be Done
Over the last decade, Japan has proposed this plan and other similar ones, such as evaporating the water, which the International Atomic Energy Agency said last year met global standards.
The water has been sitting in containers for years, so why is there a push to remove it now? Space and leakage seem to be the primary reasons.
The water containers are slowly being filled by groundwater, and the government expects to run out of space relatively soon. Space is sorely needed, as Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has pointed out in the past that the government wants to use the space to store damaged radioactive fuel rods that still need to be extracted from the plant. Unlike the water, those rods are dangerously radioactive and need proper storage.
Regardless, Suga reportedly recognizes that removing the water is going to end up as a lose-lose situation.
“It is inevitable that there would be reputational damage regardless of how the water will be disposed of, whether into the sea or into the air,” he said at a press conference last week. As expected, the government’s decision did trigger backlash, prompting many demonstrators to take to the streets of Tokyo Tuesday in protest.
To this day, eleven countries and regions still ban many products from the Fukushima prefecture despite massive clean-up efforts that have seen people returning to the area to live.
Greta Thunberg To Skip U.N. Climate Change Conference, Citing Vaccine Inequality
- Young environmental activist Greta Thunberg will not attend the U.N.’s climate change conference set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland this November.
- “Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis. If people can’t be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally that’s undemocratic and would worsen the problem,” the 18-year-old tweeted Friday, adding, “Vaccine nationalism won’t solve the pandemic. Global problems need global solutions.”
- Since rollouts began late last year, 40% of vaccines have been administered in wealthy and Western countries, according to The Washington Post.
- Scientists have warned that the longer the virus continues to circulate widely, the more chances it will have to change and potentially develop vaccine resistance.
Thunberg Points To Vaccine Inequality
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has said she is skipping the UN’s climate change conference.
The COP26 summit is set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland in November, but 18-year-old Thunberg told BBC she won’t attend because she’s concerned about the impact COVID-19 will have on attendance.
In a Twitter thread Friday, she responded to a headline about her plans to miss the summit.
“Of course I would love to attend…But not unless everyone can take part on the same terms. Right now many countries are vaccinating healthy young people, often at the expense of risk groups and front line workers (mainly from global south, as usual…),” she wrote.
“Inequality and climate injustice is already the heart of the climate crisis. If people can’t be vaccinated and travel to be represented equally that’s undemocratic and would worsen the problem.”
“Vaccine nationalism won’t solve the pandemic. Global problems need global solutions,” the teen continued.
Thunberg went on to say that if the summit is delayed, it doesn’t mean urgent action should too.
“We don’t have to wait for conferences nor anyone or anything else to dramatically start reducing our emissions. Solidarity and action can start today,” she added before noting that digital alternatives for the conference would also be insufficient.
“High speed internet connection and access to computers is extremely unequal in the world. In that case we would lack representation from those whose voices need to be heard the most when it comes to the climate crisis,” she wrote.
Data on Global Vaccine Distribution Efforts
According to The Washington Post, nearly 20% of people in the United States are now vaccinated, but many other countries are unlikely to hit that same metric by the end of the year, even with international assistance through the Covax program.
Current projections predict it could be years before developing countries distribute enough doses to come close to herd immunity, which scientists say requires inoculating around 70-80% of a population.
Since rollouts began late last year, enough shots have been distributed to fully vaccinate about 5% of the world’s population, but The Post reported that the vast majority have been administered in wealthy and Western countries.
Around 40% of vaccines have been given in 27 wealthy nations that include only 11% of the world’s population, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
That’s pretty concerning because scientists also warn that the longer the virus continues to circulate widely, the more chances it will have to change and potentially develop vaccine resistance.
Thunberg’s comments are a blow for U.K. organizers, who have already postponed the conference once from last November because of the pandemic. Even now, there has been speculation that it could be delayed again this year.
Thunberg would not play a formal role at the conference but her decision not to attend is a significant symbolic moment.
At COP25, the young climate change activist gave a headline speech and she typically attends major climate events of this nature. On top of that, reports say this summit was slated to be one of the most consequential climate conferences since the 2015 Paris accord.
On the agenda for this year’s conference discussions were country-level plans for cutting carbon emissions, along with progress on the Paris agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.