For the second year running, authorities in Hong Kong banned the annual June 4 vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Citing the ongoing restrictions imposed to contain COVID-19, hundreds of police officers closed off Victoria Park, where the vigil has traditionally been held, and dispersed crowds who gathered with candles or their phone lights lit. Police also arrested activist Chow Hang Tung, vice chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organizes the annual vigil. She faces charges of promoting an unauthorized assembly. Authorities warned that under the Public Order Ordinance, those attempting to attend the vigil could face five years in prison, or one year for promoting it. Last year, activists successfully defied the ban, so this marked the first year that no commemoration of the massacre was held in Hong Kong.
Colombian President Iván Duque on May 28 announced the deployment of military forces to put down the protests that have been rocking the country since a national strike was called a month ago. Speaking from violence-torn Cali as some 1,400 soldiers arrived in the city, he said army troops would focus on "nerve centers where we have seen acts of vandalism, violence and low-intensity urban terrorism." An additional 7,000 troops were sent to break up roadblocks in the local department of Valle del Cauca. "Islands of anarchy cannot exist," Duque declared.
Security forces in Algeria put down weekly pro-democracy protests in the capital and cities across the country May 21, detaining hundreds of would-be demonstrators. "March prevented and suppressed in Algiers and Annaba, confrontations in Bouira, arrests in several provinces," reported Said Salhi, head of the Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH), adding that demonstrations had gone ahead in Bejaia and Tizi Ouzou. He said nearly 500 people had been detained across 15 provinces, but mostly in Algiers. Protests had been held every Friday since the Hirak pro-democracy movement emerged in February 2019. In early May, just as the weekly protests were starting to re-mobilize after a period of abeyance due to the pandemic, the Interior Ministry announced new rules barring unauthorized demonstrations. This past Friday marked a second consecutive week that police flooded the streets of the capital to head off the protests. Said one activist on the scene: "For the 118th Friday [since the first Hirak protests], 'Algiers the White' has turned police blue." (TRT World, Al Jazeera)
Ko Zaw Tun, a Burmese poet who wrote under the pen-name Khet Thi, was tortured to death in military custody, according to family members after his bruised and mutilated body was returned to them. Khet Thi was arrested May 8 at his home in Shwebo, Sagaing region, along with his wife who was later released. They were allegedly detained on suspicion of planning a bomb attack. His family said that internal organs had been removed from his body. Khet Thi was an outspoken opponent of the February coup d'état, in which the military ousted the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi. A line from one of his poems has been taken up as a slogan by the pro-democracy movement: "They shot us in the head; They don’t know the revolution dwells in our hearts." (Myanmar Now, Asia News, The Irrawady)
Colombian President Iván Duque flew to Cali in the middle of the night after street clashes in the southwestern city left several indigenous protesters injured May 9. Amid a national strike sparked by Duque's proposed burdensome tax reform, some 5,000 indigenous activists from the nearby administrative department of Cauca had been holding a "Minga," or protest gathering, on the outskirts of Cali, when unknown gunmen in civilian dress arrived in a pickup truck and opened fire. The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) reported that at least 10 activists were wounded, and that the gunmen were intermingled and cooperating with uniformed police. It remains unclear if they were plainclothes agents or vigilantes.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed alarm May 4 at overnight police violence against protesters in the Colombian city of Cali. This violence comes after more than a week of protests that have resulted in 14 deaths across Colombia. The protests began on April 28 in response to a proposed tax reform law aimed at shoring up the country's finances following a year of COVID-19 stagnation. Among the proposed reforms are deeply unpopular sales taxes on food and utilities, as well as cutbacks in social services. In the face of rapidly expanding protests across the country, President Iván Duque requested that the draft bill be withdrawn from Congress on May 2.
Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong and three others pleaded guilty on April 30 to charges related to their participation in last year's June 4 vigil commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre. Wong, one of the city's most prominent pro-democracy advocates, is already serving a term of 17 months in prison. Last December, he was sentenced to 13 months imprisonment for organizing an illegal assembly during the height of the 2019 anti-government protests. This sentence was extended by four months on April 13 after Wong pleaded guilty to fresh charges of unauthorized assembly and violating an anti-mask law.
Ten veteran Hong Kong pro-democracy activists—all aged 60 or older—were sentenced on April 16 for participating in two unpermitted demonstrations, both in August 2019. They include Martin Lee, 82, hailed as Hong Kong's "Father of Democracy," and former lawmaker Margaret Ng, 73, who both received suspended sentences. Newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai, 72, will have to serve 14 months in prison. Also receiving between eight and 18 months were Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Yiu-chung, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Albert Ho Chun-yan, Yeung Sum, Au Nok-Hin and Leung Kwok-hung. The sentences fell short of the maximum of five years the defendants had faced. But Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific regional director Yamini Mishra said: "The wrongful prosecution, conviction and sentencing of these 10 activists underlines the Hong Kong government's intention to eliminate all political opposition in the city." (BBC News, NYT, Al Jazeera, Amnesty International)