Tag Archives: Hong Kong

France’s New Security Law May Have Just Sparked a “George Floyd” Moment

Sparked by a new bill that would make publishing photos of police illegal and a viral video soon after that shows French police brutally beating a black man, it appears that France may be headed for its own “George Floyd” moment.

By Alan Macleod. Published 11-30-2020 by MintPress News

Screenshot: EuroNews

Award-winning Syrian photographer Ameer Alhalbi lies dazed on the ground. His head is heavily bruised and bandaged, blood covers his face, arms, and much of his body. Lengths of cotton wool have been stuffed up his broken nose, giving him an almost comical appearance. Alhalbi has been badly beaten by police. But this is not Syria, it is Paris, where he was covering — ironically — huge, nationwide protests against police brutality this weekend.

Perhaps even more concerning is that new laws pushed through by the government of Emmanuel Macron and passed by France’s National Assembly (akin to the U.S. House of Representatives) mean that sharing images of Alhalbi or other victims of police brutality might soon be considered illegal.

Article 24 of the country’s new national security bill, which now only needs to be ratified by the Senate, specifically outlaws the publishing and dissemination of images of police that undermine their physical or psychological “integrity,” and is punishable with a fine of up to €45,000 and up to one year in jail. The bill specifically states that filming police in such a manner would be against the law, but questions have been raised about how liberally authorities would interpret the nebulous language of the new edict. Media unions and human rights groups warn that it could prevent journalists from documenting police abuses.

The National Assembly’s decision to approve the law last week sparked large protests in many major cities around France, including Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier, and Nantes. However, an incident caught on camera on Saturday threw large amounts of fuel on the fire of resentment, drastically increasing the demonstrations’ size and intensity.

Images from mobile phones and closed-circuit television showed an unprovoked police attack on a young black music producer at his place of work. A group of four officers can be seen chasing after Michel Zecler, following him from outside into his studio, where they kick, punch and beat him with truncheons. Zecler also alleges they shouted racial abuse while they assailed him.

Before the videos went viral on social media, the officers testified that Zecler had, in fact, attacked them, and was resisting arrest. The officers have now been charged with “deliberate violence” and with “falsifying statements.” Two of the gang of four, including a 44-year-old senior officer with the rank of brigadier, remain in custody, while two others have been released.

The viral images provoked a storm of condemnation across the country this weekend, and propelled as many as 500,000 people into the streets, with demonstrations in dozens of cities. Protestors marched through the streets, setting light to cars, damaging buildings, and clashing with police, of whom a reported 98 were injured nationwide. Many of Paris’ iconic boulevards resembled a war zone as thousands of demonstrators pitched battle with lines of police in riot gear.

President Macron said he was “very shocked” by the footage of the police attack on Zecler, yet continues to be a driving force behind the new security law, under which many have noted that the images might never have come to light, given as they essentially identify the Parisien officers and clearly undermine their integrity or authority. Without the footage, it is possible that Zecler would have been facing prosecution himself.

Although the bill and the protests against it are dominating French politics, the story has been covered sparsely in the American corporate press, with no coverage whatsoever in MSNBCCBS News, or CNBC. Fox News, meanwhile, reprinted one Associated Press article, featuring an egregious, uncorrected error in its subheadline, asserting that protestors were shooting tear gas at themselves.

While foreign desks have been seriously cut in recent years, huge demonstrations in central Paris should not have been too difficult to cover. Lebanese political commentator Sarah Abdallah suggested that if the rallies had been happening in countries antagonistic to the United States, they would have been front-page news. Certainly, similar protests in Iran and Hong Kong dominated the news cycles last year, prompting constant reaction from Mike Pompeo. The Secretary of State is yet to comment on the events in France, suggesting that they are not at the front and center of his thoughts.

President Macron came to power in 2017, winning in the final round of the election against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen. A strong believer in neoliberalism and an admirer of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he has insisted that France must not merely be reformed, but transformed, and has attempted to radically alter the shape of French society, away from a social democratic model to one more resembling the United States. Almost immediately after gaining the presidency, however, his average approval rating tumbled and has not risen above 40% since.

Indeed, the 42-year-old former investment banker has faced almost constant resistance to his agenda from the general public. His attempts to increase the cost of fuel in 2018 sparked the Yellow Vest movement across the country. Meanwhile, his plans to raise the age of retirement and reform France’s pension system was met with a months-long general strike that paralyzed the country last winter. Despite losing over 50,000 people to the coronavirus pandemic, he has seen his popularity increase this year due to the government’s financial response to the virus, which included aid to small businesses and paying employees to stay home. Despite this, it appears possible that France might be headed for its own “George Floyd” moment, where its racial injustices are finally reckoned with.

This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

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From Police Violence at Home to Killing Civilians in Unending Wars Abroad, US Faces Human Rights Reckoning at UN

An ACLU leader urged the incoming administration to “take bold actions on day one to reverse President Trump’s harmful policies.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-9-2020

The United States on Monday faced criticism over its human rights record from allies and adversaries alike at the United Nations as the country submitted to its first Universal Periodic Review of the Trump administration.

All 193 U.N. member states must undergo UPRs, which are held at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC)—from which the U.S. withdrew in 2018 over alleged anti-Israel bias—in Geneva, Switzerland every five years. Continue reading

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George Floyd Protests: US Arrests Now Higher Than Hong Kong Protest Total Figures

While the world condemns China for its response to the Hong Kong protests, the numbers and the images make clear that the US has responded to its popular uprising with more force and less tolerance than Beijing

By Alan Macleod   Published 6-5-2020 by MintPress News

Protesters react to tear gas at George Floyd protests in Washington, D.C. Photo: Roas Pineda/Wikimedia Commons/CC

After just over a week of demonstrations, the number of Americans arrested in the George Floyd protests far exceeds that of over a year’s worth of protests in Hong Kong. A survey of just 30 police departments conducted on Tuesday found that they had collectively detained over 11,000 individuals, meaning the actual number detained across the entire country is certain to be higher. That compares to around 9,000 for Hong Kong.

Chinese authorities have been roundly condemned by Western governments and by human rights organizations for their excessive use of force, using tear gas and rubber bullets that have harmed protestors. However, in more than a year of near-constant conflict, authorities have not killed anyone. In contrast, at least 17 people have been killed protesting in the U.S. The National Guard was almost immediately activated and deployed to 24 states, with the president encouraging authorities to shoot anyone deemed to be “thugs” or “looters.” “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Trump tweeted. Police seem to have taken that message to heart, shooting and killing Sean Monterrosa, an unarmed 22-year-old in Vallejo, California, while he was kneeling and had his hands up. Meanwhile, on Wednesday LAPD shot a homeless, wheelchair bound man in the face. Continue reading

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Global Offshore Corporate Networks Exposed in Massive Data Leak

By Dan Feldt. Published 12-3-2019 by Unicorn Riot

Hundreds of thousands of documents from inside Formations House, a posh British finance firm located in central London, have been released online tonight. Formations House created thousands of companies for ultra-wealthy business-people for offshore banking and international transactions. The transparency collective ‘Distributed Denial of Secrets‘ obtained these documents from a source dubbed “Babylon” and is publishing them online. More than 100,000 recorded phone calls between Formations House, its customers, and related figures, are included. Full archives of the phone calls are expected to be released in coming days.

This new data release is named ‘#29Leaks’ after 29 Harley Street, the original location in London of Formations House (it moved to a new address after 2016 – the records in this release were generated out of that original location); it’s a prestigious address about a thirty-minute walk from Parliament. Continue reading

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Concerns Over Police Brutality Persist as Hong Kong Protesters Shut Down One of World’s Busiest Airports

Now in their 10th week, the protests were sparked in June by a controversial extradition bill

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-12-2019

The Hong Kong airport protest. Photo: @percylurcher/Twitter

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters effectively shut down Hong Kong International Airport on Monday, the fourth day they have occupied one of the world’s busiest airports as part of the mass demonstrations—against police brutality and a controversial extradition bill—that have rattled Hong Kong since June.

The protests were initially spurred by a bill that, NPR explained, “would have allowed people in radHong Kong to be sent to mainland China to face trials in courts controlled by the Communist Party, sparking fears of politically motivated prosecutions targeting outspoken critics of China.” Although Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam quickly suspended the measure and later declared it “dead,” demonstrators continue to demand its full withdrawal and Lam’s resignation. Continue reading

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More Common Ground

As you’ve probably noticed by now, the protests in Hong Kong have captured our attention. We normally wouldn’t write another piece on them so soon (we wrote about the protests two days ago), but there’s so much happening that we feel it’s worthwhile to catch up with what’s going on.

The iconic image of "Umbrella Man" at the protest site in Hong Kong. Image via Twitter.

The iconic image of “Umbrella Man” at the protest site in Hong Kong. Image via Twitter.

What I personally find fascinating are the similarities in the responses both here and in Hong Kong to protesters by the powers that be. You might be thinking; “Similarities? Between what’s supposed to be the land of the free and the largest authoritarian regime on the planet?” Why, yes – that’s exactly what I mean. Let’s look at some examples.

On Wednesday, the media and communications adviser to Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, posted a photo to Facebook that was supposedly of a police officer who was wounded in clashes with the protesters the night before. This was circulated by supporters of the police as evidence that the protesters weren’t as peaceful as they claimed to be. This sounds similar to Ferguson, Missouri and the supposed pictures of Officer Darren Wilson that were circulated in the conservative media as “proof” that Michael Brown had assaulted Wilson, leaving Wilson no other option but to shoot Brown in self defense, doesn’t it?

It turned out that this wasn’t the only similarity. Like the supposed pictures of Wilson, the photo of the police officer turned out not to be of who they said it was. Instead, the photo was of an actor who plays a zombie police officer in a HKTV show called Night Shift, and was a still photo from one of the episodes.

Then, there’s who’s actually directing the response. The New York Times, in an article yesterday, said that according to former Hong Kong and Chinese government officials, as well as other experts, it’s the Beijing government who have been directing the response to the protests, and not the local government. Once again, this sounds eerily similar to the response to the Occupy movement here in the US, where documents obtained through FOIA requests showed that the crackdown on the Occupy encampments were coordinated by DHS and the FBI, with the local police for the most part following their guidance.

Or, maybe it’s not so surprising. After all, in almost all the unrest around the world over the last few years, there’s been common themes. We want to have a voice in our government. We want to be able to earn a living wage. We want our children to be educated. We want women and minorities to be treated with respect and as equals. We want affordable housing. We want the opportunity to be the best we can be. With all that in mind, is it surprising that those in power follow the same script as well?

The world is waking up. Every day, we read of more demonstrations, more protests, more people saying enough is enough. Occupy World Writes reaches out in solidarity to all of these people across the globe. Together, we can change the world.

We are many; they are few. We are the 99%, and we shall overcome.

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The Bull in the China Shop

Photo via Flickr

Photo via Flickr

There’s been a major upheaval happening for the last three months halfway around the world; yet the Western press has only covered it in fits and starts. If you’re a regular reader here, you probably know the basics of the Umbrella Revolution; we’ve covered both the protests in July and the beginning of the current wave of unrest and how it became known as the Umbrella Revolution. What had been for the most part peaceful protest turned violent this week, as the police began to crack down.

On Monday, the New York Times ran an op-ed by Shiu Sin-por, the head of The Central Policy Unit of of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (the Beijing government). In it, he claimed that the pro-democracy protesters must accept Beijing’s powers as defined in the Basic Law; what China says is the constitutional document that specifies how Hong Kong is governed. In remarks made to the China News Service (a state-run news organization), Zhang Xiaoming, the head of the central Chinese government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, said the movement had “provoked” the central Chinese government and engaged in “radical forms of street confrontation,” and that China’s central leadership was “paying very close attention to the current developments.”

Then, on Tuesday morning, police using chain saws and sledgehammers cleared away the barricades that protesters had put up around two sites, and reopened several major roads that the protesters had blocked. Early Wednesday morning, students and the police clashed, with the police using riot shields, batons and pepper spray. The police made 45 arrests, and four policemen were injured. However, it’s the other thing the police did that has Hong Kong up in arms.

A video shot and broadcast by TVB, a usually pro-government television station, showed at least six plainclothes Hong Kong police officers dragging a pro-democracy protester into an alley, where he was kicked and beaten by them. The public reaction to this was as you’d suspect. “I thought a situation like this would only be seen in foreign countries, other societies — I didn’t expect to see it in Hong Kong,” said Ronny Tong, a Civic Party member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.

Audrey Eu, the chairman of the Civic Party, said; “Whatever they might charge him with, both his hands were tied behind his back with a plastic tie, and he was carried by police officers to a dark corner where he was assaulted for four minutes. I don’t know what has come over the police. It’s criminal.”

Hui Chun-tak, a spokesman for the Hong Kong police, said the authorities would conduct an “impartial and fair investigation” over the beating. Meanwhile, a front page commentary in the People’s Daily (the official Communist Party newspaper) praised Leung Chun-ying (Hong Kong’s Chief Executive)’s handling of the protests and further said the calls for his dismissal from protesters were part of a plot to force the government into unacceptable concessions.

As we’ve said before, we’re struck by how much the situation in Hong Kong parallels our own here in the U.S. Rampant income inequality, a lack of affordable housing, and many more. Even the way candidates are chosen for the highest office are similar; the only difference is that here we pretend the special interests who control the government and choose which candidates will run aren’t actually who’s in charge.

And, just like on the Chinese mainland, our media does its best to ignore the protests, hoping that they’ll go away before we notice what’s happening; before we realize that we share common goals; before we realize that we too have the power to bring about change.

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Tales From The Umbrella Revolution

Umbrella RevolutionBack in July, we wrote a piece about the democracy movement in Hong Kong. The piece was published the day after 500,000 people took to the streets for reasons that should sound familiar to us all; in many ways, it sounds just like here in the U.S.

Hong Kong has historically had more freedom and more of a democracy than the mainland has; when the British handed over Hong Kong to China back in 1997, preserving Hong Kong’s relative autonomy was one of the promises that China made to the British and to Hong Kong residents. The Chinese furthermore pledged that in 2017, Hong Kong’s citizens would be allowed to democratically elect their top leader for the first time.

You see, in Hong Kong, the candidates for leader are selected by a nominating committee, which consists of corporate representatives and members of the upper class, In other words, just like our system, except that the Chinese are much more honest about the procedure than our political parties are. Non-elected officials get their appointments through patronage, and not the skills they have. Sound familiar to you?

In June, the Chinese government issued a “white paper” claiming “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong and that “the high degree of autonomy of [Hong Kong] is not an inherent power, but one that comes solely from the authorization by the central leadership.” Then, in August, the Chinese government stated that although citizens would vote for the chief executive (the head government office in Hong Kong), the candidates would have to be approved by a , special committee. Needless to say, the citizens were not impressed.

Hong Kong, 9-28-14. Photo via Facebook

Hong Kong, 9-28-14. Photo via Facebook

Last Monday, thousands of students began a week-long boycott of classes at CUHK to protest the government’s decision. Lester Shum of the Federation of Students said in speaking to the demonstrators,  ““In the colonial days, the British ruled Hong Kong as if they were a group of refugees and obedient subjects. On August 31, [Beijing’s] decision would allow the central government and [tycoons]to continue to manipulate the election. Isn’t that applying the colonial [approach]to Hong Kong?”

Then, Occupy Central joined the students. The main force behind the July protests, Occupy Central was originally going to launch a “civil disobedience” campaign on October 1, a national holiday celebrating communist China’s founding. But, as the student protests escalated, they decided instead to join the students. On Friday, the protesters peacefully occupied the forecourt (think courtyard) in front of the main government building.

Hong Kong, 9-28-14. Photo via Facebook

Hong Kong, 9-28-14. Photo via Facebook

On Sunday afternoon, the police moved in. Firing tear gas canisters into the crowd, they were also stopping supporters of the protest from entering the area. The protesters who couldn’t get into the forecourt spread out into the nearby streets, and the confrontations with police spread across the city. As the police crackdown spread, outraged citizens joined the protesters – the unrest spread even more. At this point, the student leaders began referring to the protests as the Umbrella Revolution, as the protesters were using umbrellas not only to keep dry (it rains a lot in Hong Kong this time of year), but as shields against tear gas and pepper spray.

The Chinese central government issued a statement endorsing the police actions, as did Hong Kong’s current chief executive, who’s basically a front for the Beijing government. How this will go over with the protesters remains to be seen; we’re guessing it won’t go over too well.

Occupy World Writes stands in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong. In what’s becoming a familiar sight at protests, some of the demonstrators are using the same “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture used by protesters in the Ferguson, Missouri protests of last month. We find this to be fitting; just as we are all Michael Brown, we’re also all the people of Hong Kong.

Ferguson, Missouri 9-28-2014. Photo via Facebook

Ferguson, Missouri 9-28-2014. Photo via Facebook

The right of the people to self-govern is non-negotiable. The right of the people to hold the police responsible for their actions is non-negotiable. We are Hong Kong. We are Michael Brown. We are the 99%.

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