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.

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Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. To understand what that means for the country's politics and public health policy, GZERO sat down with Christopher Garman, top Brazil expert at our parent company, Eurasia Group. The exchange has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.

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The Trump administration sent shockwaves through universities this week when it announced that international students in the US could be forced to return to their home countries if courses are not held in classrooms this fall. Around 1 million foreign students are now in limbo as they wait for institutions to formalize plans for the upcoming semester. But it's not only foreign students themselves who stand to lose out: International students infuse cash into American universities and contributed around $41 billion to the US economy in the 2018-19 academic year. So, where do most of these foreign students come from? We take a look here.

For years, the Philippines has struggled with domestic terrorism. Last Friday, Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a sweeping new anti-terror bill that has the opposition on edge, as the tough-talking president gears up to make broader constitutional changes. Here's a look at what the law does, and what it means for the country less than two years away from the next presidential election.

The legislation grants authorities broad powers to prosecute domestic terrorism, including arrests without a warrant and up to 24 days detention without charges. It also carries harsh penalties for those convicted of terror-related offenses, with a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. Simply threatening to commit an act of terror on social media can now be punished with 12 years behind bars.

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16,000: Amid a deepening economic crisis in Lebanon that has wiped out people's savings and cratered the value of the currency, more than 16,000 people have joined a new Facebook group that enables people to secure staple goods and food through barter.

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