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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

Thousands Protest in Algeria Over “Sham” Election

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  • Massive protests have broken out all over Algeria, which is holding its first election since its president stepped down in April after weeks of demonstrations.
  • Protests have been ongoing since February, with demonstrators calling for a complete overhaul of the entire political system.
  • The protestors have called for a boycott of the election, saying it is a sham and that fair elections cannot be held while the ruling elite and military are in power.

Continuous Protests

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Algeria on Thursday, calling for boycotts of the presidential election.

Protestors say that the election is a sham and that free and fair elections cannot be held as long as the ruling elite and the military are still in power.

Algerians have been holding weekly peaceful protests since February after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he would run for a fifth term. 

Bouteflika had already been president for two decades, but ever since he suffered a stroke in 2013, he rarely made public appearances.

According to reports, he had basically left the day-to-day running of the country to a very secretive group of his own relatives and senior military officials.

After weeks of protests, Bouteflika eventually resigned in April when his military chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah, called for a constitutional provision to be activated that would deem the president unfit to rule.

Salah became the de facto leader of the country, and Bouteflika appointed Abdelkader Bensalah as interim president and Nouredine Bedoui as interim prime minister until elections could be held in 90 days.

The protests did not stop after Bouteflika stepped down. Instead, the protestors called for the new leaders to step down too, and for the military to give up control of the government.

They argued that the leaders were part of the corrupt old regime and had benefitted from Bouteflika’s rule. Because of that, they felt nothing would change as long as they held power or controlled the elections.

When the military scheduled new elections for July, protestors demanded that they cancel them. Eventually, the military agreed to the protestors’ demands and called off the elections, though they later rescheduled them for December 12.

But the leaders still refused to give up power, and with the lack of actual structural change, the demonstrations continued. 

New Elections & Protests

After the second election date was announced, protestors called for the December elections to be canceled until there could be a complete overhaul of the political system.

Those demands became even more heightened after the government announced that all five of the presidential candidates it had chosen had ties to Bouteflika or his regime, with four of them having served as ministers under him.

For the protestors, not only has there been no political reforms, all of their options for president are people tied to the regime. 

On top of that, because the interim leaders’ have ties to Bouteflika, many protestors believe that they cannot be trusted to hold a free and transparent election— a concern that has been even more legitimized by the fact that the government denied the protestors’ demand to have independent supervision of the election.

Still, the leadership and the military have refused to cancel the election, arguing that it is the only way forward and the only way to achieve political stability.

“The election of December 12th constitutes a historic opportunity for our citizens who are committed to democracy and social justice, and to building the rule of law institutions to which our people aspire,” Interim President Bensalah said in a statement Wednesday.

When it was clear the government had no plans to cancel the election, protestors became even more energized and took to the streets to call for a boycott of the election altogether.

Thousands of people demonstrated in the capital Algiers on the day of the election, where they were reportedly heard chanting: “There is no vote today,” “Independence,” and “No vote with the mafia.”

The protestors were met by riot police, who reportedly clashed with the demonstrators and violently dispersed the crowds.

In some cities, it has been reported that protestors stormed polling places. One video showed people throwing ballot boxes to the ground and tossing ballots in the air. Police have also responded with tear gas in some places.

According to reports, voter turnout has been extremely low, sitting at only 33% by 5 p.m. local time, with just two hours left of polling. Around 24 million people are eligible to vote.

The results are expected to be announced on Friday. In order to win the election, a candidate must get more than 50% of the votes. If no candidate receives 50% or more, the two leading candidates go to a runoff in a few weeks.

See what others are saying: (Al Jazeera) (The Wall Street Journal) (BBC)

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International

How Police Deal With Protests and Riots All Over the World…

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Throughout the world, from Hong Kong to Lebanon, and Chile to Iraq, there have been large-scale protests where millions have demanded changes in their societies. A few things have been consistent; nearly all started as peaceful protests, and nearly all of them have devolved into violence between protesters and police. But in ideal scenarios, police doctrines officially try to avoid violence, so how do these situations happen? Sometimes protesters get out of hand, but often poorly trained riot police and a cavalier “us versus them” attitude can be the catalyst for violence.

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Myanmar’s Leader Defends 2017 Operation That Killed Thousands of Muslims

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  • Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, defended her country before the United Nations, saying it had not acted with genocidal intent in a 2017 operation that resulted in the deaths of 24,000 minority Muslims.
  • Suu Kyi’s comments come as she faces increasing criticism for being complicit with the Myanmar military’s action. 
  • Previously, Suu Kyi had won a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in promoting democracy.

Suu Kyi Defends Myanmar

Speaking before the United Nation’s International Court of Justice, Myanmar’s Leader defended the state against accusations that it acted with genocidal intent in a 2017 operation that led to the deaths of more than 24,000 minority Muslims.

Aung San Suu Kyi—a Nobel Peace laureate and Myanmar’s State Counselor, a role akin to a prime minister—had previously been heralded as an icon for democracy, though that status has slipped in recent years. Though she has no power over the military, her handling of the operation has led to criticism that she is being “complicit.”

Suu Kyi’s comments come a day after hearing horribly graphic testimony of what happened to the Rohingya Muslims during that operation.

During the hearing, she described the case brought by the Republic of The Gambia and a dozen other majority-Muslim countries as  “incomplete and incorrect.” 

She then referred to the situation an “internal armed conflict” and argued that the military had pursued an extremist threat, saying Rohingya militants had attacked government security posts.

Though she did admit that Myanmar’s military might have used too much force at times—including admitting that the army had used military gunships on civilians—she also argued that any soldiers who committed war crimes would be prosecuted.

She went on to say that since the country is investigating war criminals, the state could not be accused of genocide.

“Can there be genocidal intent on the part of the state that actively investigates, prosecutes and punishes soldiers and officers, who are accused of wrongdoing?” she said in The Hague on Wednesday. “Although the focus here is on members of the military, I can assure you that appropriate action will also be taken on civilian offenders, in line with due process.” 

However, in May, seven Myanmar soldiers were released from jail early after being accused of killing 10 Rohingya men. On top of that, the military also previously cleared itself of any previous wrongdoing in the killings.

Suu Kyi also told the court that Myanmar was committed to helping Rohingya refugees return to their homes in Rakhine. Notably, she then urged the court to stop short of any action that might make the conflict worse.

Expectedly, many Rohingya refugees watching Suu Kyi’s defense on live TV shouted that she was a liar. Others also chanted, “Shame on you!” They then carried those words into the streets and were met by about 250 pro-Myanmar protesters who said they stood with Suu Kyi.

Why is Myanmar in Court?

On August 25, 2017, the Burmese army—Myanmar’s armed forces—undertook a massive operation in the northern state of Rakhine.

Though Myanmar is predominantly a Buddhist nation, a significant Muslim population lived in the area. That minority, known as Rohingya Muslims, has been denied citizenship by Myanmar, and the country considers them to be illegal immigrants.

The operation to clear the Rohingya from the area led to the deaths of 24,000 people and the mass relocation of an estimated 915,000 to the neighboring country of Bangladesh. In March, the government of Bangladesh announced that it would stop taking in Rohingya refugees. Meanwhile, in Rakhine, whole villages sit empty.

In October, The Gambia’s attorney general, Ba Tambadou told the BBC he decided to launch a case against Myanmar after visiting a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. There, he said he heard of killings, torture, and even rape during the operation.

In its submission, The Gambia claims the operation was “intended to destroy the Rohingya as a group, in whole or in part,” by means mass murder, rape and setting fire to buildings, “often with inhabitants locked inside.”

The UN then led a fact-finding mission and found such compelling evidence that it decided to take up the case to investigate the Burmese army.

Myanmar soldiers “routinely and systematically employed rape, gang rape and other violent and forced sexual acts against women, girls, boys, men and transgender people,” the report found in August.

For its part, The Gambia says it is only asking that Myanmar “stop these senseless killings” and “stop these acts of barbarity.”

How Will All of This End?

The ICJ’s first phase of hearings will conclude Thursday; however, the case is expected to be drawn out over the course of several years. 

“The final judgment can take a long time [of up to five years], but for victims and their communities, it’s an incredible moment,” a human rights expert told Al Jazeera. “This sends a very strong message to the Rohingya that the international community is watching and listening to them.”

Currently, The Gambia is only asking that the ICJ impose “provisional measures” that protect Rohingya in Myanmar and other countries.

Even if the court were to rule that Myanmar did break genocide laws, neither Suu Kyi nor any generals involved in the operation would be automatically arrested and put on trial.

On Tuesday, the U.S. responded by stiffening sanctions against several senior military commanders in Myanmar.

“The United States will not tolerate torture, kidnapping, sexual violence, murder or brutality against innocent civilians,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (Al Jazeera) (The New York Times)

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