International news: Uighur sterilization, U.K. COVID strain, Navalny protests, Indian farmers’ protests and Burmese democracy protests

Chinese government discovered to be forcibly sterilizing Uighur women and other ethnic minorities

Report by Chinese scholar Adrian Zenz alleges that the Chinese government is threatening Uighur Muslim women and other ethnic minorities with sterilization and internment if they have three or more children. Furthermore, Uighur women were forcibly fitted with intrauterine devices (IUDs) or sterilized involuntarily, even if they did not exceed the birth quota placed on their population. 

Zenz utilized Xinjiang’s regional data, policy documents and interviews with enthic minority minority women to write his report. According to his analysis, the birth rate of Xinjiang severely declined in the largest two Uighur prefectures starting in 2015. Interviews he conducted reported that former detainees were given injections that stopped periods or caused unusual bleeding. 

In response to the international outcry, Chinese officials accused the report of being baseless and full of lies.

The new U.K. COVID strain raises concerns about vaccine efficacy 

A new strain of COVID-19 appeared in the United Kingdom that could be resistant to vaccines and antibody therapy. The mutations also make it likely for people to catch COVID multiple times because the pre-existing antibodies become less effective. There isn’t any evidence that this new strain is more deadly than the original, but it has raised concerns about the effectiveness of the newly developed coronavirus vaccine. As a result, many call for the available vaccines to be distributed quickly to prevent the coronavirus from mutating to the point where all vaccines will be ineffective. 

The mutated strain of COVID was first recorded in September, and in December, it was two-thirds of recorded cases. Other countries like Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia have reported cases of the mutated strain. Many places have placed a travel ban on the U.K., and England, Scotland and Wales have placed stricter restrictions within their own countries to prevent the spread. Similar strains have also appeared in South Africa and Brazil, but the South African variant appears unrelated to the U.K. one. 

Protests in Russia erupt after the arrest of politician Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny is a Russian politician known for his opposition to Russia’s current president Vladimir Putin and advocating for anti-corruption legislation. He spent five months in Germany to recover from nerve agent poisoning, which he claims Putin is responsible for. January 17, upon his return, Navalny was arrested for violating his probation terms while in Germany and sentenced to two years and eight months in prison. As a result, protests erupted across Russia to showcase opposition to Navalny’s arrest and imprisonment as well as discontent with Putin’s presidency. 

Even though a percentage of protestors are not big fans of Navalny themselves, they’re protesting against how Navalny is being treated and advocating for change. For example, protestors in St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown, were chanting “Down with the czar! ” according to Associated Press News. Many of Navalny’s associates have also been arrested or put under house arrest. Moscow police are also struggling to find room in jails to place the thousands of protestors that were arrested in the city. 

After thousands of protestors were arrested across the country, Navalny’s associates, like his chief strategist Leonid Volkov, urged protestors to stop weekly rallies and focus on pressuring politicians at the polls in September. Internationally, many leaders showed their support for the protests and condemned the use of force against protestors and journalists. Russian officials’ response condemned foreign countries for entering Russian affairs and demanded social media sites block protests from using the platforms to organize.

Indian farmers call for the repeal of three new agricultural bills passed in September 2020

For two months, Indian farmers camped outside Delhi, the capital, to call for the repeal of the new agriculture laws that were passed in September 2020 that deregulated India’s agricultural system. Several international celebrations, such as singer Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg, have shown their support for the farmers and called for the Modi government to take action. The government in response dictated their displeasure at international public figures getting involved. Within India, some places experienced Internet shutdowns and security was increased in many places. In January, India’s Supreme Court indefinitely paused the implementation of the news laws.

The old system regulated mandis, state-regulated wholesale markets, to prevent farmers from being exploited and limited the private sector from hoarding food products. However, even with the regulations in place, the mandis, middlemen and traders would often collude and the farmers would receive a low share of the price. In response, the government passed three bills in September to reform the old system. The first bill allows parallel trade outside the mandis, electronically and within and outside the states. The second bill only restricts private sector storage in case of strong spikes in price. The third bill establishes formal contracting between farmers and the businesses that buy from them. 

Even though these bills intend to empower farmers, protests still erupted. Farmers worry that the reforms and lack of regulation will only empower the businesses at the expense of the farmers instead of the other way around. Furthermore, because larger businesses are more likely to buy from larger farms to avoid middlemen and their fees, farmers worry that small farms will rarely get business with the new channels.

Citizens of Myanmar take to the streets to protest military coup

February 1, Myanmar’s military seized power the day before Myanmar’s parliament was set to swear in the new government officials. The army cites that the National League for Democracy’s win in the November 2020 election was fraudulent and therefore invalid. The military declared a year-long state of emergency and will hold an election after the year is over. President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the chairperson for the National League of Democracy, were detained along with other ministers, deputies and members of parliament. 

Thousands of protesters gathered throughout Myanmar to show support for the National League of Democracy and denounce the military coup. After the military made statements declaring the citizenry supported the military’s decision, protesters gathered to reject those declarations. Banks have long lines of people waiting to draw out cash due to the country’s instability, and COVID-19 testing collapsed because healthcare workers are staying away from hospitals. Some protesters violently clashed with police, but most have been peaceful. 

The military junta, or military committee, shut down Internet access in parts of Myanmar, and they’ve ordered journalists to not describe the takeover as a coup. The military has also given themselves the power to make arrests, carry out searches and hold people for over 24 hours without a court ruling.This event has spurred international outcry, leading to Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson and and a spokesperson of the U.S. state department to speak out in support of Suu Kyi.