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Daily Brief: Chinese Communist Official Visits Hong Kong

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May 18, 2016

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

Chinese Communist Official Visits Hong Kong

Hong Kong faced extensive security measures as it braced for protests during a three-day visit from the third-highest ranking member of China's Communist Party. Up to six thousand police were deployed (Bloomberg) for each day of the trip by Zhang Dejiang, who will deliver an address on Wednesday about China's "Belt and Road" initiative to develop trade links between China, Asia, and Europe. A small number of pro-democracy activists were present in designated demonstration zones during Wednesday's event, outnumbered by media and law enforcement (TIME), while dissidents reported a crackdown by authorities around the venue. The visit is a first by a top Chinese official (WSJ) since 2014 mass protests in the city by pro-democracy groups. 

ANALYSIS

"Hong Kong and Taiwan’s strategic value to the U.S. lies in their democratic or semi-democratic systems, which stand in juxtaposition to China’s hardening authoritarianism. Citizens in both territories have strengthened their identities as 'Taiwanese' or 'Hong Kongers,' eschewing their identity as 'Chinese.' Mainland pressure backfired, as many people in these two territories see their business elites getting rich, while their own salaries stagnate, housing prices become unaffordable, and media freedoms deteriorate," says David Zweig in this interview with the Diplomat.

"Dramatic transformations, particularly in places such as Shenzhen just north of Hong Kong, have brought China's cities closer to Hong Kong in terms of hard infrastructure, though Hong Kong still enjoys a separate political and legal system, and a better public provision of education and healthcare. Combined with growing socioeconomic divisions in Hong Kong, the impact of China's economic rise has fuelled new forces in Hong Kong politics, which in turn tap into long-standing antipathy to China's ruling Communist Party from a sizeable proportion of Hong Kong people," Tim Summers writes for Al Jazeera.

"It is a humbling week for China. The world’s biggest economy after the United States, it is richer and stronger than it has ever been, and its financial clout is being felt the world over. But Beijing is finding it exceedingly difficult to win hearts and minds in its own backyard, among the more than 30 million Chinese-speaking people of Taiwan and Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, which has been ruled by China since 1997 but retains considerable autonomy, many people have turned against Beijing, put off by its refusal to allow a free election of the city’s leader. That decision led to protests in 2014 that sent hundreds of thousands of demonstrators into the streets," write Michael Forsythe and Austin Ramzy for the New York Times.

PACIFIC RIM

Suzuki Admits Flawed Fuel Economy Testing

Japan's fourth-largest automaker Suzuki said its testing method for sixteen vehicle models was not in line with national standards (BBC), but denied manipulating results. Meanwhile, automaker Mitsubishi announced its president and executive vice president would leave their posts over the company's fuel economy testing scandal and said management created an environment for fraud (Bloomberg).

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Scores Feared Dead in Sri Lanka Mudslides

The Red Cross said two hundred families are feared to be buried in mudslides in central Sri Lanka (BBC) following three days of heavy rains. The floods have forced 135,000 people to flee their homes (Al Jazeera).

KAZAKHSTAN: Social media reports indicated a wide crackdown on activists ahead of planned May 21 protests in Kazakhstan over a proposed land sale law (EurasiaNet). Activists and journalists in at least four cities reported being detained, summoned for questioning, and having requests to hold protests denied.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Israeli Rights Group of Former Soldiers Threatened With Legal Action

The Israeli government has demanded that the human rights organization Breaking the Silence reveal the anonymous military personnel who gave testimony about alleged war crimes committed in the 2014 Gaza war (Guardian). The legal team for the rights group, whose case will be heard in court Sunday (Haaretz), says the move will chill human rights activism and free speech in Israel.  

LIBYA: A new report by Human Rights Watch details abuses committed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte (Middle East Eye), including executions it said could amount to crimes against humanity. Militants have also severely limited residents' access to food and medicine and seized residents’ properties, according to the report.

In this article for Defense One, CFR's Stephen Biddle and Jacob Shapiro argue that the United States can't do much about the Islamic State.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Speculation of Currency Devaluation After Nigeria VP Remarks

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the government would “substantially reevaluate” Nigeria's foreign exchange policy and consider a “more flexible approach” to its currency, fueling speculation over a possible devaluation of the naira (WSJ). Meanwhile, Nigerian labor organizations were expected to go on strike Wednesday over a 70 percent rise in fuel prices (VOA). 

CFR's Matthew Page discusses the impact of low oil prices on Nigeria's economy in this World Politics Review interview.

ANGOLA: The World Health Organization will meet on Thursday to discuss whether to declare a global health emergency over an outbreak of yellow fever in Angola, which has already been tied to reported cases in China (LAT). The outbreak began in December in Angola and has spread to Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

EUROPE

Report: Smugglers Earned $5B From Migrants

Europol and Interpol issued a report estimating that human traffickers made between $5 billion to $6 billion transporting migrants to Europe in 2015 (NYT). The agencies estimated that per-person smuggling costs ranged between $3,200 and $6,500.

Expert Silvia Colombo discusses the terms of an EU-Turkey migration deal meant to curb the flow of refugees crossing the Mediterranean in this memo for CFR’s Council of Councils initiative.

GREECE: Construction began in northern Greece on the Trans Adriatic pipeline, which will supply natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe (FT). The project is part of the EU's efforts to diversify its energy supplies and reduce its reliance on Russia. 

AMERICAS

Protests Against Maduro's State of Emergency in Venezuela

Nationwide protests were planned on Wednesday over sweeping powers granted to President Nicolás Maduro following his declaration of a sixty-day state of emergency (AFP). Opposition leader Henrique Capriles (BBC) said Venezuela's military must choose whether it is "with the constitution or with Maduro."

MEXICO: President Enrique Peña Nieto signed an initiative to amend the country's constitution to assure rights to same-sex marriage (LAHT).

CAMPAIGN 2016

Poll: Clinton, Sanders Supporters Differ Sharply on U.S. Role in the World

Two-thirds of Democratic voters who favor Hillary Clinton back a stronger U.S. role in the world, without which they fear global problems would worsen, whereas 49 percent of those who support Sen. Bernie Sanders feel that way, according to a Pew Research Center survey. About 45 percent of Sanders supporters say U.S. involvement worsens world problems.

Track and compare differences between Clinton and Sanders on foreign policy issues with CFR’s interactive, The Candidates and the World.

 
 
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