Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: China responds after a violent weekend in Hong Kong, Saudi Aramco announces its IPO plans, Boris Johnson faces a threat from the Brexit Party, and what to watch in the world this week.
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After Violent Clashes in Hong Kong, China Responds
On Monday, Chinese state media issued another threat to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters, condemning their actions and urging the city’s authorities to take a “tougher line” against the demonstrations. The statements followed one of the most violent weekends in Hong Kong, in which protesters vandalized the Xinhua news agency office. More protests are planned for this week, focused on pushing for an investigation into the police.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has been summoned to appear in Beijing on Wednesday for a meeting with Vice Premier Han Zheng—the first such meeting since the protests began in June. It was reported last month that China has drawn up a plan to replace Lam. But Wednesday’s will likely focus on decisions made at last week’s Communist Party leadership meeting, including a pledge to “safeguard national security.”
A violent weekend. On Sunday, Hong Kong activists targeted businesses and shopping malls, where they clashed with police as well as mainland supporters. In the suburb of Tai Koo Shing, a man shouting pro-Beijing slogans attacked a local pro-democracy politician and several bystanders with a knife, injuring several people before the crowd beat up the assailant and police intervened to arrest him. Two victims were left in critical condition and the local Democratic Party politician Andrew Chiu lost part of his ear after the attacker bit him; it was later reattached by surgeons.
Seeking U.S. support. The protesters are increasingly invoking U.S. imagery to capture the attention of its politicians—in the hopes that the United States could put pressure on China and guard Hong Kong’s democracy. A bill that would support the protesters is moving through Congress. But the tactics could become fodder for Chinese propaganda that casts the protest movement as one backed by foreign forces, the New York Times reports.
What We’re Following Today
Saudi Aramco announces IPO plans with few details. Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company, Aramco, has announced that it will go public in what could be the world’s largest-ever initial public offering (IPO). Investors are likely to value the company at around $1.5 trillion—well below Saudi officials’ ambitious $2 billion goal. The company’s IPO is intended to boost Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans for economic reform, including diversifying the country’s economy away from oil. On Sunday, Aramco didn’t reveal how many shares would be sold or when the launch would take place, but it is expected to meet with investors over the next 10 days.
Iraq’s PM appeals to protesters. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has appealed to protesters to back down after another weekend of widespread demonstrations against the country’s political elite. Tens of thousands gathered in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on Saturday and another crowd blockaded Iraq’s main port on the Persian Gulf, Umm Qasr. More than 250 people have been killed amid the unrest, which began early last month. Many protesters believe Iran is keeping Abdul-Madhi in office—and fomenting the violence at the hands of security forces, Pesha Magid reports for FP.
Debate over the world’s largest trade deal. Negotiations over the world’s biggest trade pact continue today at the ASEAN East Asia summit in Bangkok. Despite resistance from India, which is concerned about Chinese goods flooding the market, a provisional agreement could be announced today. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership—comprising 16 countries from India to New Zealand—would include half the world’s population and 30 percent of its GDP. Embroiled in a trade war with the United States, China is particularly eager to get the deal off the ground.
Trump could pull out of the Paris climate agreement beginning today, three years after it went into effect. (The deal forbade signatories from withdrawing in the first three years.) Experts say such a move by the United States would undermine global efforts to combat climate change. The withdrawal process would take one year—and could be reversed.
Former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton is scheduled to testify in the House impeachment inquiry on Thursday, though it is unclear if he will show up. Bolton’s attorney has said that he will not appear without a subpoena. Other witnesses have testified that Bolton expressed concern about U.S. President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
The 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is on Saturday, which the city will mark with a week-long arts festival. The wall itself has now been down for longer than it stood: 10,316 days, or more than 28 years.
The British election. Donald Trump made a public intervention in the British election campaign last week, calling into Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage’s radio show and telling listeners Jeremy Corbyn would be “so bad” for Britain while encouraging Farage to team up with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and casting doubt on a U.S.-U.K. trade deal after Brexit. Corbyn’s Labour party is likely pleased; Trump is extremely unpopular in the U.K. and his statement undermines Johnson’s pledge about reaching a favorable trade deal with Washington.
Farage is also causing a headache for the prime minister. He announced over the weekend that he would not seek a parliamentary seat in Britain’s general election on Nov. 12, choosing instead to campaign against Johnson’s Brexit deal. Farage also threatened to run a Brexit Party candidate in every constituency—creating a major obstacle to a Conservative victory in Britain’s first-past-the-post system, because Brexit Party voters could dilute the Conservative vote and let Labour or the Liberal Democrats win in close races.
Johnson’s Conservative party is currently leading the opposition Labour party by a seemingly comfortable 16 points nationally—but what might appear a large majority does not reflect the potential impact of Brexit Party candidates, the Conservatives’ plummeting popularity in Scotland, and the many competitive races in which anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats plan to challenge the Conservatives. In what many analysts viewed as an effort to win votes—rather than the adoption of an environmentalist election agenda—Johnson’s government announced a temporary ban on fracking over the weekend.
Toxic smog in Delhi. Air pollution in Delhi reached the highest levels of 2019 over the weekend, with the air quality index hitting 900 in some levels—far above the “safe” level of 25 and even the “severe plus” level of 500. The toxic smog, caused by Diwali fireworks, agricultural burning, and a shift in temperatures, has closed schools and diverted flights.
A rare protest in Singapore. A few hundred people turned out for a rally against immigration in Singapore on Sunday. Public protest in the city is rare, but the demonstration suggests that the ruling party’s immigration policies are likely to be a key issue in next year’s parliamentary elections. Around 40 percent of Singapore residents are foreign-born.
2019 Diplomat of the Year—Foreign Policy will honor NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in an exclusive celebration on Nov. 12, convening over 200 senior leaders from the global diplomatic and defense community. To request an invitation, please fill out this form.
Across France, environmental activists are removing official portraits of President Emmanuel Macron from town halls in protest of his climate policies. They say he isn’t doing enough to cut emissions. Now, the activists are facing trials—with the courts divided over how to respond to the tactic, the Associated Press reports.
That’s it for today.
Photo: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images