What We're Watching: Hong Kong's end, the Belgian King's "apology," a small swatch of justice for the Rohingya

What We're Watching: Hong Kong's end, the Belgian King's "apology," a small swatch of justice for the Rohingya

Hong Kong's end? Last month we mulled the question: is Hong Kong as we know it over? As of yesterday, the answer is: yes. China has now implemented a new national security law for the city, which criminalizes secession and collusion with foreign forces. The law in effect ends the autonomy granted (by international agreement) to Hong Kong when it reverted from British control to Chinese rule in 1997. Critics fear it will be used to stamp out the remnants of the pro-democracy protests that erupted last year in response to a separate attempt by Beijing to expand its writ over the city. We're watching to see what the city's fearless but increasingly encircled protesters do now. And we're also eyeing the reaction from abroad. Washington has begun rescinding Hong Kong's special trade and investment privileges, and will now treat the city the way it treats the rest of China. The move is meant to punish Beijing, but unlike twenty years ago when Hong Kong accounted for a fifth of China's economy, today it's less than four percent. Those who suffer most may be Hong Kongers themselves.


Belgium reckons with racial injustice: Recent protests in the United States have caused countries around the world to take a hard look at racial injustice within their own societies. In Belgium, following anti-racism protests in the capital, King Philippe sent a letter on Tuesday to the Democratic Republic of the Congo acknowledging atrocities committed during Belgium's half century colonial rule there. The letter, sent to Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi on the 60th anniversary of his country's independence, acknowledged Belgium's brutal legacy in the country formerly known as Congo Free State, which has contributed to the country's post-independence conflict and economic stagnation. Belgium's government also pledged to establish a parliamentary commission to scrutinize its colonial past. However, some critics say that the gesture is merely symbolic because the King is not a member of Belgium's government and holds no real power over the country's foreign relations. They also note that it stopped short of issuing a formal apology for crimes committed.

A small step towards justice for the Rohingya: Despite evidence showing that Myanmar's military committed atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority in 2017 that caused some 750,000 refugees to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, no one from Myanmar's army has been held accountable for their brutal crimes — until now. In a rare move, a local court martial found three military officers guilty of genocide against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine state, the army announced Tuesday. Both the country's powerful military as well as Aung San Suu Kyi, the now-disgraced Nobel peace prize winner and de facto head of government, have long denied allegations of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingyas. However, after Myanmar faced charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice late last year, the country's leadership flippantly acknowledged "weakness in following instructions" in Rohingya enclaves and set up courts martial to investigate the alleged abuses. However, no details have since been provided on the three perpetrators or their sentences, raising fears that this has been a sham trial and that the officers will continue to evade justice.

Each month, Microsoft receives about 6,500 complaints from people who've been victims of tech support scams. But it's not just Microsoft's brand that the scammers leverage; fraudsters have pretended to be from a number of other reputable tech companies and service providers. These scams will remain an industry-wide challenge until sufficient people are educated about how they work and how to avoid them.

To measure the scope of this problem globally, Microsoft commissioned YouGov for a new 2021 survey across 16 countries. Results from the 2021 survey reveal that, globally, fewer consumers have been exposed to tech support scams as compared to the 2018 survey. However, those people who continued with the interaction were more likely to have lost money to the scammers than we saw in our previous survey. To read the highlights of the survey, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

Some close observers of Iranian society and politics say that popular discontent there is now more widespread than it has been in years, making the Iranian regime more vulnerable than ever.

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Was the world so focused on climate change that warning signs about the COVID-19 pandemic were missed? Historian and author Niall Ferguson argues that, while the climate crisis poses a long-term threat to humanity, other potential catastrophes are much more dangerous in the near future. "We took our eye off that ball," Ferguson says about COVID, "despite numerous warnings, because global climate change has become the issue that Greta Thunberg said, would bring the end of the world. But the point I'm making in DOOM [his new book] is that we can end the world and a lot of other ways, much faster." Ferguson spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview for GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

As COVID-19 cases rise, are vaccine mandates coming?

Oh, you just want to get me in more trouble. Yeah, some mandates are coming, but they're not national mandates in the United States. In some cases, you're looking at federal and state employees, in some cases you're looking at lots of individual corporations, universities, and such. I mean I've already been to a number of events where vaccines have been mandated in New York. You've got this Excelsior Pass if you want to go to the Brooklyn Nets games, as I certainly do. You show it off and that gets you in with your vaccine. So I think it's really going to be a decentralized process. But clearly, given Delta variant and the number of people that are getting sick and dying because they're not vaccinated, you're going to see moves towards more mandates, as a consequence.

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Castillo takes over in Peru: After almost two months of protests, baseless allegations of fraud from his rival in the runoff election, and even rumblings of a coup, Pedro Castillo will be sworn in as president of Peru on Wednesday. A former rural school-teacher famous for riding on horseback, wearing a cowboy hat and waving a giant pencil to show how much he cares about education, Castillo has big plans to achieve big change. But he won by just a razor-thin margin in a deeply divided country, and Peru's dysfunctional political system will likely hobble his attempts to get major legislation passed. Moreover, despite having moderated his positions, half of the country still sees him as a communist who might turn Peru into another Venezuela. Castillo's most immediate task is dealing with the twin crises of a deadly pandemic and a COVID-fueled economic crisis that has hit poor Peruvians — his base — the hardest.

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13: The two Koreas have restored their communication hotline almost 13 months after Pyongyang abruptly cut it in response to Seoul not doing enough to prevent North Korean defectors from sending propaganda leaflets across the shared border. The hotline was established in 2018 following a historic meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky facts about the Games that have many people on edge.

Today — what's the smallest country (by population) to win a gold medal in a summer Olympics?

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