World attention on the trial of Derek Chauvin.
This week marks the start of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer accused of killing George Floyd. Is this the beginning of many changes to come, or is this just the end of another saga?
After the brutal images from the killing, as well as a summer of protests, many are looking for justice to be served. They have already scored a victory in the prosecution of Derek Chauvin. Historically, few officers have been charged. When they have been, they are rarely convicted (roughly one-third).
Laws often are, as expected, written in favour of those who are supposed to be law enforcement agents. Under the laws, police officers are allowed to use excessive force if they feel that their lives are threatened. But this is extremely subjective, and as long as people can carry guns, police officers can always use that as an argument.
Thus, it brings us back to the gun laws in America that appear bizarre to most other cultures around the world. Broadly speaking, and at risk of overly simplifying the issue, Republicans are more vocal against changing the existing legislation. Yet, Republicans are also, statistically, more white and older, and thus, less likely to be the target of a police killing. It can be argued that loose gun laws hurt Republicans significantly less than the rest of society.
Law enforcement officials in the US kill about 1,000 people a year, which puts them above Nigeria, El Salvador, and Afghanistan. Comparatively, the Japanese police kill two people, the Brits three, and the Aussies four.
Another (but not the last) blow to Hong Kong's democracy and freedom.
For a while, people were fighting to change the system. That was back in the summer of 2019. Now people don't have any hope left to even be bothered. Hong Kong's democracy has truly died.
Beijing's rubberstamp parliament passed sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s electoral laws this week. The number of directly elected seats in Hong Kong's Legislative Council has been cut by almost half, and all candidates now also have to go through 2 rounds of vetting by pro-Beijing Election Committees. In other words, it is best not to consider this as a real election. People looking to bring a different voice can now stay home.
In 2014, Beijing changed Hong Kong's electoral law after a process that included public consultation and a vote by Hong Kong's legislative council. Yes, the final decision was always in the hands of Beijing but at least they pretended to be democratic. Seven years on, China no longer pretends that it has any desire to grant the people any democracy. Hongkongers have been completely bypassed in the electoral law change, and few have any energy left to care.
In another blow to the city this week, seven prominent pro-democracy leaders have been convicted for their roles in organizing a peaceful protest. This includes Jimmy Lai, the owner of Hong Kong's largest pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, as well as Martin Lee, who ironically, was once on the drafting committee of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. Lee was expelled from the committee after he spoke out against the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, just as some Western companies are now being expelled from China after they spoke out against the humanity crimes in Xinjiang.
Escalating number of protester deaths in Myanmar.
But at least Hong Kong is not Myanmar (yet).
Protests have taken place since the military staged a coup against Aung San Suu Kyi and her democratically elected government in February. And when the first protester was killed by the military in late February, this opened the floodgate. The military is ever more willing to kill as this week marked the 500th protester death.
Myanmar's military has also ordered an internet blackout. A shutdown of the internet is now firmly in the repository of a government under any threat. Since the turn of the year, this has been deployed in Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Senegal. Globally, there were 150 cases of internet shutdowns last year, with 109 of them in India alone.
But shutting down the internet is blunt and may cause a reaction across all sectors of society. Surely dictators are increasingly eager to deploy China's censored internet, as it provides citizens with a false sense of freedom and liberty.
As for protesters, how to organize a protest without the Internet would be a crucial lesson going forward. (Yes, protests took place before we had internet) Breaking out from a state-controlled and censored internet may be even more challenging.
Amidst this difficult situation, the Burmese contestant at the Miss Grand International pageant has spoken up against the military regime. Yangon University student Han Lay said,
"I deeply feel sorry for the people who have lost their lives on the streets. Every citizen of the world wants the prosperity of their country and a peaceful environment. In doing so, the leaders involved should not use their power and selfishness to apply,"
Surely this was one of the most beautiful moments in the entire beauty contest.
This article is part of the Making History This Week series.