21ST CENTURY CHINA: GROWING POWER OF THE GROWLING DRAGON - The Daily Guardian
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21ST CENTURY CHINA: GROWING POWER OF THE GROWLING DRAGON

Vinai Saxena

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President Xi Jinping’s China is displaying superpower ambitions. China is determined to secure that position – beg, borrow, steal, coerce or kill. And one very clever and completely conceited programme is establishing China Standards 2035. In a world of high technology, every newer invention or application needs to be set into an international standard, with which the manufacturing of components and processes need to be matched. This area is still emerging and China is dominating every activity of developing a global standard. The Chinese vision is to establish around the world ‘China Standards 2035’, thereby the entire production process of technology applications will be governed by Chinese dictats. And the patents and intellectual rights will be garnered and state-owned by China, thereby controlling the world of technology on the planet to the last inch.  

CHINESE FOOTPRINTS IN UN AND INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY 

China’s membership at the five-member Security Council is a historic fortune that China has used extremely well. Not just that, through CIDCO, hegemonistic power display, behind curtain diplomacy and gradual occupation of almost every trade, technology, the economic and political arena in the world, China has commanded enough influence already to polarise global diplomacy towards its gain. It has taken over several international organisations, including the prize catch of the United Nations. When China curtailed political freedoms in Hong Kong last year, two rival declarations circulated at the UN Human Rights Council. One, drafted by Cuba and commending Beijing’s move, won the backing of 53 nations. Another, issued by the U.K. expressing concern, secured just 27 supporters. That demonstrated Chinese power at the UN. Last summer, China won a seat on UN Human Rights Panel with help from countries it has supported. In the thick of the Pandemic last year, Trump’s USA left WHO. That became a strategic gift in disguise to China and it filled the vacuum created at WHO. US left UNESCO on the issue of Palestine and China rushed to fill in the gap created. Out of 15 specialised UN agencies, China already leads four including International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). After taking over the leadership of ITU, China patronised the fight of Huawei Technologies with the USA and has now pushed forward a case for establishing a new internet protocol that allows more surveillance and censorship. No other nation in the world heads more than one UN agency, while China heads four. With its growing power and grip over nations, China has risen to a power pedestal of warning nations to tow its line. Recently, it threatened Bangladesh with dire consequences if it joined the Quad consisting of the USA, Japan, Australia and India.  

CHINA TAKES OVER MINES ACROSS THE WORLD

One of the major resources on which the human race subsists and sustains is mineral wealth. Mineral deposits are a strategic instrument of trade and development. By the end of 2018, China had already taken over vital mines in over 36 countries of the world for all kinds of mineral extraction including gold, uranium and lithium, which are strategic in commerce, military power and technology. China invests anywhere between 15 to 25 billion US$ annually on mine acquisition around the world.

DRAGON SPIT IS AN INVISIBLE VOLCANO

While all above are seemingly legitimate colonisation of the world, so that China can realise its ambitious plan of becoming the world’s greatest and undisputed power by 2049, China does not leave any stone unturned in destroying the progress of nations that look like hurdles in its path to progress. China has been brazenly involved in and suspected to be involved in several global extremities and disastrous events that undermine the progress of nations and paves way for Chinese hegemonistic ambitions.  

THE MOST FAMOUS PANDEMIC IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND 

It is already well established that the Covid-19 virus was manufactured in a laboratory in China and was let loose on the world, wherein over a year now, more than 3.3 million people have lost lives and a much larger number of families have descended into untold misery. If we look at the list of death by countries, we will see that over half a million died in the USA, the biggest trade and military rival of China. Brazil and India, which are the two major members of the BRIC countries that together could make a formidable power of challenge to China have collectively recorded over another half a million deaths. Western European countries that are allies of the USA and are power partners in the UN, NATO and dominate the world of commerce and military under the patronaging partnership of the USA, have collectively seen another half a million deaths. A laboratory manufactured agent of death has been unleashed into countries that are the major threat and hurdle in the marathon 100 year run of China to reach the coveted podium as the world’s largest superpower. In about a year, not just death, the health and hygiene framework and the economic fabric of these countries have been damaged to such an extent that the recovery could take years. On top of that, these nations, mostly democratic, have now acquired people’s ire due to unquantifiable suffering, and very stable political governance systems have been shaken to the core. This kind of warfare has never been witnessed before in human history.

From the same list of countries, one may observe that countries in the neighbourhood of these strategic nations have not been so much affected by the Chinese virus at all. Is it a coincidence or a conspiracy that nations like Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, most of which have societies that are closely linked to India’s in trade, cultural exchange, familial relations, and interaction through our perforated border do not have the viral infection anywhere near to the proportion in India? Is it a coincidence or conspiracy that a similar disparity in the viral spread happens across Europe and only NATO countries get severely affected and not the eastern nations on that continent? Why and how is that a Chinese virus affects only countries that may have a capacity to successfully control the hegemonistic ambitions and not the countries that secure aid and assistance from China and remain subservient to the growing power of the dragon? This is only possible with the help of a laboratory-generated virus and not through an organism spun out of organic evolution. For this very reason, India should never accept the vaccine, medicines or any material of mass consumption originating from China, because we could just become sitting ducks for a conspiracy that is deep and wide and is brought out through a careful fusion of science, technology and hegemonistic strategy.

SUSPICION OF THE DRAGON FOOTPRINT

We are living in times when completely unthinkable and what we thought impossible have begun to happen. This month, a rocket launched by China fell back into sea and space agencies have wondered what might have fallen from it into the Indian Ocean. We all remember not many years ago, across the world, unsolicited packets of seeds arrived at people’s doors from China and agriculture experts warned people not to sow them, for they might be seeds that will destroy the native species and obliterate our food security. Australia is in the eye of the storm of the dragon because of its developmental position in the southeast and scientists wonder if there is any Chinese connection to the devastating wildfire of last year that burned for weeks on end. For scientists, the devastating glacier burst in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, which lies in Chinese proximity, is also an unusual and rare occurrence in the peak winter months when the Himalayan glaciers remain in the deep-frozen state. Technology companies in Silicon Valley are increasingly being established and led by people of Chinese origin, which might help China in global surveillance and information collection. Zoom, the video conferencing facility, has been blamed on that count and nations have suspected that information from secretive and strategic video conferences may have already reached Chinese information archives.

FIRE OF THE DRAGON AND THE WITHERING SUSTAINABILITY OF INDIA

A recent publication of NITI Aayog has elaborately traced the character of India’s rural economy and put into perspective the importance of rural sustainability of the nation. Although India is in a transitionary state of economic resurgence, 68.8% of the nation’s population and 72.4 % of the nation’s workforce are from rural areas. Nearly half of India’s National Domestic Product (NDP) is still rural. While 96% of agricultural employment is rural, 48.6% of non-agricultural employment too is rural. Because of this, the sustainable development of India depends predominantly on rural industriousness, productivity, dynamics and livelihood quality. The efforts of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) are intricately linked to this horizon of rural sustainable development of India through nearly 100 different kinds of rural industrial entrepreneurship and handholding activities. KVIC has been sustaining a major part of village industries in India through over 40 Offices spread across the nation, around 5,000 aligned institutions, 23 Departmental Sales Outlets and around 8035 Khadi sales outlets /Khadi Bhavans run by Khadi Institutions. The direct beneficiaries organised through this mechanism exceed 15 million people, while indirect beneficiaries run into several additional millions. If you put together the direct, indirect associated and familial beneficiaries of this carefully hand raised and sustained sector, it could well over be a billion people in the lifeline of village industries sustainable development programmes.  

China understands the socio-economic and socio-political power of this community and its influence on the mainstream life of our nation. And it engages itself in a calculated and consistent manner in which this delicate balance could be obliterated so that the nation can be hollowed from within.

In taking some examples of this phenomenon, the Agarbatti (Incense stick) industry stands out. Out of the half a million metric ton agarbatti requirement and production in India annually, over 80% raw material came from China and Vietnam. 

Even the national flag of India that is only made with Khadi cotton or silk fabric was not spared by the Chinese invasion. Counterfeit national flags made of plastic and other artificial material from China flooded Indian markets forcing the current government to place the National Flag under the prohibited category of import in October 2019.  

Similarly, the traditional Indian Silk Industry, the heritage art of clay pottery, handmade paper, leather industry were driven to the verge of extinction. Imagine, the idols of Indian deities were made in China and worshipped in Indian households. Toys, honey, minerals, and dozens of other natural resources based village industries have been rendered unproductive due to Chinese economic aggression of pushing through our market a subsidised and quality compromised product till recently until the present government made corrections by imposing higher import duty and import restrictions on such Chinese products. It will, however, take years for the Indian village industries to recuperate from the Chinese intrusion and be self-reliant in all respects.  

One can imagine the invasion of the dragon. The fire is not in the borders that guard the nation. The fire is burning the nation to its core and is devouring the integrity, national character and our very ways of existence. And we have unconsciously allowed that.

AN ATTACK OF SOCIO-CULTURAL CHARACTER & HERITAGE

Besides trade, a number of these developments are an attack on the socio-cultural character and heritage. Offering silk Angavastram (stole) to guests in North-Eastern states and Leh Laddakh is an old tradition. Making Angavastram in these states was part of the village industry which was providing jobs to thousands of local artisans, mostly women. China has captured this heritage art too by flooding cheap artificial silk stoles. Not just here alone, the heritage headgear Keffiyeh of Babylonian/Mesopotamian origin Palestine which the Arab civilisation guarded as its heritage symbol is now made in China and Keffiyeh factories have systematically closed shop in the Arab world. Travel anywhere in the world and buy a memento or a curio of memorabilia of your visit to the Statue of Liberty or Fountain of Trevi or Eiffel Tower or Taj Mahal or Burj Khalifa, the probability is that it is made in China and the enchanting global diversity is engulfed by the dragon fire of hegemonistic monopoly.

A DRAGON THAT IS ENORMOUSLY INTELLIGENT AND EQUALLY EVIL

If a nation has to survive and protect itself into the future from the aggressive invasion of China through seen and unseen belly fire of the dragon, it has to think of all scenarios that until now may never have been imagined. Can some seeds destroy our crop, biodiversity and food security? Can something dropped from the air can contaminate our rains and water bodies and multiply there to cover us in risk over time? Can some material that arrives from China remain dormant for a while and gradually uncoil like a serpent and slither around in effect? Can a vaccine imported from China have an ingredient that could bring out a larger demon into our lungs or heart than the coronavirus? I know we are thinking of the evil, but as the old adage goes, forewarned is forearmed.  

The dragon is an embodiment of determination and mind application. If a lab-made virus can be selectively unleashed to destroy the potential competitors in progress, there is a devilish finesse in the application of scientific imagination. It should not be beyond imagination now to believe that the dragon could use the elements of nature to its advantage. The jet streams in the air, the ocean currents, tectonic dynamics, raging forces of climate change, monsoon system or El Nino – nothing is beyond a determined dragon. This may sound being paranoid. A non-democratic and stable autocracy of a bunch of leaders that believe in ruthless communism powers the engine of action. And the dragon is never short of belly fire. Therefore, the future is uncertain. The dragon that hovers over us from the sky spewing fire in every breath uses methods that are visible, invisible, and unpredictable. 

The dragon is ruthless and uncompassionate. It has one singular purpose in its mind, which is to acquire the crown of world emperorship by 2049, no matter what it takes. Its power is so unchallenged and determination so unwavering that we do not know if the air that we breathe and the rains that fall from the sky are as pure and natural as they have been before.  

India as a nation needs to remain integrated, united and resolute in thwarting the advance of the dragon. Because the dragon sleeps at a breathing distance from us. And we are perceived to be a potential power that can slay the dragon. We need a vision that will not be blinded by fire or darkness. 

The writer is Chairman, Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Government of India, New Delhi.

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FASHION WAS NEVER A PLAN B FOR ME: RANNA GILL

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NEW DELHI: Fashion designer Ranna Gill recently joined NewsX’s special series NewsX India A-List . She gave an insight into her journey and shared how the pandemic has impacted the fashion industry.

An alumnus of the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Ranna Gill launched her label ‘Ranna Gill’ two decades ago. Over the years, she has carved a space of her own in the Indian fashion industry. Ranna recently joined NewsX’s special series NewsX India A-List and spoke about not only her journey but also how the pandemic has impacted the fashion industry. 

Speaking about how the pandemic has impacted her label and how she overcame the challenges, Ranna said, “We are still fighting. The challenges were big. We overcame them a little bit and then we came back to the fighting ground again. We have two businesses, so we have an export business in the United States and then we have stores and retail in India. So, we kind of need to paddle both. When this side of the river is stormy, we jump to the other side. We kind of need to paddle both sides and somehow try to come out of it, get out of the troubled water and we will.”

When asked about the brand ‘Ranna Gill’ and how was it conceptualised, she responded, “It is a lot of work. I started this brand with my mother, so the company is owned by my mom and me. I always loved fashion as a young student. I went to fashion school, it was my passion, it was my first love. It was what I always wanted to do so it’s not a plan B. It’s not like I wanted to be something else and I just rolled into fashion. I studied fashion. I have got bachelors in fashion from FIT New York, so I am a student of fashion and as well as a fashion designer. So, I have trained in fashion and I have always loved it. Even to this date, after having done designing for over twenty years, I still get excited when I look at products when I look at fashion I look at colours. Colours to me are like what candy is to children. It’s just such a special treat to look at the colour palette, to look at swatches, to dip die, to look at textures. Prints are an important USP to our brand. Even now, I am wearing a print from my collection. I love prints, the play of prints, and colours. We like to do easier, more playful, more ready to wear bodies, using these tools. We always stay closer to the story, what it is speaking, what the brand is speaking to its customers. You will always see colour in our collection and you will always see prints in our collection.”

Talking about the trick or mantra behind increased online sales amid the pandemic, she said, “I think it’s mostly product and the price point. It’s not very expensive, not very pricey and it’s not very difficult to wear. You don’t need to think of an occasion before coming onto our website or our stores to buy a line. To buy our products, whether it is a blouse, a tunic or a dress, you can always buy them over this weekend or two weekends down. You can wear it in the summer or bring it up in the falls. I think the product is always the king and we stay close to our language or the message we are sending to our customers. We don’t pivot from sarees to sometimes go on to make a blouse. We are always going to make the blouses, the dresses and tunics and that’s what we are going to always be designing into and circling back to. I think the product is crucial, that helped us through this time, price point, sensible pricing. sensible making of products. It’s not too fashionable that it won’t be relevant next year or two years down the line. So it’s all of those things that we kind of always come back to.”

Finally, when asked about the lessons she learned during this phase and future plans for her brand, she said, “We want to 100% focus on our online business. That is where we are headed and that I think is the future. Having said that I think we can bring more to our stores maybe. I am a little old school but I still think that they are very lovely to come to our shop. The customer has this special feeling. When she comes to our store, the girls know her she wears the garment so I think it’s going to be a bit of both. It’s really not going to be some clear messaging but at the moment it’s online, of course.”

She added, “There have been some really hard learning lessons. I think one has to for all of us. For our brand, it was just mainly we just decided to fight for the brand. We were not going to give it away or let it go and we just kind of all held hands. When did our business quietly and just fought for what we stood for so many years? One thing we learnt in our business, is working via technology. In the past, we used to take a flight and go to any place and really quickly. We would meet a buyer or meet or go to fashion fair or meet. I feel that one of the great learning is that we all got out of this phase was using technology for fashion, for all streams of business, even to connect with friends and family and fighting for your own business. Those were the two big learnings for me.”

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CORRUPTION CORONATED

When a selfless approach was needed to fight Covid-19, corruption ruled the roost. A grocery shop owner fleeced customers. A pharmacist hoarded life-saving medicines. Even a crematorium wasn’t spared.

V K Saxena

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Kautilya sat down to write ‘Arthashastra’, one of the first books of economics in human history, some 2,300 years ago. And he ended up writing a whole chapter on ‘corruption’. He famously said, “Just like it is impossible not to taste a drop of honey that you find at the edge of the tongue, it is impossible for a King’s officer not to eat up a bit of King’s revenue.”  

Essentially, it means that even as long ago as in 300 BC, we were rampantly corrupt and as a society, we exploited whatever individual power we had. Kautilya implied that for Indians, the very human nature itself poses corruption. Time and again it was proved in our history. Kingdoms grew or fell through some strategic corruption of individuals who switched sides at a critical time. Even the British India Company walked over this sub-continent and established the rule of Britain over us because we could be corrupted easily, and it was so effortless to divide us and rule.  

Transparency International, which places us in the list of nations as a very corrupt society, remarked that over 92% Indians have been exposed to and/or indulged in corruption of either giving or receiving or both at some point in their lives. As a society, we indulge in it as a casual act of convenience. And then, we complain about it, make a fuss and cry wolf. 

WHY CAN’T THE GOVERNMENTS ABSOLUTELY WIPE OUT CORRUPTION?

So, whether it is Kautilya’s ‘Arthashastra’ or a review by an international organisation, we have had an indisputable image as a corrupt society that can hardly be changed. In these 2,500 years, we have had several types of governments ruling over us — kingdoms, monarchies, dynasties, Sultanats,foreign colonisation, and democracies. There have been benevolent rulers, autocratic usurpers, people’s leaders, men of the sword, and religious oppressors, you name it and we have had it. But how come any form of government or system of rule could not bring down corruption through force, legislation, counselling, or any other means for thousands of years? Haven’t we punished people enough? Well, the country has historically practised capital punishment, dismemberment of limbs, jailing, public humiliation, seizing of property, and all kinds of punishment for corruption over centuries and millennia. Yet, as a society, we are as corrupt as we have been for thousands of years.

This essentially means that it is not the government or the law which is weak and unimaginative in bringing down corruption. It is just that as people, we are too strong and imaginative to remain corrupt by all means. The people perpetuate corruption as a means of convenience. And morally, we do not attach shame or guilt to being corrupt. Corruption is our blood trait. Corruption is more of people’s character in definition than being social malice that the governance can totally get rid of. What has stayed so for years shall remain the same in the coming years, unless we change at an individual level.

During these testing times, when a selfless and sincere approach was needed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, this trait of corruption ruled the roost. A grocery shop owner fleeced customers citing short supply. A pharmacist hoarded life-saving medicines. A piece of basic equipment like a pulse oximeter suddenly disappeared from stores and if available, was sold at a much higher price. Black marketing of oxygen cylinders wreaked havoc on several families in dire need of oxygen. Even a taxi driver charged hefty sums from passengers. This shows that we can exploit any opportunity for money or material. And by stooping this low, we have also defeated all the good works of a large section of people during these difficult times. Individuals, organisations, even political parties, in their own capacities, have been providing free food, medicines, ambulances, oxygen, and all possible support to the needy but they were easily eclipsed by the rampant corruption surrounding us.

In the Covid era, we have seen that corruption has reached the zenith. It is not exaggerating to say that during the times of the pandemic, we have ‘corona’ated corruption and installed it on the throne. Corruption thrives at the juncture of power. And power need not be political or administrative or of any high order. And if the opportunity is critical, rendering the other one helpless, distressed, and weak in some manner, it is all the more easier to exploit the situation. And coronavirus pandemic has become a golden goose of benefit for the heartless, unscrupulous, and ruthless.

People of all stature — from the rich and resourceful to the ones struggling to meet their ends — had to fight this corruption alongside fighting the deadly virus. It was widely reported that once you reach the hospitals, in the hope of some relief and cure, corruption widened its wings. Finding a hospital bed for the patient proved to be a Herculean task and in several cases, the hospital beds were hoarded by unscrupulous agents in connivance with the hospitals. Negotiating for an ambulance to take the critical patients to came as another shocker. News reports of ambulance operators charging Rs 20,000 to Rs 40,000 for ferrying patients to short distances of a few kilometres describe this moral corruption in the most absolute terms. 

In our country, where total private infrastructure accounts for nearly 62% of all of India’s health infrastructure, it is easier for corruption to thrive at every level of the system. Medical staff were found refilling empty Remdesivir bottles with fake drugs and selling them to patients not only at a premium but also risking their lives, remorselessly. Patients and their families were cheated with fire extinguishers in the name of oxygen cylinders just when they needed oxygen to save the lives of their loved ones.

These instances are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The deep-rooted corruption at the health services goes up to kickbacks given to the health workers to please them and secure better services, thefts of medical instruments and medicines from the hospitals that are sold at a premium outside the hospitals. This ethical and moral bankruptcy have even driven them to the extent of recycling and selling bio-medical wastes like used face masks, PPE kits, and gloves for the sake of a few pennies. Hospitals were also found charging exorbitant fees from Covid patients. 

And if one thought this face-off with corruption would end here, a rude shock awaited. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, who would have ever thought of corruption in the cremation grounds. Families of the deceased were charged up to Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 for cremating the bodies that used to be a matter of less than Rs 5,000 on normal days. The cost of woods and ghee spiralled through the sky as bodies queued up at crematoriums.

I began this article by saying that corruption is a blood trait of people. There is very little that anyone can do to remove evil from our surroundings if people act beyond the sanctity of morality. A thing that was never effectively curtailed for centuries will only increase and occupy the centre stage of our lives when people patronise it, benefit from it, and silently subscribe to it. 

The present government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has effectively shown how a system can be run without corruption. Having served for 20 years as head of the governments — in Gujarat and then at the Centre — without even a charge of corruption, PM Modi has an impeccable, clean character to inspire our generation to adopt honesty as their way of life. Unfortunately, even the high degree of honesty and morality of our Prime Minister failed to influence our society and proved that corruption was indeed our blood trait.  

Governments can only help people’s will to change. But if they don’t want to change, there is no power with anyone anywhere to pull us out of the intricate mess that we have created for ourselves. Let us pledge not to exploit humanity with greed.

The writer is Chairman, Khadi & Village Industries Commission, Government of India. The views expressed are personal.

Corruption thrives at the juncture of power. And power need not be political or administrative or of any high order. And if the opportunity is critical, rendering the other one helpless, distressed, and weak in some manner, it is all the more easier to exploit the situation. And the coronavirus pandemic has become a golden goose of benefit for the heartless, unscrupulous, and ruthless. People of all stature—from the rich and resourceful to the ones struggling to meet their ends—had to fight this corruption alongside fighting the deadly virus.

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BORIS JOHNSON TO DELAY LIFTING COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS IN UK

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday is expected to delay lifting of COVID-19 restrictions on June 21 as planned.

Johnson told British media from the G7 summit in Cornwall on Sunday that the government “is looking at the data”, reported euronews. “The roadmap was always cautious but irreversible and in order to have an irreversible roadmap, we’ve got to be cautious,” he added.

England’s four-step easing programme planned for all remaining restrictions on businesses—including pubs, restaurants and nightclubs—and on large events and performances—including weddings and funerals—is expected to be lifted on June 21.

The UK has experienced a surge of new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, blamed on the spread of the Delta variant.

Nearly 7,500 new infections were recorded on Sunday across the UK, bringing the weekly tally to more than 50,000—a near 50 per cent rise on the previous week, reported euronews.

This is despite the country having one of the highest vaccination rates in the world with 78.9 per cent of the adult population having received at least one dose and more than 56 per cent now fully inoculated.

British health authorities say that the Delta variant is up to 60 per cent more transmissible than the original strain and now represents over 90 per cent of new cases in the UK.

They also stressed last week that although vaccination prevents the risk of severe disease, it does not eliminate it completely or prevent transmission, reported euronews.

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PROTESTS IN BERLIN TO MARK SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF HONG KONG UPRISING

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On the second anniversary of the pro-democracy uprising in Hong Kong, scores of people including German citizens and Hongkongers jointly organized a protest in Berlin, Germany.

Nearly 100 protestors including representatives of Tibetans and Uyghurs participated in the protest at Alexanderplatz, a large public square in the capital city, on June 12 against the widespread human rights abuse by the Chinese government. Demonstrations were staged in several cities across the globe on Saturday to commemorate the second anniversary of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Since June last year, the sweeping national security law Beijing imposed on the city is being used to stifle political opposition and anti-government protests.

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Ousted Myanmar leader Suu Kyi’s trial begins

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More than four months after a military coup took place in Myanmar, the trial of ousted democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi opened on Monday with critics denouncing the move as a bogus exercise.

Suu Kyi, 75, is facing several cases ranging from the illegal possession of walkie-talkie radios to breaking the Official Secrets Act, Euronews reported. The National League for Democracy (NLD) leader will also appear on Tuesday on sedition charges alongside ex-president Win Myint. “We are preparing for the worst,” one of her lawyers, Khin Maung Zaw, said, as qouted by Euronews. The lawyer also denounced “absurd” accusations fabricated to “keep her off the country’s (political) stage and sully her image.”

Last week, Myanmar’s military junta levelled new corruption charges against the deposed leader and other former officials from her government.

The cases are the latest of a series brought against the elected leader, who was overthrown by the army on February 1 in a coup that has plunged the Southeast Asian country into chaos.

The months-long military crackdown on anti-coup protesters in Myanmar has so far taken over 840 lives, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP).

The army overthrew Suu Kyi, saying her party had cheated in November elections, an accusation rejected by the previous election commission and international monitors.

Since then, the army has failed to establish control. It faces daily protests, strikes that have paralysed the economy, assassinations and bomb attacks and a resurgence of conflicts in Myanmar’s borderlands.

Escalating violence across Myanmar including attacks on civilians must be halted to prevent even greater loss of life and a deepening humanitarian emergency, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said last Friday.

Bachelet’s appeal follows reports of a continuing military build-up in various parts of the country including Kayah State in the east – where more than 108,000 people have fled their homes in the last three weeks – and in Chin State in the west.

This runs contrary to commitments made in April by Myanmar’s military leaders to regional powers ASEAN, to cease brutal violence against civilians which has followed the 1 February coup.

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Pakistan continues assault on civil liberties by attacking press

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As Pakistan continues to stifle freedom of speech, the country is pursuing an unrelenting assault on journalism as scribes are fired, harassed and assaulted for their critical reporting.

Umer Ali writes for DW news agency that the military and its intelligence services are among the more “sensitive” entities in Pakistan and so they don’t like being named. Due to that, the journalists use a range of phrases, such as ‘the establishment’ for the military, the ‘agriculture department’ for the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) and ‘trips for northern areas’ for enforced disappearances. Highlighting the brutal assault on Pakistani journalist Asad Ali Toor and the shooting of Absar Alam outside his home for criticising the military, Ali noted that no progress has been made to arrest the culprits despite Islamabad being known for its extensive surveillance camera system.

In July 2020, another prominent journalist, Matiullah Jan, was abducted from outside his wife’s school. However, his kidnapping was caught on camera and he was released later after a severe backlash.

The attacks on journalists are part of a broader assault on civil liberties in Pakistan, as several human rights activists and opposition politicians face arrests and ‘treason’ charges, Ali wrote for DW.

Moreover, the Imran Khan-led government has continued a policy of gaslighting the journalists, which was noticeable when during an interview, Pakistan’s minister for information bragged about taking notice of the latest attack on Toor. He also alleged that it’s “fashionable” in the western media to accuse the ISI and that individuals about Pakistan’s intelligence agencies “lie” to “get immigration”. According to Umer Ali, Khan’s government is pursuing a journalist protection bill, in a similar duplicitous fashion, as well as an ordinance to establish a “media development authority”, which has been unanimously condemned by journalist and rights bodies as “draconian in scope and devastating in its impact.”

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