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Morning Brief

Hong Kong’s Universities Are Becoming Battlegrounds

As violence between police and student activists spirals in Hong Kong, this round of unrest could last for days.

Protesters stand on a bridge over the Tolo Highway at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) on Nov. 13.
Protesters stand on a bridge over the Tolo Highway at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) on Nov. 13. PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Hong Kong’s student activists are barricading themselves inside their universities, what to make of the U.S. impeachment hearings after day one, and why Bolivia’s path forward looks uncertain.

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Hong Kong’s Students Dig In Their Heels

Student activists in Hong Kong are barricading themselves inside several university campuses, which have this week become the sites of new clashes with police. More chaos was expected today. On Wednesday, students began stockpiling food and homemade weapons as they prepared for raids by the police, who this week have fired tear gas and rubber bullets inside university grounds for the first time.

The violence between police and protesters at universities—until now regarded as sanctuaries for student activists—could mark a new phase in Hong Kong’s five months of unrest. The police have used increasingly aggressive rhetoric, describing one university as “a refuge for rioters and criminals.” The campus, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has 20,000 students and saw the most violent clashes, with many injured.

At CUHK, the administration began evacuating staff and students Thursday in anticipation of a police raid. Classes at primary and secondary schools throughout Hong Kong were also canceled as protesters blocked the Cross Harbour Tunnel and erected roadblocks along major thoroughfares. A 70-year old man was seriously injured by a brick thrown during clashes between protesters and residents in Sheung Shui.

How long can this go on? The current unrest, which has paralyzed Hong Kong since Monday, could last for days. All of the city’s universities are now closed—some for the remainder of the year. And it’s likely that the violence will get worse, as FP’s James Palmer writes. Police brutality—and particularly police actions targeting universities—could fuel a cycle of violence with the student activists.

Aid from abroad. Amid this week’s violence, U.S. senators are pushing for a vote on a bill that would add scrutiny to Hong Kong’s special treatment by the United States—though the White House has not said whether or not it would veto it. And in Britain, ministers are threatening to sanction Hong Kong officials for the first time. Either measure is certain to roil China, which has urged the United States to “pull back before it’s too late.”

What We’re Following Today

Hearings link Trump directly to Ukraine pressure. In the first day of public testimony in the U.S. impeachment inquiry, William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, revealed some new evidence about U.S. President Donald Trump: Taylor testified he was told that the president cared more about investigating his potential rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, than he did about corruption in Ukraine. That ties Trump more directly to the push for the investigation than before, though his exact role in the pressure campaign still remains unclear.

Taylor also mentioned a phone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, which was made from a restaurant on an unsecured cell phone; intelligence experts described the call as a flagrant breach of security protocols and assume that it was almost certainly intercepted by Russian intelligence agencies.

[The public hearings represent a historic moment for the State Department, and some career diplomats are expressing relief after the first day of testimony, FP’s Robbie Gramer reports.]

Will Morales return to Bolivia? Bolivia’s interim president, Jeanine Añez, said on Wednesday that she wanted to hold new elections as quickly as possible after President Evo Morales resigned on Sunday. But from Mexico, Morales indicated that he could come back. “We’ll return sooner or later … to pacify Bolivia,” he said. Meanwhile, other leaders in the region have been unable to jointly address the crisis: They are too polarized even to agree on whether Sunday’s events constituted a military coup, Oliver Stuenkel writes for FP.

Pakistan’s protesters opt for “Plan B.” Anti-government protesters in Pakistan demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan called off a planned two-week sit-in in the capital in favor of “Plan B”: a coordinated move to block roads across the country, slowing down goods and transport links. The protests, which began with a march from Karachi on Oct. 27, are led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a cleric and politician with enough clout to mobilize support across the country. He is mounting the first significant challenge to Khan since he took office last year.

For more news and analysis on stories like this, sign up for South Asia Brief, delivered on Tuesdays.

Keep an Eye On

A civil trial in South Korea. A civil trial brought by South Korean women forced to work in Japanese brothels during World War II against the Japanese government began on Wednesday in a Seoul court. Japan refuses to participate in the trial, insisting that the compensation was settled in 1965. The case comes amid a rift in the countries’ relationship—triggered by another court ruling over forced wartime labor.

Mexico’s HIV treatment. Mexico is about to roll out a new HIV treatment regimen that could set a global example. But funding cuts to social programs—intended to address corruption—could destabilize Mexico’s model for organizations that work with at-risk patients. Now, it’s a race against time, Ann Deslandes writes for FP.

Flooding in Venice. The mayor of Venice declared a state of emergency on Wednesday after floods swamped the city—including the historic St. Mark’s Basilica. The water reached the highest level since 1966, but Mayor Luigi Brunaro was quick to say that climate change makes floods a more frequent threat. “Venice is on its knees,” he said.

Spies don’t talk—it’s the cardinal rule of the business.

But at Foreign Policy, we get them to open up. On I Spy, a new FP podcast, we hear from the spies themselves as they describe their most dramatic operations. Hosted by three-time Emmy award-winning actress Margo Martindale of The Americans. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Foreign Policy Recommends

The taboo around eating horse meat dates to the ancient world, and a series of laws have since sporadically governed its culinary use. Here’s where former Vice President Joe Biden comes in. As Ben Schreckinger chronicles in a Politico investigation, the 2020 presidential contender reportedly went to great lengths for a measure banning the slaughter of horses for meat that overlapped with similar efforts by his brother Frank, who teamed up with a Florida state senator receiving $900,000 to lobby against horse meat. (Frank was seeking funding from the state for a charter school.) Amid increasing scrutiny of Biden’s relatives’ foreign business dealings and his policy portfolio, the story is of particular interest. Benjamin Soloway

Odds and Ends

Japan’s annual event to admire Tokyo’s cherry blossoms won’t be held next April after allegations that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invited too many of his own constituents—850 of them from over 600 miles away. The event has been held every year since 1952 but the total cost has doubled under Abe, to 55 million yen (around $504,000).

That’s it for today. 

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

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