In Episode 59 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of Trump's evident preparation for a coup d'etat and what could be a culminating moment for the current crisis of American democracy. In the context of this dilemma, he discusses two very timely new books with similar titles that both examine the mechanics by which dictators seize and maintain power: Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy by Kenneth C. Davis and Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat.
India's Hindustan Times reported Dec. 25 that Afghanistan has busted a conclave of 10 Chinese espionage agents that was supposedly "operating a terror cell" in Kabul. Citing unnamed diplomats and security officials, the account claims Beijing has been trying to persuade the government of President Ashraf Ghani to hush up the case. The spies, said to be working for China's Ministry of State Security, were reportedly arrested by Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) on Dec. 10. At least two were said to be in contact with the Haqqani Network, now the inner core of the Taliban insurgency. Arms, ammunition and a quantity of ketamine were seized in the raids. One of the detained, identified as Li Yangyang, was said to have been gathering information about the activities of Uighur militants in Kunar and Badakhshan provinces. The latter province includes Afghanistan's eastern "panhandle" that extends to the border with China's Xinjiang region, and has been named before as a stronghold of Uighur militancy. Again citing unnamed sources, the account states: "One view within the Afghan security establishment is that the detainees were creating a fake East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) module in Afghanistan to entrap ETIM operatives in Afghanistan." ETIM is the supposed Uighur network blamed by Chinese authorities for sporadic armed attacks within the People's Republic over the past generation, although there is skepticism that it actually exists in any organized sense.
Amid trade wars, diplomatic tiffs and propaganda sniping, the ugliness between China and Australia seems set to escalate as Beijing enters an agreement with Papua New Guinea to establish an industrial foothold within the narrow Torres Strait. Radio Australia reports that community leaders in North Queensland, just across the strait from New Guinea, fear that China's plan to construct the facility will jeopardize border security and threaten the commercial fishing sector.
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors on Dec. 15 rejected a complaint filed by exiled Uighurs calling for an investigation of China on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The complaint was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds; the People's Republic of China, like the United States and Russia, does not recognize the ICC. The office of chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated in a year-end report on preliminary examinations: "This precondition for the exercise of the court's territorial jurisdiction did not appear to be met with respect to the majority of the crimes alleged."
An utterly maddening story in the Princeton Planet Dec. 8 informs us that exiled Chinese dissident Teng Biao has been facing protests at his home in New Jersey's Princeton Junction—by fellow opponents of China's dictatorship. They are, absurdly, accusing him of being a "spy" and collaborator with the dictatorship, and even peddling bizarre conspiracy theories that he helped spread the coronavirus in the United States on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. Their signs and propaganda are promoting GTV Media, a conservative Chinese-language platform run by exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui in a partnership with far-right operative Steve Bannon. Teng Biao has seemingly been targeted because he has been critical of both Guo Wengui and Donald Trump in articles and on social media.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Nov. 6 that he is revoking the "terrorist organization" designation of the supposed "East Turkestan Islamic Movement" (ETIM)—an entity that may not actually exist in any organized sense but has been used to justify China's mass detention of the Uighurs in Xinjiang region. Reaction has been perfectly predictable. The Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project called Pompeo's decision "long overdue" and a "definitive rejection of China's claims." It was likewise applauded by the DC-based self-declared East Turkistan Government in Exile. Beijing's Foreign Ministry, in turn, accused the US of "backpedaling on international counter-terrorism cooperation," and expressed China's "strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the US decision."
Hong Kong authorities arrested seven prominent opposition politicians Nov. 1, and an eighth the following day. The charges arise from an incident during a Legislative Council meeting in May. The politicians arrested are Wu Chi-wai, Andrew Wan, Helena Wong, Fernando Cheung, and Ted Hui, all pro-democracy lawmakers, in addition to Kwok Wing-kin, chairman of the Labour Party, and former lawmakers Eddie Chu and Ray Chan. All eight have been released on bail. Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party, denounced the arrests as an attempt to silence the opposition. The arrests do not appear to be tied to the widely condemned National Security Law that went into affect in June.
The richest one percent of the world's population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1 billion people who made up the poorest half of humanity during a critical 25-year period of unprecedented emissions growth, according to a new study by the aid group Oxfam. The report, "Confronting Carbon Inequality," is based on research conducted with the Stockholm Environment Institute and has been released as world leaders prepare to meet at the UN General Assembly to discuss global challenges including the climate crisis. The report assesses the "consumption emissions" of different income groups between 1990 and 2015—the 25 years when humanity doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It found: