- On Wednesday, a committee within the National People’s Congress — China’s top legislative body — passed a resolution meant to disqualify pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.
- Within minutes of the resolution’s passage, four LegCo lawmakers were immediately removed from office for “endangering” national security.
- All four had previously asked foreign governments to sanction Beijing and Hong Kong over China’s passage of a national security law earlier this summer. China has since used that law to gradually strip away freedoms in Hong Kong.
- Following their ousting, the remaining 15 pro-democracy lawmakers in LegCo announced their intention to resign. LegCo will now be fully stacked with Beijing loyalists.
Four Pro-Democracy Lawmakers Ousted From LegCo
Hong Kong’s legislature is set to lose all of its 19 pro-democracy lawmakers by Thursday, meaning the legislature will now be composed entirely of Beijing loyalists.
On Wednesday, a committee within the National People’s Congress (NPC) — China’s top legislative body — passed a resolution targeting pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong. The resolution states that lawmakers in Hong Kong will be disqualified from office if they support Hong Kong independence, refuse to accept China’s sovereignty, threaten national security, or ask foreign forces to impose sanctions.
Just minutes after that resolution was passed, the Hong Kong government announced it would be disqualifying four legislators in the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo), effective immediately. All four — Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki, and Kenneth Leung — were accused of endangering national security.
In late June, China passed a national security law aimed at cracking down on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Since then, China has effectively taken control of the region — even though it was supposed to remain autonomous until 2047.
Later, in July, those four pro-democracy lawmakers asked foreign governments, including the United States, to implement sanctions on Beijing and Hong Kong. At the time, the Hong Kong government barred them from running for re-election, but they were allowed to continue serving on LegCo.
“If observing due process, protecting systems and functions, fighting for democracy and human rights would lead to the consequences of being disqualified, it would be my honor,” Dennis Kwok said Wednesday following his ousting.
All Pro-Democracy Legislators Resign
The four disqualifications left LegCo with 58 members — 15 of which were pro-democracy lawmakers; however, just hours after those disqualifications, every single pro-democracy lawmaker in LegCo announced they would resign, beginning Thursday.
“There [is] separation of power under… the Basic Law,” Hong Kong’s Democratic Party Chair Wu Chi Wai said, “but today, the decision made by the central government seemed to say that all the separation of powers will be taken away, and all the power will be centralized in the chief executive — Of course, the chief executive is the puppet of the central government.”
“We can no longer tell the world that we still have ‘one country, two systems,’” he added. “This declares its official death.”
That “puppet,” Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, denied that LegCo is about to become a “rubber-stamp parliament” — AKA, a government that will essentially pass any legislation Beijing tells it to. Instead, she said she welcomes diverse opinions in LegCo, but she also stressed the need for China’s resolution to be applied upon LegCo.
“There are many occasions even among the so-called pro-establishment members that our proposals did not get through,” she said in a briefing.
However, China’s representative office in Hong Kong was much more transparent about the goal of this resolution, saying that the city must be ruled by loyalists.
One major question surrounding this story has confused many: Why did those other 15 lawmakers quit, especially since China hadn’t disqualified them? Why voluntarily give up their seats, which still had power even if those lawmakers were in the minority?
In fact, even analysts have noted that a mass resignation like this means democracy activists no longer have access to LegCo, a tool they could use to try to hold lawmakers more accountable to public opinion.
Despite this, as Reuters pointed out, “staying could have been perceived by their supporters as legitimising Beijing’s move and led to discord.”
For the lawmakers’ part, their mass resignation does seem to be a display of unity. While announcing their plans, the 15 held hands and chanted, “Together we stand!”
During that announcement, Wu called their effort a “fight of democracy,” saying, “[We] will never, ever give up.”
While those lawmakers described Wednesday as a dark day for Hong Kong, it’s also one that largely felt inevitable, given China’s recent crackdowns. Since signing its national security law into effect, it has arrested protesters, arrested journalists, raided newsrooms, and instituted propaganda into schools.
See what others are saying: (South China Morning Post) (Reuters) (NPR)
Malaysian Man Wins Challenge Against Islamic Law Banning Gay Sex
- On Thursday, a Malaysian man in the state of Selangor successfully challenged the state’s Sharia Law ban on gay sex.
- His legal argument revolved around Malaysia’s two-track legal system that features Sharia Law Courts in some states for certain crimes, and Federal courts for everything else.
- While the Islamic courts and Sharia law are allowed to regulate divorce, property, religion, and some criminal codes, they cannot enact laws that conflict with Federal law.
- Malaysia’s top court unanimously found that Selangor’s Islamic-based anti-gay sex law conflicted with the countries rarely-enforced national ban on gay sex.
Malaysia Upholds Federal Law Over Sharia Law
The Malaysian LGBTQ+ community won a major legal victory in the Muslim-majority country on Thursday after a man successfully challenged an Islamic law ban on sex “against the order of nature.”
The case started back in Selangor state when eleven men were arrested for allegedly having sex together in 2018. In 2019, five admitted to the charge and received six strokes by cane, a fine, and jail terms of up to seven months.
But one man, whose name was withheld by his lawyers to protect his identity, challenged the charges. His defense revolved around how Malaysia’s legal system works.
The country, which is 60% Muslim, has both Islamic Sharia law and associated courts in many states, as well as federal laws and courts. The Sharia courts, locally called Syariah courts, are allowed to deal with Islamic law issues such as divorce, property, religion, and certain criminal matters. However, they’re barred from passing laws that conflict with federal law.
The accused pointed out that Malaysia already had an anti-gay sex statute that was leftover from its days as a British colony. The exact same statute can be found throughout former British colonial holdings like India and Pakistan and is known as Section 377.
His argument went on to say that therefore, Selangor shouldn’t have passed its Islamic anti-gay law and the Sharia court didn’t have jurisdiction over the matter.
An Important Victory
Malaysia’s top civil court unanimously agreed, striking down Selangor’s anti-gay sex statute for conflicting with federal law.
The ruling is considered a massive victory for LGBTQ+ people in Malaysia, despite there still being a federal anti-gay statute, because it’s rarely enforced. Similar laws in Muslim states, for instance, are far more restrictive and enforced by their courts. It’s also rare that such legal victories happen in Muslim-majority countries.
Even with this win, there are still other states with Islamic anti-gay statutes, but advocates are now more hopeful and confident about challenging those laws when they’re used again.
See what others are saying: (The Straits Times) (Reuters) (Independent)
Anti-Asian Hate Crimes on the Rise in British Columbia
- A report given to Canadian police in Vancouver, British Columbia last week showed a 717% in hate crimes against Asians over the last year and a 97% increase in hate crimes overall.
- Prosecutors have been urged to more seriously pursue hate crime charges, despite them being harder to prove in court.
- The trend has been mirrored in Ontario, another Canadian province with significant Asian populations.
Massive Surges in Hate Crimes
The U.S. has struggled with anti-Asian hate crimes over the last year, especially in municipalities like New York City, which reported upwards of a 1,900% increase from one incident to 19 within the year.
However, the U.S. isn’t the only country dealing with the issue. Similar trends have been reported in Canada as well. A report given to the Vancouver police board last week found that in 2019, there were just 12 incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes reported in the city. In 2020, there was 98, which marks a 717% increase. Those numbers helped drive the stats of hate crimes in the city up 97% overall.
To be clear, crime overall has been on the rise, likely fueled by struggling local economies dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Hard To Pursue Charges
The report has caused Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth to push local prosecutors to seek more hate crime charges.
The region has failed to actually bring charges for most reported hate incidents, with the past year only seeing just one charge filed despite police evidence of such hate crimes. The issue at hand is that adding a hate crime charge makes getting a conviction much harder.
The incidents have led to a push for more strict anti-racism legislation in the province, a position that John Horgan, the British Columbian Premier, has pushed for as far back as June 2020.
British Columbia, according to an assortment of Asian-Canadian advocacy groups, has the most incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes, followed by Ontario. This is especially notable because they are the number two and number one locations of Asian populations in Canada, respectively.
See what others are saying: (Vancouver Sun) (CBC) (CTV News)
Japan Appoints ‘Minister of Loneliness’ To Combat Rising Suicide Rates
- Earlier this month, Japan appointed Sakamoto Tetsushi as the country’s Minister of Loneliness, tasked with addressing rising suicide rates.
- Suicides were declining worldwide, except in the U.S., ahead of the coronavirus pandemic but have since seen startling spikes.
- In October, Japan reported 400 more suicide deaths than all COVID-19 related deaths in the nation until that point.
- While suicide cases among men in Japan are higher, the country has seen a drastic increase in suicides among women, who are more likely to have unstable work that is susceptible to market disruptions from the coronavirus.
Editor’s Note: The Japanese government has asked Western outlets to adhere to Japanese naming conventions. To that end, Japanese names will be written as Family Name followed by Given Name.
Loneliness Is a Rising Issue
Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshinori appointed Sakamoto Tetsushi as its Minister of Loneliness earlier this month.
Sakamoto is already in charge of combating Japan’s declining birthrate and regional revitalization efforts, but his new role will see him combating Japan’s rising suicide rate. Suicides were actually on the decline in Japan until the COVID-19 pandemic, which has drastically exacerbated the issue.
That trend reached a milestone in October 2020 when Japan suffered 2,153 suicides – nearly 400 more than all COVID-19 related deaths in Japan until that point. Currently, monthly suicides no longer exceed the total amount of deaths from COVID-19, as Japan faced an outbreak at the end of the year and has over 7,500 COVID-19 deaths.
Even though monthly suicides no longer outstrip total coronavirus deaths, the rate hasn’t let up. While men still make up the vast majority of suicides, there’s been a drastic increase in women taking their own lives. Between October 2020 and October 2019 there was a 70% increase in female suicides.
According to Ueda Michiko, a Japanese professor at Waseda University who studies suicides, women are particularly affected because they often have more unstable employment that is more susceptible to disruptions caused by the pandemic.
She went to tell Insider, “A lot of women are not married anymore. They have to support their own lives and they don’t have permanent jobs. So, when something happens, of course, they are hit very, very hard.”
Internationally Suicides on the Rise
Sakamoto hasn’t outlined any specific plans to combat loneliness in Japan, but he has a blueprint to work from as he’s not the world’s first Minister of Loneliness. The U.K. appointed one in 2018 after a report found more than 9 million Brits said that they often or always felt lonely.
But the job doesn’t seem very easy or desirable, as the U.K. has gone through three ministers of loneliness since then.
COVID-19 has been a massive disruption to suicide rates globally, which had actually been steadily declining for decades. The notable exception to this is the United States, which has faced increases nearly every year since 1999 adding up to almost a 30% total increase over the past two decades.
If you’re in the U.S. and feeling suicidal or have thoughts of suicide contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
For reader across the globe, here are resources in your nation.