India officially takes up its role as chair of the Group of 20 leading economies for the coming year Thursday and it's putting climate at the top of the group's priorities. Programs to encourage sustainable living and money for countries to transition to clean energy and deal with the effects of a warming world are some of the key areas that India will focus on during its presidency, experts say. Some say India will also use its new position to boost its climate credentials and act as a bridge between the interests of industrialized nations and developing ones. The country has made considerable moves toward its climate goals in recent years but is currently one of the world's top emitters of planet-warming gases. The G-20, made up of the world's largest economies, has a rolling presidency with a different member state in charge of the group's agenda and priorities each year. Experts believe India will use the “big stage” of the G-20 presidency to drive forward its climate and development plans. The country “will focus heavily on responding to the current and future challenges posed by climate change,” said Samir Sarin, president of the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank. The ORF will be anchoring the T-20 — a group of think tanks from the 20 member countries whose participants meet alongside the G-20. Read more: Xi criticises Trudeau in person over alleged leaks of closed-door meeting at G-20 summit Sarin said that India will work to ensure that money is flowing from rich industrialized nations to emerging economies to help them combat global warming, such as a promise of $100 billion a year for clean energy and adapting to climate change for poorer nations that has not yet been fulfilled and a recent pledge to vulnerable countries that there will be a fund for the loss and damage caused by extreme weather. He added that India will also use the presidency to push its flagship “Mission Life” program that encourages more sustainable lifestyles in the country, which is set to soon become most populous in the world. When outgoing chair Indonesia formally handed the presidency to India in Bali last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the opportunity to promote the program, saying it could make “a big contribution” by turning sustainable living into “a mass movement." The impact of lifestyle "has not received as much attention in the global discourse as it should," said RR Rashmi, a distinguished fellow at The Energy Research Institute in New Delhi. He added that the issue "may get some prominence” at the G-20 which would be a success for the Indian government, but critics say the focus on lifestyle changes must be backed by policy to have credibility. India has been beefing up its climate credentials, with its recent domestic targets to transition to renewable energy more ambitious than the goals it submitted to the U.N. as part of the Paris Agreement, which requires countries to show how they plan to limit warming to temperature targets set in 2015. Analysts say nations' climate ambitions and actions — including India's — are not in line with temperature targets. Many of India’s big industrialists are investing heavily in renewable energy domestically as well as globally, but the Indian government is also preparing to invest in coal-based power plants at the cost of $33 billion over the next four years. At the U.N. climate conference last month, India — currently the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases — proposed a phaseout of all fossil fuels and repeatedly emphasized the need to revamp global climate finance. The country says it cannot reach its climate goals and reduce carbon dioxide emissions without significantly more finance from richer nations, a claim which those countries dispute. Read more: Despite differences, the G-20 summit ends with a condemnation of Russia Navroz Dubash, author of several U.N. climate reports and professor at the Centre for Policy Research, said that a key question for many countries is how “emerging economies address development needs and do it in a low carbon pathway” with several in the global south, like India, pointing to a need for outside investment. As the chair of the G-20, India is a good position “to say what it will take for us to develop in ways that don’t lock up the remaining carbon budget,” Dubash added, referring to the amount of carbon dioxide the world can emit while still containing global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial levels. “Developing countries are making a convincing case that green industrial policies are actually quite dependent on having public money to throw at the problems," said Dubash. Some experts say more than $2 trillion is needed each year by 2030 to help developing countries cut emissions and deal with the effects of a warming climate, with $1 trillion from domestic sources and the rest coming from external sources such as developed countries or multilateral development banks. "This public money can also be a way of getting in private money, which is what the U.S. has done in its Inflation Reduction Act,” Dubash added. The U.S.'s flagship climate package that passed earlier this year includes incentives for building out clean energy infrastructure. The G-20 will also be looking closely at alternative means to getting climate finance, experts say. The group could potentially take a leaf out of the Bridgetown initiative proposed by the prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, which involves unlocking large sums of money from multilateral development banks and international financial institutions to help countries adapt to climate change and transition to cleaner energy. ORF's Sarin said that as G-20 chair India can help move forward the conversation on the initiative. Developing countries are often charged higher rates of interest when borrowing from global financial institutions. Rejigging global finance to make renewable energy more affordable in the developing world is key to curbing climate change, Sarin said. The idea has recently gained traction amongst developed nations, with France's Macron recently vocalizing his support. “A large share of emissions will come from the developing world in the future," Sarin said. “If we make it easier for them to shift to clean energy, then these emissions can be avoided.”
Videos of hundreds protesting in Shanghai started to appear on WeChat Saturday night. Showing chants about removing COVID-19 restrictions and demanding freedom, they would only stay up for only minutes before being censored. Elliot Wang, a 26-year-old in Beijing, was amazed. “I started refreshing constantly, and saving videos, and taking screenshots of what I could before it got censored,” said Wang, who only agreed to be quoted using his English name, in fear of government retaliation, . “A lot of my friends were sharing the videos of the protests in Shanghai. I shared them too, but they would get taken down quickly.” That Wang was able to glimpse the extraordinary outpouring of grievances highlights the cat-and-mouse game that goes on between millions of Chinese internet users and the country’s gargantuan censorship machine. Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the country’s internet via a complex, multi-layered censorship operation that blocks access to almost all foreign news and social media, and blocks topics and keywords considered politically sensitive or detrimental to the Chinese Communist Party’s rule. Videos of or calls to protest are usually deleted immediately. Read more: China’s Communist Party vows 'crackdown on hostile forces' as public tests Xi But images of protests began to spread on WeChat, a ubiquitous Chinese social networking platform used by over 1 billion, in the wake of a deadly fire in the western city of Urumqi Friday. Many suspected that lockdown measures prevented residents from escaping the flames, something the government denies. The sheer number of unhappy Chinese users who took to the Chinese internet to express their frustration, together with the methods they used to evade censors led to a brief period of time where government censors were overwhelmed, according to Han Rongbin, an associate professor at the University of Georgia’s Public and International Affairs department. “It takes censors some time to study what is happening and to add that to their portfolio in terms of censorship, so it’s a learning process for the government on how to conduct censorship effectively,” said Han. In 2020, the death from COVID-19 of Li Wenliang, a doctor who was arrested for spreading rumors following an attempt to alert others about a “SARS-like” virus, sparked widespread outrage and an outpouring of anger against the Chinese censorship system. Users posted criticism for hours before censors moved to delete posts. As censors took down posts related to the fire, Chinese internet users often used humor and metaphor to spread critical messages. “Chinese netizens have always been very creative because every idea used successfully once will be discovered by censors the next time,” said Liu Lipeng, a censor-turned-critic of China’s censorship practices. Chinese users started posting images of blank sheets of white paper, said Liu, in a silent reminder of words they weren't allowed to post. Others posted sarcastic messages like “Good good good sure sure sure right right right yes yes yes,” or used Chinese homonyms to evoke calls for President Xi Jinping to resign, such as “shrimp moss,” which sounds like the words for “step down” as well as “banana peel”, which has the same initials as Chinese President Xi Jinping. But within days, censors moved to contain images of white paper. They would have used a range of tools, said Chauncey Jung, a policy analyst who previously worked for several Chinese internet companies based in Beijing. Read more: China lockdown protests pause as police flood city streets Most content censorship is not done by the state, Jung said, but outsourced to content moderation operations at private social media platforms, who use a mix of human and AI. Some censored posts are not deleted, but may be made visible only to the author, or removed from search results. In some cases, posts with sensitive key phrases may be published after review. A search on Weibo Thursday for the term “white paper” turned up mostly posts that were critical of the protests, with no images of a single sheet of blank paper, or of people holding white paper at protests. It's possible to access the global internet from China by using technologies such as virtual private networks that disguise internet traffic, but these systems are illegal and many Chinese internet users access only the domestic internet. Wang does not use a VPN. “I think I can say for all the mainlanders in my generation that we are really excited,” said Wang. “But we’re also really disappointed because we can’t do anything... They just keep censoring, keep deleting, and even releasing fake accounts to praise the cops.” But the system works well enough to stop many users from ever seeing them. When protests broke out across China over the weekend, Carmen Ou, who lives in Beijing, initially didn’t notice. Ou learned of the protests only later, after using a VPN service to access Instagram. “I tried looking at my feed on WeChat, but there was no mention of any protests,” she said. “If not for a VPN and access to Instagram, I might not have found out that such a monumental event had taken place.” Han, the international affairs professor, said that censorship “doesn't have to be perfect to be effective” Read more: China's Xi faces public anger over draconian 'zero COVID' "Censorship might be functioning to prevent a big enough size of the population from accessing the critical information to be mobilized,” he said. China’s opaque approach to tamping down the spread of online dissent also makes it difficult to distinguish government campaigns from ordinary spam. Searching Twitter using the Chinese words for Shanghai or other Chinese cities reveals protest videos, but also also a near-constant flood of new posts showing racy photos of young women. Some researchers proposed that a state-backed campaign could be seeking to drown out news of the protests with “not safe for work” content. A preliminary analysis by the Stanford Internet Observatory found lots of spam but no “compelling evidence” that it was specifically intended to suppress information or dissent, said Stanford data architect David Thiel. “I’d be skeptical of anyone claiming clear evidence of government attribution,” Thiel said in an email. Twitter searches for more specific protest-related terms, such as “Urumqi Middle Road, Shanghai,” produced mainly posts related to the protests. Israeli data analysis firm Cyabra and another research group that shared analysis with the AP said it was hard to distinguish between a deliberate attempt to drown out protest information sought by the Chinese diaspora and a run-of-the-mill commercial spam campaign. Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment. It hasn’t answered media inquiries since billionaire Elon Musk took over the platform in late October and cut back much of its workforce, including many of those tasked with moderating spam and other content. Musk often tweets about how he’s enacting or enforcing new Twitter content rules but hasn’t commented on the recent protests in China.
Former President Jiang Zemin, who led China out of isolation after the army crushed the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989 and supported economic reforms that led to a decade of explosive growth, died Wednesday. He was 96. Jiang died of leukemia and multiple organ failure in Shanghai, where he was a former mayor and Communist Party secretary, state TV and the official Xinhua News Agency reported. A surprise choice to lead a divided Communist Party after the 1989 turmoil, Jiang saw China through history-making changes including a revival of market-oriented reforms, the return of Hong Kong from British rule in 1997 and Beijing’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001. Read more: China’s Communist Party vows 'crackdown on hostile forces' as public tests Xi Even as China opened to the outside, Jiang’s government stamped out dissent. It jailed human rights, labor and pro-democracy activists and banned the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which the ruling party saw as a threat to its monopoly on power. Jiang gave up his last official title in 2004 but remained a force behind the scenes in the wrangling that led to the rise of current President Xi Jinping, who took power in 2012. Xi has tightened political control, crushed China’s little remaining dissent and reasserted the dominance of state industry. Rumors that Jiang might be in declining health spread after he missed a ruling party congress in October at which Xi, China's most powerful figure since at least the 1980s, broke with tradition and awarded himself a third five-year term as leader. Jiang was on the verge of retirement as Shanghai party leader in 1989 when he was drafted by then-paramount leader leader Deng Xiaoping to pull together the party and nation. He succeeded Zhao Ziyang, who was dismissed by Deng due to his sympathy for the student-led Tiananmen Square protesters and was held under house arrest until his 2005 death. In 13 years as party general secretary, China's most powerful post, Jiang guided the country's rise to economic power by welcoming capitalists into the ruling party and pulling in foreign investment after China joined the WTO. China passed Germany and then Japan to become the second-largest economy after the United States. Jiang captured a political prize when Beijing was picked as the site of the 2008 Summer Olympics after failing in an earlier bid. A former soap factory manager, Jiang capped his career with the communist era’s first orderly succession, handing over his post as party leader in 2002 to Hu Jintao, who also took the ceremonial title of president the following year. Jiang tried to hold onto influence by staying on as chairman of the Central Military Commission, which controls the party’s military wing, the 2 million-member People’s Liberation Army. He gave up that post in 2004 following complaints he might divide the government. Even after he left office, Jiang had influence over promotions through his network of proteges. He was said to be frustrated that Deng had picked Hu as the next leader, blocking Jiang from installing his own successor. But Jiang was considered successful in elevating allies to the party’s seven-member Standing Committee, China’s inner circle of power, when Xi became leader in 2012. Portly and owlish in oversize glasses, Jiang was an ebullient figure who played the piano and enjoyed singing, in contrast to his more reserved successors, Hu and Xi. Read more: China's Xi faces public anger over draconian 'zero COVID' He spoke enthusiastic if halting English and would recite the Gettysburg Address for foreign visitors. On a visit to Britain, he tried to coax Queen Elizabeth II into singing karaoke. Jiang had faded from public sight and last appeared publicly alongside current and former leaders atop Beijing’s Tiananmen Gate at a 2019 military parade celebrating the party’s 70th anniversary in power. Jiang was born Aug. 17, 1926, in the affluent eastern city of Yangzhou. Official biographies downplay his family’s middle-class background, emphasizing instead his uncle and adoptive father, Jiang Shangqing, an early revolutionary who was killed in battle in 1939. After graduating from the electrical machinery department of Jiaotong University in Shanghai in 1947, Jiang advanced through the ranks of state-controlled industries, working in a food factory, then soap-making and China’s biggest automobile plant. Like many technocratic officials, Jiang spent part of the ultra-radical 1966-76 Cultural Revolution as a farm laborer. His career rise resumed, and in 1983 he was named minister of the electronics industry, then a key but backward sector the government hoped to revive by inviting foreign investment. As mayor of Shanghai in 1985-89, Jiang impressed foreign visitors as a representative of a new breed of outward-looking Chinese leaders. A tough political fighter, Jiang defied predictions that his stint as leader would be short. He consolidated power by promoting members of his “Shanghai faction” and giving the military double-digit annual percentage increases in spending. Foreign leaders and CEOs who shunned Beijing after the crackdown were persuaded to return. When Deng emerged from retirement in 1992 to push for reviving market-style reform in the face of conservative opposition after the Tiananmen crackdown, Jiang followed. He supported Premier Zhu Rongji, the party’s No. 3 leader, who forced through painful changes that slashed as many as 40 million jobs from state industry in the late 1990s. Zhu launched the privatization of urban housing, igniting a building boom that transformed Chinese cities into forests of high-rises and propelled economic growth. After 12 years of negotiations and a flight by Zhu to Washington to lobby the Clinton administration for support, China joined the WTO in 2001, cementing its position as a magnet for foreign investment. Despite a genial public image, Jiang dealt severely with challenges to ruling party power. His highest-profile target was Falun Gong, a meditation group founded in the early ’90s. Chinese leaders were spooked by its ability to attract tens of thousands of followers, including military officers. Activists who tried to form an opposition China Democracy Party, a move permitted by Chinese law, were sentenced to up to 12 years in prison on subversion charges. “Stability above all else,” Jiang ordered, in a phrase his successors have used to justify intensive social controls. It fell to Jiang, standing beside Britain’s Prince Charles, to preside over the return of Hong Kong on July 1, 1997, symbolizing the end of 150 years of European colonialism. The nearby Portuguese territory of Macao was returned to China in 1999. Hong Kong was promised autonomy and became a springboard for mainland companies to go abroad. Meanwhile, Jiang turned to coercion with Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing says is part of its territory. During Taiwan’s first direct presidential election in 1996, Jiang’s government tried to intimidate voters by firing missiles into nearby shipping lanes. The United States responded by sending warships to the area in a show of support. At the same time, trade between the mainland and Taiwan grew to billions of dollars a year. China’s economic boom split society into winners and losers as waves of rural residents migrated to factory jobs in cities, the economy grew sevenfold and urban incomes by nearly as much. Protests, once rare, spread as millions lost state jobs and farmers complained about rising taxes and fees. Divorce rates climbed. Corruption flourished. One of Jiang’s sons, Jiang Mianheng, courted controversy in the late 1990s as a telecommunications dealmaker and later the chairman of phone company China Netcom Co. Critics accused him of misusing his father’s status to promote his career, a common complaint against the children of party leaders. Jiang Mianheng, who has a Ph.D. from Drexel University, went on to hold prominent academic positions, including president of ShanghaiTech University in his father’s old power base. Jiang is survived by his two sons and his wife, Wang Yeping, who worked in government bureaucracies in charge of state industries.
A suicide bomber blew himself up near a truck carrying police officers on their way to protect polio workers outside Quetta on Wednesday, killing two people and wounding more than 20 others, mostly policemen, officials said. Ghulam Azfer Mehser, a senior police officer, said the attack happened when the policemen were heading to the polio workers, part of a nationwide vaccination drive launched Monday. He said the bombing also damaged a nearby car carrying members of a family. The Pakistani Taliban in a statement claimed responsibility. In a statement, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan group, or TTP, said the attack in Baluchistan targeted police to avenge the killing of their former spokesperson, Abdul Wali. He was widely known as Omar Khalid Khurasani and was killed in a bombing in Afghanistan’s Paktika province in August. His death was a heavy blow to the group. Read: Militants kill six police officers during ambush in northwest Pakistan The attack on police came amid a spike in new polio cases among children. The latest vaccination campaign is the sixth such drive this year and will last for five days, aiming to inoculate children under the age of 5 in high-risk areas. The drive is aimed at Islamabad and in the high-risk districts in eastern Punjab and southwestern Baluchistan province, where Monday's attack took place. It killed at least two people, including a police officer and a child. A similar campaign will be launched in the northwest in the first week of December. Pakistani authorities have been launching such campaigns regularly despite attacks on workers and police assigned to inoculation drives. Militants falsely claim that vaccination campaigns are a Western conspiracy to sterilize children. Since April, Pakistan has registered 20 new polio cases, which can cause severe paralysis in children. Read: Former ISI chief named Pakistan's new head of army Pakistan came close to eradicating polio last year, when only one case was reported. Currently, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the last two countries in which polio has not been eliminated. Wednesday's bombing happened two days after The Pakistani Taliban ended a monthslong cease-fire with the government in Islamabad, ordering its fighters to resume attacks across the country, where scores of deadly attacks have been blamed on the insurgent group. In Monday's statement, the outlawed TTP group said it would end the five-month cease-fire after the army stepped up operations against the TTP. Pakistan and the TTP had agreed to an indefinite cease-fire in May after talks in Afghanistan’s capital. The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but are allies of the Afghanistan Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan more than a year ago as the U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan emboldened TTP, whose top leaders and fighters are hiding in Afghanistan. Read: China crowds angered by Covid curbs openly urge Xi to resign The latest violence comes a day after Pakistan’s new military chief, Gen. Asim Munir, took command. Munir, a former spymaster, replaced Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa after he retired from the post after a six-year term. Bajwa, during his tenure, had approved a series of operations against the militants in Baluchistan, northwest and elsewhere in the country. The latest attack also comes a day after the military claimed it killed 10 “terrorists” in a raid in the Hoshab district of Baluchistan province. For nearly two decades Baluchistan has been the scene of a low-level insurgency by separatists demanding independence from the central government in Islamabad. The government says it has quelled the insurgency, but violence in the province has persisted.
Three Chinese astronauts docked early Wednesday with their country’s space station, where they will overlap for several days with the three-member crew already onboard and expand the facility to its maximum size. Docking with the Tiangong station came at 5:42 a.m. Wednesday, about 6 1/2 hours after the Shenzhou-15 spaceship blasted off atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Tuesday night. The six-month mission, commanded by Fei Junlong and crewed by Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu, will be the last in the station’s construction phase, according to the China Manned Space Agency. The station’s third and final module docked with the station earlier this month, one of the last steps in China’s effort to maintain a constant crewed presence in orbit. Read: NASA says spacecraft succeeded in changing asteroid’s orbit The crew of the Shenzhou-15 will spend several days working with the existing 3-member crew of the Tiangong station, who will then return to Earth after their six-month mission. Fei, 57, is a veteran of the 2005 four-day Shenzhou-6 mission, the second time China sent a human into space. Deng and Zhang are making their first space flights. The station has now expanded to its maximum size, with three modules and three spacecraft attached for a total mass of nearly 100 tons. Tiangong can accommodate six astronauts at a time and the handover will take about a week. That marks the station’s first in-orbit crew rotation.
With police out in force, there was no word of additional protests against strict government anti-pandemic measures Tuesday in Beijing, as temperatures fell well below freezing. Shanghai, Nanjing and other cities where online calls to gather had been issued were also reportedly quiet. Rallies against China’s unusually strict anti-virus measures spread to several cities over the weekend in the biggest show of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades. Authorities eased some regulations, apparently to try to quell public anger, but the government showed no sign of backing down on its larger coronavirus strategy, and analysts expect authorities to quickly silence the dissent. In Hong Kong Monday, about 50 students from mainland China sang at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and some lit candles in a show of support for those in mainland cities who demonstrated against restrictions that have confined millions to their homes. Hiding their faces to avoid official retaliation, the students chanted, “No PCR tests but freedom!” and “Oppose dictatorship, don’t be slaves!” The gathering and a similar one elsewhere in Hong Kong were the biggest protests there in more than a year under rules imposed to crush a pro-democracy movement in the territory, which is Chinese but has a separate legal system from the mainland. “I’ve wanted to speak up for a long time, but I did not get the chance to,” said James Cai, a 29-year-old from Shanghai who attended a Hong Kong protest and held up a piece of white paper, a symbol of defiance against the ruling party’s pervasive censorship. ”If people in the mainland can’t tolerate it anymore, then I cannot as well.” It wasn’t clear how many people have been detained since the protests began in the mainland Friday, sparked by anger over the deaths of 10 people in a fire in the northwestern city of Urumqi. That prompted angry questions online about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls. Authorities denied that, but the incident became a target for public frustration about the controls. Read more: China's Xi faces public anger over draconian 'zero COVID' Without mentioning the protests, the criticism of Xi or the fire, some local authorities eased restrictions Monday. The city government of Beijing announced it would no longer set up gates to block access to apartment compounds where infections are found. “Passages must remain clear for medical transportation, emergency escapes and rescues,” said Wang Daguang, a city official in charge of epidemic control, according to the official China News Service. Guangzhou, a manufacturing and trade center that is the biggest hot spot in China’s latest wave of infections, announced some residents will no longer be required to undergo mass testing. The U.S. Embassy advised citizens to prepare for all eventualities and said Ambassador Nicholas Burns and other American diplomats have “regularly raised our concerns on many of these issues directly." “We encourage all U.S. citizens to keep a 14-day supply of medications, bottled water, and food for yourself and any members of your household," the Embassy said in a statement Monday. In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby “obviously, there are people in China that — that have — have concerns about that," referring to lockdowns. “And they’re protesting that, and we believe they should be able to do that peacefully," Kirby said at a Monday briefing. Urumqi, where the fire occurred, and another city in the Xinjiang region in the northwest announced markets and other businesses in areas deemed at low risk of infection would reopen this week and public bus service would resume. “Zero COVID,” which aims to isolate every infected person, has helped to keep China’s case numbers lower than those of the United States and other major countries. But tolerance for the measures has flagged as people in some areas have been confined at home for up to four months and say they lack reliable access to food and medical supplies. The ruling party promised last month to reduce disruption by changing quarantine and other rules known as the “20 Guidelines." But a spike in infections has prompted cities to tighten controls. On Tuesday, the number of daily cases dipped slightly to 38,421 after setting new records over recent days. Of those, 34,860 were among people who showed no symptoms. The ruling party newspaper People’s Daily called for its anti-virus strategy to be carried out effectively, indicating Xi’s government has no plans to change course. “Facts have fully proved that each version of the prevention and control plan has withstood the test of practice,” a People’s Daily commentator wrote. Read more: Protests over China's COVID controls spread across country In Hong Kong, protesters at Chinese University put up posters that said, “Do Not Fear. Do Not Forget. Do Not Forgive,” and sang including “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the musical “Les Miserables.” Most hid their faces behind blank white sheets of paper. “I want to show my support,” said a 24-year-old mainland student who would identify herself only as G for fear of retaliation. “I care about things that I couldn’t get to know in the past.” University security guards videotaped the event but there was no sign of police. At an event in Central, a business district, about four dozen protesters held up blank sheets of paper and flowers in what they said was mourning for the fire victims in Urumqi and others who have died as a result of “zero COVID” policies. Police cordoned off an area around protesters, who stood in small, separate groups to avoid violating pandemic rules that bar gatherings of more than 12 people. Police took identity details of participants but there were no arrests. Hong Kong has tightened security controls and rolled back Western-style civil liberties since China launched a campaign in 2019 to crush a pro-democracy movement. The territory has its own anti-virus strategy that is separate from the mainland. Hong Kong's Chief Executive John Lee is a law-and-order hardliner who led the crackdown on protesters, including on university campuses. Both the Hong Kong government and the State Council, China's Cabinet, issued statements Monday pledging to uphold public order and the authority of the National Security Law, which gives authorities sweeping powers to charge demonstrators with crimes including sedition. Protests also occurred over the weekend in Guangzhou near Hong Kong, Chengdu and Chongqing in the southwest, and Nanjing in the east, according to witnesses and video on social media. Guangzhou has seen earlier violent confrontations between police and residents protesting quarantines. Most protesters have complained about excessive restrictions, but some turned their anger at Xi, China's most powerful leader since at least the 1980s. In a video that was verified by The Associated Press, a crowd in Shanghai on Saturday chanted, “Xi Jinping! Step down! CCP! Step down!” The British Broadcasting Corp. said one of its reporters was beaten, kicked, handcuffed and detained for several hours by Shanghai police but later released. The BBC criticized what it said was Chinese authorities’ explanation that its reporter was detained to prevent him from contracting the coronavirus from the crowd. “We do not consider this a credible explanation,” the broadcaster said in a statement. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian said the BBC reporter failed to identify himself and “didn’t voluntarily present” his press credential. “Foreign journalists need to consciously follow Chinese laws and regulations,” Zhao said. Swiss broadcaster RTS said its correspondent and a cameraman were detained while doing a live broadcast but released a few minutes later. An AP journalist was detained but later released.
Barely a month after granting himself new powers as China’s potential leader for life, Xi Jinping is facing a wave of public anger of the kind not seen for decades, sparked by his draconian “zero COVID” program that will soon enter its fourth year. Demonstrators poured into the streets over the weekend in numerous cities including Shanghai and Beijing, chanting slogans and confronting police. A number of university campuses also experienced protests. Such widespread demonstrations are unprecedented since the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that was crushed with deadly force by the army. Most people in the weekend protests focused their anger on rigid pandemic lockdowns, a form of virtual house arrest that can last for months and has been criticized as neither scientific nor effective. But some also shouted for the downfall of Xi and of the Communist Party that has ruled China with an iron fist for 73 years, criticism that is deemed seditious and punishable by years in prison. Protesters expressed frustration over a system that is neither performing as promised or responding to their concerns. So far, the response from the authorities has been muted. Some police in Shanghai used pepper spray to drive away demonstrators, and some protesters were detained and driven away in a bus. However, China's vast internal security apparatus is famed for identifying people it considers troublemakers and carting them off from their homes when few are watching. Police in Shanghai also beat, kicked and handcuffed a BBC journalist who was filming the protests. Authorities said they arrested him for his own good “in case he caught COVID from the crowd," the BBC said in a statement. “We do not consider this a credible explanation," it said. The possibility of further protests is unclear, and government censors have been scrubbing the internet of videos and messages supporting the demonstrations. Read: China crowds angered by Covid curbs openly urge Xi to resign The central government, meanwhile, reiterated its stance that anti-coronavirus measures should be “targeted and precise" and cause the least possible disruption to people's lives. That doesn't appear, however, to be reflected at the local level. Cadres are threatened with losing their jobs or suffering other punishments if outbreaks occur in their jurisdictions, prompting them to adopt the most radical options. Xi's unelected government doesn't seem to be overly concerned with the hardships brought by the policy. This spring, millions of Shanghai residents were placed under a strict lockdown that resulted in food shortages, restricted access to medical care, and harsh economic pain. Nevertheless, in October, the city's most powerful official, a longtime Xi loyalist, was appointed to the Communist Party's No. 2 position. The party has long imposed oppressive surveillance and travel restrictions on those least able to oppose them, particularly Tibetans and members of Muslim minority groups such as Uyghurs, more than 1 million of whom have been detained in camps where they are forced to renounce their traditional culture and religion and swear fealty to Xi. But this weekend's protests included many members of the educated urban middle class from the majority Han ethnic group. That's exactly the demographic the party relies on to sustain an unwritten post-1989 agreement in which the public accepted autocratic rule and a lack of civil liberties in exchange for improvements in quality of life. But now the party's implementation of its “zero COVID" policy shows it is reinforcing its control at the expense of the economy, meaning that the old arrangement has ended, said Hung Ho-fung of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “The whole situation is reflecting that the party and the people are trying to seek a new equilibrium, and there will be some instability in the process,” he said. To develop into something on the scale of the 1989 protests would require clear divisions within the leadership that could be leveraged for change, Hung said. Xi all but eliminated such threats at an October party congress, when he gave himself a new term and packed the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee with loyalists, sending two potential rivals into retirement. “Without the clear signal of party leader divisions ... I would expect this kind of protest might not last very long,” Hung said. It's “unimaginable” that Xi would back down, and the party is experienced in handling protests, Hung said. Read: Protests over China's COVID controls spread across country With its “zero COVID” policy, imposed shortly after the coronavirus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, China is now the only major country still trying to stop all transmission of the virus rather than learning to live with it. That has kept China’s infection numbers lower than those the United States and other major countries, but public acceptance of the restrictions has worn thin. People who are quarantined at home in some areas say they lack food and medicine. The ruling party faced public anger following the deaths of two children whose parents said anti-virus controls hampered their efforts to get medical help. And the case numbers continue to rise, jumping in the past week from less than 30,000 per day to 40,273 on Monday. While China initially had a strong vaccination program, that has lost momentum since the summer. The current protests erupted after a fire on Thursday killed at least 10 people in an apartment building in the city of Urumqi in the northwest, where some residents have been locked in their homes for four months. That prompted an outpouring of angry questions online about whether firefighters or people trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other pandemic restrictions. China has persevered with the policy despite criticism from the normally supportive head of the World Health Organization, who called it unsustainable. Beijing dismissed his remarks as irresponsible. And on Sunday, White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said measures such as shutdowns are only intended to be temporary. “It seems that in China it was just a very, very strict extraordinary lockdown, where you lock people in the house, but without any seemingly end game to it,” Fauci said on NBC's Meet the Press. Yet Xi, an ardent nationalist, has politicized the issue to the point that exiting the “zero COVID” policy could be seen as a loss to his reputation and authority. “Zero COVID” was “supposed to demonstrate the superiority of the ‘Chinese model,' but ended up demonstrating the risk that when authoritarian regimes make mistakes, those mistakes can be colossal," said Andrew Nathan, a Chinese politics specialist at Columbia University who edited The Tiananmen Papers, an insider account of the government's response to the 1989 protests. Read: Biden says he and Xi have a “responsibility” to show US, China can “manage differences” “But I think the regime has backed itself into a corner and has no way to yield. It has lots of force, and if necessary, it will use it," Nathan said. “If it could hold onto power in the face of the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989, it can do so again now."
An 85-year-old man set himself on fire in southern India to protest what he perceived as the central government’s efforts to “impose” Hindi – a language that is primarily spoken in the north – as the national language, police said. MV Thangavel demonstrated on Saturday (November 26, 2022), in front of Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK party office, of which he was a member, raising slogans against “Hindi imposition.” Then, he reportedly set himself on fire after dousing himself with petrol. Although the party workers and the public tried to save the elderly man, he died of self-immolation at the scene, according to NDTV. “Modi government stop imposing Hindi. Why do we need to choose Hindi over our literature-rich Tamil... it will affect future of our youth.” – the placard he was carrying read. Read more: Indian police detain man accused of killing Australian woman because ‘her dog barked at him’ In the 1960s, the then-ruling Congress party sought to make Hindi the nation’s official tongue, inciting enduring resentment in southern India. The majority of the languages spoken in southern India are Dravidian, a language family different from the Indo-European that includes Hindi. Just under 44 percent of Indian citizens, or less than half, speak Hindi, according to the census conducted in 2011. While state administrations in India use regional languages, English is the country’s primary official language. However, a group of lawmakers led by India’s Interior Minister Amit Shah reportedly proposed making Hindi the nation’s official language last month, including for technical education like engineering and medicine. Read more: India's tribespeople seek formal recognition of ancient nature-worshipping faith The usage of Indian languages was encouraged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who described the use of English as having a “slave mindset.” But opponents accuse his administration of trying to impose Hindi over the southern Indian languages, causing anger in south.
Protesters pushed to the brink by China’s strict COVID measures in Shanghai called for the removal of the country’s all-powerful leader and clashed with police Sunday as crowds took to the streets in several cities in an astounding challenge to the government. Police forcibly cleared the demonstrators in China’s financial capital who called for Xi Jinping’s resignation and the end of the Chinese Communist Party’s rule — but hours later people rallied again in the same spot, and social media reports indicated protests also spread to at least seven other cities, including the capital of Beijing, and dozens of university campuses. Largescale protests are exceedingly rare in China, where public expressions of dissent are routinely stifled — but a direct rebuke of Xi, the country’s most powerful leader in decades, is extraordinary. Three years after the virus first emerged, China is the only major country still trying to stop transmission of COVID-19 — a “zero COVID” policy that regularly sees millions of people confined to their homes for weeks at a time and requires near-constant testing. The measures were originally widely accepted for minimizing deaths while other countries suffered devastating wavs of infections, but that consensus has begun to fray in recent weeks. Then on Friday, 10 people died in a fire in an apartment building, and many believe their rescue was delayed because of excessive lockdown measures. That sparked a weekend of protests, as the Chinese public’s ability to tolerate the harsh measures has apparently reached breaking point.Hundreds of demonstrators gathered late Saturday in Shanghai, which experienced a devastating lockdown in the spring in which people struggled to secure groceries and medicines and were forcefully taken into centralized quarantine. Read: Protests over China's COVID controls spread across country On a street named for the city in China’s far west where the fire happened, one group of protesters brought candles, flowers and signs honoring those who died in the blaze. Another, according to a protester who insisted on anonymity, was more active, shouting slogans and singing the national anthem. In a video of the protest seen by The Associated Press, chants sounded loud and clear: “Xi Jinping! Step down! CCP! Step down!” Xi, arguably China’s most dominant leader since Mao Zedong, was recently named to another term as head of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, and some expect him to try to stay in power for life. The protester and another, who gave only his last name, Zhao, confirmed the chants. Both insisted on having their identities shielded because they fear arrest or retribution. The atmosphere of the protest encouraged people to speak about topics considered taboo, including the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in which the ruling Communist Party had ordered troops to fire on pro-democracy student demonstrators, the unnamed protester said. Some also called for an official apology for the deaths in the fire in Urumqi in the Xinjiang region. One member of the Uyghur ethnic group that is native to Xinjiang and has been the target of a sweeping security crackdown shared his experiences of discrimination and police violence. Read: China reports 10,000 new virus cases, capital closes parks “Everyone thinks that Chinese people are afraid to come out and protest, that they don’t have any courage,” said the protester, who said it was his first time demonstrating. “Actually in my heart, I also thought this way. But then when I went there, I found that the environment was such that everyone was very brave.” Initially peaceful, the scene turned violent in the early hours of Sunday. Hundreds of police surrounded the protesters and broke up the first more active group before they came for the second as they tried to move people off the main street. The protester said that he saw multiple people being taken away, forced by police into vans, but could not identify them. The protester named Zhao said one of his friends was beaten by police and two were pepper sprayed. He said police stomped his feet as he tried to stop them from taking his friend away. He lost his shoes in the process, and left the protest barefoot. Zhao said protesters yelled slogans, including one that has become a frequent rallying cry: “(We) do not want PCR (tests), but want freedom.” On Sunday afternoon, crowds returned to the same spot and again railed against PCR tests. People stood and filmed as police started shoving at people. A crowdsourced list on social media showed that there were also demonstrations at 50 universities. Videos posted on social media that said they were filmed in Nanjing in the east, Guangzhou in the south, Beijing in the north and at least five other cities showed protesters tussling with police in white protective suits or dismantling barricades used to seal off neighborhoods. The Associated Press could not independently verify all the protests. In Beijing, students at the nation’s top college, Tsinghua University, held a demonstration Sunday afternoon in front of one of the school’s cafeterias. Three young women stood there initially with a simple message of condolence for the victims of the Urumqi apartment fire, according to a witness, who refused to be named out of fear of retribution, and images of the protest the AP has seen. Students shouted “freedom of speech” and sang the Internationale, the socialist anthem. The deputy Communist Party secretary of the school arrived at the protest, promising to hold a schoolwide discussion. Meanwhile, two cities in China’s northwest, where residents have been confined to their homes for up to four months, eased some anti-virus controls Sunday after public protests Friday. Meanwhile, Urumqi, where the fire occurred, as well as the smaller city of Korla were preparing to reopen markets and other businesses in areas deemed at low risk of virus transmission and to restart bus, train and airline service, state media reported.
A meal fit for monkeys was served on Sunday at the annual Monkey Feast Festival in central Thailand. Amid the morning traffic, rows of monkey statues holding trays were lined up outside the compound of the Ancient Three Pagodas, while volunteers prepared food across the road for real monkeys — the symbol of Lopburi province, around 150 kilometers (93 miles) north of Bangkok. Throngs of macaque monkeys ran around, at times fighting with each other, while the crowds of visitors and locals grew. As the carefully prepared feast was brought toward the temple, the ravenous creatures began to pounce and were soon devouring the largely vegetarian spread. While the entertainment value of the festival is high, organizers are quick to point out that it is not just monkey business. Read: Thailand pre-school shooting: Death toll rises to 36 “This monkey feast festival is a successful event that helps promote Lopburi’s tourism among international tourists every year,” said Yongyuth Kitwatanusont, the festival’s founder. “Previously, there were around 300 monkeys in Lopburi before increasing to nearly 4,000 nowadays. But Lopburi is known as a monkey city, which means monkeys and people can live in harmony.” Such harmony could be seen in the lack of shyness exhibited by the monkeys, which climbed on to visitors, vehicles and lampposts. At times the curious animals looked beyond the abundant feast and took an interest in other items. “There was a monkey on my back as I was trying to take a selfie. He grabbed the sunglasses right off my face and ran off on to the top of a lamppost and was trying to eat them for a while,” said Ayisha Bhatt, an English teacher from California working in Thailand. The delighted onlookers were largely undeterred by the risk of petty theft, although some were content to exercise caution. Read: Thailand now offering 10-year visa: Who are eligible? “We have to take care with them, better leave them to it. Not too near is better,” said Carlos Rodway, a tourist from Cadiz, Spain, having previously been unceremoniously treated as a climbing frame by one audacious monkey. The festival is an annual tradition in Lopburi, the provincial capital, and held as a way to show gratitude to the monkeys for bringing in tourism. This year’s theme is “monkeys feeding monkeys,” an antidote to previous years where monkey participation had decreased due to high numbers of tourists, which intimidated the animals.