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)
In Episode 85 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the implications for world peace and the prospects for survival of basic freedoms as the Taliban consolidate their second period of rule in Afghanistan. There are already signs that Russia and China are seeking to groom the Taliban as proxies against the US and the West, with (inevitably) the dream of a trans-Afghanistan pipeline route still a part of the agenda. The US, in turn, could start backing the incipient armed resistance, already organizing in the Panjshir Valley. The task for progressives in the West now is to loan what solidarity we can with the civil resistance—the secularists and feminists who are already defying Taliban rule on the ground across Afghanistan. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Aug. 2 charged pro-democracy activist Au Nok-hin and Cantopop singer Wong Yiu-ming, AKA Anthony Wong, with "corrupt conduct" for allegedly breaching election laws by having Wong perform two songs at a rally for Au in his 2018 run for the Legislative Council. The ICAC cited provisions of the Elections Corrupt & Illegal Conduct Ordinance, which define as corrupt conduct meeting "all or part of the cost of providing food, drink or entertainment for another person for the purpose of inducing a third party to vote or not vote for a particular candidate at an election." Hong Kong's Department of Justice withdrew the charges against the pair two days after Wong was arrested, but they were both placed under a "bind-over order." Under terms of the order, they each put up a $2,000 bond and will face no criminal charges if they maintain "good behavior" for a period of 24 months. "Hongkongers keep singing, Hongkongers keep going," Wong told reporters as he left the courtroom.
In Episode 83 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes signs of hope on the 76th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, with the city's Mayor Kazumi Matsui calling on the world's nations to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. President Trump walked away from US-Russia nuclear arms control treaties, and China is now rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. Ukraine and Syria are ominously likely flashpoints for superpower conflict. But South Africa provides a shining example of progress—under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, newly post-apartheid South Africa became the first and only nation on Earth to willingly dismantle its nuclear weapons.
Satellite images have revealed that China is building two new nuclear missile silo fields. The Federation of American Scientists reports that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) appears to be constructing new missile silos near Yumen, Gansu province, and at another site some 380 kilometers to the northwest, near Hami in Xinjiang. The construction at Yumen and Hami constitutes the most significant expansion ever of China's inter-continental ballistic missile silos. China has for decades operated about 20 silos for its DF-5 ICBMs. With 120 silos under construction at Yumen, another 110 at Hami, a dozen silos at Jilantai, Inner Mongolia, and possibly more being added in existing DF-5 deployment areas, the PLARF appears to have approximately 250 silos under construction—more than 10 times the number of ICBM silos currently operational in China.
In Episode 81 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the fast-mounting manifestations of devastating climate destabilization—from Oregon to Siberia, from Germany to Henan. In Angola, traditional pastoralists are joining the ranks of "climate refugees" as their communal lands are stricken by drought. In Iran's restive and rapidly aridifying Ahwazi region, protests over access to water have turned deadly. These grim developments offer a foreboding of North America's imminent future. Yet media commentators continue to equivocate, asking whether these events are "linked to" or "caused by" climate change—rather than recognizing that they are climate change. And the opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by last year's pandemic-induced economic paralysis, when already depressed oil prices actually went negative, is now being squandered. Oil prices are again rising, with the return to pre-pandemic dystopian "normality."
The UN Security Council on July 9 unanimously voted to extend the sole humanitarian aid crossing into Syria—one day before it was set to close—following a deal between the US and Russia. The White House said presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin finally discussed the matter in a phone call. The vote on the Bab al-Hawa (Gate of the Winds) crossing came after weeks of intense negotiations between Washington, which wants to expand the number of aid corridors into Syria, and Moscow, which had threatened to block continuation of the aid program altogether in the name of protecting Syrian sovereignty.
In Episode 78 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg offers a report and analysis of the "100 Years of Chinese Communist Party Oppression" rally outside the Chinese consulate in New York City, jointly organized by groups including Project Black Mask Hong Kong, Students for a Free Tibet, the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress NY-NJ, and the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center. But amid all the cries to free Hong Kong, free Tibet, free East Turkestan and free Southern Mongolia, it was only Tiananmen Square massacre survivor Fengsou Zhou of the group Humanitarian China who raised the demand "Free China!" Will liberation of the Hongkongers, Tibetans, Uyghurs and Southern Mongolians be possible without building solidarity against the dictatorship with Han Chinese? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.