22 July 2019   Leave a comment

On Saturday there was a large protest in Moscow of people demanding free elections. It was the culmination of a week of smaller protests that were tolerated by the authorities. The citizens were protesting a decision by the election commission that took candidates names off the election list for the Moscow City Council. USA Today quotes some of the participants in the protests:

“One of the barred candidates, Dmitry Gudkov, told the crowd: ‘Your couch is your grave.’

“’It’s really a protest against Putin,’ Abbas Gallyamov, a former Kremlin speechwriter turned political analyst, told Moscow Times. ‘These elections have clearly become a way of expressing a much deeper frustration and demand for political representation.’”

But the frustration also stems from the abysmal economic situation in Russia. Vladislav Inozemtsev writes in Project Syndicate:

“The Russian economy is at a standstill. From 2014 to 2018, GDP grew by just 1.85% – or 0.4%, on average, each year. (The Kremlin forced the Federal State Statistics Service to revise upward the figures for 2016 and 2017.) During the same period, real disposable incomes shrank by 10.7%, leaving 13% of all Russians living in poverty. In 2018 alone, 600,000 Russian companies shuttered their operations.

“To some extent, these developments are not surprising, given the sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Those sanctions contributed to massive capital flight – in excess of $317 billion – in 2014-2018, as well as a drop in investment. In the first nine months of 2018, the volume of foreign direct investment in the Russian economy was 11 times lower than during the same period in 2017.”

President Putin may be heading into more substantial opposition than we know. It is difficult to determine how strong that opposition actually is.

The protests in Hong Kong took a nasty turn as counterprotesters, suspected agents of the Chinese government, started beating up those demanding changes by the Hong Kong government. An expert in triad societies at the City University of Hong Kong, Professor T Wing Lo said that

“…although legally it couldn’t be proven the men in white shirts were triads, ‘the fight last night was mobilised by a triad group, most probably Wo Sing Wo.

“Triad groups, which can’t cross into each other’s territories, are strong in the Yuen Long area of the New Territories, he said.

“He said of the 200-300 men in white shirts at Yuen Long massing outside the train station and beating people it was likely “half were triad and half were villagers paid by someone”.

“He said such village men were typically paid $HK500 ($90) a night and more if they were injured in incidents.

“‘Beijing officially claims some triad leaders are patriotic and help maintain social order in Hong Kong… [through] United Front the CCP try to co-opt a lot of people including triad leaders. The triad leaders get a lot of money from the CCP through middle men.'”

The Hong Kong police allegedly did not try to stop the violence and that failure is feeding into stronger discontent with the Hong Kong government. But according to the Washington Post: “President Trump said Monday he believes that Chinese President Xi Jinping has reacted responsibly toward the Hong Kong protests.”

Posted July 22, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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