Weekly Global Newscast | June 10 - June 16, 2019


Hong Kong Protests Continue as the Protestors Reject Leader’s Apology on the Controversial Extradition Bill

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam is facing massive protests for the consecutive second week accounting to an effort to pass a controversial extradition law. Lam later extended an apology and shelved the law which was rejected by the protestors demanding her resignation.


“Hong Kong’s amended extradition law would allow the extradition of suspects to mainland China for the first time. Supporters say the amendments are key to ensuring the city does not become a criminal refuge, but critics worry Beijing will use the law to extradite political opponents and others to China where their legal protections cannot be guaranteed.

The government claims the push to change the law, which would also apply to Taiwan and Macau, stems from the killing last year of a Hong Kong woman while she was in Taiwan with her boyfriend. Authorities in Taiwan suspect the woman’s boyfriend, who remains in Hong Kong, but cannot try him because no extradition agreement is in place.

Under the amended law, those accused of offences punishable by seven years or more in prison could be extradited. The new legislation would give Hong Kong’s leader, known as the chief executive, authority to approve extradition requests, after review by the courts. Hong Kong’s legislature, the legislative council, would not have any oversight over the extradition process”. Lily Kuo and Verna Yu reported for The Guardian.

“Hong Kong’s embattled leader has apologised to the public with “utmost sincerity and humility” after massive protests demanding she step down over her administration’s handling of a bill allowing people to be extradited to mainland China.

Organisers said almost two million turned out on Sunday to demand the bill’s full withdrawal, as well as to mark their anger at the way police handled a demonstration against it on Wednesday.

The estimate has not been independently verified but if confirmed it would be the largest demonstration in Hong Kong’s history. Police said 338,000 were counted on the designated protest route in the “peak period” of the march”. Euan McKirdy reported for Al Jazeera.

“The Chief Executive admitted that inadequacies of the government’s job has caused major contradictions and arguments in Hong Kong society, making many citizens feeling disappointed and upset,” the government said. “The Chief Executive apologizes to Hong Kong citizens for this, and promises that she will take on criticisms in the most sincere and humble way, striving to improve and serve the general public.”

“At this juncture, Mrs. Lam is no closer to passing her unpopular legislation, which she had pushed since February as necessary to address a murder case that could only be tried in Taiwan. Critics see it as a Trojan horse that would allow Beijing to target activists, journalists and others in Hong Kong with dubious charges.

And she is now facing an expanding list of demands from the protesters, who were outraged by the harsh police response last Wednesday when some marchers tried to storm a government building, with a few throwing bricks and other projectiles at officers in riot gear. The police pushed back, hitting the protesters with batons, rubber bullets, pepper spray and more than 150 canisters of tear gas”. Keith Bradsher and Daniel Victor reported for The New York Times.

Middle East & North Africa

Gulf and USA Point Fingers Towards Iran Post Attacks on Oil Tankers in the Gulf of Oman

Two tankers were struck by explosions on Thursday, the second attack in a month in the strategic shipping lane amid a tense United States-Iran standoff, prompting fears of a regional conflagration and sending oil prices soaring.


“Thursday’s attack on the two tankers – Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous that was carrying highly flammable methanol when it was rocked by explosions and the Norwegian-operated Front Altair – came around the time Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting Iranian leaders in Tehran. US President Donald Trump has said the twin attacks had Iran “written all over it”, rejecting Tehran’s vehement denial. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the US had “immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran without a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence”.

Iran has repeatedly warned in the past that it could block the strategic Hormuz Strait in a relatively low-tech, high-impact countermeasure to any attack by the US. Doing so would disrupt oil tankers travelling out of the Gulf region to the Indian Ocean and global export routes.  The UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah, whose country is bitterly opposed to Iranian influence in the region, called for a de-escalation of tensions. “We remain hopeful in attaining a broader framework for cooperation with Iran,” he said at a summit in Bulgaria.” Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.

“Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) said in remarks published Sunday that the kingdom will not hesitate to confront threats to its security, following attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that have raised fears of a broader confrontation in the region. In an interview with the Arabic-language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Prince Mohammed accused Iran of being behind the latest tanker attacks. He said Iran disrespected the visit to Tehran by the Japanese prime minister last week and responded to his diplomatic efforts to reduce regional tensions by attacking two tankers, one of which was Japanese. His comments came just days after the U.S. blamed Iran for suspected attacks on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, denouncing what it called a campaign of “escalating tensions” in a region crucial to global energy supplies. The U.S. alleges Iran used limpet mines to target the tankers, pointing to black-and-white footage it captured that American officials describe as Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops removing an unexploded mine from the Japanese-operated tanker, Kokuka Courageous.

The U.S. accusations come as the Trump administration has reimposed punishing economic sanctions on Tehran once lifted by the 2015 nuclear deal, targeting Iranian oil exports among other key sectors. In recent weeks, the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier strike group and other military assets to the region aimed at Iranian deterrence.

Iran has rejected the U.S. claim that it was responsible for Thursday’s attacks, saying it stands ready to play an active and constructive role in ensuring the security of strategic maritime passages. Iran has also been accused of being behind the May 12 attacks on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Two of those vessels belonged to Saudi Arabia”. Reported Daily Sabah.

Sub Saharan Africa

WHO Decides Not to Declare Global Ebola Emergency as the Virus Crosses Porous Borders

The Ebola outbreak in Democratic republic of Kongo that has scores of people over the course of a year has spread its claws to the adjacent Uganda while Tanzania fears a spread of the disease.


“The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) does not qualify as an international threat, even though cases have been confirmed in neighbouring Uganda.

“It was the view of the committee that the outbreak is a health emergency in DRC and the region, but does not meet the criteria for a public health emergency of international concern,” the United Nations health agency’s expert committee said in a statement on Friday after an emergency meeting.

Despite the outcome of the deliberations, “this outbreak is very much an emergency,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a Geneva press conference via telephone from the DRC”. Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera..

“Tanzania’s health minister issued an Ebola ‘alert’ Sunday after the disease, which has killed over 1,400 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), appeared in their shared neighbour, Uganda.

“I want to alert the public that there is the threat of an Ebola epidemic in our country,” Ummy Mwalimu tweeted days after officials confirmed that members of a family who had travelled to the DRC had died in western Uganda. The minister said the alert was necessary given the frequent interactions between Tanzanian and Ugandan people “via the official borders or by other, unofficial channels.” The current outbreak in the DRC is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014-2016, killing more than 11,300 people.

On Friday, the World Health Organisation said the outbreak does not yet warrant being declared a “public health emergency of international concern”, meaning it would require a “coordinated international response”. The UN body declares public health emergencies when a disease outbreak in a country risks spreading beyond its borders. Two members of a Ugandan family, a woman and her five-year-old grandson died of Ebola this week after travelling to the DRC to take care of a dying family member and attend the funeral. The boy’s brother, aged three, is also infected, and several family members are in isolation. To date, no locally-acquired Ebola cases have been reported in Uganda”. Associated Press reported for Sunday Times.


UK Court Sets Assange U.S. Extradition Hearing For February 2020

The Wiki leaks founder Julian Assange accused of spying and currently under arrest in Britain after his seven years’ asylum in Ecuadorian embassy in London.


“Julian Assange is set to face an extradition hearing in a London court on Friday after Britain’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid revealed he has given the legal green light for proceedings to go ahead. The WikiLeaks founder faces charges of computer hacking in the United States after his whistleblowing website published, among other revelations, leaked videos of US troops opening fire on civilians in Iraq. Javid on Thursday said that Assange was “rightly behind bars”. “I want to see justice done at all times and we’ve got a legitimate extradition request, so I’ve signed it, but the final decision is now with the courts,” he told the BBC broadcaster”. Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.

“The full extradition hearing to decide whether Wikileaks founder Julian Assange should be sent to the United States to face accusations including spying charges will take place in February next year, a London court ruled on Friday. Australian-born Assange came to prominence when WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010, angering Washington which said he had put lives at risk.

His supporters hail him as a hero for exposing what they describe as abuse of power by modern states and for championing free speech. He spent almost seven years holed up in cramped rooms at the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he fled in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was wanted for questioning over allegations of rape. He was dragged from the embassy on April 11 and jailed for 50 weeks for skipping bail. The United States has since charged Assange with numerous offences including espionage, saying he unlawfully published the names of secret sources and conspiring with ex-Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to obtain access to classified information. Brandon said Assange’s actions had been dangerous and “by publishing the unredacted material Mr Assange created grave and imminent risk that many intelligence sources, including journalists, human rights defenders and political activists would suffer serious physical harm or arbitrary detention.” However, Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers said the charges were an “outrageous and full fronted assault on journalist rights and free speech” and that his client did not have access to a computer to allow him to follow the case”. Andrew MacAskill reported for Reuters.


Guatemalans Vote Amid Uncertainties

Guatemalans vote in Presidential elections amid a ban on five contestants, two of them being the top contenders.


“Guatemalans began voting on Sunday morning in the country’s general election amid concerns of irregularities in recent days. Nineteen candidates are in the race for president. Five others were barred from running during a chaotic campaign period. Voters are also electing all 160 legislators and hundreds of local officials. National Unity of Hope party centrist candidate Sandra Torres leads the crowded field for president. A businesswoman and former first lady, she has focused her campaign on public investment and social programs”. Sandra Cuffe and Jeff Abbott reported for Al Jazeera.

“Preliminary results from the electoral tribunal gave former first lady Torres 24.20% of the vote, followed by conservative Alejandro Eduardo Giammattei with 15.20%, based on returns from 29% of polling stations. Nineteen candidates took part in the election that is all but certain to be decided in a second round of voting between the top two contenders on Aug. 11. The next president will face the daunting challenge of curbing drug gang violence that has ravaged the country and helped spur illegal immigration to the United States, stoking tensions with President Donald Trump”. Adriana Barrera and Sofia Menchu reported for Reuters.

“Four years after large-scale anti-corruption protests forced then-President Otto Pérez Molina to resign, many Guatemalans feel not enough has been done by the government of Jimmy Morales to combat corruption. Mr Morales caused outrage when he tried to kick the UN-backed anti-corruption commission out of Guatemala when it investigated him over alleged corruption. The most vocal supporter for the commission, known as CICIG by its Spanish initials, has been Thelma Aldana, who as Guatemala’s attorney general has worked closely with it. Before she was barred, she said she would strengthen CICIG and make government more efficient and transparent. Mr Arzú, on the other hand, has been openly critical of the CICIG, accusing it of “violating national sovereignty”, and Mr Giammattei said he was opposed to the commission because “justice must be from Guatemalans, for Guatemalans, by Guatemalans”.” Associated Press reported for BBC.


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