- Protests over coronavirus restrictions have broken out globally, and experts believe general unrest will continue to grow.
- In Brazil, President Bolsonaro, who has long-defied his government’s social distancing recommendations, joined a group of right-wing protestors calling for a military coup.
- Meanwhile, other countries have started to open up again.
Bolsonaro Joins Protests
Protests over coronavirus restrictions have been breaking out all around the world as economic uncertainties continue to grow.
Over the weekend, hundreds of people in major Brazilian cities held demonstrations against restrictions imposed by governors that have shut down businesses.
One of the most notable protests was held in the capital Brasilia, in front of the army headquarters. According to reports, around 600 demonstrators gathered, many of whom did not wear masks or protective gear.
In addition to calling for an end to the restrictions, the demonstrators demanded the closure of the Supreme Court and Congress, while also calling on the military to step in and handle the pandemic.
The protestors were mostly right-wing supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro, who showed up and to give a speech supporting the movement. Like many of protestors, the president did not wear a mask or gloves. Video footage showed him coughing into his hands multiple times throughout his speech.
While Bolsonaro did not directly call for Congres to be closed or for there to be a military coup, his appearance was widely condemned. Brazil was under a military rule for over two decades from 1964 to 1985, and calls to give the military more power are highly controversial.
Former presidents, politicians, and newspaper editorial boards criticized Bolsonaro. Even top military officials reportedly told local newspapers they were upset with the move.
Bolsonaro and the Coronavirus.
However, Bolsonaro’s appearance was just one part of his continued efforts to downplay the coronavirus and actively defy his government.
Not only has the Brazilian leader openly opposed lockdowns imposed by governors, but he has also gone against social distancing measures advised by both the World Health Organization and Brazil’s health ministry numerous times.
In recent weeks, he has stepped up his public appearances, meeting with supporters and protestors as well as business owners and others.
Despite Bolsonaro’s attempts to downplay the virus and flout health recommendations, Brazil currently has the highest number of confirmed cases in all of Latin America, with over 39,000 cases and 2,400 deaths as of Monday.
On Thursday, Bolsonaro took his standoff with the government one step further when he fired his health minister, who had urged Brazilians to socially distance and stay inside.
But that decision did not seem to have pubic support. A survey from the first week of April found that a large majority of Brazilians— abut 76%— approved of how the health minister was handling the crisis.
According to reports, a poll published this Saturday also showed that a majority of Brazilians still approve the government’s regulations, despite the impact on the economy.
Other Protests Around the World
Brazil, however, is just one of several countries facing social unrest.
Anti-lockdown riots broke out in Paris over the weekend and continued Monday morning, where rioters reportedly threw fireworks at police who responded with tear gas.
Last week, tens of thousands of migrant workers who do not have work or a way to get home held demonstrations in Mumbai, India.
There have also reportedly been protests breaking out in Lebanon and Iraq, which is significant because both countries had been the sites of prominent, on-going protest movements that took place all over the world before the pandemic.
Leading up to the coronavirus crisis, there had been a surge of global protest movements with a common thread. People in numerous countries held weeks and months long demonstrations against government corruption, economic injustice, and demands for reforms.
When the pandemic hit, those protests largely died out. But now, many experts say these movements are likely to start up again or spread to other parts of the world for several reasons.
First is the economic downtown that the coronavirus has caused and is continuing to cause globally.
One reason for this is that numerous experts, including the UN Secretary General, have warned that the economic situation risks increased social unrest and violence. Some have said that this will disproportionately impact poorer countries that cannot afford subsidies for lost jobs or other similar social safety nets.
Another possible cause of future protests is the fact that some leaders are using the coronavirus to expand authoritarian measures. At the end of March, Hungary passed a law allowing the Prime Minister to rule by decree indefinitely, basically giving him the ability to rule the country however he wants.
Kenya also started crackdowns on people breaking curfew which have now reportedly killed more people in the country than the coronavirus.
Protests in Israel and Other Countries Open Back Up
Already, protests have broken out in Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Over the weekend, more than 2,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Tel Aviv where they stood six feet apart.
The demonstrators accused Netanyahu of using the crisis to escape prosecution over corruption charges and form an emergency government with his rival, Benny Gantz.
Some reportedly held up black flags that have been featured at other recent Israeli protests, and which reportedly symbolize Netanyahu’s attacks on democratic institutions.
Earlier this year, Netanyahu was indicted on charges of fraud, breach of justice, and accepting bribes.
On Monday, Netanyahu and Gantz announced that they had formed an emergency government. Under their agreement, Netanyahu will serve as Prime Minister until October 2021, then Gantz will take over.
The move further solidifies Netanyahu’s power after more than a year of political stalemate and three separate elections.
Meanwhile, a number of other countries have started to open back up again. On Monday, Germany, Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Norway all lifted some restrictions.
Outside of Europe, South Korea has also eased social-distancing rules. Australia and New Zealand have also said they are going to roll back some restrictions soon, despite the fact that New Zealand also said it is extending its lockdown for five more days.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Al Jazeera) (ABC News)
First Person Charged Under Hong Kong National Security Law Found Guilty of Terrorism and Inciting Secession
Dozens more are awaiting trial for breaking the controversial National Security Law, which is aimed at protecting Chinese sovereignty at the cost of basic freedoms within Hong Kong.
First Conviction Under National Security Law
The first person to be charged under Hong Kong’s extremely controversial National Security Law was found guilty of his crimes Tuesday morning.
A judge ruled that Tong Ying-kit was guilty of both terrorism and inciting secession after the 24-year-old failed to stop at a police checkpoint while on his motorcycle last July, which resulted in him eventually riding into police. At the same time, he was carrying a flag that said “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.”
According to Justice Esther Toh, that phrase alone was capable of inciting others to commit succession, she also that added that Tong understood that the flag had secessionist meaning in an effort to set aside doubts that Tong understood the flag’s inherent meaning.
Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director said,“The conviction of Tong Ying-kit is a significant and ominous moment for human rights in Hong Kong.”
“Today’s verdict underlines the sobering fact that expressing certain political opinions in the city is now officially a crime, potentially punishable by life in jail,” she added.
More Convictions Expected Sparking Fear Over Erosion of Rights
A long string of convictions will likely follow Tong’s, as over 100 people have been arrested under the ambiguous law that criminalizes many forms of freedom of expression under the guise of protecting Chinese sovereignty. Of those arrested, 60 are currently awaiting trial, including dozens of pro-democracy politicians who have been accused of subversiveness for their calls to block the government’s agenda in the legislature.
That has drawn particular concern among international critics who fear the precedent that will be set once it’s clear to politicians that failing to rubber-stamp the Communist Party’s agenda will result in prison terms.
It’s widely expected that as more people are found guilty, the few remaining protections of the city’s Basic Law, a British common law-inspired mini-constitution, will be completely eroded.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (BBC)
Tunisian President Fires Prime Minister, Suspends Parliament Over Deadlock and COVID-19 Response
President Kais Saied claims his actions are constitutional and have the support of the military, which has already blocked off government buildings. His opponents, however, call the move little more than a coup.
President Makes Massive Changes to Government
Tunisia’s government received a major shakeup after President Kais Saied fired the Prime Minister and froze parliament late Sunday.
The move, according to Saied, was meant to break years of parliamentary deadlock between Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and various political parties that have sturggled to find common ground. However, the timing comes just after a massive protest over how the government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic turned violent earlier on Sunday.
Either way, the move risks sparking a confrontation between Saied —who is backed by the army — and various political parties that view his actions as a coup.
The President’s actions have proven cotnroversial. Despite that, he has widepsread support after being elected in 2019 on a platform to fight corrupt politicians.
After the announcement, tens of thousands have taken to the streets in support of his decision to dismiss the Prime Minister and parliament, with many cheering as he appeared among the crowd Sunday night.
In recent months, anger at the ruling government has only increased as many feel the ruling coalition, largely made up of the Islamist Ennahda (“Renaissance”) party, have been ineffective.
It’s a common belief in Tunisia that Ennahda’s rule, alongside its tenuous coalition, helped exacerbate problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the economy shrinking by 8% as tourism plummeted.
One of the President’s supporters told Reuters and other outlets during Sunday’s demonstration, “We are here to protect Tunisia. We have seen all the tragedies under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
He mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood, which had a strong presence in Egpyt after the Arab Spring, becuase Ennahda has longstanding relationship with the group, although it has sought to distance itself as a more moderate political group over the last few years.
Now, for their part, the ruling coalition has argued that Saied’s move is clearly unconstitutional. Rached Ghannouchi, leade of Ennahda and Parliamentary Speaker, said that he is “against gathering all powers in the hands of one person.” His position isn’t without supporters eithers. Both sides have already gathered throughout the capital and have thrown rocks at each other.
Legalities of Article 80
The question across many minds is whether or not Saied’s actions are actually constitutional.
He claims that under Article 80 of the constitution, he can fire the Prime Minister, suspend parliament for 30 days, and appoint a premier to rule — all of which is true.
However, in order to do that, the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Speaker need to be consulted; something Parliamentary Speaker Ghannouchi said was never done. It’s unclear what Mechichi’s position is as he’s stayed inside his home all day, though the army says he is not under any kind of arrest.
In addition to those requirements, a Constitutional Court needs to approve the move, and one hasn’t been set up. As the German Foregin Office put it on Monday morning, it seems like Saied is relying on “a rather broad interpretation of the constitution.”
International observers hope a solution will soon be made to keep what seems to be the last functional democracy to come from the Arab Spring from devolving into civil war or dictatorship.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (BBC)
South Korean President Makes BTS Official Presidential Envoys
The position is largely ceremonial but will be used by the government to help give a friendly and popular face to national and international initiatives spearheaded by Seoul.
The K-pop band BTS will be adding to its list of global impacts this year after South Korean President Moon Jae-in appointed its members as Presidential Envoys on Wednesday.
The role will include attending international conferences such as the United Nations General Assembly in September.
At these events, BTS will perform “various activities to promote international cooperation in solving global challenges, such as improving the environment, eliminating poverty and inequality, and respecting diversity,” according to Park Kyung-mee, a Blue House spokesperson.
The band has already appeared at U.N. conferences multiple times over the last few years.
Just last year, the group gave a message of hope and reassurance through the U.N. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior appearances at the U.N. have been either as part of U.N. organizations or as private citizens.
Wednesday’s appointment will make them official representatives of South Korea, although they won’t actually engage in any direct diplomacy and instead will be used to promote the country’s ongoing efforts in youth-related projects.
BTS’ success, alongside prior and current K-pop groups, has remained a masterclass of soft diplomacy by the Korean government. For decades, the Korean government has cultivated promoting cultural aspects abroad in the hopes of generating more interest in the country. There are hopes that such efforts will encourage more tourism as well as an elevated image when consumers consider Korean-made products.
Such efforts, beyond cultivating K-pop and raising its stars as semi-official government symbols, also include helping fund Korean restaurants abroad as well as free Korean-language classes taught by Professors of some of Korea’s most prestigious schools.
The news comes as BTS’ newest single, “Permission to Dance,” quickly took the #1 spot on the Billboard top 100. BTS is also partnering with YouTube to promote a Permission to Dance challenge on YouTube Shorts that will begin tomorrow and end on August 4.
Fans will be encouraged to replicate dance moves from the music video, and the group’s favorite clips will be put into a compilation made by them.