Hong Kong’s Protest Movement Crippled By Legal Clampdown
John Lyons, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
A group of Hong Kong activists pleaded guilty Thursday to charges related to the city’s large-scale pro-democracy protests in 2014, marking a symbolic low for a movement that attracted global attention by challenging Chinese authority, but has waned under legal pressure from Beijing. The defendants included Joshua Wong, 20, who became the face of a 79-day student protest seeking universal suffrage in the former British colony, which retains limited autonomy within China. He admitted to defying a judge’s order to clear one of the protest sites. In the years since the demonstrations, city authorities have aggressively prosecuted activists such as Mr. Wong, sapping their momentum and instilling a sense among many Hong Kongers that resisting Beijing’s will is futile, political analysts say. “The pro-democracy movement is hitting a low tide, mainly because of intimidation from Beijing,” said Willy Lam, a longtime Hong Kong political analyst. In Hong Kong last week, Communist Party leader Xi Jinping issued a stern warning to the city of seven million people, calling any Hong Kong challenges to central government power “impermissible” acts that cross a “red line.” Protests planned to mark Mr. Xi’s visit either attracted far fewer participants than expected or were broken up by police.
Chinese Nobel Laureate Liu’s Liver Function Worsens: Hospital
Christian Shepherd, REUTERS
The liver function of China’s Nobel Peace Prize winning dissident Liu Xiaobo has worsened, the hospital treating him said on Thursday, while one source close to his family said doctors had halted medication. Liu, 61, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms. He was recently moved from jail to a hospital in the city of Shenyang for treatment of late stage liver cancer. Liu has been being treated for various conditions as side effects of his cancer, including a buildup of fluid in his stomach caused by liver scarring. “Liu Xiaobo’s liver function has worsened, his bilirubin levels are gradually rising,” the hospital said in a statement, referring to a substance produced by the liver, high levels of which can indicate liver failure. Asked about Liu’s condition on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he had nothing new to add and reiterated that China hoped other countries would not use “individual cases” to interfere in China’s internal affairs. A liver expert from Beijing, Mao Yilei, had come to Shenyang to lead a consultation on Liu’s condition, the hospital said on Wednesday. The team decided to adjust his treatment plan and the family said they understood, the hospital said on Wednesday, without providing details.
At The Movies In China, Some Propaganda With Your Popcorn
Amy Qin, THE NEW YORK TIMES
The house lights dimmed, and moviegoers in a Beijing cinema settled in with their popcorn for some of Hollywood’s finest escapist entertainment. But first they got a dose of Communist Party propaganda, courtesy of China’s film authorities: a short video message promoting “socialist core values.” Chinese cinemas have been ordered to play one of four government-issued videos before every movie screening. Theater managers in several Chinese cities confirmed on Wednesday that they had received the order, which went into effect last week. Besides “socialist core values,” the videos promote Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s cherished “Chinese dream” and two other Communist Party slogans, the “Four Comprehensives” and the “Five in One Overall Arrangement.” In a video played before a screening of “Transformers: The Last Knight” at a Beijing theater on Wednesday, the actress Li Bingbing, who was in the previous “Transformers” installment, appears before a somber gray backdrop. “No matter what you do, as long as you don’t disappoint our country, our society, our people and your family, then you are helping to realize the Chinese dream,” Ms. Li says.
China’s Huge Liaoning Aircraft Carrier Sails Into Hong Kong
Hong Kong has traditionally been more used to hosting US warships, but on Friday morning Beijing’s first operational aircraft carrier, known as the Liaoning, cruised into the city’s harbor. The Liaoning’s maiden voyage into Hong Kong was part of a series of celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China, but it also served as marked display of China’s military might in a region where political dissent was once overlooked by Beijing. Thousands of Hong Kong residents queued to witness the Liaoning—with jet fighters and helicopters parked on its deck and hundreds of crew members clad in pristine white uniforms – steam through the city’s East Lamma Channel. “I think Liaoning’s visit definitely gives the central government a chance to display its military power,” Sean Moran, a tourist from the US, said.
Russia Claims North Korea Launch Not ICBM, Objects To Condemnation Statement
Despite several rounds of UN sanctions on North Korea agreed to by the Security Council, tensions between the US and Russia have hit such a fevered pitch that a statement circulated by the US to condemn the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile is now “dead,” a UN Security Council diplomat told CBS News. At the heart of the dispute is a more important difference: Russia says that the missile North Korea launched on the Fourth of July was not an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Late Thursday, the Russian Mission sent the following statement to CBS News: “According to the Statement of the Russian Defense Ministry, the launch of the ballistic missile on July 4 from the North Korean test site was recorded and monitored by the Russian Missile Attack Warning System. The parametric flight data of the ballistic target corresponds to the tactical and technical parameters of a medium-range ballistic missile.” As a result of their determination, Russia did not want a reference to an ICBM in a non-binding press statement that would be issued by the Council. A UN Security Council diplomat said that Russia “wanted the ICBM reference out; we won’t be continuing the negotiation on the statement.” The statement was never issued.
North Korea Tensions: South’s President Seeks Meeting With Kim Jong-un
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday he is willing to meet with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un amid heightened tensions in the wake of Pyongyang’s first intercontinental ballistic missile test-launch. Moon, in a speech ahead of the G-20 summit in Germany, also proposed the two Koreas resume reunions of families separated by war, stop hostile activities along the DMZ and cooperate on the 2018 Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. “The current situation where there is no contact between the relevant authorities of the South and the North is highly dangerous,” Moon said. “I am ready to meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea at any time at any place, if the conditions are met and if it will provide an opportunity to transform the tension and confrontation on the Korean Peninsula.” Moon added that he is ready to put all issues on the negotiating table, including the North’s nuclear program and the signing of a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War.
Florida May Drop Ties To Businesses Linked To Venezuela
Gary Fineout, US NEWS
Amid an escalating political crisis in Venezuela, Florida may sever its connections to businesses that support the South American country’s current government. Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday announced that he will ask the trustees of Florida’s pension plan to go along with a proposal that targets businesses helping the regime of President Nicolás Maduro. He and other Florida politicians, including US Sen. Marco Rubio, have been highly critical of Maduro in the past few months. Scott announced the plan the same day that pro-government militias wielding wooden sticks and metal bars stormed congress and began attacking opposition lawmakers during a special session coinciding with Venezuela’s Independence Day. “Floridians stand with the people of Venezuela as they fight for their freedom, and as a state, we must not provide any support for Maduro and his thugs,” Scott said in a statement.
Trump Will Have Buses Of Supporters Sent To His Speech In Poland, Utilizing Communist Party Tactics
Jason Le Miere, NEWSWEEK
Donald Trump didn’t exactly earn a unanimously warm welcome during his first trip to Europe as president in May. To ensure that his second visit starts off on a far more positive note this week, considerable measures are being taken, including those borrowed straight from the Communist Party playbook. Ahead of making his way to Germany for the start of the G-20 summit Friday, Trump will land in Poland Wednesday and is guaranteed a rapturous reception: Supportive crowds literally will be bused in to cheer for him. Trump will find a rare European friend in Poland, a country governed by its own nationalistic government and encouraged by the new US President’s intention to shake up the global political order. Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said that, like Trump, Poland’s government was being attacked by “liberals, post-communists, lefties and genderists.” He added that Trump was “a man who is changing the shape of the world’s political scene.”
Mob Attacks Maduro Opponents As It Storms Venezuela’s National Assembly
Ernesto Londoño, THE NEW YORK TIMES
A mob stormed Venezuela’s opposition-dominated National Assembly on Wednesday with the apparent acquiescence of government troops and carried out a startling attack on lawmakers and journalists. Bloodied lawmakers were treated for broken ribs and head injuries, and journalists said the attackers had stolen their equipment. The episode in Caracas, which coincided with Venezuela’s Independence Day, was a sharp escalation of lawlessness in a country roiled by a failing economy and daily street demonstrations. “We’re here to defend Venezuela; that’s what we were elected to do,” Armando Armas, an opposition lawmaker wearing a bloodied white shirt, said in a video as two people cleaned what appeared to be head wounds. “Even if it costs us our lives.” Opposition lawmakers said the attack had been carried out by so-called colectivos, bands of armed men in plain clothes who take their cues from the government of President Nicolás Maduro to thwart demonstrations and intimidate dissidents. While National Assembly lawmakers have been assaulted before, the attack on Wednesday was remarkable because the throng of assailants appeared to face no resistance from National Guard forces charged with securing the compound. The United States State Department condemned the assault, saying in a statement, “This violence, perpetrated during the celebration of Venezuela’s independence, is an assault on the democratic principles cherished by the men and women who struggled for Venezuela’s independence 206 years ago today.”
At Least 123 Venezuelan Soldiers Detained Since Protests–Documents
Girish Gupta, REUTERS
At least 123 members of Venezuela’s armed forces have been detained since anti-government unrest began in April on charges ranging from treason and rebellion to theft and desertion, according to military documents seen by Reuters. The list of detainees, which includes officers as well as servicemen from the lower ranks of the army, navy, air force and National Guard, provided the clearest picture to date of dissatisfaction and dissent within Venezuela’s roughly 150,000-strong military. The records, detailing prisoners held in three Venezuelan jails, showed that since April nearly 30 members of the military have been detained for deserting or abandoning their post and almost 40 for rebellion, treason, or insubordination. Most of the remaining military prisoners were charged with theft. Millions of Venezuelans are suffering from food shortages and soaring inflation caused by a severe economic crisis. Even within the armed forces, salaries start at the minimum wage, equivalent to around $12.50 a month at the black-market exchange rate, and privately some members admit to being poorly paid and underfed.
Rogue Helicopter Cop Resurfaces In Venezuela Video
Euan McKirdy, CNN
The renegade Venezuelan cop who apparently stole a police chopper and used it to strafe government buildings in Caracas last month has shown up again on video, accusing President Nicolás Maduro of being an “assassin.” In the newly-posted video, Oscar Perez, an officer in the country’s investigative police force, delivered a statement saying, “We are not assassins, like you, Mr. Nicolás Maduro; Like you, Diosdado Cabello, who every day bring sorrow to Venezuelan homes.” Cabello is the vice president of Maduro’s party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV. In the video uploaded to YouTube, Perez stands in front of the Venezuelan flag and says the assault on June 27 went “perfectly” to plan.
Vietnam Renews India Oil Deal In Tense South China Sea
Mai Nguyen, Nidhi Verma & Sanjeev Miglani, REUTERS
Vietnam has extended an Indian oil concession in the South China Sea and begun drilling in another area it disputes with China in moves that could heighten tensions over who owns what in the vital maritime region. The moves come at a delicate time in Beijing’s relations with Vietnam, which claims parts of the sea, and India, which recently sent warships to monitor the Malacca Straits, through which most of China’s energy supplies and trade passes. Vietnam granted Indian oil firm ONGC Videsh a two-year extension to explore oil block 128 in a letter that arrived earlier this week, the state-run company’s managing director Narendra K. Verma told Reuters. Part of that block is in the U-shaped “nine-dash line” which marks the vast area that China claims in the sea, a route for more than $5 trillion in trade each year in which the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have claims.