Hundreds of residents in the southern Italian town of Riace took to the streets Oct. 1 to express support for their mayor, Domenico (Miimmo) Lucano, after he was sentenced to 13 years in prison on charges related to his policy of providing safe harbor for immigrants. Following a probe dubbed "Xenia" (ironically, the ancient Greek word for hospitality), Lucano was charged with "aiding and abetting illegal immigration" among other crimes.
The first "patriots only" vote under Hong Kong's new political system was held Sept. 19, to choose members for a 1,500-member Election Committee—although only some 360 of the seats were actually contested. Voting was restricted to some 5,000 individuals representing different professions and industries, chosen under a principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong." Members were vetted by the newly formed Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, appointed from Beijing. The Election Committee is tasked with electing 40 members of the enlarged 90-seat Legislative Council in December as well as choosing the city's new chief executive next March. The new and more controlled electoral system was adopted by an overwhelming majority vote at the fourth session of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing this March. (HKFP, China Daily, China.org.cn, Xinhua, Kyodo, RFA)
The Bombay High Court on Sept. 13 issued a notice to India's National Investigation Agency (NIA), directing it to file a reply to the bail plea of Anand Teltumbde, a Goa-based professor and civil rights activist who faces charges under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in relation to the notorious Bhima Koregaon case. In the case, dating to 2018, several advocates for Dalits ("untouchables") and Adivasis (tribal peoples) are accused of links to the Maoist guerillas known as the Naxalites. Fifteen face lengthy prison terms and are still being denied bail. The case was back in the news in July, when a 16th among the accused, Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy, 84, died in a hospital in Mumbai after taking ill in jail. His medical bail plea was still pending when he expired.
Protests have repeatedly erupted in El Salvador over the past week as the country became the first to make Bitcoin legal tender. The US dollar also remains official currency, but the law pushed through by President Nayib Bukele mandates that all vendors also accept Bitcoin. Small merchants and especially those in the informal sector complain of problems in trying to download the official phone app needed to use the currency. Protesters say the new law will deepen poverty by further excluding the already marginalized from the economy. They also assert that it will further enable corruption. "This is a currency that's not going to work for pupusa vendors, bus drivers or shopkeepers," one protester told Reuters. "This is a currency that's ideal for big investors who want to speculate with their economic resources."
Four key members of the group behind Hong Kong's annual Tiananmen Massacre vigil were arrested Sept. 8. The arrests came the morning after the activists publicly refused a police demand for information as part of a "national security" probe into the 32-year-old group. The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China said its vice-chair Chow Hang-tung and committee members Simon Leung, Tang Ngok-kwan and Chan To-wai were arrested in the early-morning raid on the June 4 Memorial Museum. Police confirmed the arrests, saying the four, aged between 36 and 57, are being held for failing to comply with Article 43 of the National Security Law, which compels cooperation with investigations. The police had requested information from the group in a letter late August under provisions of Article 43. The force also alleged that the group had been working with foreign agents, a potential violation of the Beijing-imposed legislation. (HKFP, The Guardian)
Indian-administered Kashmir was plunged back into internet darkness Sept. 2 as India's central authorities enforced lockdowns and a news blackout following the death of Syed Ali Geelani, a prominent separatist leader. Geelani, 91, died at his home the day before. His body was immediately seized by authorities, and buried in a quiet funeral held under harsh restrictions. His son, Naseem Geelani, said the family had planned to bury him at the main martyrs' cemetery in Srinagar, as specified in his will, but was not allowed to do so. Police also charged family members under an anti-terrorism law for wrapping his body in the Pakistani flag and raising anti-India slogans. Kashmir spent months without internet following an August 2019 crackdown. High-speed mobile internet was only restored earlier this year. (TNH, AP, The Guardian)
Two prominent activists in South Sudan—Augustino Ting Mayai of the local Sudd Institute and Kuel Aguer Kuel, former governor of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State—were arrested Aug. 2 for calling for a peaceful uprising to end the country's state of "political bankruptcy." They were part of a coalition of civil society groups that declared South Sudan has "had enough" of a decade of failed leadership, marked by civil war and widespread hunger. The coalition called for the resignation of both President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar, arch-rivals now uneasy bedfellows in a unity government.
Hundreds of activists have repeatedly filled the streets of Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur since July 31 to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Themed #Lawan (Fight), the movement is also demanding the resumption of parliamentary sessions and a moratorium on the repayment of all loans. Protesters accuse the Muhyiddin government of using the pandemic to suspend parliament in order to consolidate power, and relying on harsh emergency regulations to silence and intimidate critics. Protesters chant hidup rakyat (long live the people), and carry black flags and effigies of dead bodies wrapped in white cloth to signify the high daily COVID-19 death tally in the county.