Morning Brief

Hong Kong Calls for Backup

Plus: Salvini pushes for a snap election, Mark Esper in South Korea, and the other stories we’re following today.

Protesters stand off against riot police at Wong Tai Sin district on August 5 in Hong Kong, China.
Protesters stand off against riot police at Wong Tai Sin district on August 5 in Hong Kong, China. Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Hong Kong brings a retired police commander out of retirement as protesters launch a three-day rally at the city’s airport, Italy’s Salvini pushes for a dissolution of parliament, and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper holds talks in South Korea.

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Hong Kong Braces for Another Weekend of Clashes

Hong Kong’s government called a veteran police commander out of retirement on Thursday to help address the ongoing and increasingly violent anti-government protests rocking the city. The former deputy police commissioner, Alan Lau Yip-shing, will meet with police leadership on the ground today.

Lau handled the pro-democracy protests in 2014, which lasted for 79 days and ended without government concessions. Security officials told Reuters that the decision to bring him back could mean that the government doesn’t trust current police officials to effectively manage the protests, which are entering their 11th week.

Airport rally. Activists have planned a three-day rally at Hong Kong’s international airport beginning today. Bracing for the protest, airport officials have restricted access to the check-in area for the weekend. The airport demonstration prompted countries including the United States, Britain, Australia, and Japan to issue a travel warning for the city.

Can this last? The city government’s decision to call in Lau, the police commander, follows increasing pressure from China to restore order. This week, Beijing threatened to intervene against the movement, which it perceives as a challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Moreover, the protests have taken a toll on business: After Monday’s general strike, several Hong Kong-based companies reported a downturn in profit.

What We’re Following Today

Italy’s Salvini calls for a snap election. Italian Deputy Prime Minister has called for a snap election, at last declaring that the ruling coalition had collapsed after months of feuding. The statement comes as his right wing League party has eclipsed its partner, the Five Star Movement, in the polls. Only President Sergio Mattarella has the power to dissolve parliament, and it’s unclear if he’s willing to do so. Parliament is now in recess and would have to be called back to dissolve the government, which would be an unusual move.

Esper arrives in South Korea. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrives for talks in South Korea today, his last stop on his first international trip as the head of the Pentagon. The meetings with senior leaders come amid rising tensions between South Korea and Japan, as well as increasing threats from North Korea. The discussions are expected to cover the issue of upkeep for the 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and security on the Korean peninsula. South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced that he had appointed Lee Soo-hyuck—a former disarmament negotiator—as the new ambassador to the United States.

Hajj begins in Mecca. The five-day hajj pilgrimage begins today in Saudi Arabia, where the government is expecting 2.5 million Muslims in the holy city of Mecca. This year’s pilgrimage takes place amid tensions in the Persian Gulf and increasing criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. The Saudi-led war in Yemen and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi led some Muslim leaders to called for a hajj boycott this year, Ahmed Twaij writes for FP.

Keep an Eye On

The CIA in Afghanistan. As the Taliban and the United States appear to be nearing an agreement for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the CIA is quietly making plans to leave behind proxy forces. The Khosh Protection Force (KPF) follows CIA orders and has routinely targeted civilians—a tactic that could backfire, Stefanie Glinski reports.

An investigation into 8chan. Police in the Philippines are investigating 8chan, the far-right platform connected to the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, this week. The negligence probe will focus on the site’s influence in the Philippines, where its American owner lives. 8chan remains offline after two companies stopped servicing the site following the shooting. 

Burundi’s malaria outbreak. A malaria outbreak in Burundi has killed 1,800 people and infected nearly half of the population—enough to qualify as an epidemic, according to the World Health Organization. The outbreak marks a 50 percent increase over last year’s recorded cases. Burundi’s government, which has long struggled to tackle malaria, has so far refused to declare it an emergency.

Ballot Box

The second round of Guatemala’s presidential election takes place on Sunday. With incumbent President Jimmy Morales barred from running for a second term, the contest is between two relatively unpopular candidates: Alejandro Giammattei and the former first lady Sandra Torres. The winner will take office in January, and may have to face down U.S. threats of economic sanctions.

Argentina’s presidential primary is also set for Sunday. With the candidates for each party already selected, the mandatory vote will be more like a nationwide opinion poll. The outcome could be predictive for the country’s Oct. 27 election. If the Peronist Alberto Fernández has a significant lead over incumbent President Mauricio Macri, it could rattle investors.

The speaker of Poland’s parliament stepped down on Thursday after facing criticism over his use of the government’s private jets. The country’s ruling party, Law and Justice, is still leading polls ahead of the Oct. 13 elections.

Odds and Ends

Weibo users in mainland China are calling for a boycott against Taiwanese bubble tea after a Yifang Fruit Tea franchise in Hong Kong put up a sign of solidarity for the city’s protesters. The controversy now has other tea brands expressing their support for the mainland.

Tune In

Later today on FP’s podcast, First Person: In her new documentary One Child Nation, the filmmaker Nanfu Wang explores the dark legacy of China’s one-child policy. On First Person, Wang discusses how the policy affected her own family and what happens when propaganda becomes reality.

That’s it for today. 

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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