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What We’re Watching: A Dangerous Escalation in Hong Kong

What We’re Watching: A Dangerous Escalation in Hong Kong

Bullets in Hong Kong — For the first time since Hong Kong's democracy protests began 4 months ago, a participant in the demonstrations has been shot with live ammunition. The severity of clashes between lightly armed protesters and the police has grown in recent months, but violence spiked sharply yesterday as tens of thousands of protesters marched in a "Day of Grief" meant to contrast with Beijing's lavish observance of the 70th anniversary of communist China's founding. Until now, the authorities in Hong Kong have used water cannons, truncheons, and tear gas rather than bullets, as the government weighed the risks of cracking down more forcefully. Now that lethal force has been used, we are watching to see if all sides step back from the brink, or dive over the edge into a much more serious confrontation. Can't lie: we're worried.


Who's running Peru? After Peruvian president Martin Vizcarra dissolved Congress yesterday in a last ditch bid to hold fresh elections, lawmakers refused to leave the building and instead appointed Vice President Mercedes Araoz as acting head of state. Vizcarra, who took office in 2018 when his predecessor resigned amid a sprawling graft scandal, has won popular support by tackling corruption. But his opponents, who control Congress, have blocked some of his anti-graft measures and resisted calls for fresh elections. Perhaps it's only a coincidence that the opposition leader is in jail facing corruption allegations of her own. The legality of Vizcarra's move -- which his opponents say is a coup that brings back bad memories of Peru's dictatorship -- will be settled by the courts. But Peru, one of South America's fastest growing economies, now has a more immediate problem: who runs the place? Vizcarra has the loyalty of the armed forces, but the standoff with Congress is unresolved and protesters are in the streets.

Boris Johnson's disappearing runway — The UK prime minister is preparing to unveil the country's latest formal proposal for a new Brexit deal on Wednesday, and it doesn't look promising. A leaked UK proposal for customs checks located away from the physical border between Ireland and Northern Ireland was promptly slapped down by leading Irish politicians as a "non-starter" after details emerged late on Monday. Johnson says the critics haven't got his plan quite right, but with time running out ahead of the 31 October deadline to leave the EU, there aren't many more opportunities left to find a solution that can a) deliver the Brexit Boris has promised, b) satisfy the EU and c) get through a skeptical Parliament. We may have a much clearer idea by the end of this week whether a deal is possible or whether the Brexit plane is careening off the end of the tarmac with "no deal".

What We're Ignoring

Uganda's fashion police Ugandan civilians who sport a red beret are now risking life imprisonment, according to a new law that designates the hats as military-use only. It just so happens that the red beret is also the sartorial signature of pop star turned political hopeful Bobi Wine and those who support his bid to oust long-serving president Yoweri Museveni in 2021 elections. (Read Willis' profile of Wine here.) We are ignoring this one because Wine and his supporters are already doing the same. No word yet from French Marxists or 1980s New York vigilante icon Curtis Sliwa though...

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, stretching for more than 2,000 miles, is home to the world's highest mountains. The mountain range is also home to the world's third-largest concentration of snow and ice, earning it the moniker the third pole; only the North and South Poles contain more. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalayas are the main source of fresh water for around two billion people living in the region. However, by the end of this century, two-thirds of that snow and ice could be lost because of climate change. A network of data scientists and environmentalists around the world, and on the ground in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, are working to understand the extent of glacial melting in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, its effects and what can be done to minimize its impact. To read more visit Microsoft on the Issues.

When Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday — plunging the country into chaos as it faces once-in-a-generation public health and economic crises — he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the prime ministership in three decades. (For contrast, Germany has only had three chancellors since 1982, and France has had five presidents.)

But Conte, who had no previous political experience until he was tapped for the top job in 2018, is not so much throwing in the towel as he is taking a massive gamble that President Sergio Mattarella will again appoint him to head Conte's third coalition government in less than three years.

The recent dysfunction is unique even within the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might come next?

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The Democrats shocked the country by eking out a 50-50 majority in the US Senate earlier this month, securing control of the House, Senate and Executive. But do they have enough power to impose the kinds of restrictions to Big Tech that many believe are sorely needed? Renowned tech columnist Kara Swisher is not so sure. But there is one easy legislative win they could pursue early on. "I think it's very important to have privacy legislation, which we currently do not have: a 'national privacy bill.' Every other country does." Swisher's wide-ranging conversation with Ian Bremmer was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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