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BINOY KAMPMARK

Dr. Binoy Kampmark, is a Journalist & News Reporter of World Events for Global News Aruba. He is a Senior Lecturer at the worlds top 1 % best world's colleges RMIT University in Australia the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, teaching within the Bachelor of Social Science (Legal and Dispute Studies) program. He  holds a PhD in history from the University of Cambridge. He also holds a Masters degree in history and honors degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Queensland.  His field of expertise as an academic are: Institution of war, diplomacy, international relations, 20th century history, terrorism, and international law. DrBinoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.

Contact Dr Binoy Kampmark at:  [email protected][email protected]

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Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam seemed to relish it before the cameras this week.  The United States was enduring extensive shudders of internal instability in the wake of the George Floyd protests.  Dubious proposals to deploy the military were on the books.  This was a superb stage show.  The Chinese move to crush or, to be more accurate, bring forward, the ultimate incorporation of Hong Kong into the PRC structure, had received some breathing space.

None of Your Business: China, Hong Kong and a Question of Sovereignty

 Report by Dr Binoy Kampmark Phd. / Global News Aruba

It all had to do with a little matter called sovereignty. For years, the United States, the United Kingdom, and European Union have seen Beijing’s sovereignty over the island qualified by the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.  On the horizon lay the magic year when this singular status would end: 2047.  In 2016, the Under Secretary for Constitutional & Mainland Affairs Ronald Chan announced that 2047 should not trouble those in Hong Kong.  There was “no question of the expiry of the Basic Law after 2047.”

In the “one country, two systems” formula, the one country has, at stages, been forgotten in favour of the two systems, with Hong Kong having sway in most matters of governance except foreign affairs and defence.  Much of this was bound to be wishful thinking on the part of those outside China.  Since June 2019, when large and determined protests commenced against the proposed extradition treaty to China, the program of integration and winding back various provisions otherwise guaranteeing autonomy in the province has been fought tooth and nail. 

The onset of the pandemic provided something of a forced lull, enabling the power brokers on the mainland to take stock.  In April, a sense of what was to come was floated.  Beijing threatened a sitting legislator with disqualification for sitting in office for resorting to filibustering.  New security legislation was aired as a distinct possibility.  And a conclusion was reached that the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) and Liaison Office in Hong Kong were exempt from the application of Article 22 of the Basic Law.  The provision prohibits “departments of the Central People’s Government” from meddling in matters otherwise within the scope of Hong Kong’s autonomy.

For all that, last month’s resolution through the National People’s Congress to enact a national security law specific to Hong Kong was merely part of an organic process that would ultimately challenge, if not displace the “one country, two systems” idea.  Alvin Y.H. Cheung picks up on this in Just Security, suggesting three “interrelated and long-running developments: the Beijing and Hong Kong governments’ abuse of ‘advocating independence’ as political and legal cudgel; the growing role of the Liaison Office; and the political capture of a previously professionalized civil service apparatus.”    

The proposed provisions are not pretty for the protesters, but then again, such laws are the generic stuff of a state apparatus that needs to prove its mettle.  These include stopping or punishing conduct that seriously endangers national security (the usual offences of separatism, subversion or organising and carrying out terrorist activities would apply).

In of itself, any security-minded type would have little issue with language that focuses on targeting subversive elements, anything threatening national security and interference from a foreign power.  (According to the NPC, the legislation “opposes the interference in the HKSAR affairs by any foreign or external forces in any form”, and authorises the taking of “necessary countermeasures” where necessary.)  Such language is the essence of muscular sovereignty, however ugly it looks.

The reaction towards the unilateral move has been a gift to Lam and Beijing.  We use a fist; you use a sledgehammer.  US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded that the NPC’s decision neutered Hong Kong’s autonomous status.  “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.”   Having attacked China intermittently over its handling of the novel coronavirus, US President Donald J. Trump further mudded matters by seeking to, in his instruction, “revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China.”  Such privileges are to be found in the US Hong Kong Policy Act 1992, which seems to be sliding into the morgue of treaties and understandings that has been increasingly packed by the Trump administration.

Such an alteration of Hong Kong’s status will have the ill-considered effect of pushing it further into the arms of PRC control.  This point has been made by pro-democracy publisher Jimmy Lai, who claims that “removing those privileges would only make Hong Kong more dependent on China.”

In this latest rhetorical skirmish, everyone has a take on sovereignty.  Naturally, the unfortunates in Hong Kong are wedged in between.  Commentary has been quick and sharp on the subject of the NPC resolution, much of it regretful or indignant if you so happen to be in the British or US camp.  “It should have come to this,” rued Caron Anne Goodwin Jones of the Birmingham Law School. The “de facto mini-constitution that came into effect after the British handover in 1997 – specifically limited Beijing from applying national laws to the territory, except in matters of defence and foreign affairs.” 

Jones naturally puts this down to unnecessary PRC authoritarian paranoia.  China, she suggests dismissively, has no grounds for fearing the prospect of Hong Kong become a base for subversion.  Nowhere does she mention the eye-poking Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, passed by the US Congress and celebrated by certain protesters for permitting the imposition of “sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.”  The mantra about the PRC challenging the “rules-based” order, a rather seedy way of concealing the role of power behind it, is cited in conclusion.

This rings rather oddly in an age where international paperwork on that very order is being torn-up with relish, most of all by that unruly man in the White House who deems all that preceded him “bad” and the “worst”.  Anything with a pre-existing rule or code must, by Trump’s reckoning, be rotten.  Be it trade wars or long standing security agreements, the MAGA platform of Trump has insisted on casting all the crockery out and replacing it with makeshift, rickety substitutes.  Now, it seems that the PRC has taken a leaf out the president’s own book of ruffling chaos, suggesting that Hong Kong’s Basic Law can be tampered with ahead of time.

China’s foreign ministry has not shied away from poking fun at the anger from Washington.  US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus was sappy in her remark that China’s move was “a pivotal moment for the world”, one that challenged the “rule of law”, inviting an acid response from Hua Chunying: “I can’t breathe.”

Britain has also waded into the sovereignty debate in its own, merry way.   The UK government has offered all Hong Kong citizens who hold British National (Overseas) passports and those eligible for the BN(O) status but had not renewed their passports on expiration the right to live and work in the UK as a prelude to becoming citizens.  Up to three million would fall into this category.  China, in turn, claims the offer violates the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.  No one, it seems, wants to read the fine print these days.

Rounding up undocumented workers, migrant and refugees is part of a brutal order of things in Malaysia.  When matters economic are going well, authorities turn the blindest of eyes.  The money pours in; development goals are being met.  During times of crisis, the eye sharpens in the search for scapegoats.  With the enervating effects of the COVID-19 response, the vulnerable are easy fare.

The Rohingya in Malaysia: Coronavirus and Alibis for Paranoia

REPORT BY BINOY KAMPMARK
SIGNATURE JOURNALISM FOR GLOBAL NEWS ARUBA
AINA NEWS AGENCY

MAY 6, 2020

Malaysia has deemed it unnecessary to ratify the Refugee Convention of 1951 and its relevant 1967 protocol, a situation that has given officials a misplaced sense of confidence.  The writ of the universal right to asylum, they claim, does not run through the country.  But for a time, an exception of sorts was made towards Rohingya refugees under the umbrella of Islamic solidarity.  Malaysia’s previous Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, had called their treatment at the hands of Myanmar’s military as genocidal, a form of “institutionalised terrorism” involving mass killing, rape “and other gross violations of human rights (that) resulted in Rohingya feeling the country en masse.” 


The milk of human kindness, however, is curdling.  Last Friday, 586 undocumented migrants were arrested in Kuala Lumpur.  Among them were members of the Rohingya community, who have become conspicuous in number.  They were taken, under police guard, to detention facilities.  While this seemed like dramatic, populist theatre, the official explanation given by police chief Abdul Hamid Bador was that the arrests were made to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. 

“We cannot allow them to move freely … as it will be difficult for us to track them down if they leave identified locations.” 
Abdul Hamid Bador
The irony of these moves was not missed on Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.  Such detentions were bound to worsen outbreaks in the camps while also dissuading undocumented individuals from assisting authorities.  In the words of a UN statement,
“The fear of arrest and detention may push these vulnerable population groups further into hiding and prevent them from seeking treatment, with negative consequences for their own health and creating further risks to the spreading of COVID-19 to others.”
In the words of a UN statement,
The Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin has been off-handed in his remarks on the Rohingya refugees, whom he considers, at best, to be a nuisance tolerated by Malaysian hospitality.  He has taken particular umbrage at any society or body claiming to represent their welfare, including the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (MEHROM).  His response has been to consult the rule book with the keenness of a black letter administrator. 

It followed that any such organisation claiming to “represent the Rohingya ethnic group is illegal under the [Societies Act 1966].”

Having dismissed their defenders as illegal and unworthy, Hamzah’s conclusion was stark: any Rohingya national holding a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees card “have no status, rights or basis to make any claims on the government.” Such a card was paperwork without merit.


Flavouring the press conference with a touch of menace, Hamzah also noted that the Movement Control Order (MCO) phase had seen 19 reports submitted to the Royal Malaysia Police against members of the Rohingya community.  Four investigations had also been opened. 


The Rohingya situation is particularly perilous, having been exacerbated by the MCO imposed in targeting the spread of COVID-19.  This has effectively prevented the earning of meagre wages and any form of income support.  The President of MEHROM Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani has valiantly sought to publicise their plight, but such efforts have failed to inspire.  Suspicions are rife that citizenship is being demanded, along with privileges even as they pose an epidemiological risk. 


The pandemic has done its bit to encourage paranoia against low-income workers and Chinese tourists, and it is something the fragile political leadership in the country is pressing.  But the Rohingya are now looming as prominent targets.  Malaysians hear, as Tengku Emma Zuriana Tengku Azmi of the European Rohingya Council describes it, of boats filled with Rohingya refugees seeking to land potentially “steal their resources.” 


Malaysian naval vessels have been tasked with preventing such boats from docking even after entering territorial waters.  The universal right to seek asylum is been ignored with a degree of bog standard contempt, as is the right against non-refoulement.  But the official line given is one of self-preservation and territorial integrity, despite Malaysia’s borders being, for the most part, strikingly pervious to undocumented arrivals.  But officials are resolute in rhetoric: to permit such “undocumented migrants” to enter by either land or sea would risk bringing in COVID-19.  To soften the blow, however, the Home Ministry has advertisedtheir humanitarian credentials by supplying such vessels with food supplies before escorting them out of Malaysian waters. 


Phelim Kine of Physicians for Human Rights remains unconvinced by the arguments favouring the taking of vessels back out to sea.  “Malaysian authorities could and should have tested the Rohingya refugees for coronavirus and then appropriately isolated or quarantined them to prevent a possible transmission of the virus.”


This unsavoury picture has been helped by Malaysia’s own uneven response to the coronavirus and internal political instability. But when in doubt, point the finger elsewhere, and that elsewhere has presented itself, as in other countries, an alibi of distraction and persecution.  The plague, as Albert Camus portrayed so convincingly in his novel by that name, stirs in all of us.

The views of this news report are only of Dr Binoy Kampmark and not those of Global News Aruba and its associates or the Editor in Chief, read our disclaimer and contact the News Reporter Dr. Binoy Kampmark for any questions on any articles on his page herein. Contact Dr Binoy Kampmark at: [email protected][email protected]

Disruptive Assassinations: Killing Qassem Soleimani. 
Trump Promises “Bombing 52 Iranian Sites”

REPORT BY BINOY KAMPMARK
SIGNATURE JOURNALISM FOR GLOBAL NEWS ARUBA
AINA NEWS AGENCY

JANUARY 10, 2020

On the surface, it made not one iota of sense.  The murder of a foreign military leader on his way from Baghdad airport, his diplomatic status assured by the local authorities, evidently deemed a target of irresistible richness.  “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”  The words from the Pentagon seemed to resemble the resentment shown by the Romans to barbarian chiefs who dared resist them.  “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.  The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”

The killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force in a drone strike on January 3, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces, or Hash a-Shaabi and PMF Kata’ib Hezbollah, was packaged and ribboned as a matter of military necessity.  Soleimani had been, according to the Pentagon, “responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”  He was accused of being behind a series of attacks on coalition forces in Iraq over the last several months including attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad on December 31, 2019.

US President Donald J. Trump had thrown caution to the wind, suggesting in a briefing at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida that an option on the table would be the killing of Soleimani.  The Iran hawks seemed to have his ear; others were caught off guard, preferring to keep matters more general.

A common thread running through the narrative was the certainty – unshakable, it would seem – that Soleimani was on the warpath against US interests.  The increased danger posed by the Quds Force commander were merely presumed, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was happy to do so despite not being able to “talk too much about the nature of the threats.  But the American people should know that the President’s decision to remove Soleimani from the battlefield saved American lives.”  (Pompeo goes on to insist that there was “active plotting” to “take big action” that would have endangered “hundreds of lives”.)  How broadly one defines the battlefield becomes relevant; the US imperium has decided that diplomatic niceties and sovereign protections for officials do not count.  The battlefield is everywhere.

Trump was far from convincing in reiterating the arguments, insisting that the general had been responsible for killing or badly wounding “thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill may more… but got caught!”  From his resort in Palm Beach, Florida, he claimed that the attack was executed “to stop a war.  We did not take action to start a war.”

Whatever the views of US officialdom, seismic shifts in the Middle East were being promised.  Iraq’s prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi demanded an emergency parliamentary session with the aim of taking “legislative steps and necessary provisions to safeguard Iraq’s dignity, security and sovereignty.”  On Sunday, the parliament did something which, ironically enough, has been a cornerstone of Iran’s policy in Iraq: the removal of US troops from Iraq.  While being a non-binding resolution, the parliament urged the prime minister to rescind the invitation extended to US forces when it was attacked by Islamic State forces in 2014.

Iranian Armed Forces’ spokesman Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi promised setting “up a plan, patiently, to respond to this terrorist act in a crushing and powerful manner”.  He also reiterated that it was the US, not Iran, who had “occupied Iraq in violation of all international rules and regulations without any coordination with the Iraqi government and without the Iraqi people’s demands.”

While the appeals to international law can seem feeble, the observation from the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnès Callamard was hard to impeach.  “The targeted killings of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Humandis are most [likely] unlawful and violate international human rights law: Outside the context of active hostilities, the use of drones or other means for targeted killing is almost never likely to be legal.”  To be deemed lawful, such targeting with lethal effect “can only be used where strictly necessary to protect against an imminent threat to life.”

The balance sheet for this action, then, is not a good one.  As US presidential candidate Marianne Williamson observed with crisp accuracy, the attack on Soleimani and his companions had little to do with “whether [he] was a ‘good man’ any more than it was about whether Saddam was a good man.  It’s about smart versus stupid use of military power.”

An intelligent use of military power is not in the offing, with Trump promising the targeting of 52 Iranian sites, each one representing an American hostage held in Iran at the US embassy in Tehran during November 1979.  But Twitter sprays and promises of this sort tend to lack substance and Trump is again proving to be the master of disruptive distraction rather than tangible action.

Even Israeli outlets such as Haaretz, while doffing the cap off to the idea of Soleimani as a shadowy, dangerous figure behind the slayings of Israelis “in terrorist attacks, and untold thousands of Syrians, Iraqis, Lebanese and others dispatched by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Quds Force,” showed concern.  Daniel B. Shapiro even went so far as to express admiration for the operation, an “impressive” feat of logistics but found nothing of an evident strategy.  Trump’s own security advisers were caught off guard.  A certain bloodlust had taken hold.

Within Congress, the scent of a strategy did not seem to come through, despite some ghoulish cheers from the GOP.  Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and chairman of the House Intelligence panel, failed to notice “some broad strategy at work”.  Michigan Democrat Rep. Elissa Slotkin, previously acting assistant secretary of defence and CIA analyst, explained why neither Democratic or Republic presidents had ventured onto the treacherous terrain of targeting Soleimani.  “Was the strike worth the likely retaliation, and the potential to pull us into protracted conflict?”  The answer was always a resounding no.

By killing such a high ranking official of a sovereign power, the US has signalled a redrawing of accepted, and acceptable lines of engagement.  The justification was spurious, suggesting that assassination and killing in combat are not distinctions with any difference.  But perhaps most significantly of all, the killing of Soleimani will usher in the very same attacks that this decision was meant to avert even as it assists Iranian policy in expelling any vestige of US influence in Iraq and the broader Middle East.  It also signalled to Iran that abiding by agreements of any sort, including the international nuclear deal of 2015 which the US has repudiated, will be paper tigers worth shredding without sorrow.

 
The views of this news report are only of Dr Binoy Kampmark and not those of Global News Aruba and its associates or the Editor in Chief, read our disclaimer and contact the News Reporter Dr. Binoy Kampmark for any questions on any articles on his page herein. Contact Dr Binoy Kampmark at: [email protected][email protected]
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