‘People of Hong Kong’ nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

People form a human chain in the harbour area in Hong Kong on September 30, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 16 October 2019

‘People of Hong Kong’ nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

  • The former British colony is going through its worst political crisis since its return to China in 1997
  • Millions have taken to the streets of Hong Kong, initially against a now-dropped bid by its leaders to allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland

OSLO: A Norwegian politician has nominated the “people of Hong Kong” for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, in a move which risks drawing China’s ire.

“I have nominated the people of Hong Kong, who risk their lives and security every day to stand up for freedom of speech and basic democracy, to the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020,” Guri Melby, a member of Norway’s parliament for the liberal party, said in a Twitter post on Tuesday.

In an interview published by newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday Melby explained that “what they do has an impact far beyond Hong Kong, both in the region and in the rest of the world.”

The former British colony is going through its worst political crisis since its return to China in 1997. Millions have taken to the streets of Hong Kong, initially against a now-dropped bid by its leaders to allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.
But after Beijing and Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam took a hard line, the movement snowballed into a broader push for democracy and police accountability.

Activists say freedoms are being eroded by Beijing, contrary to a deal that outlined Hong Kong’s 1997 return to China from British colonial rule.

Melby’s initiative is likely to displease China, which was already angered by the Nobel Committee’s 2010 decision to give the award to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who has since died.

Although the Nobel Committee is independent from the government in Norway, Beijing froze its relations with the Scandinavian country, suspended negotiations for a free trade agreement and blocked imports of Norwegian salmon.

Relations between the countries did not normalize until December 2016, after Oslo committed to not “support actions that undermine” Chinese interests.

Nominations are however common and this year the Nobel Committee had to pick from 301 candidates.

In the end the prize was awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for his work in resolving the conflict with bitter foe Eritrea.


Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

Updated 11 December 2019

Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

  • The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims

NEW DELHI: Protests erupted across various parts of India on Tuesday, a day after the lower house of Parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which makes religion the basis for granting Indian citizenship to minorities from neighboring countries. 

The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims.

“After the CAB, we are going to bring in the National Register of Citizens (NRC),” Home Minister Amit Shah said after the passage of the bill. 

The fear among a large section of Indians is that by bringing in the CAB and the NRC — a process to identify illegal immigrants — the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to target Muslim minorities. 

They insist that the new bill protects all other communities except Muslims, who constitute around 14 percent of India’s total population.

The opposition Congress Party said that the bill was a move to “destroy the foundation” of India.

“The CAB is an attack on the Indian constitution. Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation,” party leader Rahul Gandhi posted in a tweet.

Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul’s sister and a prominent opposition leader, called the bill “India’s tryst with bigotry.”

However, BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma said: “The opposition is communalizing the bill. 

The CAB saves minorities who owe their origin to India from being prosecuted on grounds of religious status. The same is not the case with Muslims since they have not been prosecuted because of their religion.”

Eight northeastern states observed a day-long strike against the CAB. 

“Once the bill is implemented, the native tribal people will become permanent minorities in their own state,” Animesh Debbarma, a tribal leader who organized the strike in the state of Tripura said.

“The bill is against our fundamental rights and it is an attack on our constitution and secularism,” he told Arab News.

In Assam, some places saw violence with a vehicle belonging to the BJP state president vandalized.

In New Delhi, different civil society groups and individuals gathered close to the Indian Parliament and expressed their outrage at the “open and blatant attack” on what they called the “idea” of India.

“The CAB is not only against Muslim minorities but against all the minorities — be it Tamils or Nepali Gurkhas — and is a blatant attempt to polarize the society in the name of religion and turn India into a majoritarian Hindu state,” Nadeem Khan, head of United Against Hate, a campaign to connect people from different faiths, said.

Rallies and protests were also organized in Pune, Ahmadabad, Allahabad, Patna and Lucknow.

On Tuesday, more than 600 academics, activists, lawyers and writers called the bill “divisive, discriminatory, unconstitutional” in an open letter, and urged the government to withdraw the proposed law.

They said that the CAB, along with the NRC, “will bring untold suffering to people across the country. It will damage fundamentally and irreparably, the nature of the Indian republic.”

Delhi-based activist and a prominent human rights campaigner, Harsh Mander, said: “I feel the CAB is the most dangerous bill that has ever been brought by the Indian Parliament. We need a mass civil disobedience movement to oppose this legislation.”

Meanwhile, the international community is also watching the domestic debate on the CAB. 

Describing the initiative as a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction,”  a federal US commission on international religious freedom has sought US sanctions against Shah and other Indian leaders if the bill with the “religious criterion” is passed.

EU ambassador to India, Ugo Astuto, in a press conference in New Delhi on Monday said that he hopes: “The spirit of equality enshrined in the Indian constitution will be upheld by the Parliament.”