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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Human Rights and Human Rights Violations"

Congress Wants to Force Trump’s Hand on Human Rights in China and Beyond

Westlake Legal Group 26dc-humanrights1-sub-facebookJumbo Congress Wants to Force Trump’s Hand on Human Rights in China and Beyond Vetoes (US) United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Uighurs (Chinese Ethnic Group) Turkey Syria Saudi Arabia Presidential Election of 2020 Law and Legislation Human Rights and Human Rights Violations Embargoes and Sanctions China

WASHINGTON — In a rare show of bipartisan unity, Republicans and Democrats are planning to try to force President Trump to take a more active stand on human rights in China, preparing veto-proof legislation that would punish top Chinese officials for detaining more than one million Muslims in internment camps.

The effort comes amid growing congressional frustration with Mr. Trump’s unwillingness to challenge China over human rights abuses, despite vivid news reports this year outlining atrocities, or to confront such issues globally.

To press Mr. Trump into action on China, lawmakers plan to move ahead with legislation that would punish Beijing for its repression of ethnic Uighur Muslims, with enough supporters to compel the president to sign or risk being overruled by Congress ahead of the 2020 election. A version of the legislation, known as the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, passed both the House and Senate this year, but its path to the White House was stalled this month by a procedural process.

Human rights causes draw rare bipartisan support in Congress, and many Republican lawmakers have broken from Mr. Trump on the matter, even as they move in lock step with the president on nearly every other issue, including defending him against impeachment.

“There’s been a sense by some that the administration hasn’t prioritized human rights in its broader foreign policy,” said Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. “I don’t think that’s necessarily accurate — but that sense has grown. There’s been a sense that Congress needs to step up.”

Last month, Congress passed legislation by unanimous consent supporting the Hong Kong protests, forcing Mr. Trump to sign the bill. Mr. Trump, who had previously said he was “standing with” Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, risked being overruled by Congress and criticized as weak on China if he vetoed the measure. Still, when Mr. Trump signed the bill the night before Thanksgiving, he issued a statement saying he would “exercise executive discretion” in enforcing its provisions.

Lawmakers this year also passed legislation recognizing the 1915 killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians as a genocide over the objections of Mr. Trump. And they approved a resolution calling for the end of American military support of the war in Yemen, in which a Saudi Arabia-led coalition is bombing civilians. Mr. Trump vetoed the measure.

In October, after Mr. Trump withdrew American forces just inside Syria’s border, paving the way for a Turkish military operation against Kurdish forces, lawmakers voted to rebuke the administration for the decision and show support for the Kurds, a persecuted group in the Middle East that has fought with American troops against the Islamic State.

In the coming months, Congress is expected to try to pass legislation that would punish Turkey and Saudi Arabia for human rights abuses, though it is unclear whether those efforts would have a veto-proof majority. The effort includes a package of Turkey sanctions sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. The legislation, which would penalize those who commit human rights abuses in Syria, was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December.

Some human rights issues draw greater bipartisan support than others. China hawks have become ascendant across Congress and in the administration, and many Americans increasingly see China as a threat.

Although Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have criticized China on the persecution of Muslims, Mr. Trump has said nothing. In July, Jewher Ilham, the daughter of Ilham Tohti, a Uighur professor whom China sentenced to life in prison in 2014, joined other victims of religious persecution to meet with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office. When she tried to explain the camps to Mr. Trump, he appeared ignorant of the situation and simply said, “That’s tough stuff.”

“It’s hard to find evidence of genuine personal interest,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “On China, at a minimum, President Trump should stop describing an authoritarian, abusive leader as a ‘terrific guy’; doing so gives Chinese authorities the opportunity to choose between that characterization and the far tougher ones offered up by other senior U.S. officials.”

Mr. Trump, who has criticized China over its economic practices, has refrained from imposing sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the camps for fear of jeopardizing the chances of reaching a trade deal. Many top aides and lawmakers from both parties have pushed for sanctions, but the Treasury Department has opposed the penalties. The Uighur act, which had Mr. Rubio and Representative Christopher H. Smith, Republican of New Jersey, as sponsors, would compel Mr. Trump to impose sanctions on Chen Quanguo, the top Communist Party official in Xinjiang, where the camps are.

In October, the Trump administration placed a few Chinese businesses and security organizations on a commercial blacklist because of their suspected roles in Muslim abuses, but many analysts considered that a weak punishment.

Other countries are more complicated. Saudi Arabia has been a traditional American ally, and Iran hawks in Congress, who are generally Republican, argue Riyadh is a regional bulwark against Tehran. And Mr. Trump’s positive declarations about President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia have spurred a gradual shift from the anti-Russia views previously held by Republican politicians, conservative voters and right-wing news organizations.

Mr. Trump expresses open admiration for many authoritarian leaders, even those condemned by senior officials in his own administration for some of the world’s worst atrocities. They include Mr. Xi, Mr. Putin, Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil.

“He’s celebrating the leaders who are the worst human rights abusers,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said in an interview. “It almost seems like the president’s support for you is directly proportional to how brutal you are to your citizenry.”

This month, the Trump administration blocked a move by members of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the human rights situation in North Korea for the second year in a row. Mr. Trump has expressed warmth for Mr. Kim of North Korea and has engaged in personal diplomacy, meeting him at two summits to try, without success, to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

“The Trump administration has sent a clear message to Pyongyang and to the rest of the world that this administration doesn’t consider starvation, torture, summary executions and a host of other crimes to be a priority,” said Louis Charbonneau, United Nations director at Human Rights Watch.

On other prominent issues this year, Mr. Trump used his executive power to reject measures that would have either punished countries for human rights abuses or simply affirmed the abuses were happening.

Mr. Trump vetoed a bipartisan resolution that would have punished Saudi Arabia for its air war in Yemen and the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and permanent resident of the United States. Mr. Khashoggi’s death last year — a grisly killing that American intelligence officials have said was ordered by Prince Mohammed — reignited a long-simmering effort among a small group of lawmakers to cut off American support for the Saudi-led bombings in Yemen that have helped create the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crisis.

Four of the six vetoes Mr. Trump has issued in his presidency overturned legislative attempts to penalize the kingdom. In May, Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo sparked bipartisan fury by declaring an emergency over Iran that allowed the United States to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, bypassing a congressional hold on the sales. This fall, in closed door negotiations, the White House blocked similar language from making it into the final version of the annual defense policy bill, a must-pass package of legislation.

“I’m a big fan of the president on many fronts, but on this, someone has to stand up,” Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky and a proponent of withdrawing the United States from wars, said in a floor speech in June before voting to cut off arms sales to the kingdom.

In another recent instance that privately confounded Republican lawmakers, the White House recruited multiple Republican senators to block attempts to pass legislation formally recognizing the Armenian genocide. The administration argued the timing of the bill would upend diplomatic relations with Turkey, including when Mr. Trump received Mr. Erdogan at the White House in November. Mr. Trump insisted on holding that meeting over the objections of some Republicans who have criticized Turkey, a NATO ally, for attacking the Kurds in Syria.

The legislation finally passed this month, days after the Senate advanced a package of sanctions related to Mr. Erdogan’s invasion of northern Syria and his purchase of a sophisticated Russian surface-to-air missile system.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Protests Spread Across India Over Divisive Citizenship Law

Westlake Legal Group 16india-1-facebookJumbo Protests Spread Across India Over Divisive Citizenship Law United Nations Muslims and Islam India Human Rights and Human Rights Violations discrimination Demonstrations, Protests and Riots Citizenship and Naturalization Bharatiya Janata Party

NEW DELHI — Furious protests against a new citizenship law continued to erupt across India on Monday, provoking a harsh security response and presenting the most widespread challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power five years ago.

On Sunday, police officers stormed a predominantly Muslim university in New Delhi, the capital, firing tear gas into a library where students had sought refuge, and beating up dozens.

The protests have gripped many major Indian cities and are a reaction to the Indian Parliament’s decision last week to pass a contentious measure that would give special treatment to Hindu and other non-Muslim migrants in India. Critics have called the measure blatantly discriminatory and a blow to India’s foundation as a secular democracy.

The law is a core piece of a Hindu-centric agenda pursued by Mr. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, and many analysts predicted trouble. India’s large Muslim minority, around 200 million people, has become increasingly fearful, certain that many of Mr. Modi’s recent initiatives are intended to marginalize them.

Protests broke out last week in northeastern India, where several demonstrators were killed, and have spread to Bhopal, Jaipur, Ladakh, Kerala, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Lucknow. Cars, buses and railway stations have been set on fire in an explosion of anti-government feeling.

On Sunday, when students at Jamia Millia Islamia University, a primarily Muslim university in New Delhi, organized a large demonstration, which many witnesses said started out peacefully, the police responded with force.

Videos widely circulated on social media show officers beating students with wooden sticks, smashing some on their heads even after they had been knocked down. In one video, a group of female students tries to rescue a young man from the grasp of the police. A squad of officers in riot gear tears him away and knocks him down with heavy blows. Even after the women form a protective circle around the downed student, officers can be seen trying to jab the young man with their wooden poles.

“The police barged into the girls’ hostel, they barged into the boys’ hostel,’’ one young woman told reporters. “Students were running around to save their lives. Is this democracy? Where are we living?’’

Dozen of students were hospitalized, some with broken bones, according to news media reports. Some witnesses said that gangs of older men appeared on campus to battle students, possibly an echo of past episodes of organized Hindu-Muslim clashes. Some students raced to seek shelter in a library where they were tear-gassed by the police.

Observers said that while police brutality was common in poorer, more rural areas of India, it was extremely unusual to see it explode, on such a scale, in the capital.

Lokesh Devraj, a product designer who lives near the university, said he exited a metro station on Sunday afternoon and saw a stampede of terrified university students running toward him as the police charged, sticks in hand, beating at whatever crush of people they could find. The students did not resist, Mr. Devraj said, and had no sticks or stones in their hands.

A police officer ran at Mr. Devraj and his 65-year-old father, he said, waving a baton in his clenched fist. Mr. Devraj shielded his father from the blows and was beaten himself, he said. The police officer backed off only after Mr. Devraj explained that he was simply a resident trying to return home.

India, at around 80 percent Hindu and 14 percent Muslim, has a history of convulsions of religious violence. With this citizenship measure, the Modi government has been pushing legislation guaranteed to create anger and despair in India’s minority Muslim community.

It comes against a steady drumbeat of anti-Muslim moves by Mr. Modi’s government and its allies across India’s states including: changing historic place names from Muslim names to Hindu ones; editing government-issued textbooks to remove mentions of historic Muslim rulers; and stripping away statehood from what was India’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, and indefinitely incarcerating hundreds of Muslim Kashmiris.

The new citizenship legislation, called the Citizenship Amendment Act, expedites Indian citizenship for migrants from some of India’s neighboring countries if they are Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Parsee or Jain. Only one major religion in South Asia was conspicuously left off: Islam.

Indian officials have denied any anti-Muslim bias and said the measure was intended purely to help persecuted minorities migrating from India’s predominantly Muslim neighbors — namely Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The legislation, which passed through both houses of Parliament last week, follows hand in hand with a divisive citizenship test conducted this summer in one state in northern India and possibly soon to be expanded nationwide.

All residents of the state of Assam, along the Bangladesh border, had to produce documentary proof that they or their ancestors had lived in India since 1971. Around two million of Assam’s population of 33 million — a mix of Hindus and Muslims — failed to pass the test, and these people now risk being rendered stateless. Huge new prisons are being built to incarcerate anyone determined to be an illegal immigrant.

Amit Shah, India’s powerful home minister and Mr. Modi’s right-hand man, has vowed to bring citizenship tests nationwide. A widespread belief is that the Indian government will use both these measures — the citizenship tests and the new citizenship law — to render millions of Muslims who have been living in India for generations stateless.

International organizations have sharply criticized the direction India is headed.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called the citizenship act “fundamentally discriminatory.”

And the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal body, called the measure a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction” and said last week that the United States should consider sanctions against India if the bill passes.

Maria Abi-Habib contributed from New Delhi.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Saudi Arabia Embraces Western Sports to Rehabilitate Global Image

Westlake Legal Group 00DC-SAUDIENTERTAINMENT-01-facebookJumbo Saudi Arabia Embraces Western Sports to Rehabilitate Global Image Wrestling World Wrestling Entertainment Inc Shariah (Islamic Law) Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, Princess of Saudi Arabia Netflix Inc Mohammed bin Salman (1985- ) Middle East Human Rights Watch Human Rights and Human Rights Violations Golf Formula E Holdings Ltd Foreign Investments Els, Ernie Diriyah (Saudi Arabia) boxing

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — On Halloween, as two female WWE wrestlers battled inside a roaring King Fahd International Stadium, Najla Ibrahim stood with a hand on her heart and another in the air, capturing the moment with her smartphone. For years, the nurse from Riyadh followed wrestling from afar and yearned for the day when women would take the ring in her country.

“I’m very proud because they are making history,” Ms. Ibrahim, 23, dressed in a black abaya and seated next to her older sister, said as the match ended under a shower of fireworks. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long.”

A year after the state-directed assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian dissident columnist for The Washington Post, the government of Saudi Arabia is accelerating efforts diversify its economy, cultivate domestic spending and polish its global image by broadening cultural offerings centered on Western sports and entertainment.

Staging a women’s wrestling match is no small feat in a kingdom where strict interpretation of Islamic law has long dictated that women be segregated, wear full-body coverings and have a male guardian. While the moment was notable, it was also carefully manufactured, stirring debate about whether Saudi Arabia is progressing or just glossing over its past.

“It’s definitely ‘sportswashing,’” said Philippe Nassif, Amnesty International’s advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “In the case of Saudi Arabia, they are infamous for the oppression of women’s rights and ethnic and racial minority rights. What better way to attempt to change that image than an all women’s wrestling match?”

The relationship between international brands like WWE and the Saudi government is symbiotic, as companies seek untapped markets while the kingdom tries to move its economy beyond dependence on oil production.

But the push comes with complications. Western businesses and stars have faced backlash and boycotts amid accusations that they are aiding a public relations initiative from an oppressive Saudi government.

Saudi Arabia made sports a priority in 2016, as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” economic development program. To lay the groundwork, Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, now Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, last year worked with an American lobbying firm to set up meetings with the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer, World Surf League and Formula One auto racing to discuss bringing international sports to the kingdom.

Big money soon flowed. In July, Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority announced a $650 million investment to develop local athletes and teams and to attract international events. Speaking at an investment conference in Riyadh in October, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the chairman of the General Sports Authority, explained how making Saudi Arabia a hub of global sports can lift economic growth and create thousands of jobs.

“A big part of the change within the kingdom is the sector of sport, and growing the sector of sport,” he said.

Wrestling is one sliver of Saudi Arabia’s new appetite for athletics.

This month, Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. will travel to a custom-built arena in Diriyah, outside of Riyadh, for a heavyweight boxing title fight billed the “Clash on the Dunes.” February brings the debut of the Saudi Cup, a horse race with a $20 million purse — the richest in history. A Ladies European Tour golf tournament is being planned for March.

“We are in a really huge transformation, softening the image,” Majed Al-Sorour, chief executive of the Saudi Golf Federation, said on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh in October.

The sports expansion is part of Prince Mohammed’s attempt to bring in foreign investment and increase the financial potential of a country whose population skews young. Of the kingdom’s 22 million citizens, about two-thirds are under 30.

Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled according to Shariah law. After Prince Mohammed was elevated to crown prince in 2017, he pursued a campaign aimed at convincing the world that Saudi Arabia was changing culturally with a series of reforms that were methodically rolled out to burnish its image. In the last 18 months, movie theaters opened for the first time in more than 35 years, women gained the right to drive and segregation of the sexes was relaxed in public places.

On a Monday night in late October, Saudi men and women in their 20s swayed to hip-hop music at a fashion boutique that opened for Riyadh’s Design Week. As with international companies, young people in Saudi Arabia are also adjusting to new boundaries and calibrating their ambitions.

At the event was Mohammed Alhamdan, who five years ago was an aspiring actor working at a McDonald’s in Riyadh before he started creating satirical music videos that went viral on YouTube. Now he has more than 7 million followers on his social media networks and is paid to create and perform in advertisements for brands like McDonald’s and Pepsi, which operate in the kingdom.

“Everything is new, for us and the country,” said Mr. Alhamdan, 25, who goes by the online persona Warchieff.

Saudi Arabia’s growing circle of social media influencers still tread cautiously when approaching cultural taboos. Mr. Alhamdan said he was careful to create videos that grab attention without veering into cultural criticism that will get him in trouble with a government that aggressively stifles online dissent.

Critics of Saudi Arabia contend that its embrace of Western sports and entertainment is a diversion to distract from a grim human rights record. “I see all of this more as a way for the government to generate revenues from things other than oil than a genuine effort by the government to grant freedom,” said Hala Aldosari, a Saudi scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Central Intelligence Agency concluded last year that Prince Mohammed personally ordered the killing of Mr. Khashoggi. Since then, the kingdom has worked with international public relations firms to rehabilitate its reputation, and the Crown Prince said he has said he takes “full responsibility” for the murder. But international observers say human rights violations continue.

Amnesty International in October condemned the kingdom for arresting and detaining civil society activists and criticized the Saudi government for cloaking in secrecy the trial of those involved in the Khashoggi killing and for mass executions in April of Shiite Muslims who participated in anti-government protests.

A Human Rights Watch report last month said despite advances for Saudi women in the last year, numerous women’s rights advocates continue to be detained, charged with criminal offenses and tortured for speaking out.

Conditions for journalists who call for reform remain risky. The human rights group ALQST said last Monday that Saudi authorities arrested at least eight bloggers and journalists in five cities across the country in November, raiding their homes and seizing their laptops and cellphones.

“They are trying to cover up their abuses by holding high-profile sporting events and spectacles supported by businesspeople, politicians and sporting figures around the world,” ALQST said in a statement.

For Western athletes and entertainers, doing business in Saudi Arabia remains fraught. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal faced criticism last year for planning to play an exhibition match in Jeddah. The tennis stars eventually withdrew, citing an injury to Mr. Nadal.

In July, the rapper Nicki Minaj withdrew from a music festival after an outcry from critics of Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women and its ban on homosexuality.

For corporations, boycotting Saudi Arabia is more difficult.

Netflix came under fire this year for pulling an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s show “Patriot Act in Saudi Arabia because of the show’s criticism of Prince Mohammed and the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. Reed Hastings, the chief executive of Netflix, offered a blunt assessment of the decision at a New York Times DealBook conference in November, saying the company was “not in the truth to power business.”

Formula E, the electric motor sport racing series, also faced questions about its decision to open its season in Saudi Arabia last year, weeks after Mr. Khashoggi was murdered. Last month, the event was back again, drawing thousands of fans and musical entertainers from Britain and Norway.

“I think Saudi is going through a period of change and I think we need to support the change,” Alejandro Agag, the founder of Formula E, said in an interview in Riyadh. “Sport is a neutral thing that brings people together.”

Ernie Els, the champion golfer from South Africa who is helping the Saudi government establish itself as a global golf destination, offered a similar rationale. Despite backlash for his involvement with the Saudis, he said he hoped golf could help the country in the same way rugby helped unite South Africa, under the leadership of President Nelson Mandela, in the 1990s after apartheid.

“I understand the concern from the international community, but you have to start somewhere,” Mr. Els said in an interview.

Introducing American sports to the kingdom has not gone smoothly.

WWE, which held its first match in Saudi Arabia in 2014, signed a 10-year deal with the government last year that is rumored to be worth nearly $500 million. The company has faced backlash from fans on social media for accepting what they called the kingdom’s “blood money” and for excluding women from matches. In 2018, a company executive said that moving forward with an event weeks after Mr. Khashoggi was killed was “incredibly tough” but “at the end of the day it was a business decision.”

Asked about the women’s wresting match, Matthew Altman, a WWE spokesman, said in a statement that the company had operated in the Middle East for nearly 20 years. “Our partnership with the General Entertainment Authority further strengthens our fan engagement through large-scale events and action-packed programming while being at the forefront of change that is taking place in the region,” he said.

Last April, during a WWE “Greatest Royal Rumble” in Jeddah, a promotional video displayed between matches showed women wrestlers scantily clad, prompting the Saudi General Sports Authority to issue a statement apologizing for the scenes. Male wrestlers perform bare-chested in Speedo-style shorts.

Arranging a women’s match was complicated, and WWE officials said they held extensive talks with the Saudi government about the appropriate time to allow the athletes, Natalya Neidhart and Lacey Evans, to perform. Attire was also a major concern: To pass muster, the women swapped revealing costumes for loose-fitting T-shirts worn over long black sleeves and leggings.

Fahad Saeed Khan, an engineer in the audience dressed in Adidas track pants and a Polo shirt, said wrestling is a welcome alternative to Riyadh’s staid entertainment options of going to a mall or socializing in a park. “It’s good,” Mr. Khan, 27, said, adding that men and women in Saudi Arabia have been kept apart for too long. “Things need to open up.”

Tasneem Alsultan contributed reporting from Riyadh.

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Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Legislation, Angering China

Westlake Legal Group merlin_164714724_1d87bf7b-0a98-44a1-bacc-c4a119e90a01-facebookJumbo Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Legislation, Angering China Xi Jinping United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Law and Legislation Human Rights and Human Rights Violations Hong Kong Embargoes and Sanctions China

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump on Wednesday signed tough legislation that would impose sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong, signaling support for pro-democracy activists in the territory and escalating tensions with Beijing as Mr. Trump tries to negotiate a trade deal with Chinese leaders.

Whether Mr. Trump would ultimately sign the legislation had been a subject of debate, as he refused to commit to doing so as late as last week, saying that he supported the protesters but that President Xi Jinping of China was “a friend of mine.” But Mr. Trump was left with no other option, as the bill had passed both chambers by veto-proof majorities.

Mr. Trump’s decision, publicly announced the evening before Thanksgiving, throws a potential wrench into the United States’ bilateral trade talks with China. Both countries have tried to keep the Hong Kong issue separate from their negotiations, which have been moving at a slow but steady pace.

Mr. Trump tried to frame his decision to sign the legislation, as well as another bill that bans the sale of crowd-control munitions such as tear gas and rubber bullets to the Hong Kong police, as not disrespecting Mr. Xi, even though China’s government had demanded that Mr. Trump reject the measure. The president had previously skirted around the battles between pro-democracy demonstrators and police forces enforcing China’s authoritarian stance in Hong Kong.

“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China and the people of Hong Kong,” Mr. Trump said in a statement on Wednesday. “They are being enacted in the hope that leaders and representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long-term peace and prosperity for all.”

The Hong Kong government had also argued that the bill was unnecessary, making its case even more vigorously after the territory was able to hold peaceful local elections last Sunday in which antigovernment candidates won 87 percent of the seats. The vote showed that “democracy is alive and well,” and that the Hong Kong bill that went through Congress was unnecessary, said Ronny Tong, a member of the cabinet of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive.

But Mr. Trump was ultimately left with little choice but to sign the bill, which could have been enacted without Mr. Trump’s signature after Dec. 3. Congress also could have overridden a veto. Even some of Mr. Trump’s most ardent trade supporters had cautioned against rebuffing the legislation.

The main measure, titled the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, would not only compel the United States to impose sanctions on officials, but also require the State Department to annually review the special autonomous status it grants the territory in trade considerations. That status is separate from the relationship with mainland China, and a revocation of the status would mean less favorable trade conditions between the United States and Hong Kong.

China’s Foreign Ministry strongly criticized Mr. Trump’s signing of the bill, which it said “seriously interfered with Hong Kong affairs, seriously interfered with China’s internal affairs, and seriously violated international law and basic norms of international relations.”

“It was a clear hegemonic act,” the ministry said, “and the Chinese government and people firmly opposed it.”

The ministry stopped short of linking Hong Kong in any way to the trade talks, although trade is outside the its jurisdiction. The ministry did conclude its statement, however, with a warning: “We advise the United States not to act arbitrarily, or China will resolutely counteract it, and all consequences arising must be borne by the United States.”

Although Mr. Trump announced last month that the United States and China had reached a “historic” Phase 1 trade agreement, signing a deal has proved elusive. Mr. Trump has continued to play coy about whether he will agree to remove any of the tariffs he has placed on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods. A Dec. 15 deadline looms for the United States to decide whether to impose another round of tariffs on even more Chinese imports, including consumer goods like smartphones and laptops.

Evan S. Medeiros, a Georgetown University professor who was the senior Asia director on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council staff, said Mr. Trump’s action could mean that he thought signing the bill would allow him to look tough on China to American voters without entirely upsetting the negotiations.

“Signing the bill is an important signal amid the trade talks, but not an unpredicted one given the near unanimous congressional support,” he said. “The real question is how the president will use these new authorities. Perhaps this move is best understood as a leading indicator that U.S.-China trade talks are essentially done.”

Lawmakers from both parties had clamored for the president to sign the legislation as a show of support for the young demonstrators who have been defiantly pushing back against China’s tightening hold over the semiautonomous territory.

“This bicameral, bipartisan law reaffirms our nation’s commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the face of Beijing’s crackdown,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement. “America is proud to stand with the people of Hong Kong on the side of freedom and justice.”

In recent months, a bipartisan push to confront China and its authoritarian leader has grown on a wide range of issues, including commercial practices, global infrastructure building and the detention of at least a million Muslim ethnic minority members in camps in northwest China.

“The U.S. now has new and meaningful tools to deter further influence and interference from Beijing into Hong Kong’s internal affairs,” said Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and one of the legislation’s many champions in the upper chamber. “This new law could not be more timely in showing strong U.S. support for Hong Kongers’ long-cherished freedoms.”

Mr. Trump has been trying to get China to agree to a trade deal that would benefit American farmers and manufacturers and allow technology firms to operate more freely in that country. The desire to sign a deal that ends pain for American farmers has become particularly important ahead of the 2020 presidential election, and Mr. Trump has left the impression that all other issues related to China are secondary, especially ones related to human rights.

Last Friday, in an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Trump said, “We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi.” Last June, Mr. Trump promised Mr. Xi in a telephone conversation that he would not speak out in support of the Hong Kong protests as long as trade talks were progressing. Mr. Trump did mention Hong Kong during a speech in September at the United Nations General Assembly, but did so while praising Mr. Xi, and he has not consistently made strong statements on Hong Kong.

In a separate statement issued on Wednesday evening, Mr. Trump appeared to hedge his full-throated support for the broader legislation, saying that “certain provisions of the act would interfere with the exercise of the president’s constitutional authority to state the foreign policy of the United States.”

“My administration will treat each of the provisions of the act consistently with the president’s constitutional authorities with respect to foreign relations,” Mr. Trump said. He did not specify which parts of the bill posed such interference with executive powers.

One of the main provisions compels the administration to impose economic and travel sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials found to be violating human rights in the territory. Mr. Trump or relevant agencies could try to slow walk such sanctions — and might even use the threat of imposing them to as a cudgel against China in trade negotiations.

Mr. Trump has refused to impose sanctions on Chinese officials for the mass detention of Muslims, despite recommendations to do so by some American officials.

For months, Hong Kong protesters had called for the United States to pass the bill. The protesters in October even held a rally supporting in the bill that was attended by more than 100,000 people; many waved American flags or wrapped them around their bodies. Protesters say the law would give them more leverage over officials in China and Hong Kong, since the officials want to maintain access to the United States for themselves and their family members, and they also want to preserve the favorable trade status between Washington and Hong Kong.

“I hope it can act as a warning to Hong Kong and Beijing officials, pro-Beijing people and the police,” said Nelson Lam, 32, a food importer and regular protester. “I think if they know that what they do may lead to sanctions, then they will become restrained when dealing with protests. We just want our autonomy back. We are not their foe.”

Within the White House, Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser and former senior Asia director on Mr. Trump’s National Security Council staff, has advocated for tough policies against China. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to openly endorse the bill when asked about it by reporters, but did say, “We have human rights standards that we apply all across the world, and Hong Kong is no different.”

Emily Cochrane reported from West Palm Beach, Fla.; Edward Wong from Houston; and Keith Bradsher from Shanghai.

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5 Takeaways From the Leaked Files on China’s Mass Detention of Muslims

Westlake Legal Group merlin_158992734_0e684319-11e1-4989-9b44-80bcf944ae6f-facebookJumbo 5 Takeaways From the Leaked Files on China’s Mass Detention of Muslims Xinjiang (China) Xi Jinping Uighurs (Chinese Ethnic Group) Politics and Government Human Rights and Human Rights Violations Detainees Communist Party of China China

HONG KONG — Internal Chinese government documents obtained by The New York Times have revealed new details on the origins and execution of China’s mass detention of as many as one million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other predominately Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region.

The 403 pages reveal how the demands of top officials, including President Xi Jinping, led to the creation of the indoctrination camps, which have long been shrouded in secrecy. The documents also show that the government acknowledged internally that the campaign had torn families apart — even as it explained it as a modest job-training effort — and that the program faced unexpected resistance from officials who feared a backlash and economic damage.

A member of the Chinese political establishment who requested anonymity brought the documents to light in hopes that their disclosure would prevent Communist Party leaders, including Mr. Xi, from escaping responsibility for the program. It is one of the most significant leaks of papers from inside the ruling Communist Party in decades.

Here are five takeaways from the documents.

The Chinese government has described its efforts in Xinjiang as a benevolent campaign to curb extremism by training people to find better jobs. But the documents reveal the party’s efforts to organize a ruthless campaign of mass detention in the name of curbing terrorism, a program whose consequences they discussed with cool detachment.

The papers describe how parents were taken away from children, how students wondered who would pay their tuition, and how crops could not be planted or harvested for lack of workers. Yet officials were directed to tell people that they should be grateful for the Communist Party’s help, and that if they complained, they might make things worse for their family.

Mr. Xi, the party chief, laid the groundwork for the crackdown in a series of speeches delivered in private to officials during and after a visit to Xinjiang in April 2014, just weeks after Uighur militants stabbed more than 150 people at a train station, killing 31.

He called for an all-out “struggle against terrorism, infiltration and separatism” using the “organs of dictatorship” and to show “absolutely no mercy.”

The documents do not record him directly ordering the creation of the detention facilities, but he ascribed Xinjiang’s instability to the widespread influence of toxic beliefs and demanded they be eradicated.

Terrorist attacks abroad and the drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan heightened the leadership’s fears and helped shape the crackdown. Officials argued that attacks in Britain resulted from policies that put “human rights above security,” and Mr. Xi urged the party to emulate aspects of America’s “war on terror” after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. Xi signaled a break from the policies of his predecessor, Hu Jintao, who responded to deadly 2009 riots in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, with a clampdown but also stressed economic development as a cure for ethnic discontent — longstanding party policy.

“In recent years, Xinjiang has grown very quickly and the standard of living has consistently risen, but even so ethnic separatism and terrorist violence have still been on the rise,” Mr. Xi said in a speech to party officials. “This goes to show that economic development does not automatically bring lasting order and security.”

The internment camps in Xinjiang expanded rapidly after the appointment in August 2016 of a zealous new party boss for the region, Chen Quanguo. He distributed Mr. Xi’s speeches to justify the campaign and exhorted officials to “round up everyone who should be rounded up.”

Mr. Chen led a campaign akin to one of Mao’s turbulent political crusades, in which top-down pressure on local officials encouraged overreach, and any expression of doubt was treated as a crime.

The crackdown encountered doubts and resistance from local officials who feared it would exacerbate ethnic tensions and stifle economic growth. Mr. Chen responded by purging officials suspected of standing in his way, including one county leader who was jailed after quietly releasing thousands of inmates from the camps.

That leader, Wang Yongzhi, built sprawling detention facilities and increased security funding in the county he oversaw. But in a 15-page confession, which he most likely signed under duress, he worried that the crackdown would harm ethnic relations and that the mass detentions would make it impossible to achieve the economic progress he needed to earn a promotion.

Quietly, he ordered the release of more than 7,000 internment camp inmates — an act of defiance for which he would be detained, stripped of power and prosecuted.

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Chinese Investment Pits Wall Street Against Washington

Westlake Legal Group 00DC-CHINAMONEY-facebookJumbo Chinese Investment Pits Wall Street Against Washington ZTE Corp United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Shaheen, Jeanne Securities and Exchange Commission Securities and Commodities Violations Rubio, Marco Romney, Mitt Pensions and Retirement Plans New York State Common Retirement Fund MSCI Inc Morgan Stanley Law and Legislation International Trade and World Market Human Rights and Human Rights Violations Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co Ltd Government Employees Gillibrand, Kirsten E Gazprom China Mobile Ltd China Communications Construction Co China California Public Employees Retirement System BlackRock Inc

WASHINGTON — The rivalry between the United States and China has spread to a fight over financial ties between the countries, pitting Washington security hawks against Wall Street investors.

Members of Congress and the Trump administration are warning that Chinese companies are raising money from American investors and stock exchanges for purposes that run counter to American interests. To help curb the flow of dollars into China, they have turned their sights on an unlikely target: their own retirement fund.

The Thrift Savings Plan is the retirement savings vehicle for federal government employees, including lawmakers, White House officials and members of the military. Beginning next year, the fund is scheduled to switch to a different mix of investments that would increase its exposure to China and other emerging markets. Lawmakers and some in the Trump administration are trying to stop that move, saying the change would pump federal workers’ savings into companies that could undermine American national security or have been sanctioned by the United States.

Last Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to the plan’s governing board urging it to reverse its decision.

“For China, this is the greatest free lunch program for capital they’ve ever known, because they’re able to penetrate the investment portfolios of scores of millions of Americans in basically one shot,” said Roger Robinson, the president of the consulting firm RWR Advisory Group, which has distributed research on the subject to lawmakers and members of the Trump administration.

The push to forestall more investment in China is part of a broader effort by some officials in Washington to separate ties between the world’s two largest economies. It is also another indication that President Trump’s conflict with China will persist, even if the United States signs a limited trade deal with Beijing later this year.

Some China critics are pressing Mr. Trump to go beyond the tariffs he has already imposed and erect larger barriers between the two countries, including restrictions on the flow of technology and investment.

In recent months, officials have been making more frequent calls to re-examine China’s presence in the stock portfolios of American investors. Administration officials, including members of the National Security Council, have begun pressing the Securities and Exchange Commission to increase scrutiny of Chinese firms, which have long skirted the auditing and disclosure requirements of American stock exchanges, putting investors at risk. Chinese law restricts the company documentation that auditors can transfer out of the country, limiting their visibility to American regulators.

Policymakers are considering more stringent proposals. In June, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would delist foreign firms that do not comply with American financial regulators for a period of three years.

Another area of concern is the decision by companies that compile major stock indexes to include more firms that are listed on Chinese exchanges. While investors can’t put money directly into an index, they can invest in a fund that mirrors an index’s particular basket of securities.

As global stock markets have steadily trended upward in recent years, more investors have turned to passive investing, in which a fund simply mirrors a major index, rather than active investing, in which fund managers try to pick certain stocks to outperform the market.

And as China’s economy has continued to grow, index providers have increased the weighting of Chinese stocks. The move has been a win for Beijing, funneling money into the Chinese market and helping to enhance the international profile of its companies and its currency, the renminbi.

Like many retirement vehicles, the Thrift Savings Plan, which manages $600 billion of savings by millions of federal government employees, offers participants the option of investing in an index fund.

The plan, which is similar to a 401(k), gives federal workers the option to invest in a fund with international exposure. If they do, their savings go to a fund featuring the same securities as a popular index developed by Morgan Stanley.

Currently, the fund mirrors an index with stocks solely from developed countries, called the MSCI Europe, Australasia, Far East Index. But on the advice of an outside consultant, Aon Hewitt, the board decided to shift those investments to better diversify its portfolio and obtain a higher return. In mid-2020, the fund is to begin mirroring Morgan Stanley’s MSCI All Country World ex-U.S.A. Index, which includes shares of more than 2,000 companies from dozens of developed and emerging countries, including China.

Mr. Trump’s advisers have joined Democrats and Republicans in Congress in expressing concerns about the planned change. They say it will funnel the savings of Americans into some companies that have murky financial records, or pursue activities that run counter to America’s national interest.

Senators Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, and Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat from New Hampshire, sent a letter last week to the body that manages the plan, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, urging it to reverse a decision that they said would invest retirement funds in companies “that assist in the Chinese government’s military activities, espionage, and human rights abuses, as well as many other Chinese companies that lack basic financial transparency.”

The letter, which was also signed by Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democratic senator from New York, as well as the Republican senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Rick Scott of Florida, said, “It is our responsibility to these public servants to ensure that the investment of their retirement savings does not undermine the American interests for which they serve.”

A spokeswoman for Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board said it was reviewing the letter and had invited the consultant, Aon Hewitt, to review its previous recommendations at a meeting on Monday.

One company in the new index that the senators have pointed to is Hikvision, a Chinese manufacturer of video surveillance products that the United States placed on a blacklist earlier this month. The Trump administration says the company has provided surveillance equipment that aided China in a campaign targeting a Muslim minority, including in constructing large internment camps in the autonomous region of Xinjiang.

The MSCI All Country World ex U.S.A. Index also includes AviChina Industry & Technology Company Ltd., a subsidiary of China’s state-owned manufacturer of aircraft and airborne weapons, which manufactured planes and missiles that were the centerpiece of a military parade in Beijing earlier this month. Also included in the index is China Mobile, which is blocked from providing international services in the United States; ZTE, which the United States fined last year for violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea; and China Communications Construction Company, which is reportedly involved in island building in the South China Sea.

The index also includes Russian companies that have been sanctioned over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, cyberespionage and other issues. A December 2018 report by RWR Advisory Group found that five of the 11 Russian constituents of the index had been sanctioned by the Treasury Department, including the Russian gas companies Gazprom and Novatek.

Richard V. Spencer, secretary of the Navy, said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article last week that the savings of members of the military should not be “unwittingly helping to underwrite the threats China and Russia pose to their lives.” Mr. Spencer said the board must reverse its decision “for the good of the country and those who serve it.”

Business leaders and Wall Street executives have started pushing back, saying efforts to restrict investment constitute government interference and could destabilize financial markets. When policymakers begin to pull the threads of financial connections between the United States and China, it’s not clear how much they will unwind, they say.

“There are certainly reasons why the U.S. should be concerned about various things China is doing and the rivalry it presents,” said Patrick Chovanec, chief strategist at the investment advisory firm Silvercrest Asset Management. “But by the same token, they’re the second-biggest economy in the world. If you push them off a cliff, you better make sure you’re not handcuffed to them.”

Reversing the decision could cost federal employees who are saving for retirement. China is now home to more companies in the global Fortune 500 than the United States. And while China’s growth has slowed sharply in recent years, its economy is still expanding at about 6 percent annually, roughly three times as fast as the United States’.

Fast-growing economies tend to be favorable for stock investing, suggesting that investors could be giving up some gains if they’re blocked from the Chinese markets. In an analysis for the Thrift Retirement Board, Aon Hewitt found that $1 invested in the securities on the new index would have returned $3.28 after 23 years, while $1 invested in the securities of the original index would have returned $3.05.

“At the end of the day, stock investing is about being exposed to growth,” said Lisa Shalett, chief investment officer at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. “That is where the growth is.”

— Alan Rappeport contributed reporting. Matt Phillips contributed from New York.

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How Times Reporters Proved Russia Bombed Syrian Hospitals

Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

“Srabota,” the Russian pilot said.

The Russian phrase, which directly translates as “it’s worked,” was confirmation that he had released his weapon on a target in Syria: Nabad al Hayat Surgical Hospital near the town of Haas in Idlib Province.

Beginning in 2017, The Times’s Visual Investigations team has tracked the repeated bombing of hospitals in Syria, an apparent strategy of the Syrian military and Russia, its ally. More than 50 health care facilities have been attacked since the end of April in an offensive to reclaim Idlib Province from militants opposed to Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, according to the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

[Read and see our investigation into Russia’s bombing of Syrian hospitals.]

Our team combines traditional reporting with advanced digital forensics to understand major events in conflicts that Times reporters can’t access on the ground, like a chemical attack in Syria or an American airstrike in Afghanistan.

Finding visual evidence of Syrian hospitals that were badly damaged was not hard. We collected hundreds of photos and videos from Facebook groups and Telegram channels, two places on social media where Syrian journalists and citizens had shared hours of footage. Along with medical and relief organizations, users on those platforms sent us even more documentation, including internal reports and unpublished videos.

While Russia has long been suspected of being behind these hospital bombings, direct evidence of its involvement was difficult to find, and Russian officials have denied responsibility.

During our investigation, we obtained tens of thousands of previously unpublished audio recordings between Russian Air Force pilots and ground control officers in Syria. We also obtained months of flight data logged by a network of Syrian observers who have been tracking warplanes to warn civilians of impending airstrikes. The flight observations came with the time, location and general type of each aircraft spotted.

Could these communications, each only a few seconds long and riddled with seemingly indecipherable military jargon and code words, be direct evidence of Russia’s violating one of the oldest rules of war?

ImageWestlake Legal Group 13insider-syria-hospitals-sheet-articleLarge How Times Reporters Proved Russia Bombed Syrian Hospitals your-feed-visual-investigations War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity United Nations Syria Security Council (UN) Russia Military Aircraft Idlib (Syria) Human Rights and Human Rights Violations hospitals Hama (Syria) Defense and Military Forces Civilian Casualties Assad, Bashar al-

Times reporters spent weeks translating and deciphering code words to understand how Russian pilots carry out airstrikes in Syria. This spreadsheet shows part of the communication between one pilot, identified as “48,” and the ground controller, “Fuse,” during a strike on Nabad al Hayat Surgical Hospital.CreditThe New York Times

We needed to verify and match the Russian communications and flight logs with the other airstrike information we had gotten, including satellite images and doctors’ witness statements. Deciphering the communications and finding the precise time and location of each hospital strike proved to be the key.

We had months of data but decided to focus on May 5 and 6, when four hospitals had been bombed. Each was on a United Nations-sponsored “deconfliction list” meant to spare it from attack, according to the World Health Organization.

We eventually saw patterns in the data. The clearer the picture got, the more damning it became for Russia.

We then organized and merged all of this information into a spreadsheet database. A data analyst in our Graphics department, Quoctrung Bui, designed a tool that allowed us to filter and search thousands of data points by time and place.

For each airstrike, we examined the evidence recorded at the time of the attack: Were Russian Air Force aircraft in the air? Were they spotted near hospitals? What were they talking about on the intercepted audio?

In the case of Kafr Nabl Surgical Hospital, which had been bombed repeatedly and restored with help from the W.H.O. in March, local news coverage and incident reports placed the time of the attack at about 5:30 p.m. on May 5.

Witnesses are often central to estimating timing, so we spoke to a doctor who was working at Kafr Nabl when it was hit. He said the hospital was first struck at 5:30 p.m., with three more airstrikes following five minutes apart.

Local media activists started filming after the first strike. Four of them caught the next strike on video. Did they all show the same airstrike? Or multiple ones — perhaps even four, as the doctor described?

To find out, we needed to know whether the videos were filmed in Kafr Nabl. Using Google Earth, we labeled landmarks, like a minaret and a water tower, and kept track of the nearby hills and mountain ridge.

This practice, known as geolocation, can determine the exact site of a photo or video by using landmarks and geographical features and corroborating them with satellite imagery. We managed to geolocate all of the videos and determined that the explosions all happened at Kafr Nabl Surgical Hospital.

We then analyzed the explosions and smoke patterns. After going through each video frame by frame and lining up several videos next to each other, we realized we had footage of three different strikes from multiple angles.

Video

Westlake Legal Group 13vid-idlib-insider-still-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600-v2 How Times Reporters Proved Russia Bombed Syrian Hospitals your-feed-visual-investigations War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity United Nations Syria Security Council (UN) Russia Military Aircraft Idlib (Syria) Human Rights and Human Rights Violations hospitals Hama (Syria) Defense and Military Forces Civilian Casualties Assad, Bashar al-

Videos filmed by media activists in Syria capture the moment of an airstrike on Kafr Nabl Surgical Hospital on May 5, 2019. The World Health Organization-supported hospital was bombed four times in eighteen minutes.CreditCreditClockwise from top left: Halab Today TV, Hadi Alabdallah, Euphrates Post, via Facebook. Composite image: Dave Horn/The New York Times.

An analysis of the shadows in the video allowed us to estimate the times of the strikes. But to get the exact time, we asked local journalists and news agencies to send their footage so we could use the files’ metadata to see when each strike hit the hospital, down to the second: 5:36:12, 5:41:14 and 5:49:17 p.m.

We knew that at least three, possibly four, airstrikes had hit the hospital. But we didn’t have a culprit. The flight logs and videos of the aircraft above Kafr Nabl that day didn’t have the key either. Both Russian and Syrian air forces had been active. It was a perfectly ambiguous situation: We didn’t know who bombed the hospital, but it must have been one of the two.

Credit

But the Russian Air Force communications provided the clearest evidence of Russia’s responsibility because we had the exact time of the explosions from the video metadata. A Russian pilot released four weapons at those very times.

The pilot, who identifies himself as “72,” says “Srabota” at 5:30 p.m. He repeats that five minutes later, at 5:35 p.m. — and at 5:40 and 5:48 p.m. Four weapon releases in all, each about five minutes apart and about some 40 seconds before the time of impact we had calculated from video metadata.

Because the hospital was dug deep under its original building after repeated bombings, only one person was killed. Many others were injured.

We saw three other instances when the Russian Air Force “worked” on hospitals over a period of 12 hours in early May. The evidence was clear in each case. Less than a day of air activity in a four-year-old Russian air war paints a damning picture for a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Reporting was contributed by Quoctrung Bui, John Ismay and Haley Willis.

Graphics by Dave Horn. Video credits: Halab Today TV, Hadi Alabdallah, Euphrates Post (via Facebook) and Syria Call.

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12 Hours. 4 Syrian Hospitals Bombed. One Culprit: Russia.

The Russian Air Force has repeatedly bombed hospitals in Syria in order to crush the last pockets of resistance to President Bashar al-Assad, according to an investigation by The New York Times.

An analysis of previously unpublished Russian Air Force radio recordings, plane spotter logs and witness accounts allowed The Times to trace bombings of four hospitals in just 12 hours in May and tie Russian pilots to each one.

The 12-hour period beginning on May 5 represents a small slice of the air war in Syria, but it is a microcosm of Russia’s four-year military intervention in Syria’s civil war. A new front in the conflict opened this week, when Turkish forces crossed the border as part of a campaign against a Kurdish-led militia.

Russia has long been accused of carrying out systematic attacks against hospitals and clinics in rebel-held areas as part of a strategy to help Mr. Assad secure victory in the eight-year-old war.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_159390756_5a5f5fc5-913f-4700-8e83-11e78b890fa3-articleLarge 12 Hours. 4 Syrian Hospitals Bombed. One Culprit: Russia. your-feed-visual-investigations War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity United Nations Syria Security Council (UN) Russia Politics and Government Nabad al Hayat Surgical Hospital Military Aircraft Kafr Zita Cave Hospital Kafr Nabl Surgical Hospital Idlib (Syria) Human Rights and Human Rights Violations hospitals Defense and Military Forces Civilian Casualties Assad, Bashar al- Al Amal Orthopedic Hospital

For years, Russia has been accused of attacking hospitals and clinics as part of a strategy to help President Bashar al-Assad of Syria secure victory in the civil war.CreditMeridith Kohut for The New York Times

Physicians for Human Rights, an advocacy group that tracks attacks on medical workers in Syria, has documented at least 583 such attacks since 2011, 266 of them since Russia intervened in September 2015. At least 916 medical workers have been killed since 2011.

The Times assembled a large body of evidence to analyze the hospital bombings on May 5 and 6.

Social media posts from Syria, interviews with witnesses, and records from charities that supported the four hospitals provided the approximate time of each strike. The Times obtained logs kept by flight spotters on the ground who warn civilians about incoming airstrikes and crosschecked the time of each strike to confirm that Russian warplanes were overhead. We then listened to and deciphered thousands of Russian Air Force radio transmissions, which recorded months’ worth of pilot activities in the skies above northwestern Syria. The recordings were provided to The Times by a network of observers who insisted on anonymity for their safety.

The spotter logs from May 5 and 6 put Russian pilots above each hospital at the time they were struck, and the Air Force audio recordings from that day feature Russian pilots confirming each bombing. Videos obtained from witnesses and verified by The Times confirmed three of the strikes.

Recklessly or intentionally bombing hospitals is a war crime, but proving culpability amid a complex civil war is extremely difficult, and until now, Syrian medical workers and human rights groups lacked proof.

Russia’s position as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council has shielded it from scrutiny and made United Nations agencies reluctant to accuse the Russian Air Force of responsibility.

“The attacks on health in Syria, as well as the indiscriminate bombing of civilian facilities, are definitely war crimes, and they should be prosecuted at the level of the International Criminal Court in The Hague,” said Susannah Sirkin, director of policy at Physicians for Human Rights. But Russia and China “shamefully” vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have referred those and other crimes in Syria to the court, she said.

The Russian government did not directly respond to questions about the four hospital bombings. Instead, a Foreign Ministry spokesman pointed to past statements saying that the Russian Air Force carries out precision strikes only on “accurately researched targets.”

The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, opened an investigation into the hospital bombings in August. The investigation, still going on, is meant in part to determine why hospitals that voluntarily added their locations to a United Nations-sponsored deconfliction list, which was provided to Russia and other combatants to prevent them from being attacked, nevertheless came under attack.

Syrian health care workers said they believed that the United Nations list actually became a target menu for the Russian and Syrian air forces.

Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the secretary general, said in September that the investigation — an internal board of inquiry — would not produce a public report or identify “legal responsibility.” Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian permanent representative to the United Nations, cast doubt on the process shortly after it was announced, saying he hoped the inquiry would not investigate perpetrators but rather what he said was the United Nations’ use of false information in its deconfliction process.

From April 29 to mid-September, as Russian and Syrian government forces assaulted the last rebel pocket in the northwest, 54 hospitals and clinics in opposition territory were attacked, the United Nations human rights office said. At least seven had tried to protect themselves by adding their location to the deconfliction list, according to the World Health Organization.

On May 5 and 6, Russia attacked four. All were on the list.

The first was Nabad al Hayat Surgical Hospital, a major underground trauma center in southern Idlib Province serving about 200,000 people. The hospital performed on average around 500 operations and saw more than 5,000 patients a month, according to Syria Relief and Development, the United States-based charity that supported it.

Nabad al Hayat had been attacked three times since it opened in 2013 and had recently relocated to an underground complex on agricultural land, hoping to be protected from airstrikes.

At 2:32 p.m. on May 5, a Russian ground control officer can be heard in an Air Force transmission providing a pilot with a longitude and latitude that correspond to Nabad al Hayat’s exact location.

At 2:38 p.m., the pilot reports that he can see the target and has the “correction,” code for locking the target on a screen in his cockpit. Ground control responds with the green light for the strike, saying, “Three sevens.”

At the same moment, a flight spotter on the ground logs a Russian jet circling in the area.

At 2:40 p.m., the same time the charity said that Nabad al Hayat was struck, the pilot confirms the release of his weapons, saying, “Worked it.” Seconds later, local journalists filming the hospital in anticipation of an attack record three precision bombs penetrating the roof of the hospital and blowing it out from the inside in geysers of dirt and concrete.

The staff of Nabad al Hayat had evacuated three days earlier after receiving warnings and anticipating a bombing, but Kafr Nabl Surgical Hospital, three miles northwest, was not as lucky.

A doctor who worked there said that the hospital was struck four times, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The strikes landed about five minutes apart, without warning, he said, killing a man who was standing outside and forcing patients and members of the medical staff to use oxygen tanks to breathe through the choking dust.

A spotter logged a Russian jet circling above at the time of the strike, and in another Russian Air Force transmission, a pilot reports that he has “worked” his target at 5:30 p.m., the time of the strike. He then reports three more strikes, each about five minutes apart, matching the doctor’s chronology.

Russian pilots bombed two other hospitals in the same 12-hour span: Kafr Zita Cave Hospital and Al Amal Orthopedic Hospital. In both cases, spotters recorded Russian Air Force jets in the skies at the time of the strike, and Russian pilots can be heard in radio transmissions “working” their targets at the times the strikes were reported.

Since May 5, at least two dozen hospitals and clinics in the rebel-held northwest have been hit by airstrikes. Syrian medical workers said they expected hospital bombings to continue, given the inability of the United Nations and other countries to find a way to hold Russia to account.

“The argument by the Russians or the regime is always that hospitals are run by terrorists,” said Nabad al Hayat’s head nurse, who asked to remain anonymous because he feared being targeted. “Is it really possible that all the people are terrorists?”

“The truth is that after hospitals are hit, and in areas like this where there is just one hospital, our houses have become hospitals.”

Reporting was contributed by Dmitriy Khavin, Whitney Hurst, Malachy Browne, Quoctrung Bui and John Ismay.

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Hong Kong’s Status as Neutral Ground at Risk as China Asserts Power

In a part of the world familiar with conflict, dislocation and ruthless ideological extremism, Hong Kong has long beckoned as an oasis of stability.

It has prospered on the strength of its proximity to mainland China — close enough to be a base for investors capitalizing on China’s development, and still beyond reach of the authoritarian hand of the Chinese Communist Party.

It has served as a bridge between two rival powers nursing mutual suspicions, the United States and China. It is Chinese territory yet governed by a legal system inherited from the West, and intertwined with the global financial system.

But now Hong Kong’s status as neutral ground between mainland China and the outside world is being threatened by a pair of momentous confrontations. As President Trump increases tariffs on Chinese goods in his trade war, the value of Hong Kong as a hub for commerce is being diminished. And as protesters filling Hong Kong’s streets accuse China of breaching a deal that was supposed to protect the territory’s democratic norms, the endurance of its semiautonomous status appears in doubt.

With geopolitical and ideological friction between China and the United States intensifying, some say the space for a place like Hong Kong is disappearing.

“We will see a different Hong Kong,” said Lynette H. Ong, a China expert at the University of Toronto. “The very reason for Hong Kong’s existence — the rule of law, respect for the police, for public institutions, respect for the judiciary, the bureaucracy — everything has been eroded.”

On Sunday, three of Hong Kong’s main commercial districts were engulfed in thick clouds of tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators battled the police in some of the territory’s worst unrest since the protests began. A few protesters threw firebombs at the police. Some chanted, “Expel the Communist Party, free Hong Kong!”

The protest was an open challenge to the party just two days before China celebrates 70 years of Communist rule on the mainland. Even larger demonstrations in Hong Kong aimed at upstaging the festivities in Beijing are expected on Tuesday, with fresh clashes with the police likely.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157239561_173662e2-cf50-4827-a25e-a98a02d00505-articleLarge Hong Kong’s Status as Neutral Ground at Risk as China Asserts Power Xi Jinping United States Shenzhen (China) Lam, Carrie (1957- ) International Trade and World Market Human Rights and Human Rights Violations Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Great Britain fitch ratings Economic Conditions and Trends Dealogic PLC Communist Party of China China

The People’s Liberation Army marching in a Hong Kong ceremony this year marking the 22nd anniversary of the end of British control.CreditKin Cheung/Associated Press

Twenty-two years ago, as Britain handed its erstwhile colony back to China, cautious optimism prevailed that Hong Kong’s special status would endure. Beijing pledged adherence to a doctrine known as “one country, two systems” and asserted that its “ultimate aim” was universal suffrage to elect the territory’s leader. It promised that Hong Kong’s traditional freedoms would be protected for the next half-century.

Surveys showed that a majority of Hong Kong residents were happy about the handover, which transpired on July 1, 1997. Business leaders exuded confidence that the territory’s rules-based regulation, independent courts and freewheeling press would persist. Hong Kong would return to China, yet retain its status as an open, global metropolis.

“There’s no lack of confidence,” Nellie Fong, a partner in the American accounting firm Arthur Andersen and a member of the incoming government’s cabinet, told The New York Times as the handover approached. “What Hong Kong people regain on July 1 is our own identity.”

Hong Kong’s port, once the world’s busiest, now handles less container shipping than four other Chinese cities.CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

The British Empire had seized Hong Kong in 1841 as it pursued retribution for a lopsided balance of trade: Britain was purchasing vast quantities of tea and silk from China, but China was buying little in return. Britain deployed naval power to force China to accept opium shipped from colonial India, capturing the island of Hong Kong as a military and commercial outpost.

Over the next 150 years, Hong Kong was a refuge for Chinese dissidents and those fleeing upheaval in China, especially after the Communists took power in 1949. It became the linchpin of trade between China and the rest of the planet, swelling into the busiest port on earth.

As the handover approached, China was seeking entry to the World Trade Organization, a step it would achieve in 2001, gaining greater access to world markets. China was also preparing its largest state-owned companies to go global. Hong Kong’s impressive port offered a convenient pathway for trade. The banks and trading houses clustered in its gleaming skyscrapers provided a way to secure foreign money.

The optimism about Hong Kong’s future was premised on the notion that China had to respect its ways or risk undermining the value of the territory it was reclaiming.

Beijing also hoped that Hong Kong’s prosperity would validate China’s mode of governance, in which politics are a distraction to economic progress. The party would govern Hong Kong through a loyal elite, while tapping the territory’s capital markets and professional ranks to advance China’s ambitious development plans.

Success in Hong Kong would be leveraged to court reunification with Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims as part of its territory.

Some local leaders fretted that their interests were subordinate to Britain’s determination to close the book on its colonial adventures.

“The British did not give Hong Kong people a choice,” said Anson Chan, who was Hong Kong’s chief secretary — the second-highest position in the territory’s government — during and after the handover. “There was a great deal of trepidation. Even among the business sector there was skepticism, because, essentially, you were turning over Hong Kong to a sovereign power whose philosophy, ideology and everything else was so totally different.”

Many Westerners expressed hope, however, that Hong Kong would help change China rather than the other way around, serving as a conduit for free enterprise and democratic ideas. Some maintained that global commerce would prove decisive. “Constructive engagement” would tether Chinese fortunes to world markets, and that would require liberty.

“There is no firewall between economic freedom and freedom in its many other dimensions,” Lawrence H. Summers, who was deputy Treasury secretary, declared in Hong Kong before the handover. “The free flow of information, the ability of people to remain free, to enter into transactions, to speak out: These are all the essential elements of free markets and a strong financial system.”

As Britain’s last governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, officially transferred power back to China, he asserted that the city’s principles were immutable.

“They are universal values,” Mr. Patten said. “They are the values of the future in Asia as elsewhere, a future in which the happiest and the richest communities, and the most confident and the most stable, too, will be those that best combine political liberty and economic freedom as we do today.”

For a time, these competing hopes — those of the party and the West — coexisted in a delicate tug-of-war, allowing Hong Kong to thrive.

The skyline of Shanghai, which the head of a Hong Kong hedge fund said “will become the pre-eminent financial center.”CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Xi Jinping had other ideas.

After he ascended in 2013, the new Chinese president delivered a profound change in his country’s engagement with the world. He used China’s growing economic clout as impetus for an increasingly muscular foreign policy.

Under his leadership, China has sought to dominate new markets, projected power around the globe and redoubled the Communist Party’s control of the political sphere. He has crushed dissent while presiding over the mass imprisonment of minority Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang. He enshrined Xi Jinping Thought as party ideology, scorning democracy and liberalized economics as decadent Western exports.

Mr. Xi’s vigilance against threats to party authority also appears to have altered Beijing’s assessment of Hong Kong. Its commercial value was now discounted by its potential as a hotbed for dangerous free expression and a base of subversion against the party’s rule on the mainland.

“Xi Jinping has tightened his control over Hong Kong,” Sally Chan, 30, an investment bank clerk, said as she marched toward government offices during the demonstrations on Sunday. “The government overlooks the rule of law now. Police brutality is everywhere. We have to be careful not to reveal our identity to the police.”

Hong Kong’s worth also came in for re-examination after the global financial crisis of 2008. Western bankers — some based in Hong Kong — and officials from Washington had long lectured Beijing about the need for China to lift restrictions on the movement of money. But the crisis exposed the deficiencies of the Western system.

“The current leadership under Xi Jinping is far less interested in learning the lessons of capitalism from Hong Kong,” said Rana Mitter, director of Oxford University’s China Center. “Hong Kong is seen as a more anomalous and troublesome place that needs to be sorted out. It’s no longer seen as a golden goose.”

Part of the change reflected the reality that Hong Kong was no longer the primary gateway to China. China was building road and rail networks while modernizing its ports, eliminating the need to ship through Hong Kong. Today, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Ningbo and Guangzhou each handle more container traffic than Hong Kong, according to the World Shipping Council.

Shanghai’s stock market is now the leader for initial public offerings by state-owned Chinese companies, overtaking Hong Kong a decade ago.CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

By 2009, the dollar value of initial public offerings for state-owned Chinese companies on Shanghai’s stock market was greater than those in Hong Kong, according to Dealogic, a financial data company. “Hong Kong is no longer critical,” said V-nee Yeh, chairman of Cheetah Investment Management. “Shanghai will become the pre-eminent financial center over Hong Kong.”

The trade war threatens to further diminish Hong Kong’s status as a center of commerce. Mr. Trump has exhorted American companies to abandon China and make their products elsewhere. Economists say such talk is overheated. The global economy revolves around two foundational forces — China’s unsurpassed capacity to make things, and Americans’ insatiable appetite for buying things. Yet even a marginal movement of factory production out of China challenges Hong Kong’s place as a financial and logistics center.

A Shanghai suitcase factory. President Trump’s calls for companies to move production outside China threaten to reduce Hong Kong’s clout as a commercial hub.CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Hong Kong’s economy is already contracting amid fears of a full-blown recession. Fitch Ratings downgraded Hong Kong’s credit this month out of concern over China’s increasing role in the city’s affairs. Moody’s followed, asserting that “the ongoing protests reveal an erosion in the strength of Hong Kong’s institutions” and “undermine Hong Kong’s credit fundamentals by damaging its attractiveness as a trade and financial hub.”

In Washington, Mr. Xi’s authoritarian proclivities and global ambitions have silenced talk of constructive engagement with China, replacing it with hawkish warnings of a new Cold War. That has narrowed the space for a neutral Hong Kong. The huge protests of the past three months have worsened the tension. American politicians from both major parties have voiced support for the protesters while Chinese officials have hit back, angrily accusing them of encouraging street violence to block China’s rise.

The demonstrations were initially spurred by anger over a proposed bill that would have enabled criminal suspects to be extradited to the mainland, where justice is opaque. But even after Hong Kong’s chief executive scrapped the bill, the protests endured with a broader goal of democratic representation.

Video footage of police officers attacking demonstrators has enraged the public, provoking accusations that local security forces are acting with no public accountability, like those on the mainland. The police actions have especially alienated younger people, many of whom view Hong Kong as a distinct place and sympathize with calls for independence.

“Everyone is very clear about what China’s system is like,” said Yoyo Chan, a 17-year-old student. “Cruel things can happen there, such as concentration camps, and it’s all frightening. Even before the extradition bill was drafted, a few booksellers in Hong Kong had disappeared into China. In a place like Hong Kong, where we have freedom of speech, we don’t want to lose things integral to us.”

Within the business world, the perception that Beijing has brazenly asserted itself is sowing fears that Hong Kong’s identity as a neutral ground is in danger.

“Hong Kong is a good place for business,” said Trevor Ma, 31, founder of Gethemall, an online clothing store. “But the most important thing is freedom. The atmosphere should not just be one where we’re getting enough money. We should be able to say anything without threat. That’s not the case in Hong Kong right now.”

Mostly, he is galled by the creeping sense that China is trying subsume Hong Kong.

“Most Hong Kong people don’t want to be integrated with China at all,” he said. “If Hong Kong is not different from China, why would I stay?”

A shopping mall in Beijing. “Most Hong Kong people don’t want to be integrated with China at all,” said Trevor Ma, the founder of an online clothing store.CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

In recent weeks, Beijing has dialed up its propaganda channels, portraying the demonstrators as terrorists who are manipulated by foreigners while broadcasting footage of paramilitary exercises in Shenzhen, with the implication that those forces could be dispatched to Hong Kong.

Most experts assume that Beijing will avoid substantial bloodshed, lest it spook financial markets and worsen China’s economic slowdown. But China can stop well short of unleashing troops and still end Hong Kong’s status as a bridge to the West.

The leadership in Beijing and the demonstrators in Hong Kong are dug in, limiting room for compromise.

During Sunday’s protests in Hong Kong, many participants described a violation of trust, with the crackdown on the demonstrations prompting a basic reassessment of the legitimacy of local authority.

Geography seems to have been reconfigured, with mainland China now closer than ever.

“When we were children, our parents always told us to seek out the police when we are in trouble,” said Stephanie Chung, 21, a student at Open University of Hong Kong. “But having seen the police behave so brutishly has been traumatizing. You wonder if one day they will send us back to the mainland to be prosecuted.”

She was standing near the Bank of China tower in downtown Hong Kong. A Chinese flag fluttered in the sky, as wisps of tear gas drifted in the wind.

“Hong Kong has become more alien to me,” said Vincent Tong, 27, a trader at a local financial firm who was also marching on Sunday. “If we fail this time, Hong Kong will be doomed. I don’t want our way of living to become the same as those living in China.”

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Sterilized Workers Seek to Collect Damages Against Dow Chemical in France

PARIS — Decades ago, banana plantations around Central America sprayed a powerful pesticide with a terrible side-effect: It sterilized workers on a massive scale. Thousands of victims have sought compensation ever since from the chemical companies that produced it.

Now, some survivors and their families are suing three big chemical makers in France to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid damages awarded to them by courts in Nicaragua, where many of the poisonings of banana workers occurred. If successful, the case could set a new legal precedent and lead to more lawsuits being filed in France for harm done in other countries by the pesticide Nemagon.

In the mid-2000s, Nicaraguan courts ordered a total of $805 million in damages to be paid to hundreds of victims by Dow Chemical, Shell Oil Company and Occidental Chemical Corporation, which has since become OxyChem. The companies refused to pay, saying that the courts lacked jurisdiction and had denied them fair trials.

The case now has a new life half a world away in Europe, where the companies have significant assets and 1,245 former workers and relatives are looking to collect the money. While French courts have been open to hearing cases linked to human rights abuses that have occurred elsewhere, this is the first with such a large monetary award at stake. On Tuesday, a French court delivered documents to Dow France SAS provisionally freezing shares worth 99 million euros, or about $110 million, pending a trial scheduled for January at the Paris Trial Court.

Dow Chemical, in a statement, disputed that the freezing took place, claiming that the United States-based parent company did not own any capital in Dow France, which is held by other Dow European entities.

The action is a precautionary measure to prevent Dow from moving assets out of France until the trial, said François-Henri Briard, a French lawyer who is part of an international legal team representing the former workers and relatives. A French judge will determine whether court opinions issued in other countries — in this case, Nicaragua — can be enforced in France and in the European Union.

If the plaintiffs prevail, they would seek to collect part of the $805 million from the Nicaraguan judgments from Dow in France and move to freeze and sell assets owned by Dow, Shell and Occidental in other European countries where they operate. They would cite a European Union rule that allows a court order issued in a member state to be enforced in any of the bloc’s 28 countries.

“We live in a globalized world where it’s easy for multinational companies to hide assets so as not to allow justice and court orders to be enforced,” said Mr. Briard. “This is what the U.S. companies did in Nicaragua: they poisoned people, they were sentenced by the courts and they left without paying anything,” he said. In such a world, he added, victims should also be allowed to cross borders to enforce payment.

Dow, in its statement, said that the Nicaraguan courts did not give it and other defendants a fair trial. “Courts confronted with these Nicaraguan judgments have unanimously held them to be unenforceable,” it said. “We are confident that French courts will conclude the same.”

The case caps decades of high-stakes legal maneuvering and litigation that has bounced back and forth between the United States, where the companies are based, and countries in Central America and beyond where the chemicals were used.

The chemical dibromochloropropane, or DBCP, an active ingredient in Nemagon, was banned in most of the United States in 1977 after it was found to have caused sterility among thousands of male workers who were exposed to it at Dow, Shell and Occidental plants across America. Food growers based in the United States continued to use Nemagon through the early 1980s at banana and pineapple plantations in countries with lower environmental standards, according to lawsuits filed in Nicaragua and elsewhere.

“It’s a sperm-killer,” said Stuart H. Smith, a New Orleans-based environmental lawyer who is part of the plaintiffs’ legal team. “Thousands of individuals were knowingly put into the zone of risk of these pesticides after it was banned,” he said, adding that the sterilizations prevented them from having “a normal life with a family and children.”

A wave of lawsuits by Nicaraguan plantation workers followed in the United States in the 1990s. Dow and Shell — along with growers Dole Fruit, Del Monte Fruit and Chiquita Brands — blocked the suits on the grounds that the United States was not the place to try them, because the alleged damage happened in Central America.

Nicaragua passed a law for DBCP victims that required corporate defendants to put up a bond of $100,000 per case, triggering hundreds of lawsuits there in the mid-2000s. When Nicaraguan courts awarded hundreds of millions in compensation to victims, Dow, Shell and Dole declared that the courts lacked jurisdiction and refused to pay.

In particular, Shell said the courts lacked jurisdiction because its headquarters was in the United States, and that it had no employees in the country. Dow said the Nicaraguan law for DBCP victims denied it due process, and Dole said the court had never obtained jurisdiction over it.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 18Dow2-articleLarge Sterilized Workers Seek to Collect Damages Against Dow Chemical in France Workplace Hazards and Violations Pesticides Nicaragua Human Rights and Human Rights Violations France European Union Dow Chemical Company Chiquita Brands International Inc Chemicals Bananas

In 2007, former banana workers marched in Nicaragua demanding compensation for the health effects of pesticides.CreditEsteban Felix/Associated Press

Efforts to enforce Nicaragua court judgments in the United States failed. A Florida court denied recognition of a $97 million judgment against Dow and Dole in 2009, saying the Nicaraguan proceedings were biased against the companies.

A California judge in 2009 also threw out separate lawsuits brought in the United States against Dow and Dole after ruling that the plaintiffs and their lawyers used fraudulent tactics, including faked sterility results and plaintiffs who never worked on banana plantations.

Those cases recall another widely publicized litigation over oil-related pollution in Ecuador. In 2014, a federal judge in Manhattan threw out a $19 billion verdict against Chevron after finding that a lawyer submitted false evidence. The judge did not dispute that pollution occurred in the Ecuadorean Amazon.

Mr. Smith said the plaintiffs seeking enforcement in France were damaged by the chemicals and that their cases had been upheld by the Nicaraguan Supreme Court.

French judges will consider whether the Nicaraguan judges who ruled on the cases were competent and if any fraud or violation of due process was involved in determining whether to seek enforcement of the $805 million in payouts in France.

Mr. Smith said the case constituted a “multibillion-dollar liability” that had not been disclosed to Dow Chemical’s stockholders or the Securities and Exchange Commission. Dow said in its statement that it is in compliance with all laws and regulations regarding its reporting requirements.

The chemical and banana companies have long argued that they have no further responsibility after settling claims decades ago. All except Dole settled in 1997 with 26,000 former banana workers in Central America, Africa and the Philippines for $41 million. Dole agreed in 2014 to compensate more than 1,700 former banana workers from Nicaragua for an undisclosed amount.

The workers and families suing in France were not part of those agreements, and Mr. Briard said that they are ultimately hoping to reach their own settlement.

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