- Queen Elizabeth II granted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s request to suspend British Parliament ahead of Brexit, with critics saying Johnson’s action is an attempt to keep parliament from barring a no-deal Brexit.
- While some like U.S. President Donald Trump expressed support for Johnson, others took to the street and social media in protest, including actor Hugh Grant who tweeted at the PM saying, “Fuck off you over-promoted rubber bath toy. Britain is revolted by you and you little gang of masturbatory prefects.“
- Shortly after the announced prorogue, two members of Johnson’s Conservative Party resigned.
Outrage after Parliament Suspended
After Queen Elizabeth II agreed to suspend — or “prorogue” — British Parliament per Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s request, some lawmakers responded by resigning and others vowed to challenge the move in court.
In a letter, Johnson said he ordered the prorogue to give his government time to lay out a “new bold and ambitious domestic agenda” after Brexit; however, many critics say it is an attempt by Johnson to prevent parliament from blocking a “no-deal” Brexit. Johnson has touted that he will remove the United Kingdom from the European Union by October 31 with or without a deal.
On Wednesday, Johnson announced the suspension following the Queen’s approval. Because the Queen must remain politically neutral, it would have been seen as an unusual move for her to deny his request, but it is also a formality for the prime minister to ask the Queen before proroguing parliament.
Though parliament was already scheduled to enter a three-and-a-half week recess on September 16, the prorogue will add another week to the recess.
The move now further limits the time members of parliament have to negotiate a deal or to block Johnson’s no-deal, but some are expected to still make an attempt to introduce legislation blocking a no-deal.
The move also comes after some had speculated that parliament might have tried to cancel the initial recess to allow more time to talk about Brexit. Historically, parliament usually convenes in times of national crisis.
Additionally, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would try to block the prorogue with legislation. So far, there’s already been an attempt in the Scottish courts to reverse the suspension, a move predicted by some in Johnson’s own Conservative Party.
Others in the opposition Labour Party have described the move as unconstitutional.
Corbyn has also said he plans to hold a vote of no confidence against Johnson, a move condemned by President Donald Trump.
“Would be very hard for Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, to seek a no-confidence vote against New Prime Minister Boris Johnson,” Trump said, “especially in light of the fact that Boris is exactly what the U.K. has been looking for, & will prove to be “a great one!” Love U.K.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, also defended Johnson, saying, “I don’t think there is any attempt to railroad,” and calling the backlash the “candyfloss of outrage.”
Johnson’s move resulted in a variety of other consequences, including the resignation of two lawmakers within Johnson’s party.
Thursday, Scotland’s Conservative Party Leader Ruth Davidson resigned, pointing to the birth of her son as one of her main reasons. Notably, however, she did mention feeling conflicted over Brexit. Thus, many news outlets in the U.K. interpreted her timing as a nod to the prorogue.
George Young, Baron of Cookham and junior whip, likewise resigned. Unlike Davidson, he pegged his resignation directly at the prorogue.
In a letter, he said Johnson “risks undermining the fundamental role of Parliament at a critical time in our history, and reinforces the view that the government may not have the confidence of the House for its Brexit policy.”
Protests to the Suspension
Many citizens have also protested the move, both in the streets and online. In front of Johnson’s home at 10 Downing Street, protesters hurled chants such as “No one voted for Boris” and “Stop the coup.”
Online, the hashtag #stopthecoup circulated, with people pointing to a past statement by Johnson saying he wouldn’t suspend parliament. In that statement, he described such an action as “arcane.”
“This isn’t about left, right, centre, leave or remain,” one Twitter user said. “This is about ensuring that democracy can never be put on pause when an unelected politician finds it inconvenient.”
While people chanted “No one voted for Boris,” Johnson did assume the prime minister role after beating Jeremy Hunt in elections in July. Those elections, however, consisted only of votes from Conservative Party members, with Johnson gathering about 92,000 of 139,000 votes.
Actor Hugh Grant also leveled insults against Johnson, blasting him in a Twitter post.
“You will not fuck with my children’s future,” Grant said. “You will not destroy the freedoms my grandfather fought two world wars to defend. Fuck off you over-promoted rubber bath toy. Britain is revolted by you and you little gang of masturbatory prefects.”
The U.K. laid the groundwork for Brexit following a referendum in June 2016, where 52% of voters chose to leave the E.U. In total, 72% of registered voters participated in the referendum.
The following day, then-Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would resign. Theresa May then assumed the role.
May planned to take the U.K. out of the E.U. by March 2019, but she failed three times in parliament. The first vote easily failed in January, with the other two occurring in March.
Largely, those votes failed because of a dispute over the border between the independent Republic of Ireland and the UK-controlled Northern Ireland. Many conservative MP’s feared the current agreement with the U.K. — known as a backstop, where Northern Ireland’s seamless border would largely be maintained — would allow the E.U. to hold too much power over the U.K.
May later asked for an extension to the E.U. exit agreement. The E.U. then extended that agreement until October 31.
In June, May resigned as prime minister, citing her failure to launch a Brexit deal. Johnson then took on the role in July, vowing the country would leave by the intended October 31 date.
Johnson ran his election on a platform that he would argue a new deal with the E.U. The E.U. then said it would not change the deal. Though Johnson has said he would prefer to leave with a deal, he contends he will leave with a no-deal if one is not reached.
Experts warn that a no-deal could lead to shortages of food, gas, and medicine. Economists also fear a no-deal could tank the economy.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (New York Times) (The Guardian)
Leaked Documents and Photos Give Unprecedented Glimpse Inside Xinjiang’s Detention Camps
The so-called vocational schools, which China claims Uyghurs enter willingly as students, oversee their detainees with watchtowers armed with machine guns and sniper rifles, as well as guards instructed to shoot to kill anyone trying to escape.
Detained for Growing a Beard
The BBC and a consortium of investigative journalists have authenticated and published a massive trove of leaked documents and photographs exposing the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims in unprecedented detail.
According to the outlet, an anonymous source hacked several police computer servers in the northwestern Xinjiang province, then sent what has been dubbed the Xinjiang police files to the scholar Dr. Adrian Zenz, who gave them to reporters.
Among the files are more than 5,000 police photographs of Uyghurs taken between January and July 2018, with accompanying data indicating at least 2,884 of them were detained.
Some of the photos show guards standing nearby with batons.
The youngest Uyghur photographed was 15 at the time of their detention, and the oldest was 73.
One document is a list titled “Relatives of the Detained,” which contains thousands of people placed under suspicion for guilt by association with certain family members. It includes a woman whose son authorities claimed had “strong religious leanings” because he didn’t smoke or drink alcohol. He was jailed for ten years on terrorism charges.
The files also include 452 spreadsheets with information on more than a quarter of a million Uyghurs, some of whom were detained retroactively for offenses committed years or even decades ago.
One man was jailed for ten years in 2017 because he “studied Islamic scripture with his grandmother” for a few days in 2010.
Authorities targeted hundreds more for their mobile phone use, like listening to “illegal lectures” or downloading encrypted apps. Others were punished for not using their phones enough, with “phone has run out of credit” listed as evidence they were trying to evade digital surveillance.
One man’s offense was “growing a beard under the influence of religious extremism.”
The Most Militarized Schools in the World
The files include documents outlining conditions inside Xinjiang’s detention camps, or so-called “Vocational Skills Education and Training Centers.”
Armed guards occupy every part of the facilities, with machine guns and sniper rifles stationed on watchtowers. Police protocols instruct guards to shoot to kill any so-called “students” trying to escape if they fail to stop after a warning shot.
Any apprehended escapees are to be taken away for interrogation while camp management focuses on “stabilizing other students’ thoughts and emotions.”
The BBC used the documents to reconstruct one of the camps, which data shows holds over 3,700 detainees guarded by 366 police officers who oversee them during lessons.
If a “student” must be transferred to another facility, the protocols say, police should blindfold them, handcuff them and shackle their feet.
Dr. Zenz published a peer-reviewed paper on the Xinjiang police files, in which he found that more than 12% of Uyghur adults were detained over 2017 and 2018.
“Scholars have argued that political paranoia is a common feature of atrocity crimes,” he wrote. “Here, it is suggested that the pre-emptive internment of large numbers of ordinary citizens can be explained as a devolution into political paranoia that promotes exaggerated threat perceptions.”
See what others are saying: (BBC) (Newsweek) (The Guardian)
Biden Vows to Defend Taiwan if Attacked by China
Some praised the remarks for clarifying U.S. foreign policy, while others feared they could escalate tensions with China.
Biden’s Remarks Create Confusion
During a Monday press conference in Tokyo, U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would intervene to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
The remark caught many off guard because it contradicted decades of traditional U.S. foreign policy toward China.
A reporter said, “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”
“Yes,” Biden answered. “That’s a commitment we made. We are not — look, here’s the situation. We agree with a One China policy. We signed onto it and all the attendant agreements made from there.”
“But the idea that it can be taken by force — just taken by force — is just not appropriate,” he continued. “It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”
Beijing considers the Taiwanese island to be a breakaway province, but Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, has claimed to represent the real historical lineage of China.
Since 1972, the U.S. has officially recognized only one China, with its capital in Beijing. However, Washington maintains extensive informal diplomatic ties with Taipei and provides military assistance through weapons and training.
Successive U.S. presidents have also committed to a policy of “strategic ambiguity,” refusing to promise or rule out a direct military intervention in case China attacks Taiwan.
The strategy is meant to deter China while avoiding a hard commitment to any action.
Biden Sparks Controversy
The White House quickly sent a statement to reporters appearing to walk back Biden’s remark.
“As the president said, our policy has not changed,” the statement said. “He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”
Monday was not the first time Biden made similar remarks regarding China and Taiwan.
Last August, he promised that “we would respond” if there was an attack against a fellow member of NATO and then added, “same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with Taiwan.”
In October, he again told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the U.S. would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, prompting the White House to hurriedly walk back his statement.
Monday’s remark was received with support as well as criticism.
“Strategic ambiguity is over. Strategic clarity is here,” Tweeted Matthew Kroenig, professor of government at Georgetown University. “This is the third time Biden has said this. Good. China should welcome this. Washington is helping Beijing to not miscalculate.”
“It is truly dangerous for the president to keep misstating U.S. policy toward Taiwan,” historian Stephen Wertheim wrote in a tweet. “How many more times will this happen?”
“The West’s robust response to Russian aggression in Ukraine could serve to deter China from invading Taiwan, but Biden’s statement risks undoing the potential benefit and instead helping to bring about a Taiwan conflict,” he added. “Self-injurious and entirely unforced.”
Biden also unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a trade agreement signed by the U.S. and 12 Asian nations.
The agreement appeared to many like another move to cut off China from regional trade pacts and supply chains in Washington’s strategic competition with Beijing.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (The South China Morning Post)
Russia Takes Over 900 Azovstal Fighters Prisoner as Mariupol Surrenders
Ukraine said the soldiers successfully completed their mission, but the fall of Mariupol represents a strategic win for Putin.
Azovstal Waves the White Flag
Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that it had captured 959 Ukrainians from the Azovstal steelworks, where besieged soldiers have maintained the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol for weeks.
A ministry spokesperson said in a statement that 51 were being treated for injuries, and the rest were sent to a former prison colony in the town of Olenivka in a Russian-controlled area of Donetsk.
The defense ministry released videos of what it claimed were Ukrainian fighters receiving care at a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. In one, a soldier tells the camera he is being treated “normally” and that he is not being psychologically pressured, though it is unclear whether he is speaking freely.
It was unclear if any Ukrainians remained in Azovstal, but Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, said in a statement Wednesday that the “commanders of the highest level” were still hiding in the plant.
Previously, estimates put the number of soldiers inside Azovstal around 1,000.
Ukraine officially gave up Mariupol on Monday, when the first Azovstal fighters began surrendering.
Reuters filmed dozens of wounded Ukrainians being driven away in buses marked with the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said in a Tuesday statement that the Ukrainian prisoners would be swapped in an exchange for captured Russians. But numerous Russian officials have signaled that the Ukrainian soldiers should be tried.
Mariupol Falls into Russian Hands
After nearly three months of bombardment that left Mariupol in ruins, Russia’s combat mission in the city has ended.
The sprawling complex of underground tunnels, caverns, and bunkers beneath Azovstal provided a defensible position for the Ukrainians there, and they came to represent the country’s resolve in the face of Russian aggression for many spectators.
Earlier this month, women, children, and the elderly were evacuated from the plant.
The definitive capture of Mariupol, a strategic port city, is a loss for Ukraine and a boon for Russia, which can now establish a land bridge between Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists. The development could also free up Russian troops around Mariupol to advance on the East, while additional reinforcements near Kharkiv descend from the north, potentially cutting off Ukrainian forces from the rest of the country.
The Ukrainian military has framed events in Mariupol as at least a partial success, arguing that the defenders of Azovstal completed their mission by tying down Russian troops and resources in the city and giving Ukrainians elsewhere more breathing room.
It claimed that doing so prevented Russia from rapidly capturing the city of Zaporizhzhia further to the west.