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First Protestor Shot in Hong Kong Amid China National Day Violence

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  • Demonstrators in Hong Kong defied a protest ban and took to the streets the same day China held a massive military parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Communist rule.
  • During the protests, a Hong Kong police officer shot an 18-year-old protestor point-blank. It was the first time that an officer has fired a live round at an activist since the demonstrations started.
  • Experts and the media have described the day’s events as some of the most violent since the movement started in June.

Protestor Shot

A Hong Kong police officer shot a teenage protestor after violence broke out during demonstrations against China’s National Day on Tuesday, marking the first time an officer has fired live ammunition at a pro-democracy activist since protests began in June.

The protests in Hong Kong, which originally started as peaceful marches against a proposed extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong to extradite people accused of certain crimes to mainland China, have become increasingly violent.

However, many experts and media outlets have asserted that the violence seen on Tuesday represents a marked escalation.

In a video of the event, the protestor who was shot can be seen in a group of other people in black chasing after a police officer and tackling him to the ground before kicking him and beating him with what looks to be metal pipes.

The protester who was shot is then seen approaching another police officer standing nearby with a handgun drawn. The protestor swings the officer with a pipe and the officer fires at the man at point-blank range, about three feet away.

In a press conference, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong Police Force defended the officer’s action. 

“The police officers’ lives were under serious threat; to save his own life and his colleagues’ lives, he fired a live shot,” the spokesperson said. The spokesperson added that the protester, an 18-year-old boy, had been shot in the left shoulder and was conscious as he was taken to the hospital.

The spokesperson added that the protester, an 18-year-old boy, had been shot in the left shoulder and was conscious as he was taken to the hospital.

However, most local and international media outlets have been reporting that the boy was shot in the chest, not the shoulder.

Local outlets have also reported that the boy is a student who attends a local high school in Hong Kong.

It is unclear what condition he is in, though there have been some reports that he is one of the two men reportedly in critical condition in a local hospital following the day’s events.

In a separate press conference later, Hong Kong’s police chief condemned the protestors and reiterated that the officer acted in self-defense.

He also said that the protester who was shot had been arrested, and authorities were deciding if they were going to bring him up on charges of assaulting a police officer.

Protests on China’s National Day

Tuesday’s protests in Hong Kong came as China celebrated the 70th anniversary of Communist rule in China, also known as China’s National Day.

Chinese officials celebrated with a massive military parade in Beijing, as is customary. Speaking before the parade in front of the Tiananmen Square, Chinese President Xi appeared to deliver a message to Hong Kong. 

“No force can shake the status of our great motherland, no force can obstruct the advance of the Chinese people and Chinese nation,” he said, adding that China would “maintain the lasting prosperity and stability” of Hong Kong without specifically mentioning the protests

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, officials had long anticipated that the pro-democracy protestors would hold massive demonstrations on National Day in an attempt to upstage mainland China and send them a message, or at the very least detract from their National Day parade.

With police warning of violence and potential terrorism ahead of National Day, authorities announced a ban on protests and shut down key subway stations and commercial buildings.

However, the ban did not stop the estimated hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers who defied authorities and showed up to hold demonstrations. The protests started out largely peacefully, with only a few minor scuffles reported.

Protesters could be seen holding flags and banners and sprinkling fake money — which is a traditional Chinese funeral custom— to mockingly “mourn” National Day.  Some banners and protestors also referred to the day as a “national day of grief.”

While some of the demonstrations remained peaceful, things started to escalate in other parts of the city later in the day. According to reports, right before sundown, police used large amounts of tear gas as well as water cannons and physical force to clear protestors.

According to reports, right before sundown, police used large amounts of tear gas as well as water cannons and physical force to clear protestors.

Some of the protestors were reportedly marching peacefully, but others threw bricks and petrol bombs at the police. The Hong Kong Police Force also said on Twitter that “rioters” in one district had injured multiple officers and reporters with a “corrosive fluid.” 

The Hong Kong Police Force also said on Twitter that “rioters” in one district had injured multiple officers and reporters with a “corrosive fluid.” 

Protestors additionally vandalized shop fronts, restaurants, and government buildings across the city, mostly seeming to target places and that were perceived to be pro-Beijing

Tuesday’s event’s have been described as one of the most significant landmarks in the protests so far, with many positing that this is a turning point that will likely change the nature of the protests moving forward.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (The New York Times) (The Guardian)

International

Saudi Arabia To Require Vaccine for Hajj Pilgrims

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  • Saudi Arabia will require all pilgrims participating in the Hajj this year to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to local media.
  • The Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are required to take at least once in their lifetime if they are physically or financially able to.
  • Many believe the inoculation requirement may help allay suspicions over vaccines within certain Muslim communities.
  • Those suspicions have persisted despite Muslim leaders clarifying that there are no theological problems with taking any of the COVID-19 vaccines available.

COVID-19 Vaccines for Pilgrims

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry will only allow people vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend the Hajj this year, according to local outlet Okaz.

The Hajj is a mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca for all Muslims at least once in their lifetime – assuming they are physically and financially able to. However, requiring a vaccine before taking part in the Hajj isn’t a new thing. In fact, Saudi Arabia already has a list of necessary vaccinations for pilgrims.

For a virus that is among the most virulent in recent history and requiring a COVID-19 vaccine makes sense, especially since the Hajj is among the most densely populated events in the world.

In an effort to combat COVID-19, Saudi Arabia has also introduced restrictions over how many pilgrims can come to Mecca for the first time in modern history.

Requiring the COVID-19 vaccine to partake in the Hajj will likely have the added benefit of allaying fears about COVID-19 vaccines in Muslim communities, which account for nearly 2 billion people in the world. While Muslims overall support vaccinations and their religious leaders openly support vaccination efforts, some do doubt vaccines for either political reasons or religious ones.

Changes in Vaccine Hesitancy

Suspicions have arisen due to recent history, notably after Osama bin Laden was located through a vaccine program that acted as a front for the C.I.A. That incident led to a wider-anti vaccine movement in parts of Pakistan that have seen vaccine clinics burned to the ground.

Others are worried over more religious concerns, such as whether the vaccines are Halal, which is roughly the Muslim version of Kosher. To that, most major vaccines say that they are Halal and contain no animal products, such as Pfizer’s, Moderna’s, and AstraZeneca’s,

While other possibly non-Halal vaccines, such as Sinovac’s, have been given the okay from major Islamic authorities, such as Indonesia’ Ulema Council.

The concerns over whether a vaccine is Halal or not may be mute as most imams and Islamic councils have clarified that such dietary restrictions are trumped by the need to save human lives.

While the Health Ministry’s statement is for 2021, it’s possible that the decision will last beyond that based on the pandemic’s progress.

See what other are saying: (Al Jazeera) (The Hill) (Middle East Eye)

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E.U. and U.S. Sanction Russian Officials Over Navalny Detention

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  • The E.U. and U.S. coordinated new sanctions against seven Russian officials tied to the current fate of activist and Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
  • More efforts are expected to follow, with officials claiming that 14 Russian entities tied to the manufacturing of Novichok – the rare nerve agents that supposedly poisoned Navalny – are the next to be sanctioned.
  • Despite the sanctions, Biden’s administration hopes to be able to work with Russia on other world issues, such as nuclear arms in Iran and North Korea.
  • Navalny himself isn’t likely to benefit from the sanctions as he’s serving a 2.5-year prison sentence in one of Russia’s most notorious penal colonies.

Coordinated Efforts by E.U. and U.S.

The U.S. and E.U. both announced coordinated sanctions against Russia Tuesday morning over the poisoning, arrest, and detention of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

In particular, seven senior officials are targeted by the sanctions.

  • Federal Security Service Director Aleksandr Bortnikov
  • Chief of the Presidential Policy Directorate Andrei Yarin
  • First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko
  • Deputy Minister of Defense Aleksey Krivoruchko
  • Deputy Minister of Defense Pavel Popov
  • Federal Penitentiary Service director Alexander Kalashnikov
  • Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov.

Both the E.U. and U.S. also plan to add fourteen entities that are involved in making the extremely deadly Russian nerve agent Novichok.

First Step For Biden

These sanctions are the first such action by the Biden administration against Russia and seem to be a tone shift from the previous administration. The Trump administration was considered relatively soft on Russia and only enacted a few sanctions over election interference, which were only softly enforced.

One U.S. official, according to NBC News reportedly said, that “today is the first such response, and there will be more to come.”

“The United States is neither seeking to reset our relations with Russia nor are we seeking to escalate,” the official went on to add.

The man at the center of all this, Alexei Navalny, has been an outspoken critic of Putin who was arrested when he returned to Russia from Germany after being treated for Novichok poisoning.

He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison over alleged fraud crimes and is reported to have been sent to one of Russia’s worst penal colonies outside of the city of Pokrov to serve out his term.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NPR) (NBC News)

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Biden Faces Criticism Over U.S. Airstrike in Syria

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  • On Friday, the U.S. conducted an airstrike against an Iranian-back militia in Syria after it shot rockets into northern Iraq and injured U.S. service personnel.
  • The airstrike marks the first in Biden’s presidency, and while normally a routine response, it caused particular backlash against the president, who campaigned on getting out of “forever wars” in the region.
  • Many felt like Biden was more concerned with bombing people in the Middle-East than he was with passing his $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which was being debated by Congress at the time.
  • The targeting of an Iranian-backed militia likely didn’t help efforts to start informal talks with Iran on Sunday in an effort to reignite the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Striking Back Against Militias

The U.S. military conducted an airstrike on an Iranian-backed militia in Syria on Friday, marking it as the first such airstrike under President Joe Biden’s term.

The airstrike was conducted as retaliation after the militia launched rockets into northern Iraq; killing civilians, contractors, and injuring a U.S. service member as well as other coalition troops.

Despite airstrikes being a routine response for such situations over the last 20 years, the decision caused Biden to face intense backlash in the U.S.

For many, it set the tone and seemed to contradict some of his earlier stances when running for office. In 2019, for instance, Biden made it clear that he wanted to get out of Iraq as soon as possible, as well as speed up the removal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. However, such airstrikes are often blamed for further entrenching the U.S. in the region.

Biden received criticism across the political spectrum, with only a few conservatives praising the airstrike as a necessary move to protect U.S. troops.

In Congress, many Democrats called the move unconstitutional, a stance the party has had since at least 2018 when Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said a similar airstrike conducted by President Trump required the approval of Congress. The Biden administration pushed back against this, sending a letter to Congress on Sunday saying the president had the power to use limited force without the body’s approval via the War Power Act.

Public Perception in a Downward Spiral

Many Americans have mocked Biden for seemingly feeling comfortable enough to use his executive power to bomb militias while also expressing apprehension toward using that same power to forgive student loans.

Others pushed back against the idea that the airstrike was a form of defensive retaliation

“This latest Biden airstrike is being spun as “defensive” and “retaliatory” despite its targeting a nation the US invaded (Syria) in response to alleged attacks on US forces in another nation the US invaded (Iraq),” wrote one user on Twitter, “You can’t invade a nation and then claim self-defense there. Ever.”

Some of the biggest criticism the president received came from those who said it seemed like his priorities were off-base. Because while the airstrike was conducted, Congress was debating his $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

Civil Rights activist Ja’Mal Green, for instance, tweeted, “We didn’t flip Georgia Blue for Biden to air strike Syria. We flipped Georgia Blue for our $2,000 Stimulus Checks.”

However, it’s worth noting that there’s not much Biden can do right now to push his stimulus package through Congress, other than attempt to convince some on-the-fence senators like Joe Manchin (D-WV). Still, the perception of confused priorities was enough to anger many.

All of this likely didn’t help when the E.U. foreign policy chief, on behalf of all the countries who signed the Iran Nuclear deal, attempted to convince Iran to engage in informal talks to try and restart the deal on Sunday. A proposal was shot down by Iran.

Considering the recent actions and statements by the United States and three European powers, Iran does not consider this the time to hold an informal meeting with these countries,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh

See what others are saying: (BBC) (NBC) (CNN)

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