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Hong Kong’s battle for democracy

As China masses armoured personnel carriers on its border with Hong Kong, the democracy movement, wh..

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As China masses armoured personnel carriers on its border with Hong Kong, the democracy movement, which has rocked the former British colony in the past three weeks, stands at a crossroads. I spoke to two of its activists, who insisted on anonymity, via the encrypted call service Telegram – which is not only a mode of secure communication for them, but one of their primary organising tools.

“The main activity for me is actually the Telegram groups” says Sarah, a female student in her 20s. “People make images, posters, timetables of whats going to happen and they do AirDrops. Its a very interesting use of the technology: on the railway, you just AirDrop images to everybody in the carriage, anonymously”.

Sarah is not one of the frontline fighters in the Hong Kong democracy protest, but operates in a space largely unobserved by Chinas security service: at her computer, servicing the vast network of secure messaging groups through which the young people have organised.

AirDrop, a standard file transfer tool on an iPhone, is used to spread propaganda; Telegram is used to hold impromptu votes; laser pens are deployed to fool the facial recognition technologies that the students believe the state is using.

But the core technology is simply unpredictability. “Thats the beauty of our slogan Be Water,” says Chris, a young man whos been highly active in the movement. “You will never see a certain plan or decision before its triggered – this is what made the protests really hard to clamp down on. If we dont have accurate intel, then the police cant have accurate intel. Most decisions are just made on the spot.”

With Chinese tanks on the border, how scared were they of a military intervention by the Peoples Republic? “I do not fear it – not a bit” says Sarah. “If they did send PLA [People's Liberation Army] then it would lead to international outcry – so we dont believe they will. But its their choice: if they want to destroy the place thats up to them”.

Chris agrees. “To be frank they have cried wolf too many times. Its not the first time we saw people panicking – the first time I heard this rhetoric that the PRC [China] was about to invade was on 1 July, when people stormed the legislature”.

But the activists believe the UK has a crucial role in making sure the crisis is resolved peacefully. Chris says:

"There are two things people in the UK can do. The first is to demand a legal analysis of the UKs role in upholding the Joint Declaration, made at the time of the handover to China in 1997. Boris Johnson needs to morally and legally defend the joint declaration, to state its not a historical document, which is what the Chinese insist. We think the UK is in a unique position of all powers of the world to have a say in the future of HK."

“The other thing is to raise awareness of whats happening – this has now gone past a political or democracy issue, its morphed closer and closer to a humanitarian issue. So we want the UK government to speak out against human rights violations and police brutality”

The police have fired tear gas, beanbag rounds and rubber bullets at protesters, who in turn have thrown bricks and firebombs. I asked whats caused the violence to escalate. Sarah believes that for the protesters its become impossible to back down – because the strategy adopted by Carrie Lam and the pro-China authorities in Hong Kong relies on exactly that.

“I cant stand by and watch the border between Hong Kong and China become blurred. I need definite protection from the actions of Big Brother up there. The promotion of the extradition law makes me feel like we are becoming directly controlled and watched by the Chinese government. If its passed they will be able to use any reason, for example a false criminal charge, to take you back to China and do whatever they want.”

Hong Kongs chief executive has not definitively withdrawn the law, but the protesters say even if she did that, after the escalation in police violence against them, it would not be enough. What started as a protest movement against an extradition bill has since become something more existential, around Hong Kong's identity.

“Pulling the law might have worked a month ago,” says Chris. “But people have since realised the systematic problem. Even if she withdraws the bill the system of Beijing control will be intact – another bill will come up and we will fight all over again – this has morphed into a protest for our own freedom, our own rights, democracy

“This is now both a democratic movement and an awakening of the HK people. As we participate or watch, we discover for ourselves what does it mean to be a Hong Konger– different people reach different conclusions but I do sense an atmosphere of unity under the banner of being a Hong Konger, whatever that means for each person.”

This is bad news for Xi Jinping. Under the Joint Declaration, Hong Kong reverts completely to China in 2047, well within the lifetimes of these young people. Instead of converging Hong Kongs culture with that of Guangdong province, just across the border, the crackdown has exacerbated the differences.

What both protesters want now is universal suffrage: the right to elect a democratic government for the territory free of Chinese interference. And its no longer just the young who are involved.

“The government has incited groups that were originally neutral or even loyal to them, to join the protest,” says Chris.“When you shoot a first aider you are asking for the medics to come out. When you shoot a journalist you are asking for the whole journalist fraternity to come out.”

Sarah describes the effective division of labour during this summer of discontent, between the students and the rest of Hong Kong society.

“Its mainly young people in the streets but there are a lot of professionals who in their own way play their part. For example, in the first aid teams you always see somebody who is way older, you also see lawyers voicing their concerns over civil liberties. You see the hospital staff protest but they cant go to the streets because [of their] jobs, so they assemble in the hospitals. And whenever we call for funds, we achieve it in a few hours – and thats where the rest of civil society is playing its part.”

The political dynamics of the movement reflect divisions which emerged during the 2014 Umbrella Movement. The Hong Kong nationalist current, which is influenced by the right, has criticised the passivity and non-violence of the more left-leaning “pan-democrats” who see the possibility of increased democracy while maintaining the relationship with China.

As the police response escalated, however, the old arguments – summed up in the slogans “courageous battle” versus “intelligent battle” – became less relevant. Even the horizontaliRead More – Source

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Burkina Faso military says it has seized power

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The military in Burkina Faso says it has seized power and overthrown President Roch Kaboré.

The announcement was made on state television by an army officer, who cited the deteriorating security situation for the military takeover.

Mr Kaboré had faced growing discontent over his failure to stem an Islamist insurgency.

His whereabouts are unclear, but the officer said that all those detained were in a secure location.

The coup comes a day after troops seized barracks, and gunshots were heard in the capital, Ouagadougou.

Earlier, the ruling People’s Movement for Progress (PMP) party said that both Mr Kaboré and a government minister had survived an assassination attempt.

On Sunday, mutinying troops demanded the sacking of military chiefs and more resources to fight militants linked to the Islamic State (IS) group and al-Qaeda.

The army statement said Mr Kaboré had failed to unite the nation and to deal effectively with the security crisis which “threatens the very foundations of our nation”.

The statement was issued in the name of a group not heard of previously, the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration or MPSR, its French acronym.

Although read out by another officer, the statement was signed by Lt-Col Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who is believed to be the coup leader and a senior commander with years of experience fighting the Islamist militants.

The statement said that parliament and the government had been dissolved, and the constitution suspended, but promised a “return to constitutional order” within a “reasonable time”.

The military also announced the closure of Burkina Faso’s borders.

UN chief António Guterres condemned the coup and called on the military to “ensure the protection and the physical integrity” of Mr Kaboré.

The African Union and regional bloc, Ecowas, have also condemned the forceful takeover of power, with Ecowas saying it holds the soldiers responsible for the deposed president’s well-being.

Earlier, the news of his detention was received with cheers and celebrations in Ouagadougou, reports the BBC’s senior Africa correspondent Anne Soy.

Earlier video footage from the capital appeared to show armoured vehicles – reportedly used by the presidency – peppered with bullet holes and abandoned in the street.

Mobile internet services have been disrupted, though fixed-line internet and domestic wi-fi are working.

Mr Kaboré has not been seen in public since the crisis began, but two posts appeared on his Twitter account before the officer announced he had been toppled.

The later one called on those who had taken up arms to lay them down “in the higher interest of the nation”. Earlier, Mr Kaboré congratulated the national football team on their win in an Africa Cup of Nations match.

It is unclear who posted the tweets.

Some security sources say the president and other government ministers are being held at the Sangoulé Lamizana barracks in the capital.

On Sunday, hundreds of people came out in support of the soldiers and some of them set fire to the ruling party’s headquarters.

The coup comes a week after 11 soldiers were arrested for allegedly plotting to overthrow Mr Kaboré.

But discontent has been growing in Burkina Faso over the government’s failure to defeat an Islamist insurgency in the country since 2015.

That escalated in November, when 53 people, mainly members of the security forces, were killed by suspected jihadists. And on Saturday, a banned rally to protest against the government’s perceived failure led to dozens of arrests.

Mutinying soldiers made several demands, including: the removal of the army’s chief of staff and the head of the intelligence service; more troops to be deployed to the front line; and better conditions for the wounded and soldiers’ families.

Similar troubles in neighbouring Mali led to a military coup in May 2021 – one that was broadly welcomed by the public.

Burkina Faso is now the third West African country to witness a military takeover in recent years. Guinea and Mali have had sanctions imposed on them by Ecowas to press them to return to constitutional order.

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India Covid: Booster shots start for priority groups as cases surge

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India has begun giving booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to priority groups amid a surge in infections.

Health and frontline workers and people above 60 years old with comorbidities are currently eligible to take the jab.

The drive began as India battles a spike in Covid cases fuelled by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Early studies from other countries have suggested that a booster vaccine may provide more protection against Omicron.

The highly transmissive Omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa in November.

Since then, several countries have expanded their booster programmes or shortened the gap between jabs to shore up protection against the variant.

In India, the booster shot – dubbed a “precaution dose” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi – will be the same vaccine that was given to a person for their first and second doses.

India has been mainly administering two locally-manufactured vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, since its vaccination drive began in January 2021.

On Sunday, India reported more than 179,000 new infections for the past 24 hours, driven by a steep rise in cases in big cities such as the national capital Delhi and financial centre Mumbai.

On the same day, Mr Modi chaired a review meeting with top officials, and asked for “technical support” to be provided to states reporting more cases.

The government had begun administering vaccines to 15-18-year-olds last week – it has said that 31% of Indians in this age group have been given the first dose so far.

More than 91% adults have been partially vaccinated so far, while 66% have received both doses.

But experts say that still leaves millions of unvaccinated people – many with underlying health problems that could increase the severity of the infection – at risk.

The spread of Omicron has also increased worries – India has confirmed a total of 4,003 cases of Omicron, with Maharashtra state reporting the highest (1,126), followed by Rajasthan (529) and Delhi (513).

The country has so far recorded more than 35 million Covid cases and about 483,000 deaths from the virus.

Last year, a devastating second wave overwhelmed the country’s health system, leading to a shortage in oxygen, hospital beds and critical drugs.

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Emily in Paris Fans Think Kim Cattrall Will Make an Appearance in Season 3

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instyle– Fans are speculating a major pop-culture crossover in season 3 of Emily in Paris. After Kim Cattrall infamously turned down the chance to revive her Sex and the City character, Samantha Jones, for the rebootfans couldn’t help but wonder if Jones could make an appearance in the next season of the cult-favorite Netflix show.

If you’re watching And Just Like That … (and even if you’re not), you know that Cattrall’s character is supposedly off working her public relationships magic in London, England, just a quick trip from Emily (Lily Collins) and her booming marketing firm, Savoir.

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Emily in Paris Season 2

Fans noticed major parallels between the characters, from their location to their sex positivity to their career in communications. Plus, both series were created by big-time Hollywood producer Darren Star — with SATC costume designer Patricia Field now responsible for Emily’s kitschy, Parisian looks — making a collab that much more believable.

One Twitter user wrote, “Current theory: Samantha has supposedly moved overseas, hence her lack of presence in the new SATC TV series. Then she shows up by total surprise in a crossover episode of EMILY IN PARIS. I would watch Samantha try to tolerate Emily, 100 percent.”

Collins fueled the flames by teasing a possible season 3. The actress posted photographs from her Vogue Hong Kong cover featuring a jet-black shag haircut and dark makeup writing, “Season 3 pivot?? Who’s with me? …” Collins used the same caption when reposting a fan’s Tweet with the magazine images that read, “Emily in Berlin.”

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