Jimmy Lai, Hong Kong’s prominent pro-democracy media tycoon, has been sentenced to another five years and nine months in jail. The punishment is for the “breach of the terms of the lease Apple Daily signed with a government company and amounted to fraud.”
Earlier, the 75-year-old media tycoon was sent to prison for twenty months for participating in the anti-Beijing, pro-democracy protests that broke out on the island when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) first imposed its draconian National Security Law.
District Judge Stanley Chan took pains to point out that this was a “simple case of fraud” and that one must not “draw any connection to politics.”
Despite the Judge’s caution, the witch hunt unleashed by the unforgiving Chinese regime on the pro-democracy activists and outspoken critics makes it difficult to turn a blind eye to the blatant, nefarious association between President Xi Jinping’s government and the supposedly “independent” judicial system of Hong Kong.
Beijing may have conveniently turned a blind eye to the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984. While charting the course of Hong Kong’s future, the agreement laid down in writing that the erstwhile British city will continue to enjoy a high degree of autonomy. China’s basic policies were to “remain unchanged for 50 years.” Moreover, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution and its judicial system were to remain untouched for half a century starting from 1997.
At the halfway mark, Beijing is throwing away the agreement. President Xi understands that if Hong Kongers continue to enjoy freedoms unheard of on the mainland, they will not welcome the Communist Party with open arms two and half decades from now. Beijing is employing its tried and tested means to maintain its hold by interfering in the elections, imposing draconian laws, meddling in political appointments, suppressing dissent, gagging the media, and curbing rights to protest. President Xi’s men find the “One Nation – Two Systems” model much less appealing in practice than it looks on paper.
Beijing believes that Hong Kong “belongs” to China, just as Taiwan is its “integral” part. The British have long departed. The CCP may do as it pleases. Yet, in the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s note from December 1984, is this sentence, “Britain has the right to raise any breaches with China after 1997. We would not hesitate to do so.”
On this sentiment now hinges Jimmy Lai’s fate. Media tycoon or not, no individual can go up against the Chinese regime and hope to win. Mr. Lai’s son has reached out to the U.K. government, citing that his father holds a British passport. What remains to be seen is whether His Majesty’s men will go toe to toe with the Red Dragon to ensure freedom for one man and possibly save Hong Kong’s fate in the process.
Related – Jimmy Lai’s Last Interview As A Free Man
Geopolitics And Geoeconomics
President Zelenskyy has stepped up diplomacy over Russia’s invasion of his country, holding talks with U.S., Turkey, and France amid protracted fighting on the eastern front of the nine-month-old war.
While Zelenskyy has held frequent talks with US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan since Russian forces invaded in late February, it is unusual for him to hold such discussions over a single day.
“We are constantly working with partners,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address, adding that he expects some “important results” in the coming week from a series of international events that will focus on the situation in Ukraine.
The White House said Biden stressed that the U.S. prioritized efforts to boost Ukraine’s air defenses.
Ukraine’s top security officials have ordered punitive measures against seven senior clerics as part of a crackdown on a branch of the Orthodox Church with longstanding ties to Moscow.
Under an order issued by Ukraine’s Security Council, the assets of the seven clerics have been seized. They are subject to a ban on various economic and legal activities and a de facto travel ban.
Most Ukrainians are Orthodox Christians, and competition has been fierce between the branch of the church historically linked to Moscow and an independent church proclaimed after independence from Soviet rule in 1991.
The Moscow-linked church severed ties with the Russian Orthodox Church after the February invasion, but many Ukrainians remain deeply suspicious of its motives. The Russian church wholeheartedly backs the invasion.
Ukrainian forces have struck a headquarters of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, says the governor-in-exile of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
Serhiy Haidai said a hotel where the group met in Kadiivka, Luhansk, had been hit with significant losses.
Wagner is a state-sponsored mercenary which acts in the Kremlin’s interests. The BBC was unable to verify Wagner’s presence at the hotel independently.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and related grain and energy issues in separate phone calls with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts.
Erdogan has attempted to keep lines of communication open between his NATO nation and the warring Ukrainian and Russian sides. He helped broker a UN deal designed to get Ukraine grain to world markets, especially to some of the poorer nations of Africa.
Erdogan’s involvement comes as the European Union expressed concerns that Turkey was developing a close relationship with Russia despite the war and tough Western sanctions against Moscow.
During a telephone call, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Russian counterpart on Sunday that there was a need to “clear” northern Syria of Kurdish forces.
Turkey’s leader said to Vladimir Putin, “it is … a priority to clear the border of terrorists, at least 30 km deep”, referring to Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, according to a statement from his office.
Both men discussed “the problem” of resolving the Syrian conflict and how the conditions of a 2019 agreement between Russia and Turkey could be “fulfilled.”
Three years ago, Moscow and Ankara signed a deal promising a buffer zone between the Turkish border and YPG forces that the Syrian army and Russian military police would control.
While Russian and Syrian forces are in the border region, the agreement was not fully implemented, and Kurdish groups remain.
About $50 billion of investment agreements were signed during the China summit in Saudi Arabia last week, the Kingdom’s investment minister said, without giving details.
The pacts included both the private and public sectors. He didn’t specify whether the figure also reflected agreements involving other Arab nations whose leaders attended too.
Last week’s summit, where Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping, showcased the Gulf’s deepening ties with Beijing. But while the visit featured warm words about unity between China and the Middle East, most of the agreements announced were memorandums of understanding and lacked firm timelines or commitments.
Iran called in China’s ambassador after Beijing issued a controversial joint statement with Arab states dealing, among other things, with three disputed islands.
On Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran’s rival, Saudi Arabia, and sat down with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. They issued a joint statement containing several clauses that directly dealt with Iranian affairs, its nuclear program, and its regional activities.
The issue that prompted the rare summoning of the Chinese envoy was ownership of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa – three islands in the Strait of Hormuz that have been governed by Iran since 1971 and are claimed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of its territory.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said that Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbors would act to shore up their security if Tehran were to obtain nuclear weapons.
Indirect U.S.-Iranian talks to salvage a 2015 nuclear pact between global powers and Iran, which Washington exited in 2018, stalled in September. The U.N. nuclear chief has voiced concern over a recent announcement by Tehran that it was boosting enrichment capacity.
“If Iran gets an operational nuclear weapon, all bets are off,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said in an on-stage interview at the World Policy Conference in Abu Dhabi when asked about such a scenario.
The nuclear talks have stalled with Western powers accusing Iran of raising unreasonable demands and focus shifting to the Russia-Ukraine war and domestic unrest in Iran over the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
Iran on Monday carried out the second execution linked to nearly three months of protests.
“Majidreza Rahnavard, who was sentenced to death on November 29 for killing two security guards with a knife and wounding four others,” was executed in public in Mashhad, the report said.
The first execution linked to the protests took place on Thursday.
Serb protestors in Kosovo blocked roads for a second day on Sunday following a nighttime exchange of fire with the police.
Kosovo’s Serb minority is outraged by the arrest of a former Serb policeman suspected of involvement in attacks on Kosovo police.
Tensions in northern Kosovo, a hotbed of Serb nationalism, have recently mounted. Serbs have violently protested moves by authorities in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, which they deem anti-Serb.
Hundreds of Serbs erected barricades on roads in the north of the country, blocking traffic at two major border crossings with Serbia, police said.
The arrested police officer is reported to have resigned over Pristina’s requirement that Serbs get rid of their Serbian license plates pre-dating the 1998-99 Kosovo War that led to independence.
The U.S.’s resolve to claw back lost influence in Africa will be tested this week when dozens of the continent’s leaders and officials gather for talks with their American counterparts in Washington.
A top priority of President Joe Biden’s US-Africa Leaders Summit, which aims to increase cooperation on some of the world’s most pressing issues, will be to map out the future of market access.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act, which expires in 2025 and gives about three dozen African nations duty-free access to the world’s biggest economy for almost 7,000 products, will be discussed at the summit on Tuesday and a subsequent meeting with lawmakers.
The U.S. Department of Energy said Sunday it would announce a “major scientific breakthrough” this week.
The Financial Times reported Sunday that scientists in the California-based Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) had achieved a “net energy gain” from an experimental fusion reactor.
That would represent the first time that researchers have successfully produced more energy in a fusion reaction- the same type that powers the Sun- than consumed during the process, a potentially significant step in pursuing zero-carbon power.
The fusion reaction that produced a 120 percent net energy gain occurred in the past two weeks, the FT said, citing three people with knowledge of the preliminary results.
A Japanese startup aiming to be the first private company in the world to reach the Moon launched a lunar lander Sunday aboard a rocket from a U.S. space station in Florida.
Ispace Inc.’s self-developed lander, part of its Hakuto-R exploration program, is scheduled to touch down on the Moon around late April next year if all goes smoothly.
In the long term, Ispace, set up in 2010, seeks to develop technologies for lunar resources and establish low-cost transportation services between Earth and the Moon.
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Republished with permission from TIPP Insights