MONTH IN BRIEF – December 2020


Anti-France protests hit Pakistan’s streets

A major road into Islamabad was closed by Pakistan authorities as a far-right religious party stage danti-France demonstrations. Around a thousand protesters congregated at the roadblock, a day after 5,000 people rallied in neighbouring Rawalpindi.The protests – part of several across the country – followed French President Emmanuel Macron’s denunciation of the October 16 murder of teacher Samuel Paty by an extremist at a school near Paris. Paty had shown cartoons of Muhammad – forbidden under Islam’s ban on depictions of the prophet – during a lesson on free speech.

No to CTi licence

Taiwan has denied CTi News channel a renewal of its licence, citingas the reason interference from a Beijing-friendly tycoon amid fears over China’s campaign to gain influence on the island. The rejection of the licence request from CTi, widely regarded as pro-China, has effectively closed down the channel, and the decision provoked anger from both CTi and Taiwan’s main opposition party, which called it an attack on media freedom. CTi has said it will fight the decision in court.

Facebook facing ban

The Solomon Islands plans to veto the use of Facebook for anun specified period after a provocative critique of the government appeared on the social media platform. The Pacific nation’s government, led by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, said it would issue a formal statement on its decision in due course, but if the ban is implemented, the Solomons would join only a handful of countries, including China, which actively restrict the world’s largest social networking platform.

Thai PM urges calm

As lawmakers prepare to vote on possible constitutional reforms,Thai pro-democracy protesters returned to the streets of Bangkok a day after six people were shot in the most brutalskirmishesbetween the authorities and demonstrators since the country’s pro-democracy movement began in July.Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha appealed to protesters to refrain from violence, but ruled out introducing another emergency decree such as October’s week-long ban on public gatherings of more than four people.

Oz trade troubles

Australia’s wine exporters are being forced to stockpile produce in warehouses as the country’s biggest market, China, clamps down on shipments ahead of the peak wine-selling season, the run-up to Christmas and New Year celebrations in China. In its most sweeping trade move against Canberra to date, Beijing had also ordered traders to halt purchases of at least six other categories of Australian commodities, including rock lobsters, barley and copper ore. Indefinite bans would be disastrous for Australian exporters, who have already been hit this year by Covid-19 lockdowns.

Food for thought

Growingsafety scandals surrounding Vietnam’s street food are sparking a wave of anxiety among young people about what they eat.As well as fears over hygiene standards, there is growing unease about banned pesticideson vegetables and herbs used in typical street food dishes such as fresh shrimp rolls and bun bo (dried noodles with beef).When polled by the British Council in Vietnam this year, around 70 per cent of 16 to 30-year-olds said food safety ranked the same as job security as their biggest concern.

Shrinking habitat

Construction work on one of Hong Kong’s largest islands, Lantau, is reducing the habitat of its wild buffaloes, forcing them to search for food in residential areas, where they risk injury from barbed wire and building waste.Environment activists say the buffaloes are vital to Lantau’s ecosystem, as they eat weeds and keep the wetlands fertile. Floating plants and micro-organisms that thrive on the buffaloes’ presence are also believed to filter out some pollution in Lantau’s rivers before they reach the sea.

New legs, new life

An Indian street dog who lost her front legs in a train accident hasbeen given new limbs and a home in the English countryside.The three-year-old mongrel was found severely injured after being run over by a train at Faridabad in the Indian state of Haryana, and a railways constable took her to a local shelter forstray animals maimed on India’s railways and roads. Global dog rescue group Wild at Heart Foundation found the dog her English home, while an Indian living in London paid for new artificial legs, made by a leading doctor in Jaipur.

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