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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)

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Brazil’s Secretary of Culture Fired Over Speech Reminiscent of Nazi Rhetoric

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  • Brazil’s Secretary of Culture Roberto Alvim was fired on Friday after he appeared to paraphrase Nazi propaganda in his announcement of a national arts initiative.  
  • Several of Alvim’s sentences were strikingly similar to those of Joseph Goebbels, who served as the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany.
  • Additionally, the music playing in the background of Alvim’s address was from an opera that Adolf Hitler found imperative in his life. 
  • After much backlash and call for the culture secretary’s termination, President Jair Bolsonaro announced that he dismissed Alvim from his position.

Controversial Address

Brazil’s Secretary of Culture was terminated from his role on Friday after an official video was released of him seeming to paraphrase Nazi propaganda remarks. 

Roberto Alvim, who was appointed to his position by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, announced a new initiative for increased funds dedicated to national art awards. In the 6-minute video, which has now been deleted from all Brazilian government official pages, Alvim was seen sitting at a desk beneath a portrait of Bolsonaro, a wooden cross to his side.

“The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and national,” he said to the camera in Portuguese. “It will be endowed with great capacity for emotional involvement, and it will also be imperative since it will be profoundly connected to the urgent aspirations of our people — or it will be nothing.”  

Parts of Alvim’s phrasing was almost identical to those of Joseph Goebbels, who served as the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany. The similarities can be seen in a speech of Goebbels’, quoted in a biography by historian Peter Longerich.

“German art of the next decade will be heroic, steely but romantic, factual without sentimentality,” Goebbels said in 1933. “It will be nationalistic, with great depth of feeling; it will be binding and it will unite, or it will cease to exist.”  

The music playing in the background of Alvim’s address was also noteworthy. It came from Richard Wagner’s opera “Lohengrin,” which Adolf Hitler described in his autobiography, Mein Kampf, as being decisive in his life.

Reactions to Alvim’s Speech  

It wasn’t long before people began to notice the likeness of Alvim’s rhetoric with the Nazi propaganda, and individuals across the political spectrum expressed outrage. Some — including prominent Brazillian politicians — publicly called for Alvim’s immediate professional termination. 

Alvim first defended his speech in a Facebook post, saying, “what the left is doing is a remote association fallacy.” He called his controversial sentences a “rhetorical coincidence.” 

But a few hours later, Alvim softened his defensive stance with an apology to the Jewish community. In another post, he claimed that the speech was brought to him by advisors who pulled various ideas tied to national art and that he had no idea of the fascist origin of those few lines. Alvim called the criticized phrases an “involuntary mistake” and said he was sorry from the bottom of his heart.

President Jair Bolsonaro announced on his official Twitter page that he had dismissed Alvim from his position on Friday. Bolsonaro wrote that despite Alvim’s apology, his remarks made his tenure “unsustainable.” 

The Brazilian leader emphasized his “rejection of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies” and expressed full support for the Jewish community. 

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (BBC) (Washington Post)

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Pope Francis Names First Woman to Senior Vatican Diplomatic Role

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  • Pope Francis appointed a woman to a management role in the Vatican’s most powerful department for the first time on Wednesday.
  • Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni, a Vatican official of 27 years, will now serve as the undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State. 
  • Among other duties, Di Giovanni will oversee the coordination of the Vatican’s relationships with multilateral organizations, including the United Nations. 
  • While several other women hold high-ranking positions in the city-state, Di Giovanni’s leadership role in the Vatican’s most powerful branch is unparalleled. 

Appointment of Di Giovanni

Pope Francis made an unprecedented move on Wednesday by appointing a woman for the first time to a managerial position in the Secretariat of State, the most powerful department of the Vatican.

Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni, an Italian lawyer and Vatican official of 27 years, was named the undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State. Among other responsibilities, Di Giovanni will oversee a division that coordinates the Vatican’s relations with multilateral organizations, including the United Nations.  

“The Holy Father has made an unprecedented decision, certainly, which, beyond myself personally, represents an indication of an attention towards women,” Di Giovanni told the Vatican’s in-house media

“But the responsibility is connected to the job, rather than to the fact of being a woman,” she added.

Milestone for Women in Catholic Church

Several women hold leadership positions in other Vatican offices, but the Secretariat of State is the most powerful branch, making Di Giovanni’s career shift extra significant. 

Pope Francis’ appointment of Di Giovanni is the latest development in his ongoing open support of women having more say in the Roman Catholic Church. Currently, women cannot be ordained as priests and the Church’s leadership is almost entirely male-dominated.

On New Year’s Day, the pope expressed praise for womankind. 

“Women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes,” Pope Francis said. “Because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful. Hence, every step forward for women is a step forward for humanity as a whole.”

Di Giovanni referenced these words in her interview with the Vatican News calling them the pope’s “tribute” to the role of women.

“A woman may have certain aptitudes for finding commonalities, healing relationships with unity at heart,” Di Giovanni said. “I hope that my being a woman might reflect itself positively in this task, even if they are gifts that I certainly find in my male colleagues as well.”  

See what others are saying: (Vatican News) (NPR) (BBC)

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Protests Erupt in Iran After Military Admits to Shooting Down Plane

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  • Protests broke out across Iran over the weekend after the military admitted that it shot down a Ukrainian airline’s passenger jet, killing 176 people when mistaking it for a hostile aircraft.
  • Officials originally said there was no evidence of the plane being struck down by one of their missiles but ultimately admitted fault three days later.
  • Protesters are demanding leaders be held accountable. 
  • There are reports of tear gas and gunfire being used against demonstrators, but Tehran’s head of police has denied claims of shots being fired.

Backlash from the Plane Strike

Monday marked the third straight day of Iranian protests since Iran’s military admitted it shot down a passenger jet last week, mistaking it for a threat and killing all 176 people on board. 

Videos emerged on Sunday of protesters running from tear gas and in others, which could not be immediately verified, gunfire could be heard.

It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for Iranians—last week, hundreds of thousands were rallying in the streets to publicly mourn Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s Quds Force commander who was killed by a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3.

During those rallies, cries of hate against the United States and Donald Trump—who ordered the strike— were heard. This week there is a sharp contrast, as protesters seem to be targeting the Iranian government and military.

According to The Washington Post, demonstrators were filmed late on Sunday in at least two locations ripping down posters of Soleimani. In Iran’s capital, Tehran, a billboard mourning the victims of the plane crash replaced one of the deceased military leader.

In retaliation for Soleimani’s death, Iran fired missiles at an Iraqi military base that houses American troops on Wednesday. The plane was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps just hours later after taking off from Tehran. 

After maintaining for days that there was no evidence the aircraft was struck down by one of their missiles, Iran admitted that its military had shot down the jet by mistake.

The military initially claimed in a statement that the plane took an unexpected turn that brought it close to a sensitive military base, but an Iranian official later backtracked on that notion. 

“The plane was flying in its normal direction without any error and everybody was doing their job correctly,” Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ airspace unit, said on Saturday. “If there was a mistake, it was made by one of our members.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the incident an “unforgivable mistake” and said that investigations are continuing to “identify and prosecute this great tragedy.”  

A mix of individuals from multiple countries was onboard the aircraft, including dozens of Canadians. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident “a national tragedy” and publicly called for further investigation.

“I want to assure all families and all Canadians: We will not rest until there are answers,” he said at a memorial event on Sunday.

Escalating Protests

Protesters are demanding that leaders be held responsible for the fatal mistake. Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported that up to 1,000 people were protesting at various points in the capital city. Some videos posted to social media show crowds demanding the resignation of Ayatollah Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader.

One of the scenes of protest was the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, which said that 13 of its students and alumni were killed in the plane crash. Iranian security forces stepped in and escalated the demonstration.

They “started dragging people away. They took a number of people and put them in cages in police vans,” said 35-year-old Soudabeh told The Washington Post, keeping her full name anonymous.

“At one point, the protesters freed one of the men who was detained. I saw his face and it was covered in blood — his family carried him away,” she told the news outlet.

Iran’s security forces have a history of taking extreme action to contain protesters. In November, after protests broke out in response to the spike in Iran’s gas prices, about 1,500 demonstrators were killed by security forces, according to the Trump administration. 

Iranian media quoted Brig. Gen. Hossein Rahimi as saying “Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance,” according to reports by the Associated Press. 

Rahimi denied claims that police were shooting at protesters and said that tear gas was only being used in certain areas.

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

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