News

Rif protest suppressed / New pro-autonomy party in Silesia / Four Hong Kong lawmakers ousted

14 to 20 July

2017 pro-autonomy march, in Katowice.
2017 pro-autonomy march, in Katowice. Author: RAS
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. Clashes between police and protesters took place 20 July in Al Hoceima, the Riffian city that is leading the protest movement against the marginalization of this Amazigh territory by the Moroccan authorities. Demonstrations were also held in Silesia, where the pro-autonomy movement has been demanding self-government for 11 years and is preparing the establishment of a new political party. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, four lawmakers have been ousted from the Legislative Council, a move that the pro-democracy camp regards as a new attack against freedom in the semi-autonomous city.

NEWS HIGHLIGHT

Rif protesters challenge ban. The Rif protest movement —Amussu in Amazigh, Hirak in Arabic— had called a great rally in Al Hoceima July 20 in protest against the arrest and imprisonment of activists. Protesters have for 9 months been demanding social improvements in this Amazigh-majority territory, which has historically been marginalized by the Moroccan state. Thousands challenged an official ban on the protest in the face of a strong police deployment. Agents dispersed protesters by using tear gas against them. In subsequent clashes, 72 police officers and 11 protesters were injured, according to the Al Hoceima prefecture.

On the same day of the protest, journalist Hamid El Mahdaoui was arrested for having encouraged the people of Al Hoceima to demonstrate. El Mahdaoui is one among hundreds of people detained since the protests began. Among them, movement leader Nasser Zefzafi, who faces possible prison sentence of 20 to 30 years. “Long live to Rif, long live to Zefzafi” has been one of the slogans that have been heard during the 20 July protest.

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Another four Hong Kong lawmakers ousted from Legislative Council. The High Court of the former UK colony has invalidated the oathes of Law Kwun-chung, Leung Kwok-hung, Lau Siu-lai and Yiu Chung-yim over several irregularities, such as having added words to the official formula or not having pronounced the oath with enough solemnity. All four lawmakers belong to the opposition bloc that calls for enlarged democracy in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy activists say the decision is yet another blow on freedom in the semi-autonomous city. According to pro-Chinese government Global Times, the ruling “sends an alarm to pro-independence groups” in Hong Kong. Another two lawmakers Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching were prevented in October 2016 from taking office after having used non-regulatory oath formulas and having unveiled a banner that read “Hong Kong is not China”.

Pro-autonomy movement marches for Silesian self-government, seeks to establish new party. Two of the main pro-autonomy movements in Silesia (RAS and ZG) are working towards the establishment of a new joint political party, the Regional Party of Silesia, which could be born in October. The goal is to bring together a good part of the Silesian pro-autonomy spectrum in order to build a stronger party than the current movements are separately. Sources of the two movements say they already have the signatures required by law to establish the party. This has been announced the same week that the 11th March for Autonomy has been held, in which thousands have demonstrated through the streets of Katowice asking for the recovery of Upper Silesian self-government, which has its historic roots in the interwar period. The Silesian Flag Day has also been held. In that event, the pro-autonomy movement defends the use of the historical, yellow-blueg flag of Upper Silesia.

People’s Republic of Donetsk leader proclaims new state seeking to encompass all of Ukraine. Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the president of the self-proclaimed republic in eastern Ukraine, announced July 18 the establishment of a new state, Little Russia or Malorrossia, with its capital in Donetsk. The new state, which should be established within three years’ time, would span the whole territory of Ukraine except Crimea, annexed to Russia since 2014. The declaration describes Ukraine as “failed state,” proclaims Malorrossia as a “successor state” of Ukraine, and declares its intention to become a member of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. The move would mean the end of the Minsk Accords. Zakharchenko has made this declaration upon leaving a meeting with delegates from 19 Ukrainian regions, according to the leader’s official website. Neither Russia nor the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Luhansk have supported the announcement. According to the Kremlin, this is a “personal initiative” of Zakharchenko. But Ukraine sees the hand of Russia in it.

South Mongolia herder released after spending two years in jail in China. Nairalt Borjigin was sentenced to 25 months for having participated in protests in defense of grazing lands of the Mongol people, which are threatened by the development policies of the Chinese government. According to Enghebat Togochog, president of the SMHRIC (a US-based, pro-Mongol rights group), it is usual for herders to be arrested if they protest against the expropriation of grazing lands, in which Chinese authorities seek to start mining industries. After being released, Nairalt Borjigin made a speech in favour of the rights of herders and of the Mongolian people. South Mongolia, or Inner Mongolia, is one of the five nominally semi-autonomous territories of China, along Tibet, Eastern Turkistan, Ningxia Hui and Guangxi Zhuang.


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