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.


Malaysian police question Al Jazeera journalists over report on immigrants

Updated 5 min 47 sec ago

Malaysian police question Al Jazeera journalists over report on immigrants

  • Al Jazeera journalists under investigation for sedition following the broadcast of a documentary about the mistreatment of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur
  • The 25-minute documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast as part of Al Jazeera’s “101 East” documentary strand on July 3

KUALA LUMPUR: Six members of staff from state-owned Qatari news broadcaster Al Jazeera were questioned by police in Malaysia on Friday.

They are under investigation for sedition following the broadcast of a documentary about the mistreatment of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur during the coronavirus lockdown.

“The documentary has ignited a backlash among the public,” said national police chief Abdul Hamid Bador. “During our investigation, we found out there were inaccuracies in the documentary that were aimed at creating a bad image of Malaysia.”

He said police have discussed the case with the attorney general and added: “We are going to give a fair investigation and a fair opportunity for them to defend themselves, in case the AG wants to file charges against them.”

The journalists, accompanied by their lawyers, were questioned at police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

The 25-minute documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast as part of Al Jazeera’s “101 East” documentary strand on July 3. It highlighted the plight of undocumented migrants reportedly arrested during raids on COVID-19 lockdown hotspots. Malaysian officials said the report was inaccurate and misleading.

On Thursday, Al Jazeera said it refutes the charges and “stands by the professionalism, quality and impartiality of its journalism” and has “serious concerns about developments that have occurred in Malaysia since the broadcast of the documentary.” It added: “Al Jazeera is deeply concerned that its staff are now subject to a police investigation.”

However, the incident highlights the broadcaster’s double standards in reporting issues about migrant workers. When Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Qatar in February of failing to implement a system to ensure construction companies pay migrant workers on time, the issue was not highlighted by Al Jazeera, the headquarters of which is in Doha.

On May 23, migrant workers staged a rare protest in Qatar over unpaid wages but Al Jazeera did not send reporters to interview the demonstrators.

Also in May, HRW said that crowded and unsanitary conditions at Doha Central Prison were exacerbating the COVID-19 threat. The organization urged Qatar to reduce the size of prison populations and ensure inmates have access to adequate medical care, along with masks, sanitizer and gloves. Again Al Jazeera did not focus on the issue.

Activists and civil-society groups criticized the Malaysian government for its heavy-handed move against Al Jazeera.

“The Malaysian government should stop trying to intimidate the media when it reports something the powers that be don’t like,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of HRW’s Asia division. “The reality is Malaysia has treated migrant workers very shoddily and Al Jazeera has caught them out on it.”

Nalini Elumalai, the Malaysia program officer for freedom of speech advocacy group Article 19, said the action against Al Jazeera is alarming and akin to “shooting the messenger.”

She added: “The government should instead initiate an independent inquiry into the issues raised in the documentary.”

There are at least 2 million migrant workers in Malaysia, though the true number is thought to be much higher as many are undocumented. They are a source of cheap, low-skilled labor in industries considered dirty and dangerous.