Financial Times – Nicolle Liu and Primrose Riordan / Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers resign en masse
- Hong Kong’s government has ousted four opposition lawmakers, prompting the resignation of most of the pro-democracy camp in the territory’s de facto parliament, in what critics say is part of a growing attack on its autonomy.
- The government made the decision using new powers granted by Beijing on Wednesday that allow the removal of lawmakers on national security grounds. This includes supporting Hong Kong independence or inviting foreign interference in the city’s affairs.
- In Washington, the White House slammed the move. Robert O’Brien, the US national security adviser, said it was more evidence that the “one country, two systems” model was a “fig leaf covering for the Chinese Communist party’s expanding one-party dictatorship in Hong Kong”.
- Dixon Sing, a political science professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said the decision would further dent confidence in Beijing’s promise that the city would continue to enjoy civil freedoms after the handover.
- The Guardian – Helen Davidson / Hong Kong and China could face fresh US sanctions over ousting of lawmakers
Bloomberg – Zoltan Simon / Hungary PM, Viktor Orban, seeks to cement rule with midnight legislative raid
- In a rush of legislative activity, Orban’s government moved to change the electoral law, enshrine Christian religious doctrine on gender and marriage in the constitution, temporarily ban demonstrations, revamp court procedures and loosen rules governing public funds.
- “Orban is once again using the virus as a cover to pass measures to cement his power, institutionalize the funneling of public funds to allies and limit the chances of the opposition in the next election,” said Andras Biro-Nagy, director of Policy Solutions, a think-tank in Budapest.
- Rules proposed to “tackle fake parties” would limit the ways political forces can band together in the 2022 parliamentary ballot, where Orban has predicted a tight race after three consecutive landslide wins.
- The bills proposed overnight are assured approval given the Orban’s two-thirds parliamentary majority. They’re also bound to renew debate about Hungary’s slide from core EU values and to test the bloc’s resolve to push back in earnest, including by imposing financial penalties.
- Financial Times – Valerie Hopkins / Orban proposes changes to Hungary’s electoral law
The Guardian – Jason Burke / Thousands of refugees cross into Sudan to flee fighting in Ethiopia
- As many as 8,000 Ethiopians are thought to have already crossed the border in the last two days, and aid officials say hundreds of thousands more are likely to leave their homes if the conflict, now entering its second week, does not end.
- Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, launched military operations in Tigray last week, after he accused local authorities of attacking a military camp in the region and attempting to loot military assets. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which is in power in the province, denies the attack and has accused the prime minister of concocting the story to justify deploying the offensive.
- In his most recent statement, Abiy said the offensive in Tigray was “proceeding as planned” and brushed aside requests from the UN, the UK and the African Union for an immediate end to hostilities. “Operations will cease as soon as the criminal junta is disarmed, legitimate administration in the region restored, and fugitives apprehended [and] brought to justice,” Abiy posted on Twitter.
- Addis Ababa’s police commissioner said on Sunday that the government had arrested 162 people in possession of firearms and ammunition, on suspicion of supporting the Tigrayan forces. It was not clear if two journalists who have been detained were among that group. The Committee to Protect Journalists, a global campaign group, called the arrests of the reporters “a dangerous reversal of the early steps taken by [the] government to improve press freedom”.
- The Economist / Ethiopia’s Prime Minister may be starting a civil war
Politico – Jillian Deutsch / Comission fires first shots in battle for more health power
- The European Commission on Wednesday began to lay out precisely what it would do with more power over health policy, and the short summary is: a lot.
- Kyriakides offered the details on the Health Union proposal at a news conference on the same day that the Commission announced that it secured a fourth contract for millions of coronavirus vaccines — moving forward with one of the few responsibilities member countries handed over to Brussels in the summer as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Pointing to this track record, Brussels says it’s time member countries put the Commission in charge of more.
- “2020 will forever be remembered as the year the worst global health crisis in modern times broke out,” she said. “But I would also like it to be remembered as the year where we listened and lived up to citizens’ demands for more Europe in the area of public health.”
- The European Health Union is about “facing up to common health threats together as a union … and building strong EU health systems overall that can deliver better outcomes for EU citizens and their daily lives,” she said. “But our health union can only be as strong as the commitment of our member states.”
- The New York Times – Monika Pronczuk / A ‘European Health Union’ is proposed to centralize pandemic response
Two other reads for today:
- The New York Times – Hannah Beech and Saw Nang / Myanmar election delivers another decisive win for Aung San Suu Kyi
- Bloomberg – Muneeza Naqvi / Why Thailand’s protesters want to change the monarchy