September 18, 2020
CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers protests in Belarus and Libya, internment camps in China, human rights abuses in Venezuela, as well as many other topics!
Moderna Theraputics, a coronavirus vaccine developer, announced on Friday that they hope to produce 20 million doses of a vaccine candidate by the end of 2020, and plans to prepare 500 million to 1 billion doses in 2021. China’s CanSino Biologics plans to start clinical trials of a two-dose vaccine, after one dose had proven to be ineffective. Israel has gone into a second total lockdown, taking effect on the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana. According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 30 million people have been infected with the coronavirus globally and nearly 950,000 have died. Approximately 20 million people have recovered from the virus.
The United States
Amid worries of election fraud and the prevention of the counting of mail-in votes, a U.S. court in the state of Michigan has ruled that late-arriving ballots must be counted, if received two weeks after the November 3 election as a special provision for the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, a federal judge has blocked recent changes to the U.S. postal service before the election, citing the probability of it being a “politically motivated attack” that could impact the outcome of the election. The U.S. has also begun to block the distribution of Chinese apps WeChat and TikTok on Sunday. TikTok will still be available for a few weeks, but WeChat is facing full blockage this weekend.
Members of the European Parliament decisively passed a resolution that rejects the results of the most recent Belarusian presidential election, calls for “new, free, and fair elections to take place as soon as possible under international supervision,” and lays the groundwork for sanctions to be placed on Belarus. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has labelled the resolution as “aggressive” and “not constructive.” Separately, human rights groups announced at a press conference in Geneva that protesters in Belarusian jail cells were being tortured. Approximately 500 of the estimated 7,000 detained demonstrators in the country have testified about such torture.
12 Hong Kongers who attempted to travel to Taiwan by way of a speedboat were arrested this week for illegal entry into mainland China. Those arrested are thought to be pro-democracy activists fleeing the territory out of fear of persecution — one of them was already being investigated under the National Security Law — though Chief Executive Carrie Lam denies this narrative. Activists’ journeys through the court system continue to make headlines this week: activist Tam Tak-chi has been denied bail after being charged with sedition, and 24 activists appeared in court on charges of “participating in an illegal assembly over a June 4 vigil commemorating the crackdown on protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989,” a vigil that was allowed in the city until the National Security law took effect this year.
Chinese authorities reported this week that 1.29 million residents of Xinjiang province have received vocational training every year since 2014. Human rights groups have previously argued that the government uses this “training” narrative to counter widespread reports about forced labor in internment camps in Xinjiang. Meanwhile, protests in Inner Mongolia over a new curriculum that replaces Mongolian with Mandarin as the language of instruction continue. Over 130 protesters have been arrested, and the government has announced that “parents whose children do not return to school by Thursday will be blocked from receiving bank loans for five years, and their children will be expelled and forbidden to take the critical national university entrance exam.”
Prime minister al-Sarraj of the internationally recognized GNA government has declared he aims to step down from office by late October, citing UN-brokered efforts to unite the country under a unified government. Additionally, after many years of resistance, the eastern rebel government of Khalifa Haftar resigned following a series of protests in the city of Benghazi. Residents of the city were angered at the rebel government’s corruption and worsening living conditions. Haftar has also announced that the blockade of oil by his forces will be lifted as long as revenues will be distributed fairly. Pro-Haftar organizations have been blocking access to oilfields and export terminals since January in order to demand a “fair share of hydrocarbon revenues.”
On Tuesday, President Daniel Ortega proposed reforming the criminal justice system to permit life sentences in prison and “threatened to use it against some government opponents, accusing them of committing ‘hate crimes.’” Days before, 18 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica testified to the torture and sexual abuse they endured while in the custody of government forces during anti-government protests in 2018. Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement saying, “There is no progress observed in the human rights situation in the country; on the contrary, with Covid-19 the situation has worsened.”
On Wednesday, UN officials released a report of their investigations into the government of Venezuela in a US-led campaign, alleging the country’s human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity. Venezuela’s security forces have been engaging in violent political suppression and general terrorizing of the Venezuelan population with the support and orders from President Maduro and the ministries of the interior. On Thursday, Maduro denied the EU’s request to push back elections in order to send an observer mission.
The International Federation for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (also known as ZimRights) issued a joint statement condemning the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. Noting “a spike in violations of fundamental rights and civil liberties” during the COVID-19 pandemic, ZimRights said it had recorded 820 instances of human rights violations, ranging from arbitrary arrests to extrajudicial killings, since the end of March. This week, Zimbabwe also held talks with major investment banks to discuss the opening of a Zimbabwe stock exchange, called the VFEX, in a few weeks.
Interim Bolivian president Jeanine Anez has announced she will not be running in next month’s election in a video message on Thursday. Though Anez did not endorse any current candidates, this is expected to be part of a bid to strengthen support for opposition against the party of ousted president Evo Morales, the Movement for Socialism (MAS). Some lawmakers are attempting to push a bill through Congress legalizing the use of a form of toxic industrial bleach to treat coronavirus, a move the country’s health ministry and other physicians have strongly rejected.