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Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong quits pro-democracy group as China passes security law – National



Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong said on Tuesday he is stepping down as leader of his democracy group Demosisto, just hours after local media reported that Beijing had passed national security legislation for the Chinese-ruled city.

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Chinese lawmakers pass controversial security law for Hong Kong: reports

Wong has said he will be a “prime target” of Beijing’s national security law, which critics fear will crush freedoms in the former British colony.

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“If my voice will not be heard soon, I hope that the international community will continue to speak up for Hong Kong and step up concrete efforts to defend out last bit of freedom,” Wong wrote in a tweet.

-With a file from Global News








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The European Union’s Security and Defence Policy Beyond COVID-19 – E-International Relations


As Europe went from being the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic to a situation where most European countries are confident that they are past the worst of the crisis, the focus of the European leaders is now towards the resurgence of the society back to normalcy. Beyond the epidemiological challenge of the virus – the economic, political, geopolitical as well as security challenges faced by the Union are also plenty. Though the European Union’s Global Strategy of 2016 (PDF) highlighted the detection, prevention and response to global pandemics as a priority, the massive consequences and implications on the security policy of the EU are unprecedented. In a continent that is always undergoing shifts, the outbreak of COVID-19 is likely to cause an impact much similar to that of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States of America in 2001.

The most direct and immediate impact is economic in nature which is taking place concurrently to the pandemic. Most European companies including the EU defence firms are witnessing a historic drop in their stock market prices. This is subsequently leading to a rise in their debt ratios and eventually causing a functional threat to their survival. Further, as the public authorities are channelling their resources towards fighting an unprecedented challenge, the funding towards the defence sector and its initiatives is bound to be diminished.

As Europe enters a massive economic recession, defence spending will also take a blow in terms of priority. Europe’s recovery from the outbreak will require unparalleled levels of financial stimulus and thus, the allotted funding to previous defence initiatives, which do not seem to play a key role in the overall recovery of Europe, is likely to decrease. Spending on the defence sector, which had finally reached its pre-2008 financial crisis level in 2019, is now likely to see a reverse trend. The lack of funds will also have a directly proportional relationship with the in-house Research and Development sector of the European defence firms. As long as the COVID-19 crisis persists, its impact will continue to be seen as the slowdown of innovation in the European defence sector, further diminishing the European competitiveness in the same.

As the spending on defence sector slumps, the development of several initiatives on the EU defence cooperation such as European Defence Fund (EDF) and the European Peace Facility (EPF) will lose their velocity. The number of Member States already questioning the political credibility and the value of financing these initiatives will rise, fragmenting the otherwise flourishing integration project of the supranational Union. With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the already unequal economies of the Northern and Southern European states, unity and solidarity are already under stress as Member States embolden nationalist narratives, rather than European solutions. Political will is a crucial factor for a transnational actor like the EU in order to develop an effective framework for European security and to establish itself as a credible security partner alongside NATO. The EU defence project will only make sense if the Member States support each other in principle in times of crisis.

The EU’s position as a security actor is under question as a result of the pandemic. Owing to the high cost of dealing with the socio-economic damage caused by the outbreak, the EU’s operational readiness of crisis-management activities will be narrowed down. The Union’s willingness to contribute troops to civilian and military activities on Libyan, Syrian and Ukrainian territories is likely to decrease. This inward-looking perspective of the European security policy further creates a risk that crisis in such regions may worsen at the peak of a pandemic. This will not only add to the human suffering in the neighborhood, but also create a nexus of vulnerability and crisis for Europe. If not handled effectively, non-state actors may begin to take advantage of this period of vulnerability of the Union. Negative externalities could spill over to the EU, such as accelerating the migrant issue and leading to political polarization within the Member States.

While COVID-19 continues to transform political and economic realities in Europe, it becomes imperative for the EU to advocate a holistic recovery package that focusses not only on the reconstruction of economies but also on the diversified security needs of the alliance. The EU has to cope with the pandemic as well as the economic recession without sacrificing the European defence sector initiatives and competitiveness, which could play a functional role in not only maintaining security and stability but also in pushing towards an EU-wide plan of economic and industrial re-launch. At the same time, it is important to note that the need for advancing solidarity on the defence policy front has never been as compelling. With the EU facing the heat on both sides of the pacific in the face of US-China rivalry and transatlantic relations also under stress, the exigency for a more coherent, geopolitical, self-reliant Europe is emergent.

The European Union External Action Taskforce’s factsheet on ‘COVID-19: Lessons and Implications for EU Security and Defence’ (May 2020) highlights the need of the Union to confront all possible security consequences of the pandemic, in order to be truly prepared and resilient for the future. The document brings out the five key essential initial lessons learned in order to overcome the crisis: partnerships, solidarity, responsiveness, capabilities and preparedness. It is advisable for the EU to not abandon its pre-coronavirus agenda on security and defence policy, which is required to be truly responsive to imminent threats facing the continent. Thus, the EU must incorporate European defence cooperation to be a part of its post-pandemic recovery, in order to achieve the goal of strategic autonomy, and enhance its role a security actor in the international realm.

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Iraq clashes: 12 dead, hundreds wounded as protesters battle security forces


Nine protesters were killed in the capital Baghdad and three others in the southern city of Nasiriyah, about 350 km south of Baghdad, according to the statement.

More than 600 people have been killed in anti-government demonstrations that started in October, according to the IHCHR and Amnesty International.

Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gather in Baghdad on Friday.

Dozens of Iraqi security forces used live ammunition and tear gas as they worked to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters in al-Khalani Square, Baghdad, on Saturday, according to activists in the area.

French charity says four aid workers missing in Iraq

Activists said the aggressive move came after Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced in a statement Friday night that he would no longer support anti-government protesters.

Hours later, hundreds of his followers left Tahrir Square in response to his statement.

Security forces fire tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters during clashes with anti-government protesters in Baghdad on Saturday.

Activists said security forces clashed with hundreds of protesters in the southern city of Basra after they tore down dozens of their sit-in tents. Hundreds of protesters in both Basra and Baghdad were dispersed on Saturday, and six protesters were wounded in Basra, according to activists there.

Iraqi security forces in Baghdad and Basra did not respond to CNN’s phone calls and requests regarding incidents in Baghdad and Basra.

“Unaccountability and indecisiveness are unworthy of Iraqi hopes, courageously expressed for four months now,” UN Special Representative for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, tweeted Saturday.

“While death and injury tolls continue to rise, steps taken so far will remain hollow if not completed. The people must be served and protected, not violently oppressed,” she said.



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20 Iraqi protesters shot dead by security forces within 24 hours – National


BAGHDAD — Security forces in Iraq shot dead 20 anti-government protesters in a 24-hour period amid spiraling violence in the capital and the country’s south, as Iran condemned the burning of its consulate.

Security forces Thursday fired live ammunition, killing four protesters and wounding 22 on the strategic Ahrar Bridge in Baghdad, security and medical officials said.

Violence across southern Iraq continued throughout the night, with security forces killing 16 protesters and wounding 90 since Wednesday evening. Protesters closed roads and a large number of police and military forces were deployed across key oil-rich provinces.






Nine dead in Iraq after protesters clash with security forces


Nine dead in Iraq after protesters clash with security forces

In Baghdad, protesters attempted to cross the Ahrar Bridge leading nearby to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government. Protesters are occupying parts of three bridges – Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar – all leading to the fortified area. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

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Protesters had set fire to the Iranian consulate in the holy city of Najaf late Wednesday, in one of the worst attacks targeting Iranian interests in the country since the anti-government protests erupted two months ago. The Iranian staff were not harmed and escaped out the back door.

Anti-government protests have gripped Iraq since Oct. 1, when thousands took to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite south. The largely leaderless movement accuses the government of being hopelessly corrupt and has also decried Iran’s growing influence in Iraqi state affairs.

At least 350 people have been killed by security forces, which routinely used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse crowds, sometimes shooting protesters directly with gas canisters, causing several fatalities.


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1 killed, 21 wounded as violent protests continue in Iraq

Separately, the U.S. Embassy denounced a recent decision by Iraq’s media regulator to suspend nine television channels, calling for the Communications and Media Commission to reverse its decision. Thursday’s statement from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad also condemned attacks and harassment against journalists.



Local channel Dijla TV had its license suspended on Tuesday for its coverage of the protests, and its office was closed and equipment confiscated, according an official from one of the channels under threat. Other channels have been asked by the regulatory commission to sign a pledge “agreeing to adhere to its rules,” said the official, who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal.

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The Islamic State group also claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s coordinated bombings in three Baghdad neighborhoods, which killed five people. That was the first apparent coordinated attack since anti-government protests began. The bombings took place far from Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of weeks of anti-government protests that have posed the biggest security challenge to Iraq since the defeat of IS.

Tehran called for a “responsible, strong and effective” response to the incident from Iraq’s government, said Abbas Mousavi, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, in statements to Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the torching of the consulate, saying it was perpetrated by “people outside of the genuine protesters,” in a statement, adding that the purpose had been to harm bilateral relations between the countries.






Anti-government protests continue to escalate in Iraq


Anti-government protests continue to escalate in Iraq

One demonstrator was killed and 35 wounded when police fired live ammunition to try to prevent them from entering the consulate building. Once inside, the demonstrators removed the Iranian flag and replaced it with an Iraqi one, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with regulations.

A curfew was imposed in Najaf after the consulate was burned. Security forces were heavily deployed around main government buildings and religious institutions Thursday morning. The province is the headquarters of the country’s Shiite religious authority.

The consulate attack comes after days of sit-ins and road closures with protesters cutting access to main thoroughfares and bridges with burning tires. Protesters have also lately targeted the state’s economic interests in the south by blocking key ports and roads to oil fields.

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Anti-government protesters in Iraq burn down Iranian consulate: officials

In the oil-rich province of Nassiriya, 16 protesters were killed overnight and 90 wounded by security forces who fired live ammunition to disperse them from a key bridge, security and medical officials said Thursday. Demonstrators had been blocking Nasr Bridge leading to the city center for several days. Security forces moved in late Wednesday to open the main thoroughfare. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

In Basra, security forces were deployed in the city’s main roads to prevent protesters from staging sit-ins, with instructions to arrest demonstrators if they tried to block roads.

Basra’s streets were open as of Thursday morning, but roads leading to the two main Gulf commodities ports in Umm Qasr and Khor al-Zubair remained closed. Schools and official public institutions were also closed.

Protesters had brought traffic in the oil-rich province to a halt for days by burning tires and barricading roads.




© 2019 The Canadian Press







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Mexico’s Strategic Security Problem


This unique national-security focused expert insight can’t be generated for free.  We invite you to support this kind of quality content by becoming a  Cipher Brief Level I Member .  Joining this high-level, security-focused community is only $10/month (for an annual $120/yr membership). It’s a great and inexpensive way to stay ahead of the national and global security issues that impact you the most.

 

 





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Trump national security adviser won’t say if president will sign Hong Kong bill


“If it weren’t for me, Hong Kong would have been obliterated in 14 minutes,” Trump told the hosts of “Fox & Friends.”

And he said he had warned Chinese leader Xi Jinping not to crack down on the protesters, which Beijing describes as rioters and criminals. “He’s got a million soldiers standing outside of Hong Kong that aren’t going in,” Trump said, “only because I asked him, ‘Please don’t do that. You’ll be making a big mistake. It’s going to have a tremendous negative impact on the trade deal.’”

But the president pointedly declined to say whether he’d veto the Hong Kong legislation, which passed the House this week with just one ‘no’ vote. Among other measures, it authorizes sanctions against Chinese officials.

“We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi,” Trump said. “He’s a friend of mine. He’s an incredible guy,” the president continued. “But I’d like to see them work it out, OK? We have to see and work it out. But I stand with Hong Kong. I stand with freedom. I stand with all of the things that we want to do, but we also are in the process of making the largest trade deal in history. And if we could do that, that would be great.”

Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien indicated on Saturday that even he didn’t know which way the president was leaning, though he acknowledged the bill passed with “a pretty significant majority.”

“So I don’t have any information on the signing,” he said, noting that he had been traveling.

“What’s happening in Hong Kong is terrible, and our hearts go out to the people of Hong Kong,” O’Brien said, and that the U.S. was “monitoring the situation closely.”

“At the same time, we have a broad range of issues to deal with the Chinese on,” he added. But he said the U.S. expected the Chinese government to live up to the commitment it made to “one country, two systems” at the time of the handover from British rule.

O’Brien’s comments were made in a news conference with reporters at the Halifax International Security Forum, a gathering of diplomats and military officials from leading democracies.

In a public session afterwards, O’Brien said, “The president may very well sign the bill… but that bill is going to become law, looking at the numbers. … I’d be very surprised if that bill does not become law soon.“

The theme of this year’s forum is the rise of China, and panelists have repeatedly highlighted the growing threat the Beijing government poses to the freedom and security of democracies around the world.

O’Brien’s remarks came hours after Cindy McCain presented an award in the name of her late husband, Sen. John McCain, to “the Hong Kong people.”

In an impassioned speech accepting the prize, Hong Kong lawmaker Emily Lau said she hoped the president would sign the Hong Kong bill and called on attendees to “do your best to ensure that there will be no rivers of blood in Hong Kong.”

Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, warned that a presidential veto of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act “would send a very clear signal to China that at the end of the day he will turn in favor of China, so China can do whatever it wants in Hong Kong.”

Beijing, meanwhile, warned Washington against passing the bill into law. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement: “We urge the U.S. to grasp the situation, stop its wrongdoing before it’s too late, and immediately take measures to prevent this act from becoming law.”

Lau and Figo Chan, a 23-year-old social democrat who coordinated the participation of 50 political parties and activists groups in the current protest movement, told POLITICO they also called for targeted sanctions against Chinese officials over their efforts to weaken checks and balances in Hong Kong and their sometimes violent response to protests.

“I support legislation to punish officials who violate human rights by banning them and freezing their assets,” Lau said, but she acknowledged that Hong Kong may become a pawn in Trump’s trade war with China.

“We are sort of caught right in the middle. We know he changes his mind every day. We were not born yesterday. There are certain things we cannot influence,” Lau said.

While defiant, both Lau and Chan are pessimistic that the democracy movement can succeed in the absence of a more coordinated Western strategy against China’s attempts to roll back democratic checks and balances in the territory.

“We don’t trust China,” Chan said. He expects a wave of “massive imprisonment, arrest and prosecution.”

Hong Kong holds council elections on Sunday, which some have characterized as a referendum on the democracy protests. But Lau warned the international community to keep Sunday’s vote in perspective.

“These councils have no power. You know, they are advisory bodies” only, she said.

Lau — a legislator for 25 years and former Hong Kong Democratic Party chair — says the new generation of protestors still have a lot to prove: “They can’t just suddenly say, oh, I protest three weeks, I’m going to stand for election. If people still vote for them, good luck. But I want people to really do the work and then stand.”

Asked what the U.S. was prepared to do if China launched a bloody crackdown in Hong Kong as it did in Tiananmen in 1989, O’Brien declined to specify on the grounds that it was a “hypothetical question.”

“I’m hoping that doesn’t happen. We’ve already seen too much violence in Hong Kong,” he said. “I hope the violence doesn’t continue, and we hope that we don’t have a Tiananmen Square situation in Hong Kong. That would be a terrible thing.”

“The United States will do its part,” he said.

But citing how some other Western countries seem more interested in dealing with Beijing than in standing up to Chinese leaders, he the real question is, “What is the world prepared to do about China if there’s that sort of crackdown?”

Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, a former Conservative minister and chair of Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee, told the Halifax forum that there are doubts “there would be any price to pay” if the Chinese military rolled into Hong Kong to quell the protests.

“We’re basically more interested in the trade,” Neville-Jones concluded.



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Star City ‘fight’: Security storm cinema after mass brawl ‘at Blue Story film’


Terrified children queuing to see Frozen 2 were shocked when security rushed into the cinema after a mass brawl.

The violence is suspected to have begun during a screening of UK gangster film Blue Story at Star City in Birmingham.

Rachel Allison tweeted: “Just came to see the new Blue Story film, standing in line for snacks when a fight breaks out behind my brother – worst thing is, it’s young girls fighting.

“Police brought batons, tasers and dogs out. Star city now closed.”

One reveller said more than 100 police and 50 vehicles closed down the entertainment complex at about 6pm on Saturday night.

It is thought some 60 to 70 people were involved in a fight at the multiplex venue.

Were you at Star City this evening? Email [email protected]

Police rushed to the scene

One witness told Mirror Online: “That’s probably one of the scariest moments of my life. Me and my sister were in a queue to watch frozen, loads of little kids there, all dressed up and everything, then these girls jumped on another girl and loads of these kids just started fighting.

“Armed police came with Tasers. All the people that were fighting run off into the cinema. There’s about 15 to 20 police cars. I’m shaking.

“The police were very aggressive there was lots of little kids there. My sister is 11 and they was pointing the Tasers in our face.”

Another witness said: “This is the most horrifying thing I’ve been involved in I’m scared and I’m 45 little girls dressed in frozen dresses crying and screaming appalling behaviour all over a gangster film set in London.”

The Vue Cinema in Star City was evacuated

Choleigh Mcguire, who was at the complex, told Mirror Online: “I have never seen police so aggressive. Everyone dressed up. They were all crying.

“It was a group of girls started on this one girl. Someone separated it at first.”

People are reporting that around ‘20 police cars’ dashed to Star City to deal with the suspected riot, which is thought to have broken out around 6pm today.

Mr Khan, manager of Pepe’s Restaurant at Star City told said: “I heard shouting and screaming outside the restaurant. I understand a big fight started in the cinema.

One guest filmed security rushing to try and control the violence

“There were so many people running past the restaurant, I’d say around 60 to 70 were involved.

“The police escorted everyone out.

“We’ve heard that the cinema has had to empty the screens and are not letting anyone else in. I guess people who have bought tickets will get a refund.

Police are yet to comment on the disturbance

“Our restaurant is still open, as is the restaurant next door.”

The police are yet to comment on the disturbance.

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Top news stories from Mirror Online

Police are redirecting people away from the area and it’s having a knock-on effect on motorists on Watson Road and all roads surrounding the entertainment complex.

People are being advised to steer clear of the area and try to find alternative routes.





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