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 impact of Covid-19 is being felt in every household, changing the way we live our lives. The pandemic continues to reinforce the drive for cooperation between communities, governments and businesses in order to combat the threat.

Microsoft responded to the pandemic in its home state through efforts like donating protective equipment, making boxed lunches for families and using technology to better understand the spread of the virus over the last year. Now, we're sharing six ways Microsoft is pulling together with the community to lend a hand to fellow Washingtonians in 2021 including helping with vaccination efforts. To read more, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Europe has been hit by a green wave in recent years. Green parties in countries as varied as Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Finland, and Sweden have made sizable electoral gains, with some now sitting in national governments.

The Green phenomenon seems to be gaining yet more momentum in the lead up to some crucial European elections (Germany, France) in the months ahead. What explains the green shift, and where might this trend be headed?

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Guilty: Eleven months after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died under the knee of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, on a Minneapolis street corner, we finally have a verdict in the murder trial. On Tuesday, a jury found Chauvin guilty of all three charges: second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. The verdict was celebrated by advocates for racial justice and police reform. Last summer, video footage of Floyd suffocating to death as he cried out "I can't breathe" galvanized anti-racism protests across America (some of which turned violent) that went global. We're watching to see if the jury's verdict gives fresh impetus to the nationwide movement for police accountability and broader criminal justice reform, both of which have been met with fierce resistance from law-and-order conservatives and police unions. And we'll also be keeping an eye on the sentence, as Chauvin faces up to 75 years in prison for his crimes.

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120,000: Ukraine warns that Russia will soon have as many as 120,000 troops on its eastern border, a larger presence than when Moscow seized Crimea in 2014. Kyiv wants to join NATO to deter the Russian forces from invading the Donbas region, where about half the population are ethnic Russians.

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During a pandemic, the work of reporters around the world is particularly important to ensure transparency about the scope of outbreaks and the measures that governments are taking to contain them. But in many countries, press freedom has been declining since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Press freedom took a bit hit over the past year, as governments across the world doubled down on censoring media that criticized their handling of the pandemic, and locking up reporters for reporting the facts. Reporters Without Borders today published its annual World Press Freedom Index, which takes a microscope to every country, ranking the ability of its media to report freely and independently. Here's a look at how countries' scores have changed over the past year.

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on World In 60 Seconds (aka Around the World in 180 Seconds) and discusses Xi Jinping's message to the US, Russia's buildup at the Ukraine border, and Cuba's new leader.

What did you make of Xi Jinping's message to the US at China's annual Boao Forum?

Well, he didn't mention the United States directly, but he basically said that we don't accept hegemonic powers, we don't accept people that are setting the rules for other countries. Basically, consistently Xi Jinping saying that the Chinese want to be treated as equals with the United States. They're going to be rule makers for themselves. The Chinese political and economic system, every bit as legitimate as that of the United States. This is going to be a real fight. The American perspective is that the relationship between the two is going to be very competitive, whether it's a happy competition or an unhealthy competition depends on the Chinese. Xi Jinping's perspective is the Americans are not treating the Chinese with due respect. And that's going to play out on security, it's going to play out in climate, on the economy. I mean, you name it.

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One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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The Biden administration's much ballyhooed Earth Day Summit this week promises to be revealing. We're going to learn a little about what additional action a few dozen of the world's largest emitters are willing to take on climate change, and a lot more about which countries are willing to take such action at the behest of the United States.

Call it a situational assessment of the status of American power just shy of Biden's 100th day in office.

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