- The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom unanimously voted Tuesday to rule Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament unlawful.
- Lawmakers will return to parliament on Wednesday to continue talks concerning Brexit ahead of the country’s current Oct. 31 deadline.
- Several major lawmakers in the U.K. have called upon Johnson to resign.
Parliament Suspension Ruled Unlawful
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of British Parliament unlawful on Tuesday, making it “void and of no effect.”
The ruling follows a similar decision made by Scotland’s Court of Session following Johnson’s announcement of the suspension, or prorogation. After losing in Scotland, Johnson’s government appealed to the U.K. Supreme Court.
“This was not a normal prorogation in the run-up to a Queen’s speech,” Lady Brenda Hale, president of the Supreme Court, said in its decision. “It prevented parliament from carrying out its constitutional role for five out of the possible eight weeks between the end of the summer recess and exit day on the 31st of October.”
“Parliament, and in particular the House of Commons as the elected representatives of the people, has a right to a voice in how that change comes about,” she continued.
The Supreme Court issued its ruling on the basis that Johnson made a political move to attempt to stop other lawmakers from debating Brexit. When Johnson first announced the suspension, those lawmakers condemned the action because it would mean they had less time to reach a deal. They then accused Johnson of attempting to secure a means to execute a no-deal Brexit, if necessary.
Johnson has repeatedly stated that he will take the country out of the European Union by its current Oct. 31 deadline with or without a deal, even after lawmakers passed legislation barring him from taking the U.K. out of the EU without a deal.
In addition to being hailed as unprecedented (U.K. courts generally do not rule on government decisions unlike in the United States), the verdict suggests Johnson misled the Queen when he asked her to suspend the government, per tradition.
Johnson Responds to Suspension
Johnson is currently in the United States at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York, but he will be leaving early Tuesday night to return to the U.K.
“I strongly disagree with this decision of the Supreme Court,” he said, “I have the utmost respect for our judiciary. I don’t think that this was the right decision.”
At the same time, Johnson said he would respect the court’s decision; however, he suggested potentially proroguing parliament again. If he were to seek another prorogation, it would likely only be for a few days to prepare for a Queen’s speech, which would outline the government’s proposed domestic policy.
Parliament Reconvenes Wednesday
Also following the decision, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow said parliament will reconvene Wednesday, with members of parliament expected to hold emergency debates.
Johnson and opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn are also expected to spar at the dispatch box, with Corbyn asking Johnson to resign.
Also of note, the suspension would have essentially deleted any pending bills that weren’t passed before lawmakers left, but now, those bills are back on the table. Some of those include Brexit-related legislation concerning immigration, fisheries, and agriculture.
Calls for Johnson to Resign
Tuesday also brought forth a fresh wave of backlash directed at Johnson, with #BorisLiedToTheQueen trending on Twitter.
More notably, multiple lawmakers called on Johnson to resign, including Corbyn who said he was inviting Johnson to be the U.K.’s shortest-serving prime minister.
“It demonstrates a contempt for democracy and an abuse of power by him,” Corbyn said. “I will be in touch immediately to demand that parliament is recalled so that we can question the prime minister, demand that he obeys the law that’s been passed by parliament, and recognize that our parliament is elected by our people to hold our government to account.”
“I invite Boris Johnson, in the historic words, to consider his position and become the shortest prime minister there’s ever been,” he continued.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, also called Johnson unfit to serve as prime minister. On the other hand, Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage said the suspension was the “worst political decision ever,” though he stopped short of calling for Johnson to resign. Instead, he said Johnson should fire his most senior aide who is suspected to have been behind the prorogation idea.
Ahead of Tuesday’s ruling, Johnson said he would not resign if he lost the case. It is possible if Johnson refuses to step down tomorrow, lawmakers will attempt a vote of no confidence against him.
See what others are saying: (The Independent) (The Guardian) (Wall Street Journal)
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.