Morning Brief

Hong Kong Sees Biggest Protest in Months

After a victory for pro-democracy candidates at the polls, protesters turned out in droves to mark six months in the streets.

People gather at Victoria Park for a pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong on Dec. 8.
People gather at Victoria Park for a pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong on Dec. 8. ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Hong Kong’s biggest protest since August follows pro-democracy victory at the polls, Ukraine and Russia’s leaders meet in Paris, and what to watch in the world this week.

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Hong Kong Protests Hit Six Months

Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to mark six months of the movement, two weeks after pro-democracy candidates scored a landslide victory in local elections. It was the first time since August that the Civil Human Rights Front, which has organized most of Hong Kong’s largest rallies, was authorized by the city to hold a mass protest. As a result, recent protests had been smaller than the rallies over the summer.

The protest stretched for two miles, through the central business district and Causeway Bay. Some protesters chanted, “Five demands, not one less!”—a reference to the movement’s push for democratic reforms and an independent investigation into police brutality. Despite escalating violence in recent weeks, Sunday’s march was relatively peaceful. A small group of protesters clashed with police at the end of the route.

What’s next? The revived turnout suggests that Hong Kong’s unrest will extend into next year, Bloomberg reports. Organizers estimated that 800,000 people turned out for Sunday’s march, while police put the number at 183,000. Perhaps emboldened by the local elections, the protesters aren’t giving up—despite the fact that the size of protests had dwindled in recent months, as shown below.

Leaving Hong Kong. Some activists have fled Hong Kong for Taipei, fearing the mounting violence, unfair prosecution, or abuse if they are detained. More than 200 young protesters—including some of those from besieged university campuses—have done so this year, the New York Times reports. Many in self-ruled Taiwan support the pro-democracy movement and have offered their assistance.


What We’re Following Today

Putin and Zelensky meet in Paris. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time today in France, which is hosting a summit aimed at reviving peace talks to end the war in southeast Ukraine. The leaders of France and Germany are mediating. Zelensky, who took office in May, has promised not to appease Putin, but he is walking a fine line. The talks aren’t likely to yield any breakthroughs, but they could spark domestic backlash in Ukraine, FP’s Amy Mackinnon, Robbie Gramer, and Reid Standish report.

Russia banned from 2020 Olympics. The global agency that fights doping in sports unanimously decided to ban Russia from international competitions, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 soccer World Cup in Qatar. Moscow has three weeks to lodge an appeal. Individuals who can prove they are clean will be able to compete under an independent banner.

Lebanese PM candidate withdraws. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun was set to begin consultations to pick a new prime minister today, but he postponed the talks by a week after businessman Samir Khatib withdrew his candidacy. Aoun is tasked with selecting the candidate for prime minister—who must be a Sunni Muslim—with the most parliamentary support. Now, that could be ex-premier Saad Hariri, who stepped down in October in the face of mass anti-government protests but has continued to serve in a caretaker capacity.

North Korea claims “very important” test. North Korean state media said Sunday that it had conducted a “very important” test at the Sohae satellite launch site, just weeks ahead of a year-end deadline set by North Korea for the United States to change its nuclear negotiation strategy. Experts say it’s likely it was a rocket engine test—not a missile launch—but it could signal more tests to come amid rising tensions and heightened rhetoric with the United States.


The World This Week

The official Nobel prize ceremony will be held in Oslo, Norway, on Tuesday. Ethiopia’s prime minister. Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize, is being criticized by the award committee for refusing to hold a traditional press conference ahead of the event. Abiy is facing another problem back in Ethiopia, as Hilary Matfess writes for FP: Numerous ethnic groups are calling for their own statehood despite his efforts to promote national and political unity.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate who has become less of a symbol of peace in recent years, appears at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague on Tuesday to defend her country against genocide accusations over the military’s alleged campaign in Rakhine state that led an estimated 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh in 2017. During the three-day hearing, the ICJ will consider whether to take action.

British voters go to the polls on Thursday in a general election that could determine the outcome of Brexit, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives face off against opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Though Johnson leads in opinion polls, that lead is narrowing. Given that the support of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which propped up former Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, is uncertain, Johnson and his Conservative Party will likely need to win at least 320 seats (out of 650) to keep his position as prime minister and push his Brexit deal through Parliament.

State oil company Saudi Aramco goes public on Thursday, with its initial public offering—priced at $25.6 billion—expected to be the biggest in history. Aramco’s total worth will be valued at $1.7 trillion, which is still well below the ambitious $2 trillion goal set by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Some international investors are skeptical of the company’s valuation.


Keep an Eye On

Trump’s war on the WTO. This week, the Trump administration is expected to further undermine the World Trade Organization’s system for enforcing its rules by blocking new members to the panel responsible for resolving disputes. That could lead to more tariff wars, like the one between the United States and China. Meanwhile, another tariff increase on Chinese goods is set to take effect this weekend.

Germany’s Green leadership. Germans increasingly desire bold leadership in the style of France’s President Emmanuel Macron. That leader could be found in an unlikely place: the Green party, where co-chairperson Robert Habeck has established himself as an unconventional politician with sweeping plans for the future, Paul Hockenos writes for FP.

Finland’s next prime minister. On Sunday, Finland’s Social Democratic Party selected 34-year-old Sanna Marin to become the country’s youngest-ever prime minister (and the world’s youngest serving leader) after the resignation of Antti Rinne. As part of the center-left ruling coalition, Marin will take office later this week in the middle of a three-day strike at some of Finland’s biggest companies.


Odds and Ends

The Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan made news last week for his work on display at Miami’s Art Basel: a single banana taped to wall, titled “Comedian” and worth $120,000. But on Saturday, a prankster took the banana off the wall and ate it. (The artwork came with specific instructions for replacing the banana.) It’s not the first time his art has been messed with: Earlier this year, a gold toilet made by Cattelan was stolen from an exhibition at Britain’s Blenheim Palace.


That’s it for today.

For more from FP, visit foreignpolicy.com, subscribe here, or sign up for our other newsletters. Send your tips, comments, questions, or corrections to morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.

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

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