June 2019

Jun 2 ... Early June brings the 30th anniversary of the crackdown against the Tianamen protests, described by the NY Times. Reader comments were with the protests almost 100 percent with no sympathy for the position of the Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping and colleagues who decided on the crackdown. The protesters wanted a greater freedom that would have ended one-party rule. One-party ruled survived. The political chaos that Deng feared did not. The quest for stability has been cited as Deng's motive. Deng himself had been a victim of the Cultural Revolution and wasn't in a mood to tolerate youthful mob emotionalism. He saw himself as a pragmatist. And now, thirty years later, China's citizens are being described as telling foreign reporters that they know nothing about the crackdown because they see no value in looking back. There are dissidents for sure, but there are the many who support with some emotion China's economic advances and its one-party state. (Read an independent point-of-view by the scholar Louisa Lim, NY Times: "After Tiananmen, China Conquers History Itself". Here is another worth considering, by Nicholas Kristof.)

Jun 3 ... In April in Sudan, pro-democracy protests with women at the forefront were followed by a "Transitional Military Council" overthrowing the Islamist president-dictator Omar al-Bashir. The Military Council spoke of its intention to install a transitional civilian government which would prepare for post-Bashir elections in three years. Pro-democracy protesters were impatient and distrustful, and for weeks they camped out in front of army headquarters to pressure the generals to yield power. A week ago Sudanese workers began a national strike, cutting air and bus travel. There were counter-protests by crowds chanting religious slogans, against secularism and for rule that was "one hundred percent military." Today the military cleared away the pro-democracy demonstrators, firing live ammunition in the streets and inside the East Nile Hospital in Khartoum. Al Jazeera calls it a bloody massacre and reports that at least 35 have been killed. The UN complains. The Military Council moves against Al Jazeera journalists.

Jun 4 ... The 143rd mass shooting incident this year was at Virginia Beach, Virginia, May 31, at a public works building. DeWayne Craddock, a civil engineer, murdered 12 of his fellow workers and injured 4 — another instance of targeting whomever using a firearm as an expression of malaise if not insanity. Craddock didn't explain his motive. He used a 45 caliber pistol with a silencer. Virginia's Democrat governor, Ralph Northam, says "We must do more than give our thoughts and prayers," and today he has called for a special session of the General Assembly to take up a package of gun control bills. Virginia's legislative assembly has a Republican majority and recently voted against a bill banning high capacity ammo magazines used for more shooting without reloading. Now there appears to be at least a little bending by some Republican legislators while Democrats are looking forward to coming elections and changing the assembly's balance of power.

Jun 5 ... Rain and flooding in the US are damaging food and feed production. Record rains in the continental United States has people talking about extreme weather and the higher prices that will follow. Comments on hardship for farmers include criticism of President Trump and his negative attitude toward climate science. Trump's popularity in farming areas appears jeopardized, but today his nationwide approval-disapproval rating appears little changed, averaging among various polls at 43-53 percent.

Jun 6 ... Xi Jinping is in Moscow on a three-day visit. He has described Putin as his "best and bosom friend". The two are posturing as champions of free trade and opponents of protectionism. And, according to the Financial Times, the two will denounce international 'hegemonic dominance" by the US. Russia is courting Chinese investment, and Russian media reports that about 1,000 Chinese businessmen have accompanied Xi Jinping. He and Putin have signed an agreement to move away from the US dollar in trade and to allow Chinese telecom giant Huawei to develop a 5G network in Russia. The Kremlin appears unbothered by China’s move into Central Asia where China is extending its Belt-and-Road Initiative infrastructure project.

Jun 8 ... Putin's thugs strike again. A Russian investigative journalist, Ivan Golunov, working for the Latvia based news site Meduza, is reported as having been injured during his arrest this last Thursday. Golunov was put in a hospital complaining that he was feeling ill. His lawyer complains that drugs were planted on him — denied of course by the Russian authorities. According to the BBC, Meduza says Golunov is "being persecuted because of his journalistic activity".

Jun 10 ... In Russia, much of the media is controlled by the state. The headlines of three business dailies have announced support for the young journalist Golunov, saying "We are Golunov." The papers are questioning the legality of Golunov's arrest. "Even prominent pro-Kremlin broadcasters have been critical of the case," writes the BBC. Anchor Irada Zeynalova of pro-Kremlin channel NTV said: "Journalists are not angels, but neither are police… If there were no drugs on him (Golunov), those who created this crazy situation must be punished." The BBC adds: "The one lever that the punitive machine constructed under President Vladimir Putin lacks is a reverse gear. In Russia, most cases go to court and end in a guilty verdict."

Jun 12 ... The Russian government has dropped all charges against the journalist Godunov. And according to the NY Times, the Interior Minister has asked President Putin to fire two police generals. On June 20, Putin has his annual national call-in show, and it has been suggested or claimed that he wants to avoid what might have been embarrassing questions. Godunov's employer, the Latvia-based Meduza news service, praised "an unprecedented international campaign of journalistic and civic solidarity" and said, "Together we all did the incredible: we stopped the criminal prosecution of an innocent person. Thank you!"

Jun 13 ... Hong Kong in 1997 transferred from British to rule by the People's Republic of China (PRC) with Hong Kong and China to be one country with different legal systems (and the PRC responsible for foreign affairs and defense). No extradition agreement was created for the two different legal systems. In 2018 a Hong Kong resident murdered his pregnant Hong Kong girlfriend when they were vacationing in Taiwan. Hong Kong courts didn't have jurisdiction for ordinary cases that happened in other places, and Hong Kong's Chief Executive (its fourth since 1997), Carrie Lam, proposed an extradition agreement for the case-by-case transfers of fugitives. Hong Kong's legislators, many of them pro-PRC, gave Lam enough votes to pass it. An abundance of people in Hong Kong are hostile to the PRC's one-party state, and there was concern among them that the PRC would use the extradition agreement to grab dissidents. On June 9th a record high of 1.03 million protesters marched in the streets against the extradition bill and called for Carrie Lam to step down. On the 12th, the Hong Kong police used tear gas, pepper spray and batons against protesters who attempted to storm Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. (((Joseph Wang, who lives in Hong Kong, replies on Quora.com to the question about Xi Jinping and the issue here.)))

Jun 15 ... Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, said to be yielding to protests, announces a temporary withdrawal of legislation that allows extraditions to mainland China. Beijing is described as in accord with Lam. Lam expresses “sorrow and regret” for having failed to convince the public that an extradition bill was needed. The US Consulate in Hong Kong takes sides and welcomes the suspension, and Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, applauds Hong Kong officials for “heeding concerns of the brave citizens who have stood up for their human rights.” Meanwhile, activists don't accept the temporary nature of the withdrawal or express interest in a legal remedy regarding extraditions, and they vow another demonstration for tomorrow.

Jun 16 ... A headline reads: "French Protesters Hang Up Their Yellow Vests." Those who burned cars and smashed windows turned off some. President Macron withdrew the fuel tax that would have hit blue-collar people in non-urban areas the hardest. The rightist and leftist parts of the movement failed to coalesce, and it failed in electoral politics, its candidates receiving less the 1 percent of the vote. Someone writes that political movements need more than outrage. Meanwhile, France has an 8.8 percent unemployment rate, including 20.8 percent among youth, among the worst in the West.

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Copyright © 2019 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.