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Nile Bowie

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While Lam relents, Hong Kong calls massively for her ouster


Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam backed away from a contentious extradition bill and issued a public apology but as many as two million demonstrated on Sunday calling for her resignation


Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam issued a public apology Sunday evening (June 16) as hundreds of thousands of protestors dressed in black clogged the city’s streets in another massive protest demanding her resignation and the scrapping of a contentious bill that would allow for the extradition of suspects to mainland China.

A day after Lam announced a surprise decision to indefinitely postpone the bill in a press conference on Saturday, the city’s leader vowed to “sincerely and humbly accept all criticism and to improve and serve the public” in a statement released at 8:30 pm as chanting crowds stood outside the gates of her office calling for her to step down.

“Carrie Lam’s press conference yesterday just made Hong Kong people angrier. We don’t think she will step down, but we must force her out,” said 27-year-old Chiew minutes before demonstrators began marching from Victoria Park in the scorching afternoon heat with the aim of forcing the government to rescind, rather than postpone, the controversial bill.

Gripped by a surge of mass dissent, the Asian financial hub has been thrust into political crisis amid the largest political demonstrations and some of the worst scenes of violence since Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. Organizers from the Civil Human Rights Front said almost two million people took part in Sunday’s march.
Read the full story at Asia Times.
Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.
przetłumacz | 17.6.2019 06:14

As China blames US, Hong Kong on a precarious edge


Beijing claims ‘external forces’ were behind recent mass protests in Hong Kong while US readies legislation that could strip the autonomous city of its special status


Hong Kong’s legislature building remains closed after mass protests over a proposed extradition law that would allow for suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial turned violent on Wednesday (June 12).

While the city’s center returned to normalcy on Friday, demonstrators are set to take to the streets again in the days ahead, setting the stage for new rounds of confrontation and a potentially more severe official response.

Clashes between police and tens of thousands of young black-clad protestors resulted in the hospitalization of at least 81 people in some of the worst violence seen in the former British colony since it was handed back to China in 1997.

The protests are already having diplomatic ramifications. Senior US lawmakers from both Democratic and Republican parties on Thursday introduced legislation that would require the US government to annually certify Hong Kong’s autonomy from mainland China to qualify for special business and trade privileges.

China, meanwhile, has rejected accusations it is throttling Hong Kong’s legally guaranteed autonomy and forcing legal changes on the city’s government. In response, Chinese state media has taken sharp aim at “external forces” it claims are trying to drive a wedge between the city and the mainland by creating chaos over the bill.

Read the full story at Asia Times.
Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.
przetłumacz | 15.6.2019 08:58

Protests set stage for historic clash in Hong Kong


Youthful demonstrators block talks on controversial extradition bill, paralyzing the financial hub


Throngs of youthful black-clad demonstrators with umbrellas, goggles and face masks blockaded major roads around Hong Kong’s legislature building on Wednesday, a surge of mass dissent against an extradition bill that, if passed, would allow city residents to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Leaderless but highly organized, protesters in their tens of thousands had been in an hours-long stand-off with riot police bearing shields and wielding batons in scenes reminiscent of the protracted Occupy Central democracy protests of late 2014. Police used pepper spray, beanbag rounds, tear gas and even rubber bullets against protesters who defied the show of official force and refused to retreat.

The protests have symbolically erupted just after the 30-year anniversary of China’s lethal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. How the protests, if sustained, will ultimately be handled is unclear, but the stage is now set for a pivotal clash of pro- and anti-Beijing forces in China’s special administrative region.

Mass opposition to the bill has fast spiraled into a political crisis for Chief Executive Carrie Lam with escalating street protests and strikes clogging key roads near government offices three days after Hong Kong’s biggest political demonstration since its return to Chinese rule in 1997 drew more than one million people, according to organizers.
Read the full story at Asia Times.
Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.
przetłumacz | 12.6.2019 12:31

Why Hong Kong won’t go quietly to China


One million Hongkongers protested, some violently, on Sunday against a pending extradition law many fear would undermine the city’s judicial and political independence


A protest march of more than a million people brought Hong Kong’s streets to a standstill on Sunday (June 9) in what organizers claim to be the city’s largest-ever rally. They gathered to voice mass opposition to a proposed extradition law that would for the first time allow fugitives wanted by authorities in China to be sent from Hong Kong to the mainland for trial.

Braving sweltering temperatures, throngs of demonstrators clad in white held placards and yellow umbrellas in defiance as they shouted slogans in English and Cantonese calling for the resignation of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who critics say has tried to hastily push through the unpopular bill.

The Civil Human Rights Front, the group that organized the sprawling march, claimed a record turnout of 1.03 million people, a massive showing that raises pressure on local authorities to scrap the rendition bill. Police estimates down played the numbers, per usual, with security forces claiming attendance peaked at 240,000.

Though the China-backed extradition bill is a local government initiative, many here are wary that it would give authorities in Beijing a freer hand to target political opponents and foreign businesspeople on the self-ruled island with contrived charges to be heard in China’s politicized court system.
Read the full story at Asia Times.
Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.
przetłumacz | 10.6.2019 02:43

Thirty years on, Hong Kong fears its own Tiananmen


On the anniversary of China’s June 4, 1989 fatal clampdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong’s freedoms are quickly eroding away


A candlelight vigil commemorating the 30th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown on student-led demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square was attended by tens of thousands in Hong Kong, with young and old alike gathered to mark what many see as a seminal event in modern Chinese history.

Crowds gathered on the damp football fields of Victoria Park where they swayed to protest songs with candles in hand and chanted slogans. Some could be seen shedding tears or heard sobbing as a eulogy to the dead rang out over loudspeakers. Hundreds of miles away in the city where the violent events unfolded, however, it was as if nothing had ever happened, according to news reports.

Three decades on, mention of the violent repression is heavily censored in Chinese news and social media as perhaps the country’s biggest political taboo. Hong Kong, along with Macau, are the only places on Chinese soil where commemorations are held each year. The date continues to resonate with Hongkongers amid rising distrust of mainland authorities.

“The memory of June 4 scares me,” said Tiffany, a 23-year-old university student who attended the vigil. “Seeing these people still alive makes me very touched,” she said as a former student leader gave a stirring speech. “Being here reminds me that the Chinese government is so inhumane and, recently, they are tightening the rule of law in Hong Kong.”
Read the full story at Asia Times.
Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.
przetłumacz | 5.6.2019 05:11

Fifty years on, fateful race riots still haunt Malaysia


PM Mahathir Mohamad’s political career was forged in the fires of May 13, 1969 race riots yet he remains reluctant to seek the truth about the violence


This month Malaysia commemorated the 50th anniversary of one of the darkest episodes of its post-independence history, a convulsion of racial violence that still haunts the multi-ethnic nation. The bloody race riots of May 13, 1969, saw explosive communal clashes between ethnic Malays and Chinese break out in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, leaving hundreds dead and a then young nation traumatized.

Five decades on, the date still looms large in the national consciousness and weighs like an albatross on the generations that lived through the carnage where as many as 800 may had been killed in an orgy of racial violence.

Then as now, race relations remain a delicate matter and at the center of multi-ethnic Malaysia’s long-enduring but controversial social contract that favors the ethnic Malay majority over minority Chinese and Indians, a construct that emerged in the riots’ aftermath with the 1971 New Economic Policy (NEP).

Over the years, various politicians have evoked the episode’s sectarian violence as a warning, often in the lead up to elections, that any challenge to the special rights and constitutionally-ascribed privileges enjoyed by Malays would upset the nation’s delicate balance and possibly lead to new bloodshed.

Read the full story at Asia Times.
Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.
przetłumacz | 29.5.2019 12:07

US, Malaysia in a 1MDB quid pro quo


Malaysia’s extradition of ex-Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng to the US likely facilitated a first $196 million tranche return of recovered fund assets


When Malaysian authorities filed criminal charges in December against Goldman Sachs’ employees and subsidiaries for alleged misconduct in their dealings with the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state investment fund, they sought from the outset to exact a high price.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng declared soon thereafter that Malaysia would seek a whopping US$7.5 billion in reparations from the American investment bank, a figure that exceeded market expectations and underscored the urgency his government placed on recouping billions of dollars lost in the now infamous global scandal.

While law enforcement officials in the United States, Malaysia and beyond have maintained pressure on Goldman Sachs, sources familiar with the matter told Asia Times that Malaysian authorities have voiced frustration with the perceived slow pace of the multinational effort to recover assets illegally acquired through funds diverted from 1MDB.

That could explain why Malaysian authorities ultimately allowed ex-Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng to be extradited to the US earlier this month on a warrant permitting him to remain in American custody for up to 10 months. His extradition was initially postponed by Malaysia as it sought its own legal proceedings against the banker.

Read the full story at Asia Times.
Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.
przetłumacz | 23.5.2019 14:05

Rapper, fugitive and lobbyists in new 1MDB twist


Malaysia scandal turns as US indicts financier Jho Low and American rapper Prakazrel Michel for illegal foreign funding in 2012 US presidential election


The United States’ Department of Justice (DoJ) has leveled election conspiracy charges against a fugitive Malaysian financier and an American rapper, the latest twist in the globe-spanning multi-billion dollar 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal.

Unsealed on May 10, the indictment claims Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, directed the transfer of approximately US$21.6 million into accounts controlled by music mogul Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, some of which allegedly went to campaign contributions for the 2012 US presidential election in violation of US law.

Low, a close associate of then Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, and Michel, a founding member of the 1990’s Fugees hip hop group, both face charges of conspiracy to defraud the US government by making and channeling illegal foreign campaign contributions. Michel has also been charged with scheming to conceal material facts and making a false entry in a record in connection with the alleged conspiracy.

The pair reputedly masked the source of foreign money by funneling it through more than a dozen “straw donors” who made legal contributions in their own names, according to the indictment, which said Michel and Low hoped to “buy access to, and potentially influence with a candidate, the candidate’s campaign and the candidate’s administration.”

Read the full story at Asia Times.
Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.
przetłumacz | 15.5.2019 13:45

One year on, Mahathir’s grip starts to slip


On the first anniversary of Malaysia’s historic election, the honeymoon is clearly over


One year ago today (May 9), Malaysians from all walks of life went to the ballot box seeking change. Victory for Pakatan Harapan, a reform-oriented multi-party alliance led by 93-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, stunned observers and brought six-decades of rule by the once-formidable Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition to a jubilant end.

At a time when many lamented democratic backsliding in the region and beyond, the unlikely election of a pluralistic ruling coalition bent on broad political reform imbued Malaysia with a newfound significance. Economic headwinds and widening sociopolitical polarization, however, have since complicated matters for the upstart leadership.

Though some argue campaign vows have been realized, perceptions of the government’s performance after a year in power are decidedly mixed. According to research by the Merdeka Center, an independent polling agency, recent approval ratings for both the ruling coalition and the prime minister have suffered a significant slide.

Mahathir, an iconic political personality who previously served as premier for over two decades before his re-election, polled at 83% shortly after taking office last May. His popularity, according to a survey published last month, has almost halved to just 46%.

Read the full story at Asia Times.
Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.
przetłumacz | 9.5.2019 13:25

Western boycotts soften Brunei’s sharia law


Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has stepped back from new anti-gay measures amid celebrity-led calls to boycott his Western-held commercial interests


Amid a global outcry against Brunei’s implementation of Islamic sharia law measures that allow for death by stoning for sex between men and extramarital affairs, the sultanate’s ruler has apparently climbed down from the harshest measures in what some have interpreted as a bid to shield his nation’s besieged overseas commercial interests.

The United Nations, United States and other Western governments had all lodged their concerns over the strict new measures. Hollywood celebrities, meanwhile, had called for a boycott of luxury hotels in Europe and the US owned by the country’s sovereign wealth fund, exclusive properties known collectively as the Dorchester Collection.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the small oil-rich sultanate’s absolute ruler, had previously defended his nation’s right to implement the code, part of his move towards what some see as the most extreme interpretation of sharia law. Apart from death by stoning for sexual offenses, the law also allows for amputation of limbs for theft and whipping for other violations.

In a televised May 5 speech, the 72-year-old monarch appeared to step back from those measures, declaring first that Brunei would ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture and that it would not enforce the death penalty on those convicted under new religious laws.
Read the full story at Asia Times.
Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.
przetłumacz | 7.5.2019 10:04

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