Sydney and Taiwan kick off global protests for Hong Kong

Supporters of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters march during a demonstration as part of the global "anti-totalitarianism" movement in Sydney on September 29, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 September 2019

Sydney and Taiwan kick off global protests for Hong Kong

  • Beijing stepped up its campaign to diplomatically isolate Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen’s 2016 election
  • Similar rallies are being held in more than 40 cities worldwide as part of a global day of action in support of Hong Kong protests

SYDNEY: Thousands rallied in Sydney and Taipei to support Hong Kong democracy protesters Sunday, kicking off a day of planned “anti-totalitarianism” demonstrations globally.

In one of the largest solidarity marches in Australia since Hong Kong’s latest pro-democracy movement began in June, black-clad participants took to the streets chanting “Add oil,” a protest slogan denoting encouragement.

Some Sydney protesters held signs that read “Save Hong Kong” and “Stop tyranny,” while others carried yellow umbrellas or handed out paper cranes in scenes that played out in other major cities across the country Sunday.

Pro-China supporters stayed away, avoiding a repeat of the tense scenes that flared last month when opposing rallies held on the same day led to confrontations between the two sides.

Bill Lam, 25, who attended demonstrations in Hong Kong before moving to Sydney for study two months ago, said protesters had become “very desperate” and simply wanted authorities to respect “their basic human rights.”

“I came here but I want to support them from Australia,” he told AFP. “I feel so sad every night because I watch the live video (from Hong Kong) on Facebook and some social media.”

Frankie Lo, 47, said he had lived in Australia for years, but continued to care deeply about the situation back home.

“We still believe in one country, two systems, but they just have to follow the Basic Law,” he said, referring to the legal code that underpins the financial hub’s semi-autonomous status. “It’s not about independence.”

He added that besieged Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam should set up an independent committee to investigate allegations of police brutality.

“It’s something that we don’t want to see,” 25-year-old Tony Chung said of the violence that has featured in many of the summer protests.

“It’s Hong Kong people fighting against Hong Kong people, which doesn’t make sense at all.” In Taipei some two thousand people, many dressed in black, gathered under torrential downpours outside parliament, the largest Hong Kong solidarity protest so far this summer on the island.

Protester Pan Hou-hsun, who said he was in his forties, portrayed Taiwan and Hong Kong’s fates as linked because both places fret about the growing assertiveness of authoritarian China.

“To protect a democratic and independent Taiwan, we are standing behind Hong Kong,” he told AFP. Taiwan has been a de facto sovereign nation since the end of a civil war in 1949, but China still views the island as its territory and has vowed to seize it — by force if necessary.

Beijing stepped up its campaign to diplomatically isolate Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen’s 2016 election because she hails from a party that refuses to recognize the idea that the island is part of “one China.”

Tsai is seeking re-election in January. Saturday’s rally in Taipei was largely peaceful although Hong Kong popstar Denise Ho, a staunch democracy advocate, had red paint thrown at her by an unidentified assailant as she spoke to local media.

Similar rallies are being held in more than 40 cities worldwide as part of a global day of action in support of Hong Kong protests.


Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

Updated 10 December 2019

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

  • International Court of Justice seeks to address atrocities committed by Myanmar

DHAKA: Several members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar expressed optimism on Monday that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would rule in their favor once it began its three-day hearing against Myanmar on Tuesday.

The case was filed by Gambia on behalf of all Muslim nations from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the ICJ over the alleged persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar military.

On Nov. 18, the court decided to hold the hearings from Dec.10 to 12. Gambia’s justice minister will lead his country during the hearings.

Both Canada and Bangladesh have been supporting Gambia by providing different data and information regarding the atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s state councillor and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has already reached  the Netherlands to lead the defense lawyers on behalf of her country at the ICJ.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will remain present at the courtroom to witness the process.

He will lead a 20-member team, comprising government officials and civil society representatives.

Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar are highly optimistic of securing justice at the ICJ.

“We think justice will be ensured because all international human rights groups, different UN organizations and the international community have got evidence of the persecution on the Rohingya. All of them have visited the refugee camps many times and listened to the plight of the Rohingya,” Sawyed Ullah, a community leader from Jamtoli, told Arab News.

“Also, we have strong evidences of atrocities committed by the Myanmar government to root out the Rohingya from their birth place, Rakhine,” Ullah added.

“Without ensuring accountability, there will not be any safety and justice in Rakhine. Once the accountability is restored,  all of us will be able to go back home.”

Ramjan Ali, another refugee from the Kutupalang camp, said: “Myanmar’s government has forcibly displaced the Rohingya from their own land and that compelled us to shelter here at the refugee camps. Isn’t it enough evidence to justify our allegations against the Myanmar government?”

Ramjan Ali added: “Still the situation in Rakhine is very bad as we receive information from our relatives over there. We need protection from the international forces before any repatriation, and the ICJ’s decision will be helpful for us in this regard.”

Rohingya human rights activist Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the German-based Free Rohingya Coalition described the ICJ’s move as historic.

“It is first ever since we are persecuted. We have been seeking for justice since very long time,” Lwin told Arab News, adding that “finally the case is now at the world court and although it will take several years we are now excited for provisional measures from the court.”

Lwin, along with some 200 Rohingya rights activists from around the world, is set to hold a protest rally at the Hague from Dec. 11 during the ICJ’s hearing.

“We are expecting very much from the ICJ. Regardless whether Myanmar follows the decisions of the court this will have a huge impact. There won’t be any other justice mechanisms if this international court of justice can’t ensure the justice for us,” added Lwin.

Expressing his frustration on the repatriation process, Lwin said that the Myanmar government still had a “genocidal policy” on the Rohingya.

“I don’t think repatriation of the Rohingya will take place soon unless the government is considering to fulfill our demands,” he said.

The ICJ’s final decision will hold strong significance as any decisions taken by the ICJ are binding on member states.

Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the Genocide Convention.