October 14 roundup: NBA ensnared in China-Hong Kong tensions; Conflicts and other protests around the world

Thomas and Mack Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada

This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last two weeks (October 1 to 14, 2019).

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American companies and China-Hong Kong tensions: While protests in Hong Kong coincided with the 70th anniversary of the founding of China – celebrated in China with a military parade and fireworks – China-Hong Kong tensions ensnared the National Basketball Association (NBA). General manager of the Houston Rockets Daryl Morey, one of the 30 professional teams in the NBA, tweeted his support for the ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong, and even though he has since deleted the tweet and the NBA has apologised, Chinese partners and sponsors as well as the state broadcaster have pulled money and support. Back home, American lawmakers have criticised the NBA, which has also resisted Chinese pressure to punish Mr. Morey.

The NBA was not the only American company caught in the middle. Apple shut down two apps – the first showing protestors police locations and the second by news outlet Quartz – and Google removed a game which lets users play as a Hong Kong demonstrator. And all these happened as protests in Hong Kong turned violent, where for the first time during these protests the police shot a protestor. The city’s leader also invoked emergency powers to ban masks.

Finally, against the background of the broader ongoing trade dispute between China and the United States, the World Trade Organisation said that increased tariffs and the cooling of the global economy means world trade is forecasted for its weakest year since the 2009 global financial crisis.

Conflicts and protests: For his efforts to end a 20-year border dispute with neighbouring Eritrea and for negotiating a power-sharing deal in Sudan, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet conflicts and protests have dominated headlines in the past two weeks. Syria has been rocked by continued conflict as protestors took to the streets in Ecuador, Iraq and Peru. In Syria, days after the United States withdrew forces from the border area, Turkey sent warplanes and troops into northeastern Syria targeting the Syrian Democratic Forces, which was a crucial American ally in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

In Ecuador, the announcement that the government would end a decades-long fuel subsidy led to a spike in fuel prices and protests in the capital, prompting the country’s president to move his government to a port city. In Iraq, in response to large anti-government protests over unemployment, poor public services, and corruption – with at least 100 protestors killed and over 1,000 injured – the government imposed a curfew in the capital and restricted Internet access. The curfew was later lifted, with the government rolling out promises such as subsidised housing, unemployment benefits, and compensation to the families of those killed protestors. And in Peru, the country is in the middle of one of its worst political crisis in decades. The anti-corruption president Martín Vizcarra, who has the support of the public and the military, has been pit against the opposition-controlled Congress. The former dissolved Congress, while the latter suspended the former from office for a year.

Election results: Elections were also held in Afghanistan, Austria, and Portugal, with a watershed parliamentary election to follow in Poland:

  • Afghanistan: The presidential election in the country were overshadowed by Taliban attacks, widespread accusations of fraud and misconduct, as well as a low turnout rate. Ballots have not been tallied, yet both frontrunners have claimed victory.
  • Austria: Conservative leader Sebastian Kurz is set to return to power after a landslide victory over the far-right party, which has been embroiled in a corruption scandal. Former chancellor Kurz had cancelled his coalition with the far-right party and called for this snap election in May.
  • Portugal: The centre-left Socialists won the general elections and gained 20 seats (from 86 to 106), though this party of the prime minister fell 10 seats short of an absolute majority.

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