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

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and relief organizations, users on those platforms sent us even more documentation, including internal reports and unpublished videos.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During our investigation, we obtained tens of thousands of previously unpublished audio recordings between Russian Air Force pilots and ground control officers in Syria.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.

Follow the @ReaderCenter on Twitter for more coverage highlighting your perspectives and experiences and for insight into how we work.

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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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With Oil Under Attack, Trump’s Deference to Saudis Returns

WASHINGTON — After oil installations were blown up in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, President Trump declared that the United States was “locked and loaded,” a phrase that seemed to suggest he was ready to strike back. But then he promised to wait for Saudi Arabia to tell him “under what terms we would proceed.”

His message on Twitter offered a remarkable insight into the deference Mr. Trump gives to the Saudi royal family and touched off a torrent of criticism from those who have long accused him of doing Riyadh’s bidding while sweeping Saudi violations of human rights and international norms under the rug.

It was hard to imagine him allowing NATO, or a European ally, such latitude to determine how the United States should respond. But for Mr. Trump, the Saudis have always been a special case, their economic import having often overwhelmed other considerations in his mind.

Whether, and how, to commit forces is one of the most critical decisions any American president can make, but Mr. Trump’s comment gave the impression that he was outsourcing the decision.

The fact that the other country was Saudi Arabia — a difficult ally that came under intense criticism for the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident and Washington Post columnist — reinforced the longstanding criticism that the energy-rich kingdom buys American support.

“What struck me about that tweet was not just that it’s obviously wrong to allow Saudi Arabia to dictate our foreign policy, but that the president doesn’t seem to be aware of how submissive it makes him look to say that,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey and a former assistant secretary of state.

“It is a big deal to attack oil fields,” Mr. Malinowski added. “It does affect more than just Saudi Arabia’s interests. But whatever we do, we have to do what’s best for us and we have to recognize that the Saudis have a profound bias.”

Mr. Trump told reporters on Monday that he had not “promised” to protect the Saudis and that he would “sit down with the Saudis and work something out.” But he expressed caution, suggesting that for all of his bellicose language, he was not rushing toward a military conflict.

Asked whether Iran was behind the attack, Mr. Trump said, “It is looking that way.” But he stopped short of definitive confirmation. “That is being checked out right now,” he added.

Mr. Trump warned that the United States had fearsome military abilities and was prepared for war if necessary.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160902594_d4b298b2-a01e-4e33-88b7-880ddeb56f9d-articleLarge With Oil Under Attack, Trump’s Deference to Saudis Returns United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Saudi Arabia Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Khashoggi, Jamal Iran Human Rights and Human Rights Violations

A satellite image showing damage to oil and gas infrastructure after an attack in Abqaig, Saudi Arabia.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

“But with all that being said, we would certainly like to avoid it,” he added. “I know they would like to make a deal,” he said of the Iranians, whom he has been trying to draw into talks over their nuclear program. “At some point, it will work out.”

There is no evidence it will work out soon. The Iranian Foreign Ministry dismissed the notion on Monday that President Hassan Rouhani would meet Mr. Trump in New York next week when both are scheduled to attend the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. While Mr. Trump said in June that a meeting could happen without preconditions, and his own aides, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, repeated it last week, Mr. Trump called that “fake news” over the weekend and falsely blamed the news media for making it up.

The notion of the United States doing the bidding of the Saudis has a long, bristling history. Critics complained that Saudi Arabia effectively hired out the American military to protect itself from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and reverse his invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The Saudi government even forked over $16 billion to reimburse the United States for about a quarter of the cost of the war that followed in 1991 — along with Kuwait, the most of any country.

The resentment felt over the years by American officials crossed the ideological spectrum, summed up pithily in a leaked 2010 cable by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The Saudis, Mr. Gates told the French foreign minister at the time, always want to “fight the Iranians to the last American.”

Among those who seemed to share the sentiment in the past was a New York businessman and television entertainer named Donald J. Trump.

“Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars, which they won’t, or pay us an absolute fortune to protect them and their great wealth-$ trillion!” he tweeted in 2014.

Since taking office, Mr. Trump has made Saudi Arabia his closest ally in the Middle East other than Israel, and has strongly supported its multifront struggle with Iran for dominance in the region. He has also left little doubt about the primacy of money in the relationship, openly citing the value of arms contracts in explaining why he would not criticize the Saudi government for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing.

When two Saudi oil processing centers were hit by an aerial assault over the weekend, Mr. Trump spoke out quickly, much as any president might given the effect on world oil supplies.

“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

Mr. Trump meeting with Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, during the Group of 20 summit in June in Osaka, Japan.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

The statement was strange for many reasons. Mr. Pompeo had already named the Iranians as the culprits; Mr. Trump did not. But the seeming abdication of fact-finding and decision-making to the Saudis gave Democrats a moment to argue that the president was willing to let the Saudi monarchy make decisions for the United States.

“If the President wants to use military force, he needs Congress, not the Saudi royal family, to authorize it,” Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, the chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, wrote on Twitter.

Heather Hurlburt, a national security official under President Bill Clinton who is now at New America, a Washington-based research organization, said it would be perfectly normal for a president to consult an ally before taking action in such a circumstance.

“It’s not remotely normal for a president to talk publicly about that, to use language that sounds as if we aren’t making our own decisions about whether to use force — or trusting our own intelligence,” she said. “And it’s completely unprecedented with a country that is not a treaty ally.”

The White House declined to comment on Monday beyond Mr. Trump’s remarks, but some national security conservatives were willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt.

“Obviously, it’s difficult to know for sure what’s going through the president’s mind,” said John P. Hannah, a senior counselor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington and a former national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

But he said that his guess was that Mr. Trump “wants the country most affected and threatened by the attack to step up publicly, pin responsibility squarely on Iran and put some real skin into the game by formally requesting that the U.S. and international community come to the defense of Saudi Arabia and the global economy.”

That could help mobilize international opinion and perhaps forge a coalition against Iran, “rather than an excuse to do nothing,” Mr. Hannah added.

In his comments to reporters on Monday, Mr. Trump seemed intent on avoiding the perception that he was taking direction from the Saudis. If there is any response to the strikes on the oil facilities, he said, then the Saudis would play a part themselves — if nothing else, by financing it.

Which, of course, made it sound as if the United States was willing to be, in effect, a mercenary force for the Saudis.

“The fact is the Saudis are going to have a lot of involvement in this if we decide to do something,” he said. “They’ll be very much involved. And that includes payment. And they understand that fully.”

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Trump’s Deference to Saudis in Setting Terms for How U.S. Should Respond to Attacks Touches a Nerve

WASHINGTON — After oil installations were blown up in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, President Trump declared that the United States was “locked and loaded,” a phrase that seemed to suggest he was ready to strike back. But then he promised to wait for Saudi Arabia to tell him “under what terms we would proceed.”

His message on Twitter offered a remarkable insight into the deference Mr. Trump gives to the Saudi royal family and touched off a torrent of criticism from those who have long accused him of doing Riyadh’s bidding while sweeping Saudi violations of human rights and international norms under the rug.

It was hard to imagine him allowing NATO, or a European ally, such latitude to determine how the United States should respond. But for Mr. Trump, the Saudis have always been a special case, their economic import having often overwhelmed other considerations in his mind.

Whether, and how, to commit American forces is one of the most critical decisions any American president can make, but Mr. Trump’s comment gave the impression that he was outsourcing the decision. The fact that the other country was Saudi Arabia — a difficult ally that came under intense criticism for the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident and Washington Post columnist — reinforced the longstanding criticism that the energy-rich kingdom buys American support.

“What struck me about that tweet was not just that it’s obviously wrong to allow Saudi Arabia to dictate our foreign policy, but that the president doesn’t seem to be aware of how submissive it makes him look to say that,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey and a former assistant secretary of state.

“It is a big deal to attack oil fields,” Mr. Malinowski added. “It does affect more than just Saudi Arabia’s interests. But whatever we do, we have to do what’s best for us and we have to recognize that the Saudis have a profound bias.”

Mr. Trump told reporters on Monday that he had not “promised” to protect the Saudis and that he would “sit down with the Saudis and work something out.” But he expressed caution, suggesting that for all of his bellicose language, he was not rushing toward a military conflict.

Asked whether Iran was behind the attack, Mr. Trump said, “It is looking that way.” But he stopped short of definitive confirmation. “That is being checked out right now,” he added.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160902594_d4b298b2-a01e-4e33-88b7-880ddeb56f9d-articleLarge Trump’s Deference to Saudis in Setting Terms for How U.S. Should Respond to Attacks Touches a Nerve United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Saudi Arabia Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Khashoggi, Jamal Iran Human Rights and Human Rights Violations

A satellite image showing damage to oil and gas infrastructure after an attack in Abqaig, Saudi Arabia.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Trump warned that the United States had fearsome military abilities and was prepared for war if necessary. “But with all that being said, we would certainly like to avoid it,” he added. “I know they would like to make a deal,” he said of the Iranians, whom he has been trying to draw into talks over their nuclear program. “At some point, it will work out.”

There is no evidence it will work out soon. The Iranian Foreign Ministry dismissed the notion on Monday that President Hassan Rouhani would meet Mr. Trump in New York next week when both are scheduled to attend the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. While Mr. Trump’s aides, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, said last week that a meeting could happen with no preconditions, Mr. Trump called that term “fake news” over the weekend — though he blamed the news media for making it up, not his cabinet secretaries.

The notion of the United States doing the bidding of the Saudis has a long and bristling history. Critics complained that Saudi Arabia effectively hired out the American military to protect itself from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and reverse his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The Saudi government even forked over $16 billion to reimburse the United States for about a quarter of the cost of the war that followed in 1991 — along with Kuwait, the most of any country.

The resentment felt over the years by American officials crossed the ideological spectrum, summed up pithily in a leaked 2010 cable by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who served under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The Saudis, Mr. Gates told the French foreign minister at the time, always want to “fight the Iranians to the last American.”

Among those who seemed to share the sentiment in the past was a New York businessman and television entertainer named Donald J. Trump. “Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars, which they won’t, or pay us an absolute fortune to protect them and their great wealth-$ trillion!” he tweeted in 2014.

Since taking office, Mr. Trump has made Saudi Arabia his closest ally in the Middle East other than Israel, and has strongly supported its multifront struggle with Iran for dominance in the region. He has also left little doubt about the primacy of money in the relationship, openly citing the value of arms contracts in explaining why he would not criticize the Saudi government for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing.

When two Saudi oil processing centers were hit by an aerial assault over the weekend, Mr. Trump spoke out quickly, much as any president might given the effect on world oil supplies.

“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

The statement was strange for many reasons. Mr. Pompeo had already named the Iranians as the culprits; Mr. Trump did not. But the seeming abdication of fact-finding and decision-making to the Saudis gave Democrats a moment to argue that the president was willing to let the Saudi monarchy make decisions for the United States.

Mr. Trump meeting with Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, during the Group of 20 summit in June in Osaka, Japan.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“If the President wants to use military force, he needs Congress – not the Saudi royal family – to authorize it,” Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, the chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, wrote on Twitter.

Heather Hurlburt, a national security official under President Bill Clinton who is now at New America, a Washington-based research organization, said it would be perfectly normal for a president to consult an ally before taking action in such a circumstance.

“It’s not remotely normal for a president to talk publicly about that, to use language that sounds as if we aren’t making our own decisions about whether to use force — or trusting our own intelligence,” she said. “And it’s completely unprecedented with a country that is not a treaty ally.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, but some national security conservatives were willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt.

“Obviously, it’s difficult to know for sure what’s going through the president’s mind,” said John P. Hannah, a senior counselor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington and a former national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

But he said his guess was that Mr. Trump “wants the country most affected and threatened by the attack to step up publicly, pin responsibility squarely on Iran and put some real skin into the game by formally requesting that the U.S. and international community come to the defense of Saudi Arabia and global economy.”

That could help mobilize international opinion and perhaps forge a coalition against Iran, “rather than an excuse to do nothing,” Mr. Hannah added.

In his comments to reporters on Monday, Mr. Trump seemed intent on avoiding the perception that he was taking direction from the Saudis. If there is any response to the strikes on the oil facilities, he said, then the Saudis would play a part themselves — if nothing else, by financing it. Which, of course, made it sound like the United States was willing to be, in effect, a mercenary force for the Saudis.

“The fact is the Saudis are going to have a lot of involvement in this if we decide to do something,” he said. “They’ll be very much involved. And that includes payment. And they understand that fully.”

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

Squalor, Monsoons and Rampaging Elephants: Home Still Scares Them More

When things go wrong, those in power often promise to make it right. But do they? In this series, The Times investigates to see if those promises were kept.

NGA KHU YA, Myanmar — Rusting behind barbed wire, rows of trailers at a repatriation center sit empty and uninviting, evocative of a prison awaiting its inmates.

In a deserted arrivals trailer, uniformed officers loiter at their desks, expectant grins on their faces. Signs explain the steps involved in welcoming Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar: Stand here for photographs, go there for identity cards.

Men stand guard with security wands, as if this were an international airport rather than an inhospitable holding pen in a desolate frontier.

What is so obviously missing at the Nga Khu Ya repatriation center are the Rohingya themselves.

Ever since more than 730,000 Rohingya started fleeing to Bangladesh, two years ago this Sunday, to escape a vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing, governments from both countries have repeatedly vowed that a return of the Muslim minority to Myanmar was imminent.

But that promise has been broken, time and again.

The Rohingya have not returned by the hundreds of thousands, or even by the thousands.

In fact, they have hardly come back at all.

After all the assurances that it was safe for them to return to Myanmar, only a few dozen have done so.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_159552150_fe1307b7-beea-40df-8d25-b04d9aa06f53-articleLarge Squalor, Monsoons and Rampaging Elephants: Home Still Scares Them More War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity United Nations Rohingya (Ethnic Group) Rakhine State (Myanmar) Myanmar Muslims and Islam human trafficking Human Rights and Human Rights Violations Doctors Without Borders Buddhism Bangladesh Aung San Suu Kyi

Rohingya refugees in the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in June.CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

The first batch of about 1,200 returnees was supposed to be sent home in January 2018. That plan was delayed by the Bangladeshi government, after an international outcry over the idea of returning traumatized victims to the epicenter of one of the worst eruptions of ethnic cleansing in this century.

After the two countries promised in April 2018 to proceed with safe, voluntary and dignified repatriations, several new deadlines were set. None were met.

Most recently, the Myanmar government said the repatriation of 3,450 Rohingya would begin on Thursday. That target, too, passed with no movement across the border.

Maintaining the fiction that repatriations are about to occur is politically useful for both sides.

Myanmar, which United Nations officials say should be tried on genocide charges over the orchestrated killings that began on Aug. 25, 2017, is keen to prove it is not a human rights pariah.

Bangladesh, struggling with overpopulation and poverty, wants to reassure its citizens that scarce funds are not being diverted to refugees.

But the charade at Nga Khu Ya, with its corroded buildings devoid of any Rohingya presence, proves the lie in the repatriation commitment. The place is so quiet that a dog snoozes at the main entrance, undisturbed.

Even the repatriation center’s watchtowers are empty of soldiers. There is no one to watch.

The Rohingya who escaped to Bangladesh now live in squalid conditions in the world’s largest refugee camp.CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

What We Found

The lack of returnees on Thursday followed the same tragicomic script as previous efforts to get the Rohingya home.

First, Myanmar unilaterally announced a date for repatriation, but approved the return of only a tiny fraction of those eligible.

Bangladesh, the Muslim-majority nation where most of the Rohingya have sought refuge, then said it supported the idea.

“I’m very positive,” Foreign Affairs Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told reporters in early August. “I’m expecting that we can start this month.”

But the Rohingya — hundreds of thousands of whom are squeezed into overflowing camps in Bangladesh — balked, having received scant consultation about their own futures. Not a single Rohingya boarded the five buses and two trucks that were prepared on Thursday to transfer them over the border to Myanmar.

International human rights groups stepped in to urge caution about returning anyone, having interviewed Rohingya who were terrified, not joyful, to learn that they were on the repatriation list.

On Thursday, Radhika Coomaraswamy, an expert with the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Myanmar violence, said conditions were not conducive for the return of Rohingya.

“We have been shown satellite imagery which shows the situation in northern Rakhine, which is basically where all the villages have been bulldozed, not a tree standing,” she said at a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

That left the Myanmar side with the perfect opportunity to declare itself surprised that the Rohingya weren’t coming back.

“I have no idea why repatriation has not happened yet,” said U Win Myint, a spokesman for the government in Rakhine State, which Myanmar’s Rohingya once called home. “Everything is ready on our side.”

This scenario has played out before, with similarly hollow outcomes.

In November, Win Myat Aye, Myanmar’s minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement, told The New York Times that a round of repatriation would begin in a couple days’ time. Over a 15-day period, 2,165 people would be processed through Nga Khu Ya repatriation camp, he promised. Then, soon after, another 5,000, and so on.

“They can apply for citizenship,” Mr. Win Myat Aye said. “They can live in the place where they’re originally from. If there is no housing there, they can live near where they’re from.”

The government’s own facts indicate this is a fantasy.

According to the Myanmar immigration authorities’ figures, from May 2018 to May 2019, only 185 Rohingya were repatriated from Bangladesh. Even that tiny number is inflated. Of those 185 people, 92 had been caught by the authorities in Myanmar while trying to escape the country by boat. Sixty-two others had just been released from jails in Myanmar.

Only 31 Rohingya — of the nearly three-quarters of a million who left Myanmar — had returned “of their own volition,” according to the government.

When pressed to account for such minuscule numbers, the Myanmar authorities accuse Rohingya militants and Muslim charities operating in the refugee camps in Bangladesh of dissuading people from going back.

“Muslim terrorists in the camps say that it is not safe to return, so people don’t dare,” said U Soe Aung, the head of the General Administration Department in Maungdaw, a township in Rakhine that was once overwhelmingly Rohingya. “Even though it’s totally safe.”

Rohingya refugees from Myanmar arriving at Dakhinpara, Bangladesh, in September 2017.CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

What We Found

Assurances that Myanmar has laid out the welcome mat have come from none other than Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto head of the civilian government and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

“The state counselor already decided to receive back the people who lived in Myanmar and left the country for some reason,” said her social welfare minister, Mr. Win Myat Aye, referring to Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi by her formal title. “There is no reason not to come back.”

But the Rohingya’s dread about what might await them is understandable, considering what drove their flight in the first place — and what has happened, and not happened, in Myanmar since the exodus.

After a band of Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts and an army encampment on Aug. 25, 2017, a burst of brutality against the Muslim minority followed within hours: mass executions, rape and the burning of hundreds of villages by security forces. Buddhist mobs participated in the bloodletting.

Doctors Without Borders says that at least 6,700 Rohingya met violent deaths in the month after the killings began.

While the Myanmar government defended its actions as “clearance operations” targeting only militants, the large buildup of troops in the weeks before the attack — and the military helicopters that rained down rockets on villagers in the days afterward — suggest a highly coordinated, long-planned campaign of ethnic cleansing that had been waiting for the right catalyzing event.

The Rohingya who escaped to Bangladesh now live in a teeming, squalid settlementthe world’s largest refugee encampment.

Human trafficking is rife, with girls destined for brothels and men for indentured servitude in Southeast Asia. When the monsoons descend on the camps, sewage and mud mix into a disease-breeding brew. Landslides are common, and Rohingya have even been killed by rampaging elephants. There is little, if any, incentive to stay.

But despite these intolerable conditions, Myanmar looks worse to many refugees, who are bewildered at the idea that they should return to a country whose government has refused to admit that atrocities were committed.

“How can we believe those who killed our nearest and dearest?” said Ramjan Ali, the sole survivor of a family that was massacred in the village of Tula Toli.

Those Rohingya who stayed in northern Rakhine State after the killing began are marooned in communities cut off from jobs, education and basic services. Since June, the region’s mobile internet connection has been severed.

Incarceration rates among Rohingya men are high, with many accused of terrorist activity. Those released from jail are sometimes paraded as repatriated Rohingya, even if they have never left Myanmar.

“I miss my home a lot,” said Saiful Islam, a Rohingya leader in the camps in Bangladesh. “But I don’t want to go back to a place where my family could be killed.”

A Rohingya Muslim reads from the Quran in one of the few undamaged mosques in northern Rakhine State, in Ngan Chaung Village, Maungdaw Township, in May.CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

What We Found

Any Rohingya who did return to Myanmar would find a transformed landscape.

Drive across the salty marsh of northern Rakhine, and the silence is overwhelming. About a million Rohingya once lived in this area. Now most are gone, the occasional carcass of a burned mosque or stand of charred palms the only evidence that they existed.

The government has funneled money into infrastructure development in Rakhine: new power stations, government buildings and, most of all, military and border guard bases.

But many of those new facilities have been built on land emptied by ethnic cleansing.

Analysis of satellite imagery by the International Cyber Policy Center at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that nearly 60 Rohingya settlements were razed last year, well after the violence peaked in 2017. Destruction of Rohingya villages continued into this year, the study found.

Officials in Myanmar have never been clear about where, exactly, returnees would live — even as they showed off rows of prefabricated houses supposedly built for repatriated families.

In a troubling precedent, about 120,000 Rohingya from central Rakhine State who were targeted in a 2012 conflict have been confined to internment camps for the past seven years. Their businesses have been taken over by members of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority, and most of their homes have been destroyed.

As construction transforms Rakhine, bringing Buddhist pagodas to areas where the Islamic call to prayer once resounded, the beneficiaries of the building boom are companies run by cronies of the military, which still dominates the government.

On Aug. 5, a United Nations fact-finding mission released a report recommending targeted sanctions against these military-linked firms, which it said had helped in “re-engineering the region in a way that erases evidence of Rohingya belonging to Myanmar.”

Myanmar police officers shelter in the shade of a tree while Rakhine villagers farm in the razed Rohingya quarter of Inn Din village, Maungdaw Township, in May.CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

What We Found

The United Nations says no refugees should have to return to a place where their safety and security is not assured. Doing so is called refoulement, and it’s against international law.

But Myanmar has done little to reassure the Rohingya that the conditions that led to the mass killings have changed.

The country has steadfastly refused to admit that its security forces, which engaged in widespread sexual violence and sprayed fleeing children with gunfire, according to Rohingya testimony and investigations by human rights groups, did anything wrong.

“Not a single innocent Muslim was killed,” said Mr. Soe Aung, the Maungdaw Township official.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has declined to hold the military responsible for the violence, even as United Nations-appointed investigators recommended last year that commanders be investigated for crimes against humanity.

Despite the fact that Myanmar clearly is their home, most Rohingya are officially considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

And before any are accepted for repatriation, they must often come up with evidence proving that they came from Myanmar. That’s a tall order for refugees who fled burning homes.

More controversially, those who wish to return must accept identity cards that critics say will make their statelessness official.

Myanmar’s government does not even accept the name “Rohingya.” Instead, those who return are issued documents that identify them as Bengali, implying they are foreign interlopers from Bangladesh, not an ethnic group from Rakhine.

“We are Rohingya,” whispered Abdul Kadir, an imam from a northern Rakhine village who has been unable to flee, in broken English. “No say Rohingya in Myanmar. No say.”

“‘Rohingya’ is not real,” said Kyaw Kyaw Khine, the deputy head of immigration at Nga Khu Ya repatriation camp. “Why do foreigners use this word?”

A child in the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in June.CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

What We Found

The official narrative in Myanmar goes like this: The Rohingya burned down their own homes to garner international sympathy, and to feast on plentiful aid rations in Bangladesh provided by Muslim nations.

Myanmar officials also accuse Bangladeshi officials of dawdling, and wonder if they’re reluctant to let the Rohingya leave.

“Maybe they want people to stay there,” said U Kyaw Sein, an administrator at the Nga Khu Ya camp.

The truth couldn’t be more different.

Bangladeshis have displayed tremendous hospitality to the Rohingya, who poured over the border in the fastest inflow of refugees in a generation. But the country’s patience has worn thin.

The Bangladeshi authorities keep threatening to resettle the Rohingya to an island that is little more than a cyclone-prone sandbar in the middle of the Bay of Bengal.

Bangladesh does not consider the vast majority of Rohingya to be refugees, lest that designation cement their right to live in exile forever.

As a consequence, they have no legal right to study or work outside of the camps. Muslim extremists stalk camp mosques, promising salvation through militancy.

Hopelessness is the only plentiful commodity.

“Will my children live the rest of their lives here?” asked Mr. Islam, the Rohingya camp leader. “Is this the only life I can give them?”

The Takeaway: No one wants the Rohingya, least of all their homeland.

The Nga Khu Ya repatriation center for Rohingya returning from Bangladesh in northern Rakhine in July 2018.CreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

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Trump’s Hong Kong Caution Isolates Him From Congress, Allies and Advisers

Westlake Legal Group 15dc-diplo2-facebookJumbo Trump’s Hong Kong Caution Isolates Him From Congress, Allies and Advisers United States International Relations Trump, Donald J State Department Republican Party International Trade and World Market Human Rights and Human Rights Violations Hong Kong Protests (2019) Democratic Party Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s cautious distance from Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement has left him politically isolated from both parties in Congress, the State Department, European allies and his most hawkish advisers at the White House.

Despite ringing declarations of support for the protesters from leading Democrats and Republicans as well as European officials, Mr. Trump has shown little sympathy for the mass demonstrations against China’s encroaching political influence on the former British colony. And in his almost-singular focus on his showdown with Beijing over trade and tariffs, Mr. Trump is ignoring the view of his conservative advisers, who believe that China’s authoritarian model threatens American interests worldwide.

Speaking to reporters as he headed to a campaign event on Thursday, Mr. Trump was complimentary toward China’s president, Xi Jinping. “I really have a lot of confidence in President Xi,” Mr. Trump said, predicting that if the Chinese leader met with protest leaders, “things could be worked out pretty easily.” Mr. Trump offered no words of support for the goals of the protesters, which include preventing China’s repressive political system from subsuming Hong Kong’s open society.

Two senior administration officials said top foreign policy advisers to Mr. Trump have pressed him to take a more forceful public stand on Hong Kong as the pro-democracy protests have escalated, along with police violence against them. One tough internal critic of China’s government is Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, who in an interview on Wednesday with Voice of America used far stronger language than Mr. Trump has about the protests.

“The Chinese have to look very carefully at the steps they take, because people in America remember Tiananmen Square, they remember the picture of the man standing in front of the tanks,” Mr. Bolton said, referring to the 1989 demonstrations that China’s government brutally repressed, killing hundreds of unarmed people. “It would be a big mistake to create a new memory like that in Hong Kong,” Mr. Bolton added.

The State Department, also using language tougher than the president’s, issued a statement on Tuesday saying it was “staunch in our support for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong,” sympathetically noting the protesters’ “broad concerns about the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

Mr. Trump has conspicuously avoided that kind of language as he seeks to negotiate a trade agreement with Beijing. On Twitter and in comments this week, he has sounded ambivalent about the Hong Kong unrest, saying that he hopes “it works out for everybody, including China.”

Mr. Trump has also shown sympathy for Mr. Xi. In a tweet on Thursday, he called the Chinese leader “a great man who very much has the respect of his people,” who can bring the Hong Kong crisis to a “happy and enlightened ending.” To many of the Hong Kong protesters, Mr. Xi is an untrustworthy tyrant determined to squelch their political freedom.

Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is also in sharp contrast to the words of Republicans and Democrats, who are warning Mr. Xi of grave consequences, including congressional action, should he order a bloody 1989-style crackdown. Fears of such a response grew this week after images circulated online of a buildup of Chinese military forces near Hong Kong, which Beijing says is part of a long-planned exercise.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a North Carolina Republican who often advises Mr. Trump on foreign policy, tweeted on Tuesday that “30 years after Tiananmen Square all Americans stand with the peaceful protesters in Hong Kong.’’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in a statement that the protesters “have inspired the world with the courage and determination with which they are fighting for the freedom, justice and true autonomy that they were promised.”

Similar rhetoric has come from European allies. “I do support them, and I will happily speak up for them and back them every inch of the way,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain said of the protesters last month, arguing that China must honor Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Mr. Trump’s language shows little connection to his administration’s stated intolerance for China’s political repression. An official national security strategy that the Trump White House released in December 2017 declared Beijing to be a strategic competitor whose political system must be confronted along with its economic and military strength. The document quotes Mr. Trump as saying that the United States will “raise our competitive game” to “protect American interests and to advance our values.”

The drama in Hong Kong is only the latest example of Mr. Trump’s disinclination to let human rights and democracy complicate his diplomacy. He has taken no position on recent mass protests in the streets of Moscow, which have constituted the most open challenge in years to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, with whom Mr. Trump has a friendly relationship. Mr. Trump also rarely criticizes the repressive practices of several other governments with which he has forged close alliances, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Poland.

The crisis in Hong Kong has cast a particularly bright spotlight on the role of western democratic values at a moment when authoritarian politics are on the rise across the globe. Mr. Trump’s critics call this a vital moment to reassert American leadership.

“If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out elsewhere,” Ms. Pelosi said in her statement.

“Our democratic allies are looking to us for leadership,” said Daniel Kliman, a former Pentagon official and director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.

Mr. Trump’s defenders say he has good reason to tread carefully. One is that Mr. Trump has limited tools for backing up any tough words; it is unthinkable that the United States military would come to the protesters’ rescue.

Another is that China’s government has openly accused the United States of instigating the protests as part of a covert regime-change strategy, and support from the White House could play into Beijing’s narrative. The Chinese state news service Xinhua reported on Thursday that China’s Foreign Ministry office in Hong Kong had condemned “certain U.S. politicians for colluding with the extremist and violent offenders” there.

“Western leaders have a fine line to walk: supporting the democratic aims of Hong Kong protesters without feeding paranoia in Beijing that the demonstrations are a foreign conspiracy to divide and weaken China,” said Jessica Chen Weiss, a China scholar and professor at Cornell University. “As for Trump, his actions speak louder than his words.”

President Barack Obama faced similar concerns in June 2009 after a wave of pro-democracy uprisings emerged in Iran. Mr. Obama was relatively restrained in his commentary about the Iranian protests, largely because of fears that expressions of support would play into the hands of Iranian leaders who insisted that the protests had been stirred up by the Central Intelligence Agency. But Mr. Obama still made clear his support for the protesters’ goals, saying that “the democratic process — free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent — all those are universal values and need to be respected.”

Nor would Mr. Trump be the first American president to tread carefully when it comes to the internal affairs of China. Human rights groups criticized Mr. Obama for failing to more forcefully challenge Mr. Xi’s clampdown on civil society during his administration. And Mr. Obama’s then-secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, told reporters on her first trip to Beijing that, while Washington must press Beijing on its values, “pressing on those issues can’t interfere” with such other priorities as the economy and climate change.

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‘Hong Kong Thing’ Is ‘Very Tough,’ but Trump Doesn’t Criticize China

WASHINGTON — President Trump, presenting himself as a neutral observer of the mass protests in Hong Kong, offered lukewarm support on Tuesday for pro-democracy demonstrators there but stopped short of criticizing the government in Beijing.

In comments to reporters and in a series of afternoon tweets, Mr. Trump took no strong position on the demonstrations that have gripped Hong Kong for weeks and have drawn an increasingly brutal response from local security forces. He echoed none of the defenses of freedom and democracy coming from both Democrats and Republicans.

“The Hong Kong thing is a very tough situation. Very tough,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he left New Jersey for an official event in Pennsylvania. “We’ll see what happens. But I’m sure it’ll work out.” He added: “I hope it works out for everybody, including China. I hope it works out peacefully. I hope nobody gets hurts. I hope nobody gets killed.”

The president later tweeted that intelligence reports indicated that China’s government “is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong.”

“Everyone should be calm and safe!” he added.

Critics and allies alike said that the combination of Mr. Trump’s relative disinterest in human rights and his narrow focus on America’s economic relationship with China leave him with little appetite for taking sides in the escalating showdown between China’s government and the protesters in Hong Kong. But some warned that he was tacitly approving what many fear could be the most brutal suppression of democratic dissent in China in nearly 30 years.

In his comments to reporters, Mr. Trump did allow that he “hopes it works out for liberty,” without explaining what he meant. He did not offer any opinions about the protesters’ demands for more political freedom and protection from mainland China’s growing influence in the former British colony.

This month, Mr. Trump echoed Chinese state media by calling the demonstrations “riots” and said, “That’s between Hong Kong and that’s between China, because Hong Kong is a part of China.”

Democrats have been sharply critical of Mr. Trump, painting him as weak and equivocal in the face of a threat to fundamental American values.

“This is not foreign policy,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, responded on Twitter to Mr. Trump’s tweets. On Monday, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who is running for president, tweeted that the people of Hong Kong “deserve our support and the support of the world.”

Michael Pillsbury, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who advises the Trump administration on China policy, said the president was almost exclusively animated by the economic relationship between the United States and China and saw human rights violations as a diversion.

“The regime has to change its economic model and its trade misconduct and World Trade Organization violations,” Mr. Pillsbury said. “That’s his focus.”

Mr. Trump has bashed China’s economic policies for decades, including in several of his books. But one of them, “The America We Deserve,” published in 2000, also condemned China’s political system and praised his own “unwillingness to shrug off the mistreatment of China’s citizens by their own government.” Mr. Trump branded China “an oppressive regime,” adding, “Let’s not pretend we’re dealing with anything less.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_159231759_bd13a057-9733-4be5-abf1-f8edae267f67-articleLarge ‘Hong Kong Thing’ Is ‘Very Tough,’ but Trump Doesn’t Criticize China United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Pillsbury, Michael (1945- ) Human Rights and Human Rights Violations Hong Kong Demonstrations, Protests and Riots China Bannon, Stephen K

“I hope it works out for everybody, including China,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he left New Jersey for an official event in Pennsylvania.CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Today, Mr. Trump’s willingness to look the other way has made him an outlier in his own party.

On Monday, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, tweeted a warning that a violent crackdown on the protests “would be completely unacceptable,” adding, “The world is watching.” And Mr. Trump’s State Department took a notably more supportive line toward the demonstrators than the president did.

“We condemn violence and urge all sides to exercise restraint, but remain staunch in our support for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong,” the department said in a statement. “Freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are core values that we share with Hong Kong; these freedoms must be vigorously protected.”

Some foreign policy experts noted that Mr. Trump once spoke with seeming admiration of China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in 1990, telling Playboy magazine: “They were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”

Thomas Wright, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has focused on the struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, said Mr. Trump was making a grave mistake by signaling to Beijing an indifference about a potential crackdown on the protests.

“It basically gives a green light to Beijing to do whatever they want to do, and when read in the context of his general support for authoritarians I think the message the White House has sent is pretty clear, which is that this is purely a matter for the regime internally,” Mr. Wright said.

Mr. Trump’s comments came on a day when he announced the delay of planned tariffs on Chinese goods in the midst of a larger trade showdown with Beijing that poses risks to the global economy ahead of the 2020 election.

Stephen K. Bannon, a former Trump White House adviser who strongly supports the protests, said Mr. Trump was probably exercising caution for fear of destabilizing China and endangering its president, Xi Jinping, with whom he has cultivated a relationship.

“I think Trump is throwing Xi a lifeline,” Mr. Bannon said. “One tweet, one comment from Trump can cause the whole thing to go in a certain direction. I think he’s being very careful about unintended consequences.”

Mr. Bannon, who views the United States as locked in mortal combat with China, made his own view unmistakably clear. “The young Hong Kong protesters are like the patriots of 1776,” he said. “We must have their back.”

Mr. Trump also seemed sensitive on Tuesday to accusations from Beijing that the United States had fomented the uprisings in Hong Kong, including one made on Monday by a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry.

“Some senior U.S. politicians and diplomatic officials met and engaged with anti-China rabble-rousers in Hong Kong, criticized China unreasonably, propped up violent and illegal activities, and undermined Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” the spokesman, Hua Chunying, said in comments posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website. “These facts are only too obvious.”

An editorial on Tuesday in the nationalist Chinese newspaper The Daily Times, which is often seen as a mouthpiece for government hard-liners, echoed the charge, saying that the protests could “lead to long-term turmoil in Hong Kong, thereby increasing China’s political and economic burden.”

“This is what some American and Western forces want to see,” the editorial continued.

Mr. Trump appeared to respond to such charges in one of his tweets on Tuesday. “Many are blaming me, and the United States, for the problems going on in Hong Kong,” he wrote. “I can’t imagine why?”

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House Overwhelmingly Condemns Movement to Boycott Israel

WASHINGTON — The House, brushing aside Democratic voices of dissent over American policy in the Middle East, on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan resolution condemning the boycott-Israel movement as one that “promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment and group isolation, which are destructive of prospects for progress towards peace.”

The 398-to-17 vote, with five members voting present, came after a debate that was equally lopsided; no one in either party spoke against the measure. The House’s two most vocal backers of the boycott movement — Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, freshman Democrats and the first two Muslim women in Congress — did not participate in the floor debate.

However, earlier in the day, Ms. Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, delivered an impassioned speech in defense of the boycott movement. She branded Israel’s policies toward Palestinians “racist” and invoked American boycotts of Nazi Germany, among others, as an example of what she described as a legitimate economic protest to advance human rights around the world.

“I stand before you as the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, parents who experienced being stripped of their human rights, the right to freedom of travel, equal treatment,” Ms. Tlaib said. “So I can’t stand by and watch this attack on our freedom of speech and the right to boycott the racist policies of the government and the state of Israel.”

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or B.D.S., movement is intended, among other things, to pressure Israel into ending the occupation of the West Bank, and backed by some who advocate a single state with equal rights for all, instead of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Opponents warn it would lead to the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state; during Tuesday’s debate, they repeatedly quoted from a founder of the movement, Omar Barghouti, who has argued for the creation of a “secular democratic state” and has called for Israel to “accept the dismantling of its Zionist apartheid regime.”

“Boycotts have been previously used as tools for social justice in this very country,” said Representative Ted Deutch, Democrat of Florida and a backer of the resolution. “But B.D.S. doesn’t seek social justice. It seeks a world in which the state of Israel doesn’t exist.”

For months, Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar have been the target of intense criticism for statements about Israel and Israel’s supporters that many have regarded as anti-Semitic tropes, including insinuations that Jews have dual loyalty to the United States and Israel. Ms. Omar drew the condemnation of House Democratic leaders, and was forced to apologize after invoking an ancient trope about Jews and money by suggesting that American support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins” — a reference to $100 bills.

At a hearing last week, Ms. Omar spoke out forcefully against Israel, and the resolution.

“We should condemn in the strongest terms violence that perpetuates the occupation, whether it is perpetuated by Israel, Hamas or individuals,” she said. “But if we are going to condemn violent means of resisting the occupation, we cannot also condemn nonviolent means.”

Ms. Tlaib, Ms. Omar and two other freshman Democratic women of color — Representatives Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — have lately been under fire from President Trump, who has accused them of being anti-American and suggested they should “go back” to their home countries, even though just one of them, Ms. Omar, was born outside the United States. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez voted against the resolution, as did a number of other progressives; Ms. Pressley voted in favor.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 23dc-bds2-articleLarge House Overwhelmingly Condemns Movement to Boycott Israel United States Politics and Government United States International Relations tlaib, rashida Palestinians Omar, Ilhan Law and Legislation Jews and Judaism Israel Human Rights and Human Rights Violations House of Representatives Democratic Party Boycotts Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)

Representative Josh Gottheimer, center, an ardent supporter of Israel, was joined at a news conference on Tuesday in Paramus, N.J., by Elan Carr, left, the State Department’s envoy to combat anti-Semitism.CreditBryan Anselm for The New York Times

The timing of the vote drew complaints from Palestinian rights activists and supporters of Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib, who said House Democratic leaders were effectively isolating them. Both women have also joined with Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia and a civil rights icon, in introducing a measure affirming that “all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad,” as protected by the First Amendment.

“They are displaying leadership even as the president is attacking and marginalizing people of color,” said Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

But Democratic backers of Israel were eager to have their votes on record before Congress goes home for its six-week August recess. Earlier Tuesday, Representative Josh Gottheimer, an ardent supporter of Israel, was joined in his home state, New Jersey, by Elan Carr, the State Department’s envoy to combat anti-Semitism, at an event billed to address anti-Semitism.

The coming vote proved to be a central topic.

“There is of course nothing wrong about having a robust debate about our foreign policy, as I said, but that debate veers into something much darker when there is talk of dual loyalty or other ancient tropes,” Mr. Gottheimer said. “These are not legitimate opinions about our foreign policy. We have often seen such anti-Semitic tropes and rhetoric when it comes to the global B.D.S. movement.”

Asked if he thought the timing of the vote was inopportune, Mr. Gottheimer said, “We should look for any moment to stand up to anti-Semitism, and I think, to me, the sooner the better.”

Backers of the boycott movement say the resolution threatens free speech rights, and they argue that boycotts are a legitimate form of economic protest. In her remarks, Ms. Tlaib cited civil rights boycotts, boycotts of apartheid South Africa and American boycotts of Nazi Germany “in response to dehumanization, imprisonment and genocide of Jewish people” — a comment that raised eyebrows among Republicans.

Proponents of the resolution argue that nothing in it abridges the right to free speech; indeed, House Democrats rejected a more far-reaching bill, passed by the Republican-led Senate, that would allow state and local government to break ties with companies that participate in the boycott movement.

The chief sponsor of the Senate bill, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, on Tuesday accused Speaker Nancy Pelosi of promoting a watered-down measure and allowing “the radical, anti-Semitic minority in the Democratic Party to dictate the House floor agenda.”

During Tuesday’s floor debate, many Republicans, including Representative Lee Zeldin of New York and Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the Republican whip, argued for the Rubio measure. But in a rare moment of House comity, both sounded eager to join with Democrats in passing the bipartisan resolution.

“If a boycott is being used to advance freedom, that’s one we should support,” Mr. Scalise said. “But if a boycott is being used to undermine the very freedoms that exist in the only real elective democracy in the Middle East, we all need to rise up against that.”

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