Last week in East Asia, Hong Kong authorities arrested eight pro-democracy lawmakers over the scuffles at a Legislative Council meeting earlier this year. Separately, Hong Kong police introduced a new hotline on 5 November for citizens to make anonymous reports on anyone suspected of violating the National Security Law. In Japan, protests against revising the pacifist constitution were reported on the 74th anniversary of the document’s promulgation. Also in Japan, protesters gathered to demonstrate against test flights involving Osprey military aircraft considered to be unsafe. Finally, in South Korea, after-school care attendants organized a one-day nationwide strike demanding improved working conditions.
In Hong Kong, eight pro-democracy lawmakers were arrested on charges of “contempt” and “interference and obstruction” with Legislative Council officials under the Powers and Privileges Ordinance (HKFP, 2 November 2020). During a House Committee meeting in May, physical attempts by pro-democracy lawmakers to reinstate another pro-democracy lawmaker to the post of Chairperson of the House Committee resulted in scuffles with pro-Beijing lawmakers. The House Committee plays an important function in deciding the legislative agenda and is responsible for setting up committees that scrutinize each proposed bill. The protest by the pro-democracy camp was sparked by what was deemed to be a unilateral takeover of the post by the pro-Beijing camp. Pro-democracy lawmakers have condemned the arrests as “politically motivated”, stating that the move is “totalitarian and arbitrary.” The US Secretary of State has also issued a statement in relation to the arrests, calling the arrests a clear abuse of law enforcement for political purposes (RFA, 2 November 2020).
In addition, police arrested one of the producers of a Radio Television Hong Kong documentary, which aired earlier this year, about a mob attack targeting anti-extradition bill demonstrators on 21 July 2019. The attack is widely regarded as a major event and is one of the most high profile incidents involving accusations of police misconduct in last year’s mass anti-extradition bill demonstrations. Following the assault, an investigation conducted by the Independent Police Complaints Council cleared the police of any alleged collusion with the attackers. The chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association has alleged that the arrest is a deliberate attempt by authorities to stop reporters from uncovering the truth about the mob attack (The Guardian, 3 November 2020). The arrest is yet another incident of judicial harassment against the public broadcaster this year by pro-Beijing lawmakers. While the publicly-funded broadcaster maintains a degree of editorial independence, it is also a government department and has been routinely criticized by the pro-Beijing camp for its perceived anti-government bias.
Elsewhere in Hong Kong, police launched a new hotline on 5 November that allows members of the public to anonymously report anyone suspected of breaching the National Security Law. Critics have denounced the hotline as reminiscent of China’s Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong, which relied on a vast network of informants to monitor and report on their neighbors, friends, and families. Police claimed that more than 1,000 pieces of information were received on the first day of the hotline’s operation (The Guardian, 5 November 2020).
In Japan, the anniversary of the promulgation of the Japanese constitution on 3 November was marked by protests against the proposed revision of the pacifist constitution (Kumamoto Nichinichi Shimbun, 4 November 2020). On the same day, a counter-protest in favor of constitutional revision was also recorded, which is notable as protests in favor of constitutional revision have been exceedingly rare.
Also in Japan, protests against the use of Osprey military aircraft increased in frequency across several regions in reaction to test flights and plans to deploy the aircraft at several Japanese and US bases in Japan. Protester concerns fall largely into three main categories: that Osprey aircraft are seen as unreliable and dangerous, as evidenced by several high-profile equipment failures; that Ospreys cause more noise pollution than other aircraft, which is a primary concern for families that live near military bases; and that successful aircraft training exercises will result in an increased US military presence in Japan (Japan Today, 6 November 2020). This development hence fuels the ongoing anti-militarism sentiment in Japan.
Finally, in South Korea, after-school child care workers launched a one-day nationwide strike, calling for better working conditions (The Korea Herald, 6 November 2020). They demanded their employment status be changed to regular and full-time employment given the increasing workload since the COVID-19 outbreak. They also protested against a bill that shifts the management of after-school care from schools to local governments. The union argues that the change will lead to job insecurity as employment will be based on the financial situation of local governments, which are already struggling with budget constraints. On the other hand, the government hopes to implement an integrated all-day care system. Disruptions in the childcare system are expected to continue as the ruling Democratic Party has the power to enact the proposed bill on its own (The Diplomat, 9 November 2020).
© 2020 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). All rights reserved.