China says Hong Kong protests ‘near terrorism’

Police advance through the Sham Shui Po neighbourhood during clashes with anti-extradition bill protesters in Hong Kong, China, August 14, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 14 August 2019
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China says Hong Kong protests ‘near terrorism’

  • Ten weeks of increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters have plunged the city into its worst crisis

HONG KONG: China said Hong Kong’s protest movement had reached “near terrorism” on Wednesday, after a night of ugly clashes at the city’s airport where demonstrators set upon and detained two men they suspected of being government sympathizers.

Flights out of the financial hub resumed after two days of disruptions caused by unrest as thousands of protesters swarmed the terminal at one of the world’s busiest airports, forcing the cancelation of hundreds of departures.

China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing called the behavior at the airport no different to terrorism and said it must be severely punished.

Ten weeks of increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters have plunged the city into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

“We’re deeply sorry about what happened yesterday,” read a banner held up by a few dozen demonstrators in the airport. “We were desperate and we made imperfect decisions. Please accept our apologies,” the banner said.

In chaotic scenes that would once have been unthinkable for Hong Kongers, a peaceful sit-in at the airport turned violent late on Tuesday as protesters confronted and held a man they believed was an undercover Chinese agent.

Busloads of riot police arrived in response, clashing with furious demonstrators before withdrawing once the man was removed and leaving the terminal briefly in control of activists who then detained a Chinese reporter for a short time.

Protesters, who occupied the airport for five days — disrupting flights on Monday and Tuesday — mostly withdrew by daybreak, with several groups issuing statements blending contrition for the chaos with defiance of the authorities.

It’s not clear whether the ugly scenes have eroded the broad support the movement has attracted in Hong Kong, while the city’s faltering economy has also taken a hit in recent months.

“We promise to reflect and to improve,” protesters said in one message distributed on social-media app Telegram.

“Sorry we were too reckless ... we are only afraid of losing your support to the whole movement due to our mistake, and that you give up on fighting.”

The unrest began in opposition to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed the extradition of suspects for trial in mainland China, but have swelled into wider calls for democracy.

The seizure by protesters of a reporter from China’s Global Times newspaper, a nationalistic tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, and their harassment of the man they believed to be a mainland agent drew China’s strongest language yet.

In addition to Beijing’s condemnation, the People’s Daily called for “using the sword of the law” to restore order, and mainland social media users lauded the detained reporter as a hero.

On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump described the volatile situation as “tricky,” and said China’s government had moved troops near the border with Hong Kong.

“I think it will work out and I hope it works out, for liberty. I hope it works out for everybody, including China,” he told reporters during a visit to Morristown, New Jersey.

Chinese police have assembled in the neighboring city of Shenzhen for what appeared to be exercises, the Global Times reported this week.

China also denied a request for two US Navy warships to visit Hong Kong in the coming weeks, US officials said, as a prominent US senator warned the territory could lose its special trade status if Beijing intervenes.

Departure zones in the airport were sealed-off on Wednesday to all but passengers with boarding passes, as normal service resumed.

Blood, debris and signs of the scuffle were scrubbed away during the night, as cleaners and protesters themselves removed anti-government posters from the walls of the airport designed by the renowned British architect Norman Foster.

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific Airways said a total of 272 departures and arrivals had been canceled because of the disturbances, affecting more than 55,000 passengers.

China’s aviation regulator demanded last week that Cathay suspend personnel supporting protests in Hong Kong from staffing flights entering its airspace. On Wednesday, the carrier said it had fired two pilots.

Forward Keys, a flight data firm, said the crisis had driven a 4.7 percent fall in long-haul bookings to Hong Kong between June 16 and Aug. 9 compared with the same period last year.

Protesters vowed to press on.

“All the people here are very scared,” Ann, a 21-year-old teacher, told Reuters at the airport as she carefully took down anti-government posters she said would be used again.

“But we are more scared that we do not have our freedoms anymore, and so that is why we continue our protests,” she said.

“We feel that our ideas are bulletproof.”


India’s ‘patriotism pop’ songs urge Hindus to claim Kashmir

Updated 18 min 10 sec ago
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India’s ‘patriotism pop’ songs urge Hindus to claim Kashmir

  • The songs delivered a message to India’s 250 million YouTube users about moving to the Muslim-majority region, buying land there and marrying Kashmiri women.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has revoked Kashmir’s decades-old special status that was guaranteed under Article 370 of India’s Constitution and sent thousands of troops to the region

NEW DELHI: The music videos began appearing on social media within hours of the announcement by India’s Hindu nationalist-led government that it was stripping statehood from the disputed region of Kashmir that had been in place for decades.
The songs delivered a message to India’s 250 million YouTube users about moving to the Muslim-majority region, buying land there and marrying Kashmiri women.
It’s the latest example of a growing genre in India known as “patriotism pop” — songs flooding social media about nationalism and the country’s burgeoning right-wing ideology.
Earlier songs were limited to the rise of Hindus in India, defeating regional rival Pakistan and hoisting the Indian flag in every household. Now, they include settling in Kashmir — a rugged and beautiful Himalayan region claimed by both Pakistan and India, although both countries control only a portion of it.
On Aug. 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Kashmir’s decades-old special status that was guaranteed under Article 370 of India’s Constitution and sent thousands of troops to the region. The move has touched off anger in the Indian-controlled region, which has been under a security lockdown that has seen thousands detained to prevent protests there.
One of Modi’s revisions allows anyone to buy land in the territory, which some Kashmiris fear could mean an influx of Hindus who would change the region’s culture and demographics. Critics have likened it to Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.
The patriotic songs are mostly shared on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and the fast-growing app TikTok, which in June had about 120 million active users in India. Despite their low production values, poorly matched lip-synching and repetitive techno beat, many of these soundtracks have gotten millions of hits on YouTube.
The songs are a hit among youthful followers in northern and eastern parts of India, and their creators don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
Nitesh Singh Nirmal identifies himself as a producer, songwriter and composer for his Rang Music studios in the eastern state of Bihar. A Modi admirer, Nirmal claims to be the first to produce a soundtrack on the revocation of Kashmir’s statehood, completing it in three hours.
The song, “Dhara 370,” or “Article 370,” starts with visuals of an Indian flag fluttering atop New Delhi’s famous Red Fort, followed by old footage of Modi from a previous Independence Day ceremony. The singer thanks Modi and his government for keeping his promise to remove Article 370 from the constitution. The video then cuts to the map of Kashmir, along with words that roughly translate to how Pakistan has lost to India.
The song has gotten more than 1.6 million hits on YouTube since it was posted there by Nirmal, who has no musical background. He said he only found his calling when Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party resoundingly won the 2014 election.
That’s when Nirmal thought he could write songs about nationalism.

“I am doing service for the nation. People dance to these songs,” he says.

The Indian media — from news to entertainment — has left no stone unturned in portraying Kashmiri women in the racist trope of ‘coveted fair-skinned ones’ (and) at the same time being helpless and needing saving from their own men — all this while demonizing Kashmiri men.

Political anthropologist Ather Zia

Nirmal’s claims about their popularity aren’t far-fetched. TikTok, which lets the user lip-synch to music and make short vines, is flooded with images of Hindu nationalists declaring plans to go to Kashmir and marry women there. Most of the videos have music similar to the kind produced by Nirmal.
In April, TikTok was removed from Android and iPhone app stores after an Indian court ruled it was “encouraging pornography.”
The rising appeal for songs that promote nationalism and talk about reclaiming Kashmir have paved the way for lesser-known artists to join in.
Salman Siddiqui, who is in his 20s and studies science in the state of Uttar Pradesh, wanted to showcase his musical writing prowess and contacted Nirmal. They collaborated on a song about a man who is seeking a Kashmiri bride and wants to be the first to have a wedding procession that travels from India to the region.
Nirmal and Siddiqui insist the songs are not sexist.
“It’s the desire of a young man’s heart to marry a Kashmiri woman,” Siddiqui says.
The idea was boosted Aug. 6 by lawmaker Vikram Saini, who told members of his Bharatiya Janata Party “eager to get married” to go to Kashmir, adding that his party has “no problem with it.”
Critics say the idea of marrying Kashmiri women to “reclaim” the region is rooted in a patriarchy that objectifies and dehumanizes Kashmiris.
Political anthropologist Ather Zia calls this a “fetishization in the Indian imagination.”
Such songs are a “culmination of a toxic misogynistic nationalist thinking that draws validation from humiliating Kashmiri women,” Zia said.
“The Indian media — from news to entertainment — has left no stone unturned in portraying Kashmiri women in the racist trope of ‘coveted fair-skinned ones’ (and) at the same time being helpless and needing saving from their own men — all this while demonizing Kashmiri men,” she said.
Some artists oppose writing such songs, but they say the audience demand is strong.
Singer Nardev Bainiwal, who lives in Haryana state and owns the Jawan Music Co., has a song on Kashmir that got 1.9 million hits on YouTube.
“We write songs about things people want,” Bainiwal says, noting his main audience is from smaller cities and towns in northern India where Internet penetration has picked up in recent years.
Google Trends has shown an increase in Indians using search terms like “marry Kashmiri girl” and “buy land in Kashmir.”
“I am personally against such declarations, but if we don’t make these songs, someone else will and we will lose out on money,” Bainiwal says.
Nirmal says that since he published his song Aug. 5, he has earned nearly $100 for work that cost him about $20 to produce.
He says the key is to keep abreast of the news and gauge the public mood. He has songs ready if India’s Supreme Court allows a Hindu temple be built on a site where hard-liners in 1992 attacked and demolished a 16th century mosque, sparking deadly Hindu-Muslim violence.
“Songs about building of the temple could be my next hit,” he says.
Apart from the online revenue, the artists also perform concerts. Nirmal has had 10 shows in the last two weeks.
“The business,” Nirmal says, “is booming.”