4. 25th Anniversary of China's Crackdown in Tiananmen Square
It’s a big week for anniversaries. Wednesday marks the 25th anniversary of China’s crackdown in Tiananmen Square. In the early hours of June 4, 1989, tanks rolled into the heart of Beijing, ending a seven-week long protest by students in the Chinese capital. What began as mourning for a reformist leader evolved into mass protests demanding democracy. When the military moved in, an image of a student, known only as “Tank Man” standing defiant in the face of overwhelming force, flashed around the world.
The number who died that night is still unknown, with estimates ranging from the hundreds to the thousands. The protests came within inches of toppling the Communist party. But while next week, the world will remember the scenes in Tiananmen Square, in China itself, the party has scrubbed mentions of the events from histories and punished those who have tried to commemorate the protests. Officials this year detained a dozen people for criminal investigations. On Sunday, protestors will gather, not in mainland China, but in neighboring Hong Kong. In 1989, a million Hong Kongers took to the streets of the then British colony to show solidarity with those in Beijing. Twenty-five years on, the protests in Hong Kong are theirs as they fear China is reneging on promises about democracy made when it took back the territory in 1989.
5. Presidential Election in Syria
Strange but true: On Tuesday, Syria goes to the polls to elect a president. And it’s likely the winner will be…President Assad. He will inevitably defeat his two little-known rivals to win a third seven-year term — defying almost three years of demands by the United States and others that he should go. His two “opponents” are Maher Hajjar, a low-profile parliamentarian from Aleppo and Hassan al-Nouri, a businessman from a prominent Damascus family and a onetime government minister. But a restrictive electoral law which requires candidates to receive the backing of 35 members of parliament makes it impossible for anyone to run without government approval. And millions of Syrians will be prevented from reaching the ballot box! Voting is out of the question for residents of rebel-held areas, while refugees who fled Syria unofficially could not cast ballots when voting abroad took place Wednesday. The White House and other western leaders have condemned the election as a “parody of democracy” but on the ground, the regime has scored a string of military successes in recent months, raising the heat as election day edges closer, reclaiming the Old City of Homs and breaking the rebel siege of Aleppo central prison.