Globe Trot A summary of international news compiled by senior editor Mindy Belz

Facing oppression in China

International | New software could help further target Uighurs
by Mindy Belz
Posted 12/09/20, 06:40 pm

CHINA: Chinese tech giant Huawei has tested facial recognition software that could send automated “Uighur alarms” to government authorities when its camera systems identify members of the oppressed minority group.

  • The discovery comes months after members of Congress and the Trump administration pressured the UK and other European countries to block Huawei from 5G networks over spying concerns, with Parliament just passing a bill to do so.
  • Uighurs actually may be helping to manufacture Huawei’s surveillance products. A March report that’s prompted boycott campaigns against well-known global brands showed the Chinese government transferring at least 80,000 Uighurs from camps in Xinjiang to factories in the supply chains for Huawei, along with Apple, BMW, Nike, Google, and others.
  • Detentions have continued and conditions worsened for members of Early Rain Church, on this, the second anniversary of a series of raids that landed founding pastor Wang Yi and others in jail.

EUROPE: Dec. 9 is International Genocide Commemoration Day, and with it the UK and EU have adopted new restrictions on perpetrators. The EU on Dec. 7 adopted a new global sanctions regime targeting individuals and groups for genocide, crimes against humanity, and other human rights abuses. Britain’s House of Lords yesterday moved to restrict the ability to enact trade deals with countries perpetrating genocide, citing China’s treatment of Uighurs.

BRITAIN: A 90-year-old grandmother and an 80-year-old patient named William Shakespeare became the first to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as part of what soon will be a global COVID-19 vaccination program. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the program will take “several months” to roll out, and the logistics of protecting the fragile Pfizer vaccine, which is due to roll out in the United States next week, are positively daunting.

UNITED STATES: ICU beds are reaching capacity across the country, with more than a third of Americans living in areas where they are critically short. The Department of Health and Human Services for the first time on Monday began publishing data on facility-specific capacity nationwide.

KENYA: Schools face financial and sanitation challenges ahead of reopening Jan. 4—as UNICEF warned countries against further school closures. In Africa, where 80 percent of children lack access to the internet, virtual schooling is virtually impossible. Meanwhile, the coronavirus’s spread into Kenya’s rural communities is challenging health workers, with three-fourths of the country’s ICU beds in only its two largest cities.

IRAN: Authorities say they have detained people accused of involvement in the assassination of the country’s top nuclear scientist last month, while Israel widely has been blamed for the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. An Israeli flag and an English sign reading, “Thank you, Mossad,” were placed over a billboard in Iran on Monday and widely posted on social media.

ETHIOPIA: Humanitarian workers and UN organizers say they face a major humanitarian catastrophe in the Tigray region, as state security forces faced off against UN workers this week trying to reach the embattled region.

SUDAN became one of two countries, along with Uzbekistan, to get off the U.S. Special Watch List for religious freedom violations, while Nigeria was added as a Country of Particular Concern. Full rundown by Ambassador-at-large Sam Brownback here.

VENEZUELA: Congressional elections on Sunday were a sham orchestrated by President Nicolás Maduro, who already controls the country’s Supreme Court.

INDIA: Farmers led a nationwide strike following weeks of protests over reforms to laws they say have long protected small landholders’ place in the market. The changes have come at the height of the pandemic, without consultation with farm groups and with economic tensions rising.

CUBA: Global calls are growing for the release of activist-artist Denis Solís Gonzalez, arrested in November and charged with “contempt” after calling a police officer who broke into his house a “chicken in uniform.” Solís is a rapper and member of the Havana-based San Isidro Movement (MSI), a group of artists, academics, and journalists calling for freedom of expression.

SPACE: For months, Saturn and Jupiter have appeared to be courting, drawing nearer to one another in the night sky in an alignment known as the great conjunction. Arriving on Dec. 21, winter solstice, this will be the closest and most visible alignment of the largest planets in the solar system since 1226—the Middle Ages.

I’M WATCHING: The Most Reluctant Convert with Max McLean is a drama to look forward to in 2021.


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Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine's first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and now senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afganistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C. Follow her on Twitter @mcbelz.

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