Hong Kong sees first protests since 2020
The first protest since the introduction of the 2020 National Security Law in Hong Kong was held March 26 in Tseung Kwan O, an eastern area of the city. A small number of protestors marched against implementation of a new land reclamation plan to facilitate construction of a waste disposal facility. The marchers complied with restrictions imposed by authorities. The protest was limited to a maximum of 100 participants, whose banners and placards were screened before the demonstration. A cordon separated media from the protestors, who were also required to wear numbered tags as they chanted their slogans. (Jurist)
Will Iran-Saudi deal end Yemen's war?
As part of its China-brokered deal to re-establish diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran has agreed to stop arming Yemen's Houthi rebels, the Wall Street Journal has reported. Officially, Tehran denies arming the rebels, who have been fighting forces aligned with Yemen's internationally recognized government—including a Saudi- and United Arab Emirates-led coalition—for eight years. Regardless of the report's veracity, the deal between the regional rivals has put a renewed focus on efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, which many have portrayed as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Taliban regime in oil deal with Chinese company
Afghanistan's Taliban regime has agreed to sign a contract with a Chinese company to exploit oil in the Amu Darya basin in the country's north, the acting mining minister announced Jan. 5. The contract with the Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum & Gas Co. (CAPEIC) is to be the first major resource extraction deal the regime has signed with a foreign company since taking power in 2021. "The Amu Darya oil contract is an important project between China and Afghanistan," China's ambassador, Wang Yu, told a joint press conference with Taliban officials in Kabul. Beijing has not formally recognized the Taliban government but has significant interests in Afghanistan, a country deemed critical for its Belt & Road Initiative.
Taiwan extends military conscription period
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen on Dec. 27 announced a plan to strengthen and restructure the nation's military defense strategies, including extending the mandatory conscription period from four months to one year. Beginning in 2024, all males born after Jan. 1, 2005, will need to undergo a year-long period of military service. In light of China's expansionist military activities in the South China Sea and the firing of ballistic missiles into waters off Taiwan this year, Tsai stressed the need for Taiwan to be well-prepared for war as a means to avoid confrontation. "The decision is a difficult one, but as the head of the military and for the continued survival of Taiwan, this is an inevitable responsibility," Tsai said.
African dissent from biodiversity protocol
The UN Biodiversity Conference, or COP15, concluded Dec. 19 in Montreal, with what is being hailed as a landmark agreement to address the current unprecedented loss of species, now termed the planet's sixth mass extinction. The centerpiece of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, conceived as a match to the Paris Agreement on climate change, is the so-called "30x30" pledge—with countries committing to protect 30% of their territory for habitat preservation by 2030.
Podcast: the linguistic struggle in China
In Episode 154 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg conducts an in-depth interview with Gina Anne Tam, author of Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960 (Cambridge University Press) on how Mandarin (Putonghua) became the official language of China, and what has been the role in China's national identity of the regional "dialects," or fangyan. In a dilemma that has vexed China's bureaucracy for 2,000 years, the persistence of fangyan raises questions about conventional notions of nationalism and state formation. What can the tenacious survival of Shanghaihua (Wu), Fujianese (Min), Cantonese (Yue), Toisan and Hakka tell us about the emergence of an "alternative Chinese-ness" in the 21st century?
Bicycling in China & the origins of Critical Mass
Legendary transportation activist George Bliss will be presenting a slideshow and hosting a discussion of his 1991 trip to China at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS) in New York City on Friday Dec. 9.
What would NYC be like if we got rid of cars and everybody rode bikes? In 1991, filmmaker Ted White and bicycle researcher George Bliss visited Guangzhou, China (then pop. six million). Only one in a thousand owned cars. Chinese-produced bikes cost about $50. There was no theft because cheap attended bike-parking was everywhere. Riding en masse was fun, and traffic flowed safely and efficiently with almost no red lights. The term "critical mass"—first applied to this phenomenon by Bliss in White's film Return of the Scorcher—soon became a rallying cry in the global bike movement.
China: nationwide protests challenge dictatorship
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.
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