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Hong Kong protests: Trump signs Human Rights and Democracy Act into law

US President Donald Trump has signed into law a bill that supports pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The Human Rights and Democracy Act mandates an annual review, to check if Hong Kong has enough autonomy to justify its special status with the US. Mr Trump said he signed the law “out of respect for President Xi [Jinping], China, and the ... Read More »

Hong Kong protesters hope poll will send message to China

Pro-democracy protest groups in Hong Kong are urging people not to disrupt Sunday’s local elections in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. They hope the polls will send a message to the government in Beijing after five months of political unrest. The authorities have threatened to suspend voting if there is serious disruption at polling stations. More than 400 councillors are due ... Read More »

Yellow vests look to capitalize on protest momentum

As President Macron's approval bounces back, yellow vest protesters hope to convert notoriety into electoral success. The movement has brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the streets across France. At least one demonstrator was injured as France's yellow vest protests entered their 13th week on Saturday. At least 10 protesters were arrested after scuffles broke out with police near the Palais Bourbon, where the National Assembly meets. While many demonstrators marched peacefully, some masked activists tried to break down barriers outside the parliament. Others threw projectiles at police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades to disperse crowds Others vandalized bus shelters and set fire to garbage cans and vehicles, mostly luxury cars. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner expressed his "indignation and disgust," considering at least one vehicle belonged to France's anti-terrorism police. The protests have brought hundreds of thousands of people out onto the streets all over France. Initially voicing opposition to President Emmanuel Macron's planned tax hikes on fuel, protesters temporarily suspended action on roads, businesses, and even the government. Scores of people have been injured and hundreds arrested since the protests began in November. Paris police said a demonstrator lost four fingers when riot officers stopped protesters from storming the National Assembly. Witnesses told the French AFP news agency that the man's hand had been torn apart when a flash-ball grenade exploded. Another man, who was reportedly seen in front of a line of riot police, had blood streaming down his face. Thousands of protesters also turned out in the French cities of Marseille and Montpellier, as well as in Bordeaux, Toulouse, and several cities in France's north and west. Interior Ministry figures released at 2:00 p.m. local time put the turnout across France at 12,100, of whom 4,000 marched in Paris, down on the previous week's figures. Macron bounces back The demonstrations appeared to be losing steam as Macron acquiesced to some demands and has embarked on a nationwide town hall tour to learn more about people's grievances. Recent polls have suggested that his approval rating is back on the rise. At the same time, some yellow vest participants have been looking to capitalize on the movement's momentum and turn it into electoral success, which could prove tricky as they are very loosely organized and have no specific leadership. To that end, some yellow vest demonstrators met with Italy's populist Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who said he offered them advice on turning a citizen's movement into a political party. The meeting touched off a row between France and Italy, marking a low point in relations between the two founding EU nations. On Friday, Di Maio refused to apologize and accused Macron of playing "political games."

As President Macron’s approval bounces back, yellow vest protesters hope to convert notoriety into electoral success. The movement has brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the streets across France. At least one demonstrator was injured as France’s yellow vest protests entered their 13th week on Saturday. At least 10 protesters were arrested after scuffles broke out with police ... Read More »

Germany protests call for leadership on climate action

From Berlin to Cologne, protesters have gathered to demand more from the government in the fight against climate change. Greenpeace said Germany must lead, and that means phasing out coal by 2030. Thousands of protesters gathered on Saturday in Berlin and Cologne to demand bolder measures to combat climate change. Some 36,000 people joined the rallies. Organizers said the protest aimed to pressure the government into ending Germany's reliance on coal for its energy needs and instead looking to renewable energies, such as solar energy and wind power. "The point is that Germany must phase out coal by 2030," Jennifer Morgan, who leads Greenpeace International, told the Agence France-Presse news agency. "What happens in high-tech Germany, how quickly the climate-damaging combustion of coal is replaced by solar energy and wind power, is very important, also for other countries." Local to global In Berlin, protesters focused on changing government policy, while the demonstrations in Cologne highlighted the plight of Hambach Forest. The ancient forest has been a site of contention between anti-coal protesters and German energy giant RWE, which wants to clear the area to expand an open coal mine. Environmental activists argue that Germany should be winding down coal consumption, not expanding it. Germany was set to release a report on phasing out coal but later postponed the release until 2019.

From Berlin to Cologne, protesters have gathered to demand more from the government in the fight against climate change. Greenpeace said Germany must lead, and that means phasing out coal by 2030. Thousands of protesters gathered on Saturday in Berlin and Cologne to demand bolder measures to combat climate change. Some 36,000 people joined the rallies. Organizers said the protest ... Read More »

Taiwan’s independence rally draws thousands, irks China

The first large-scale pro-independence rally in a generation has brought thousands of people onto the streets of Taipei. China has recently strengthened its determination to bring the self-ruled island under its control. Several thousand pro-independence activists have rallied in Taiwan's capital, Taipei, to push the Taiwanese government to hold a referendum on whether to declare independence from China. Organizers claimed more than 100,000 people turned out for the march against Beijing's increasing hostility toward the self-ruled island. Some carried placards bearing the message: “No more bullying; no more annexation." The demonstration was organized by a new political outfit, the Formosa Alliance, which is backed by two pro-independence former Taiwanese presidents, Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, as well as leaders of several other smaller political parties. Read more: Will China-Vatican deal have a diplomatic domino effect for Taiwan? Independence activist George Kuo founded the alliance in February 2018 to pressure the government to amend the island's Referendum Act and initiate the process for organizing a public referendum on independence from China. "In order to help Taiwan be recognized as a sovereign state internationally, our government needs to amend the Referendum Act to allow the Taiwanese people to express their desire to achieve Taiwanese independence through votes," Kuo told DW, ahead of the rally. Maintaining the status quo China sees self-ruling democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, despite the two sides being ruled separately since the end of a civil war on the mainland in 1949. Taiwan views itself as a sovereign state, with its own currency, political and judicial systems, but has never declared formal independence from the mainland. Beijing has warned it would respond with force if Taiwan tried an official split. China also demands its international allies forfeit diplomatic recognition of the island. Furthermore, China's growing international political and economic clout in recent years have allowed Beijing to curtail Taiwanese presence on the international stage, by blocking it from global forums and poaching its dwindling number of diplomatic partners. Taiwan's currently ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is traditionally independence-leaning, but President Tsai Ing-wen has said she wants to maintain the status quo with China. Tsai's measured approach has alienated some pro-independence supporters of her party. This hasn't prevented relations between Beijing and Taipei from further deteriorating since Tsai took office in 2016, as she has refused to adhere to Beijing's line that Taiwan is part of "one China." Read more: US to sell Taiwan military gear worth $330 million Kuo argued that the pro-independence rally gave the Taiwanese people the opportunity to come out and show to China that they disapprove of Beijing's "barbaric way of intimidating Taiwan and its people." Chinese authorities, meanwhile, have said the Formosa Alliance should not go down what they called a "dangerous path." Electoral considerations? Saturday's protest took place at a sensitive time in Taiwan, ahead of local elections in November. Even though the Formosa Alliance denied that its decision to organize the demonstration was influenced by electoral considerations, some analysts believe otherwise. Kharis Templeman, an expert on Taiwanese democracy and security at Stanford University, pointed out that Tsai and the DPP are struggling domestically, and, therefore, it's understandable that these pro-independence activists are now coming to their rescue. "It makes sense for independence activists to hold events now to rally support for their cause, as the DPP is in danger of getting trounced in the local elections," Templeman told DW. Read more: Is Taiwan's tourism industry too reliant on China? A high-risk gambit A vote on independence in Taiwan would require an amendment to current laws, which bar referendums on changing the constitution or sovereign territory. Many believe Tsai would be unlikely to allow such an amendment due to fears that it would enrage Beijing. "Acknowledgement of Taiwan's existing de facto independence is high, but because of the risks involved in pursuing de jure independence, the mainstream position in Taiwan is to support the status quo," Jonathan Sullivan, director of China programs at Nottingham University, told DW. According to local media reports, the DPP prohibited its officials and candidates from attending Saturday's protest, which was held outside the party headquarters. But some independence activists say this is the right time to press forward, given the DPP holds the presidency as well a parliamentary majority for the first time. Yi-Chih Chen, the chairperson of the pro-independence Taiwan Radical Wings, argues that the key for Taiwan to achieve independence is for the government to turn the Taiwanese people's collective will into a parameter that Western allies have to take into account when dealing with China. "President Tsai's government should tell the US that there is a consensus among the Taiwanese people that Taiwan should become independent, and it is not purely DPP's political agenda," Chen told DW.

The first large-scale pro-independence rally in a generation has brought thousands of people onto the streets of Taipei. China has recently strengthened its determination to bring the self-ruled island under its control. Several thousand pro-independence activists have rallied in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, to push the Taiwanese government to hold a referendum on whether to declare independence from China. Organizers claimed ... Read More »

Tunisia anti-austerity protests turn deadly

Protests have broken out across Tunisia after anti-austerity measures came into effect on January 1. The country's main opposition party has said it will keep protests going until the government drops its 2018 budget. Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on Tuesday promised to crack down on rioters after two days of anti-austerity rallies in the country. "What some Tunisian areas saw overnight could not be considered a way of protest, but acts of theft, looting and attacks on Tunisians' properties," Chahed said. "The only solution for confronting those involved in looting and attacks on Tunisians and their properties is applying the law." The details Protests broke out in more than 10 towns against price and tax increases put in place by the government in an attempt to stabilize Tunisia's economic crisis. About 300 people demonstrated in the streets of the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, the center of the country's Arab Spring revolution. A 43-year old male protester died in unclear circumstances in the town of Tebourba, 40 kilometers west of the capital Tunis. The Interior Ministry denied that the protester was killed due to police violence, but an autopsy would be carried out to determine the cause of death National Security chief Walid Ben Hkima said 11 officers were wounded in the clashes, some after being hit by stones and Molotov cocktails. Khelifa Chibani, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said 44 people had been arrested for carrying weapons such as knives,´setting government buildings on fire and looting shops. Read more: Seven years after Arab Spring, Tunisia's future uncertain Austere beginnings Tunisians have become increasingly frustrated since the government said it would increase the price of gasoil, some goods, and taxes on cars, phone calls, the internet, hotel accommodation and other items from January 1, as part of austerity measures agreed upon with its foreign lenders. Read more: Tunisia one year after: the beginning of change "What happened had nothing to do with democracy and protests against price hikes ... Yesterday protesters burned down two police stations, they looted shops, banks and damaged property in many cities," Interior Ministry spokesman Chibani said. The leader of Tunisia's main opposition party Popular Front, Hamma Hammami, said they would increase protests until the government dropped the "unjust" 2018 budget. Read more: Terror and tourism in Tunisia "Today we have a meeting with the opposition parties to coordinate our movements, but we will stay on the street and we will increase the pace of the protests until the unjust financial law will be dropped," Hammami told reporters. Roots in the Arab Spring Tunisia's economy has been in crisis since the 2011 uprising unseated the government and two major militant attacks in 2015 damaged the country's tourism industry, which accounted for eight percent of gross domestic product. Read more: Tunisia declares state of emergency after massacre The January protests are much smaller compared to the previous turmoil seen in Tunisia since the overthrow of autocrat ruler Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, but past confrontations between government, labour unions, Islamists and secular forces have also started small before escalating.

Protests have broken out across Tunisia after anti-austerity measures came into effect on January 1. The country’s main opposition party has said it will keep protests going until the government drops its 2018 budget. Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on Tuesday promised to crack down on rioters after two days of anti-austerity rallies in the country. “What some Tunisian areas ... Read More »

How North Korea hype helped South Korea’s pro-peace Moon

South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, cannot rely on his resounding election victory for long. Analyst Sven Schwersensky tells DW that Moon has to deliver on difficult issues, both domestically and regionally. DW: It wasn't a surprise that Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party won the South Korean presidential election, but the margin with which he defeated other candidates was quite big. Did you expect the outcome? Sven Schwersensky: The final result was pretty much what the polls had predicted, but what came as a surprise was that the second in race from former President Park Geun-hye's party, Hong Joon Pyo, lost by a significant margin. This was not expected by many in South Korea. One noticeable thing in the election was that about 30 percent of voters cast a blank ballot. This, in my opinion, was a protest by a large number of conservative voters who showed their mistrust to all presidential candidates. It also shows that Moon now has a very important task to perform, most importantly to work for social cohesion to overcome deep divisions and polarization in the country. This is going to be a huge but essential task. An important step in this regard will be constitutional reforms, which Moon said he would strive for and make a preliminary decision on it next year. South Korea is facing a number of crises. The unemployment is growing, the income gap is expanding, corruption is on the rise, and then there is a worsening conflict with North Korea. How can Moon deal with so many issues? Unlike his predecessors, Moon was sworn in immediately after the polls. He has already taken some steps to address the issues. He has ordered the setting up of a job creation committee. Moon promised during his election campaign that he would create 170,000 new jobs in the public sector alone and a total of more than 800,000 jobs over the five years of his presidential term. How difficult will it be for the new president to regain public confidence in the government? Moon needs to establish a different form of political communication, both with parliament and the people. After his victory, he held meetings with the leaders of all political parties represented in parliament and offered them his cooperation. These were short meetings but they show that the new president wants to work together with everyone. Moon says he wants to start a dialogue with North Korea, building on the approach of his mentor and former President Roh. He also said he was willing to visit Pyongyang under favorable conditions. How do you expect Moon to deal with the crisis unfolding on the Korean Peninsula? With the appointments of the secretary of the union and the prime minister, Moon has signaled that he wants to proceed very quickly on his election promises regarding North Korea. At the same time, however, Moon has made it clear that he is aware of the fact that the stringent international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang are necessary. I think the new South Korean president would like to resume talks on the reopening of Kaesong and, perhaps he will initiate other joint economic projects with the North. It will be beneficial for South Korea's economy. To what extent has the conflict with North Korea affected the election result? It is always the case that the conservative camp plays up the fear of a possible North Korean attack and the liberal bloc advocates peace and tries to convince the people that the conflict with Pyongyang cannot be resolved through military means. This time too, the same question dominated the election campaign. Moon, however, has apparently benefited from the North Korea issue, because the conservatives, as well as the United States, overstated the topic. In his election campaign, Moon hinted that he wanted South Korea to rely less on the United States. What will it mean for the US-South Korea relations and, significantly for the future of the US' deployment of the THAAD missile defense system? I think Moon would want a more self-assertive role for South Korea in its dealing with the US. The missile defense system was an important topic in the last phase of the election campaign when US President Donald Trump and his security adviser pointed that Seoul must fund THAAD completely or at least jointly, like other security measures. The Moon administration will also focus on improving ties with China. Nevertheless, whether it will get South Korea any concessions on the missile defense system is unclear. Sven Schwersensky is the country representative for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Seoul. The interview was conducted by Esther Felden.

South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, cannot rely on his resounding election victory for long. Analyst Sven Schwersensky tells DW that Moon has to deliver on difficult issues, both domestically and regionally. DW: It wasn’t a surprise that Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party won the South Korean presidential election, but the margin with which he defeated other candidates was ... Read More »

May Day protests kick off in Berlin

Every year tens of thousands of left-wing demonstrators hit the streets of Berlin in often violent protests. This year is the 30th anniversary of the original protests and police are taking no chances. Berlin was bracing itself on Monday for traditional May Day protests on the 30th anniversary of widespread violence. In 1987, far-left rioters battled with police for 12 hours, looting shops and burning cars. They were fighting against what they called a "bourgeois" celebration of the 750th anniversary of the founding of Berlin. Rioting on May 1 then became a regular tradition in Berlin, starting in West Berlin and spreading to the East following reunification in 1990. In 1989 protests 364 police officers were injured. In 2000 the extent of the violence led to an attempted ban on protests the following year. In 2009 after a few years of relative calm, 273 police were injured with some rioters facing attempted murder charges for throwing Molotov cocktails. Tens of thousands celebrate Witches Night Young leftist groups in Berlin often use the night night before May Day, known as Walpurgisnacht or Witches' Night - a pagan ritual to usher in spring - to go on violent, often drunken rampages through Prenzlauer Berg. This year, as in the past several years, Walpurgisnacht was relatively calm, which police saw as a hopeful omen for May Day proper. However, the fire brigade attended to several car burnings through the night. About 12,000 people descended on Prenzlauer Berg's Mauerpark on Sunday night, but police said there relatively few incidents. In the district of Wedding about 3,000 people demonstrated against rising rents, largely without issue - just three demonstrators were arrested. More than 20 demos More than 20 large-scale events were planned for May 1 throughout Berlin, though police were focusing their efforts on the main "Revolutionary May Demo" event. Organizers of the event refused to register their protest with police, normally a requirement in Germany, but police said they would nonetheless tolerate the protest and would deploy about 5,400 officers. Their planned route for the parade would go through the heart of Kreuzberg street festival MyFest, which could make policing the event difficult. Police were implementing a truck ban in areas of Kreuzberg, fearing a possible repeat of the December terrorist attack, but did not erect concrete barriers. Early rallies on Monday got off to a peaceful start. From about 10am trade unionists started marching for workers rights in Berlin, joined by Berlin mayor Michael Müller. According to union figures about 14,000 showed up. About 200 Antifa protesters turned up to a counter-rally against a right-wing Alternative for Germany party rally. Police called in extra reinforcements at about 1pm to deal the tense situation, local media reported. Myfest kicked off 10am and was attracting tens of thousands of people. They had concerts across seven stages planned and hundreds of food stalls. The main cause for concern there were the high winds which were battering Berlin.

Every year tens of thousands of left-wing demonstrators hit the streets of Berlin in often violent protests. This year is the 30th anniversary of the original protests and police are taking no chances. Berlin was bracing itself on Monday for traditional May Day protests on the 30th anniversary of widespread violence. In 1987, far-left rioters battled with police for 12 ... Read More »

Protesters in Britain demonstrate against Trump immigration policy

Several thousand people have protested in the UK against a US travel ban that affects several Muslim-majority nations. Critics see the ban as inflaming religious tensions and violating international laws on refugees. Thousands of people on Saturday heeded a call from rights groups and Muslim organizations in Britain to protest outside the US Embassy in London against President Trump's executive order suspending travel to the US from several Muslim-majority countries. Protesters held banners bearing slogans such as "No to Trump, No to War" and "Trump: Special Relationship? Just say no." The protest is taking place the day after a US judge temporarily suspended the order, saying the order had caused "immediate and irreparable injury." It is the third protest addressing various aspects of Trump's presidency to have taken place in the British capital in two weeks. A similar protest was to take place on Saturday afternoon before the US embassy in the Germany capital, Berlin. Trump, on Saturday, criticized a "so-called judge" for suspending the ban saying it was "ridiculous" and would be overturned. Anti-Muslim order? The executive order signed by Trump suspended entry to the United States to people traveling from seven Muslim-majority countries - Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen - for 90 days, as well as putting a temporary halt to the entire US refugee program.The administration said the move is designed to combat terrorism. The US State Department on Friday said that 60,000 visas had been revoked following Trump's order, after media reports quoted government lawyers as saying that more than 100,000 people had been affected. Critics of the order say that the ban has separated families, harmed thousands of US residents and goes against international law on taking in refugees fleeing conflict. Rights groups have also warned that the move could heighten religious tension and encourage Islamophobia. Australian protests The order also brought thousands of demonstrators onto the streets in Australia on Saturday, with protesters coupling their outrage at Trump's move with calls for Australia to close its offshore processing centers on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Australia's hardline refugee policy, which denies asylum to anybody attempting to enter the country by boat, has been slammed by rights groups, and the United Nations have called for the offshore centers to be shut amid allegations of violence, sexual assualt, degrading treatment and self-harm. The protests in Australia come following a diplomatic spat between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with Trump calling a deal between the two nations struck by his predecessor, Barack Obama, "dumb." The deal is to see the United States taking up to 1,250 asylum-seekers held on Nauru and Manus to enable Canberra to stick to its "no boat" policy. In return, Australia would take in refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Trump later said he planned to stand by the agreement, which has been widely criticized in Australia. Student rallies against Trump's immigration policy were also held in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and outside the US embassy in the Philippine capital, Manila.

Several thousand people have protested in the UK against a US travel ban that affects several Muslim-majority nations. Critics see the ban as inflaming religious tensions and violating international laws on refugees. Thousands of people on Saturday heeded a call from rights groups and Muslim organizations in Britain to protest outside the US Embassy in London against President Trump’s executive ... Read More »

Obama ‘heartened’ by protests against US travel ban

Former US President Barack Obama has criticized the travel ban policy of his successor, Donald Trump. It comes as Washington's attorney general filed a lawsuit against the executive order, labeling it unconstitutional. Former US President Barack Obama on Monday added his voice to a myriad of American figures criticizing President Donald Trump's executive order, banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and suspending refugee resettlement in the country indefinitely. Obama "fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discrimination against individuals because of their faith or religion," the former president's spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a statement. Lewis noted that Obama was "heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities across the country" after thousands across the US and abroad protested against the executive order. "Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake," he added. The former president also rejected Trump's claims that his travel ban resembled what Obama did in 2011, when he banned visas for Iraqi refugees for six months. Obama's statement marks the first of its kind since he left office less than two weeks ago. Since then, hundreds of demonstrations have emerged across the country to protest Trump's executive orders, whether barring refugees from entering the country or building a wall on the US-Mexico border. 'No one is above the law' Meanwhile, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit challenging the executive order as illegal and unconstitutional. "No one is above the law - not even the president," Ferguson told a press briefing. "And in the courtroom, it is not the loudest voice that prevails. It's the constitution." While at least federal judges have moved to halt deportations, the White House has remained steadfast in its resolution that the travel ban will remain active. However, Ferguson's complaint argued that the travel ban was separating and harming families "and undermining Washington's sovereign interest in remaining a welcoming place for migrants and refugees." "Never has our system of checks and balances been more important," said Washington state Governor Jay Inslee at the press conference. "Until Congress takes this administration to task for the obvious moral and legal injuries suffered by innocent, law-abiding people entering our country, it is up to states to protect and promote the rights of the people who reside in our borders," he added. Major companies based in Washington, including Microsoft and Amazon, have provided information to Ferguson detailing the impact the ban would have on their business. "We'd be happy to testify further if needed," said a Microsoft spokesman.

Former US President Barack Obama has criticized the travel ban policy of his successor, Donald Trump. It comes as Washington’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against the executive order, labeling it unconstitutional. Former US President Barack Obama on Monday added his voice to a myriad of American figures criticizing President Donald Trump’s executive order, banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries ... Read More »

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