Pro-democracy activist and popular radio DJ Tam Tak-chi, also known as "Fast Beat," was found guilty April 20 of "seditious speech" and sentenced to 40 months in prison by the Hong Kong District Court. The former vice-chair of the People Power party is the first person since Hong Kong's 1997 handover to stand trial for "sedition" under the Crimes Ordinance dating to the period of British colonial rule. Tam was arrested in July 2020, shortly after China imposed its sweeping National Security Law on the city, and has been in detention ever since, having been denied bail. He was found guilty of using the slogans "Liberate Hong Kong" and "Revolution of our times" at protests between January and July 2020. He was also accused of cursing at the police. Tam said that he would appeal the decision, stating that "my sentencing will affect Hongkongers' freedom of speech." Human Rights Watch senior China researcher Maya Wang stated that Tam's sentence "exemplifies the dizzying speed at which Hong Kong's freedoms are being eroded." (Jurist, HKFP)
Ukrainian officials are accusing Russian forces of having used chemical weapons on the besieged Azov Sea port city of Mariupol on April 11, causing troops and civilians alike to develop respiratory symptoms. The claim first emerged from the Azov Battalion, a unit of the Ukrainian National Guard involved in the defense of the city, which posted to its Telegram channel: "Russian occupation forces used a poisonous substance of unknown origin against Ukrainian military and civilians in the city of Mariupol, which was dropped from an enemy [unmanned aerial vehicle]. The victims have respiratory failure, vestibulo-atactic syndrome."
US President Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on March 25 announced a joint Task Force to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian hydrocarbons and "strengthen European energy security as President Putin wages his war of choice against Ukraine." The press release states: "The United States will work with international partners and strive to ensure additional LNG volumes for the EU market of at least 15 bcm [billion cubic meters] in 2022, with expected increases going forward." This means liquified natural gas from the US fracking industry.
In Episode 103 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg, still suffering from possible COVID-19 symptoms, again notes how the radical right, including neo-Nazi elements, is in the vanguard of anti-vax and anti-mask protests, from Germany to Romania to England to Brooklyn. A virtual industry churns out relentless online disinformation that is easily refuted by anyone who makes the effort to break out of the confirmation-bias bubble. Contrary to the conspiranoid propaganda, COVID-19 deaths are actually being underestimated. The juvenile Nazi-baiting of the anti-vax machine is another example of the propaganda device of fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Meanwhile, Tuskegee experiment survivors are encouraging vaccinations, and the Peoples Vaccine Alliance protests the actual crimes of Big Pharma—failing to make the vaccine available to Africa and the much of the Global South, in what has been decried as "vaccine apartheid." Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Australia has dispatched some 100 police and military troops to the Solomon Islands following days of rioting and looting in the capital Honiara. Papua New Guinea has also sent in troops, and Fiji says a contingent is en route. Calling for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to resign, protesters attempted to set the parliament building ablaze, and torched and looted shops, causing millions of dollars in damages. The looting centered on the city's Chinatown, where three charred bodies have been found amid the ruins.
The COP26 UN climate summit on Nov. 13 concluded a deal among the 196 parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement on long-delayed implementation measures. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the deal a "compromise," and indeed it was saved through eleventh-hour haggling over the wording. Just minutes before the final decision on the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, India, backed by fellow major coal-producer China, demanded weaker language on coal, with the original call for a "phase-out" softened to "phase-down." And even this applies only to "unabated" coal, with an implicit exemption for coal burned with carbon capture and storage technology—a technofix being aggressively pushed by Exxon and other fossil fuel giants, in a propaganda blitz clearly timed for the Glasgow summit.
Thousands marched in Glasgow as the COP26 climate summit entered its second week Nov. 6, demanding ambitious and concrete proposals on limiting global warning to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels—the lowest target under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Police arrested 21 people, including members of the Scientist Rebellion movement who had chained themselves to the King George V Bridge over the River Clyde in Glasgow's city center. A UN Climate Change Update on Nationally Determined Contributions issued two days earlier found that even with the new pledges made thus far at COP26, emissions are still set to rise 13.7% by 2030. To be compliant with the 1.5C goal, they must fall 45% by that year.
A Hong Kong district court on Oct. 25 found delivery worker-turned-activist Ma Chun-man guilty of incitement to secession for his actions at over 20 protests and in several interviews last year. Famously dubbed "Captain America 2.0" by local news media for dressing like the comic-book character at demonstrations, Ma is the second person to be convicted under China's Law on Protection of National Security of Hong Kong. He was charged under articles 20 and 21 for advocating "separating Hong Kong from China, unlawfully changing its legal status or surrendering it to foreign rule."