Hong Kong To Be Run by “Patriots” Only Under Government Reforms
Only candidates deemed “patriotic” enough by the power Election Committee will be allowed to run, although directly-elected candidates will no longer have enough seats to decide any legislation in Hong Kong.
The Power of Elections Ended
Hong Kong’s legislature overwhelmingly passed government reforms Thursday that heavily change how the government is run and who can participate,
Chief Executive Carrie Lam is expected to sign the law soon. It was first introduced to the city’s Legislative Council in March after it passed China’s National Congress. Among its many reforms, some of the most controversial are changes to the Election Committee, which is meant to vet possible candidates. According to Lam, the Committee won’t discriminate against people based on political views, but is rather meant to weed out any “non-patriots.”
Other reforms include changing the Legislative Council itself. Its overall seats will increase from 70 to 90; however, increasing the number of seats actually makes the institution less democratic. At the same time, the number of directly elected representatives will fall from 35 to 20. Meanwhile. 40 of the 90 seats will be directly chosen by the Election Committee and another 30 will be given to representatives elected by special interest groups such as banking, trade, and businesses. These special interest groups have a long history of being pro-Beijing.
In general, the reforms are aimed at skewing the entirety of the Hong Kong government securely in the pro-Beijing camp. In the past, pro-democracy lawmakers had some degree of influence in the government by gaining a sizable number of seats and winning district-wide seats (which no longer exist). After the passage of the national security law in 2019, nearly all pro-democracy lawmakers resigned. Meaning these reforms were passed with only two people voting “no.”
The law, according to the mainland’s National Congress, is supposed to remove “loopholes and deficiencies” that threaten national security, although it’s unclear how the old system threatened the Chinese state. A succinct version of how the law will work in practice was provided by pro-Beijing lawmaker Peter Shiu of the Liberal Party, who said during the vote, “These 600-or-so pages of the legislation come down to just a few words: patriots ruling Hong Kong.”
Death of an Era
Many pro-democracy figures view this as the death of Hong Kong as it has been since it was transferred to Chinese rule in 1997. However, it does have support among some residents, who hope that it will make the city more stable after there was major unrest following the introduction of the National Security Law.
Internationally, the move was widely criticized. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the changes “severely constrains people in Hong Kong from meaningfully participating in their own governance and having their voices heard.” When the changes were first introduced in March, UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said, “This is the latest step by Beijing to hollow out the space for democratic debate in Hong Kong, contrary to the promises made by China itself.”
In a separate move on Thursday that has many Hong Kongers feeling like more of their basic rights are being trampled, authorities banned a June 4 vigil to remember the Tiananmen Square massacres for the second year in a row under the guise of coronavirus restrictions.
Organizers plan on having people place candles outside across the city to mark the event in order to get around crowd-size restrictions.
See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (CBC) (BBC)
95-Year-Old Woman Dies After Police Tases Her in Nursing Home
The officer involved was suspended with pay and charged with assault.
A 95-year-old Australian woman whom police tasered in a nursing home last week has reportedly died from her injuries.
Clare Nowland, who had dementia and required a walking frame to stand up and move, was living at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma in southeastern Australia.
At about 4:15 a.m. on May 17, police and paramedics responded to a report of a woman standing outside her room with a steak knife.
They encountered Nowland, then reportedly tried to negotiate with her for several minutes, but she didn’t drop the knife.
The five-foot-two, 95-pound woman walked toward the two officers “at a slow pace,” police said at a news conference, so one of them tasered her.
She fell to the floor and reportedly suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain bleed, causing her to be hospitalized in critical condition.
Nowland passed away in a hospital surrounded by her family, the New South Wales police confirmed in a statement today.
After a week-long investigation, the police force also said that the senior constable involved would appear in court next week to face charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.
NSW police procedure states that tasers should not be used against elderly or disabled people absent exceptional circumstances.
Following the incident, community members, activists, and disability rights advocates expressed bewilderment and anger at what they called an unnecessary use of force, and some are now questioning why law enforcement took so long to prosecute the officer involved.
See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)
U.K. Police Face Backlash After Arresting Anti-Monarchy Protesters
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that some of the arrests “raise questions” and “investigations are ongoing.”
The Public Order Act
A controversial protest crackdown law in the U.K. is facing criticism after dozens of anti-monarchy protesters were arrested during the coronation ceremony in London over the weekend.
The law, dubbed the “Public Order Act” was passed roughly a week ahead of the coronation for King Charles III. It gives police more power to restrict protesters and limits the tactics protesters can use in public spaces. It was condemned by human rights groups upon its passing, and is facing a new round of heat after 52 people were arrested over coronation protests on Saturday.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said protesters were arrested for public order offenses, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The group said it gave advance warning that its “tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration.”
It is currently unclear how many of those arrested were detained specifically for violating the Public Order Act, however, some of those arrested believe the new law was used against them.
“Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK,” Graham Smith, the CEO of anti-monarchy group Republic tweeted after getting arrested. “I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name.”
An Attempt to “Diminish” Protests
During a BBC Radio interview, Smith also said he believes the dozens of arrests were premeditated.
“There was nothing that we did do that could possibly justify even being detained and arrested and held,” Smith claimed.
“The whole thing was a deliberate attempt to disrupt and diminish our protest.”
Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted that the arrests were “disgraceful.”
“These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK,” she wrote.
When asked about the controversy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters officers should do “what they think is best” in an apparent show of support for the Metropolitan Police.
For his part, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he is looking into the matter.
“Some of the arrests made by police as part of the Coronation event raise questions and whilst investigations are ongoing, I’ve sought urgent clarity from Met leaders on the action taken,” Khan tweeted.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CNN) (The Washington Post)
Foreign Nationals Make Mad Dash out of Sudan as Conflict Rages
The conflict’s death toll has surpassed 420, with nearly 4,000 people wounded.
As the 10-day-long power struggle between rival generals tore Sudan apart, foreign governments with citizens in the country scrambled to evacuate them over the weekend.
On Sunday, U.S. special forces landed in the capital Khartoum and carried out nearly 100 American diplomats along with their families and some foreign nationals on helicopters.
An estimated 16,000 Americans, however, remain in the country and U.S. officials said in a statement that a broader evacuation mission would be too dangerous.
Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity warfare, said in a statement that the Pentagon may assist U.S. citizens find safe routes out of Sudan.
“[The Defense Department] is at present considering actions that may include use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats,” he said.
Germany and France also reportedly pulled around 700 people out of the country.
More countries followed with similar efforts, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Indonesia.
Yesterday, a convoy carrying some 700 United Nations, NGO, and embassy staff drove to Port Sudan, a popular extraction point now that the airport in Khartoum has closed due to fighting.
Reports of gunmen prowling the capital streets and robbing people trying to escape, as well as looters breaking into abandoned homes and shops, have persuaded most residents to stay indoors.
Heavy gunfire, airstrikes, and artillery shelling have terrorized the city despite several proposed ceasefires.
Over the weekend, the reported death toll topped 420, with nearly 4,000 people injured, though both numbers are likely to be undercounted.