Following weeks of sporadic protests against the recurrent draconian COVID-19 lockdowns in China, spontaneous demonstrations broke out in cities across the country Nov. 27. Street demos were reported from Shanghai, Nanjing, Chengdu and Wuhan as well as Beijing. In addition to slogans against the lockdowns and for freedom of speech and assembly, such verboten chants were heard as "Xi Jinping, step down" and "Communist Party, step down." Some called Xi a "dictator" and "traitor." Images have been circulating on social media despite the best efforts of authorities to contain them. Many images show demonstrators holding blank sheets of paper as an ironic protest against censorship.
As world leaders meet at the COP27 in Egypt to try to reinvigorate stalled global climate talks, survivors of Pakistan's heaviest flooding in living memory are facing a health crisis, with stagnating floodwaters fuelling a rise in malaria, dengue, and diarrhoea. The unprecedented scale of the disaster—up to $40 billion in economic damage, 1,700 killed since mid-June, eight million displaced, and almost half the country's farmland submerged—has given impetus to calls for COP27 to take up the question of climate reparations.
Syria's cholera outbreak has now spread to every one of the country's 14 provinces, with 24,000 suspected cases and more than 80 deaths since early September. Severe water shortages—exacerbated by war, politics, and climate change—have forced people to drink unsafe water and allowed cholera bacteria to spread in the extremely low Euphrates River. There are other dangerous impacts from what the UN calls an "already dire water crisis" that is likely to get worse: Pastures dry up, and farmers have to sell their livestock. Crop yields are low, prices go up, and more families are forced to skip meals.
After years of centralizing power in his own person, China's president and party secretary Xi Jinping secured a third leadership term Oct. 23 at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. The new seven-member Politburo Standing Committee is stacked with loyalists, abandoning the practice of balancing rival tendencies within the body. This cements Xi's place as China's "paramount leader" in the autocratic tradition of Mao Zedong. Premier Li Keqiang is to step down, replaced by Shanghai party chief Li Qiang, who followed Xi onto the stage at the Great Hall of the People as the new Standing Committee was introduced. A new party doctrine has been promulgated under the banner of "Two Establishes"—establishing Xi's place as the core of the CCP, and establishing Xi Jinping Thought as guiding the CCP. For the first time in a generation, there are to be no women sitting on the 25-member Politburo. Xi's third term as party leader is unprecedented since Deng Xiaoping. (Reuters, NYT, CHRD, Bloomberg, Bloomberg, BBC News)
An Iranian government entity enforcing Islamic rules says the Intelligence Ministry has arrested 300 anti-hijab activist "ringleaders" working "for the enemy." A spokesman of the Enjoining Good & Forbidding Evil Headquarters said Sept. 11 that the activists were arrested in accordance with the new Hijab & Chastity Regulations, which officially extend the mandatory hijab to social media posts. This is to be monitored by the government's facial recognition software that was previously used during the pandemic to track if people were wearing face masks.
The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission (UNHRMM) on Sept. 9 accused Russia of arbitrary detentions and forced disappearances in Ukrainian territory, and violating the basic human rights of Ukrainian war captives. The UNHRMM documented numerous cases of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of war. Russian authorities have also prevented Ukrainian prisoners of war from contacting their relatives or sharing their locations or health conditions with loved ones.
It has been a year since the Taliban took back power—a year since desperate images at Kabul airport went around the world. Over those 12 months, Afghanistan has seen a reduction in conflict, but its economy has collapsed, record numbers are facing hunger, and it's projected that most of the population will soon be below the poverty line.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on slavery Tomoya Obokata released a report Aug. 16 on contemporary forms of slavery, which found that it is "reasonable to conclude" that forced labor "among Uygur, Kazakh and other ethnic minorities in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing" is taking place in China's Xinjiang region. Obokata's assessment was made "based on an independent assessment of available information, including submissions by stakeholders, independent academic research, open sources, testimonies of victims, consultations with stakeholders, and accounts provided by the Government."