- Thousands in Hong Kong launched a massive protest in the city’s airport on Monday, prompting all flights to be canceled.
- Protestors called for the demonstrations after police fired teargas into an enclosed subway station and fired rubber bullets at protestors fleeing another station the day before.
- Also on Monday, Chinese officials referred to the protestors as “terrorists” and Chinese media sources reported that paramilitary forces ran “large-scale exercises” along the Hong Kong border.
Protest in Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong’s airport grounded all flights Monday after thousands of people flooded the hub in protest over the police response to demonstrations the day before.
A smaller number of protesters had already been staging a peaceful sit-in over the last three days at the airport, which is one of the world’s busiest, without disrupting services or flights.
However, protest members called for a larger demonstration at the airport after undercover police dressed as protestors fired tear gas inside a subway station during demonstrations on Sunday.
The incident was reportedly one of the only times police have used tear gas in an enclosed area.
Other videos taken at Sunday’s protests showed police firing non-lethal objects in close range at protestors trying to flee down an escalator at another subway station.
Protestors in other parts of the city reportedly injured some police officers after throwing bricks and petrol bombs.
Man-Kei Tam, the director Amnesty International Hong Kong condemned the police’s actions in a statement.
“Hong Kong police have once again used tear gas and rubber bullets in a way that have fallen short of international standards,” he said. “Firing at retreating protesters in confined areas where they had little time to leave goes against the purported objective of dispersing a crowd.”
As a result of Sunday’s violence, Monday’s protest seemed to be specifically targeted at the police, who protestors have long-accused of brutality and abuse of power.
Demonstrators could be seen holding signs that said: “Don’t trust the police,” as well as signs that displayed pictures of the violent clashes between the two groups.
Some protestors reportedly shouted, “Turn back,” and others held signs apologizing for the inconvenience to travelers.
Most of the protestors have dispersed, according to reports, though reportedly a couple hundred still remain in the airport.
Continued Growing Protests
Monday’s protest is not the first time that activists have staged demonstrations in the airport.
In fact, gathering in the airport is one of the tactics that activists have recently been using to disrupt businesses and transportation in Hong Kong, which is a huge commerce center.
Just last Monday, tens of thousands of people brought massive swaths of the city to a standstill during the city’s first general strike in over 50 years.
The most recent demonstrations also do not represent the first time protestors have accused the police of engaging in brutality.
Over the last few weeks, the protests in Hong Kong have become increasingly violent, with protestors clashing with police more often.
Authorities have also ramped up their efforts to arrest protestors. According to reports, police have said 592 people have been arrested since the protests began on June 9.
Those arrested are between the ages of 13 to 76, and some of them face charges that include rioting, which can carry a prison term of up to 10 years.
The Hong Kong protests originally started over a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed certain criminal suspects to be transferred to mainland China.
Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam eventually suspended the bill but did not fully withdraw it. The protestors continued their demonstrations because until the bill was fully withdrawn, it could be brought back at any time.
While the extradition bill continues to drive the demonstrations, the protestors have also expanded their demands to call for broad democratic reforms.
The protestors are also calling for Lam’s resignation, an independent investigation into alleged police brutality, and release and amnesty for protestors who have been arrested, among other things.
Lam’s Response & China
Lam recently responded to the protestors’ demands by saying she will not step down and largely denying their requests.
Speaking for the first time in two weeks last Monday, Lam said Hong Kong is “on the verge of a very dangerous situation” and accused the protestors of having a hidden agenda.
Lam also claimed it was not in her power to demand the release of people who were arrested during protests.
On Friday, Lam said that an investigation into the police would be inappropriate because they are busy responding to the protests. She also pivoted to claim that the protests were hurting Hong Kong’s economy.
While many have said that Lam’s response is predictable and falls in line with her positions throughout this whole ordeal, others have noted that recent responses from China are far more alarming.
On Monday, the Global Times, a state-backed Chinese newspaper shared a video of armored carriers heading towards a city that borders Hong Kong in advance of what the paper referred to as “large-scale exercises,” by a paramilitary unit.
The Global Times also wrote that the “tasks and missions” of the paramilitary unit included “dealing with rebellions, riots, serious violent and illegal incidents, terrorist attacks and other social security incidents.”
On Monday night, China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, issued a headline that said: “Alert! There are signs of terrorism on the streets of Hong Kong.”
“No country can accept terrorist acts in its own country,” CCTV warned. “Hong Kong has reached an important juncture. ‘End violence and restore order’ is the most important, urgent and overriding task of Hong Kong at present!”
A spokesperson for the Chinese government department responsible for Hong Kong also moved to condemn the violence at a press conference.
“The radical demonstrators in Hong Kong have repeatedly attacked police with extremely dangerous tools in recent days, which constitutes a serious violent crime, and now they are descending into terrorism,” the spokesperson said.
“We should relentlessly crack down on such violent criminal acts without mercy, and we firmly support Hong Kong police and judicial authorities in bringing the criminals to justice as soon as possible,” he continued.
The move comes just a little over a week after a video was released showing Chinese soldiers who were practicing firing on demonstrators.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (The New York Times)
Russia Orders Social Media Sites To Block Calls for Navalny Protests
- Shortly after his arrest on Sunday, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called for protests to take place on Jan. 23 and was met with a wave of support online.
- In response, the government ordered tech giants like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, and Russian-centric VK to “block all publications with calls to demonstrate on the 23rd.”
- TikTok has already deleted 38% of posts with such calls while VK and YouTube have deleted 50%, and Instagram has removed 17%.
Navalny Calls for Protests
Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny’s return to Russia and subsequent arrest earlier this week has set off a chain of events in the country.
Since his arrest, Navalny has called for protests to occur on Jan. 23. Now, Russian authorities are taking precautions and arresting his allies in an effort to slow down the momentum of the looming demonstrations. Among their many demands are that Navalny be released.
Throughout the week, thousands of posts shared by younger Russians have raged across social media asking that people partake in the protests. The reach of those posts, however, have been curtailed by the government.
Social media tech giants like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, and the Russian-centric VK were ordered by the Russian government to “block all publications with calls to demonstrate on the 23rd.”
Roskomnadzor, the Russian communications watchdog, later stated, “Internet sites will be brought to administrative responsibility in connection with the dissemination of information prohibited by law and aimed at attracting minors to participate in unauthorized mass public events.”
“Participation in such events is in violation of the established procedure, including in a pandemic, and carries risks of harm to life and health,” it added.
Censorship Payoff Unknown
For many of the sites, which are often seen as a way to promote free speech in regimes that are far more restrictive, the order puts them in an awkward position. Still, many have already complied, at least to some extend.
According to Roskomnadzor, Tiktok has deleted 38% of videos calling for minors to attend the protests. VK and YouTube have both deleted 50% of similar posts, while Instagram has removed 17% of posts that violate the regulations.
It’s unclear to what extent this censorship will have on stopping Russians from attending tomorrow’s protests; however, some of the nation’s largest protests in modern history have been organized by Navalny.
See what others are saying: (Moscow Times) (Associated Press) (Reuters)
Accusations Against Chinese Actress Shine Light on the Nation’s Surrogacy Laws
- Chinese actress Zheng Shuang is facing major backlash after her former partner, Zhang Heng, accused her of abandoning her two children born through U.S.-based surrogates.
- Beyond public outcry and losing brand deals, Zheng is likely facing legal consequences after a Chinese government agency said that using a legal loophole to obtain a surrogate from abroad was “definitely not innocent.”
- Zheng denies the claims and hasn’t confirmed if the children are actually hers, although she’s listed as their mother on their birth certificates.
- As for the children in question, Zhang has been taking care of them in the U.S.
American-Based Surrogacy Cause Controversy
Chinese social media users have launched into debates surrounding how the rich and elite circumvent domestic laws in order to obtain surrogate services.
The latest controversy is surrounding actress Zheng Shuang. Though she has never confirmed this publicly, Zheng allegedly went to the U.S. with her-now-ex Zhang Heng and had two children with the help of American surrogates. However, on Monday, Zhang accused Zheng of abandoning the children and leaving him to take care of them in the U.S. The couple reportedly broke up before the babies were born due to Zhang’s alleged infidelity.
According to the South China Morning Post, Zhang’s friend released a voice recording on the Chinese platform NetEase Entertainment. In it, Zhang and Zheng are allegedly having a discussion with their parents over what to do with the then-unborn children. Zheng’s father suggested that they abandon the children at the hospital, while Zheng reportedly expressed annoyance that they could not be aborted so late in pregnancy.
Legal Grey Zone Likely Won’t Help
Beyond public outcries, Zheng lost a recent brand deal with Prada that she signed just eight days before the accusations were made. Additionally, other brand partners, such as Aussie, have distanced themselves from the actress. She also faces multiple awards she has won being revoked as well as potential legal consequences.
Currently, surrogacy is illegal in China; however, the laws have a legal grey zone. Technically, providing surrogacy is what is illegal, but obtaining one from abroad is not explicitly mentioned, even if it goes against the spirit of the law.
The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party commented on the situation in a Weibo video post, saying that using this legal loophole to get a surrogacy was “definitely not innocent.”
“Surrogacy is banned in China as it uses women’s uteruses as a tool and sells life as a commercial product.,” it continued. “As a Chinese citizen, the act of traveling to the US on a legal loophole is not abiding the law.”
Following the post, companies like Blued, a gay dating app in China, took down sections of their apps that helped users set up services with surrogacy firms overseas.
Surrogacy is a controversial subject in China, with many actors and actresses obtaining them overseas, but many social media users across the country are against the practice. Officially, the government claims that it “overlooks life” and “tramples the bottom line [of human morality].“
Zheng has denied claims that she abandoned any children, and has never confirmed whether or not she actually has any, although she is listed as the mother on the children’s birth certificates.
As for the children in question, even though Zheng’s father suggested abandoning them in the hospital, her ex has been taking care of them in the U.S.
See What Others Are Saying: (South China Morning Post) (Straits Times) (New York Times)
American Influencer Kristen Gray To Be Deported From Bali
- In a viral Twitter thread, influencer Kristen Gray encouraged people to move to Bali like she did while promoting her eBook and other resources on how to do so amid COVID-19 restrictions.
- Many criticized her for encouraging an influx of travelers during the pandemic. She also sparked conversations about gentrification and was slammed for falsely characterizing Indonesia as queer-friendly.
- The local government promised to deport her Tuesday, arguing that selling her book and offering paid consultations on traveling to Bali violated the purpose of her visitor stay permit. They also say she was “spreading information that could unsettle the public.”
- “I am not guilty. I have not overstayed my visa. I have not made money in Indonesian rupiah in Indonesia,” Gray told reporters. “I put out a statement about LGBT and I am being deported because of LGBT.”
Kristen Gray Goes Viral
Officials in Indonesia said Tuesday that they will deport Kristen Gray, an American influencer who has caused international outrage in the last week.
Gray moved to Bali with her girlfriend in 2019 with plans to stay for six months. In reality, the couple ended up staying much longer because of the coronavirus pandemic, and in a viral Twitter thread, Gray shared how positive their experience has been.
Gray pointed to several benefits of moving to Bali in her posts, like its safety, low cost of living, luxury lifestyle, as well as its queer-friendly and Black communities.
She also encouraged others to make the same move and promoted their $30 eBook “Our Bali Life Is Yours” for tips on how to do it. “We include direct links to our visa agents and how to go about getting to Indonesia during COVID,” she even wrote in one post.
The thread sparked outrage for encouraging an influx of travelers to a country that has closed its borders over the worsening pandemic. On top of that, it sparked conversations about the gentrification of neighborhoods there.
Bali is a major tourist destination for Americans, Europeans, and Australians in particular, and like areas all over the world, it has suffered from the loss in visitors this year.
However, many online noted that locals have been steadily priced out of certain areas of the island as foreigners open businesses to cater to tourists. Others argue that poorly regulated development is also destroying industries that Balinese people have historically relied on.
Aside from those criticisms, many people also took issue with Gray characterizing Bali as a queer-friendly when the reality for locals is far different.
“It well may be the case for you. However, please recognize that it is because a) you’re a foreigner and b) you have economic leverage since the Indonesian local community is financially dependent on keeping you happy so they don’t mess with you,” a user named Kai Mata said in a viral TikTok.
“Please realize for the rest of us Indonesians on the island, this is not a queer-friendly place. Our gay communities are often shut down and raided by authorities and Indonesia at large has tried to mandate conversion therapy for us the LGBTQ+ Community.“
The local government responded to the public outrage over Gray’s thread Tuesday. In a statement, it said selling her book and also offering paid consultations on traveling to Bali violated the purpose of her visitor stay permit, which was valid until January 24.
Gray was also accused of “spreading information that could unsettle the public” by saying Bali is queer-friendly and suggesting foreigners travel there during the pandemic.
According to Reuters, she was being held at an immigration detention facility Tuesday and was to be deported as soon as a flight was available.
In a brief statement to the Balinese press, Gray defended herself. “I am not guilty. I have not overstayed my visa. I have not made money in Indonesian rupiah in Indonesia. I put out a statement about LGBT and I am being deported because of LGBT,” she explained.
Many of her fans believe her and also argue that she is seeing this level of criticism because she is a Black woman.