SINGAPORE (DEC 27): Here are the international events that made the headlines this year.
Hong Kong extradition bill protests
The Hong Kong protests are a series of anti-Beijing demonstrations that took place across the island city state, beginning June, and has not abated since. It was triggered by the attempted introduction of an amendment bill by the government, which, if enacted, would allow the extradition of fugitives by the Chinese government. It was the final straw that broke the camel’s back, as anti- Beijing sentiment has been building up in Hong Kong over what is seen as increasing interference by the Chinese government. The amendment was scrapped after over 180 days of protests.
Climate change was certainly the most talked-about topic in 2019, reaching a sort of crisis point not seen in the past decade. The Extinction Rebellion, a loose group of global climate change action pressure activists, were formed in 2018 but came into stark consciousness this year when they occupied five prominent sites in central London — Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and the area around Parliament Square, the largest so far — and the protests have continued to take place across the world.
1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal
In a financial scandal that spanned continents, the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal involving former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak saw his government ousted in a landmark general election in 2018. However, 2019 is the year Najib was brought to book and charged in court, with his trial for corruption and money laundering starting April this year. Many others were also implicated, including top executives at investment bank Goldman Sachs and now-fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho.
The #metoo movement began in 2016. It gained prominence when former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a predator and an all-round creep in 2017 and dozens of women, including A-list actresses, came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment and abuse. It went viral when actress Alyssa Milano posted on Twitter: “If all women who have ever been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, then we give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” This year, the movement culminated in the arrest and prosecution of Weinstein on charges of sexual harassment and assault of over 30 women spanning several decades.
US-China trade war
The ongoing US-China trade war, which began as early as 2016 when US President Donald Trump was elected into office, truly came to a head when in January, the two nations finally agreed to talks after almost two years and billions of dollars in trade tariffs. It marked the beginning of a 90-day truce, but the ceasefire ended when talks failed. Since then, one of the major casualties of the trade war has been Chinese electronics giant Huawei Technologies, which was banned from using Google products, including the Android platform that it relies on for its phones. It does not seem to be ending anytime soon either, which means it will continue to dominate the headlines for the foreseeable future.
Brexit and the British elections
On June 23, 2016, Britain voted to exit the 44-year-old European Union, after years of stagnating economic growth, increasing xenophobia, austerity and burdened public services that it blamed on the influx of foreigners from Europe. One bad political decision led to many more, and more than three years since the vote, Britain has still not exited the EU. Two failed prime ministers, and one ill-advised general elections later and on Dec 12, an election was held which solidified the Tory party rule with Boris Johnson at its lead with a resounding majority. Now, he has the unenviable task to “get on with it” and perhaps the saga of Brexit will come to an end.
Same-sex marriage legalised in Taiwan
In May, Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalise same- sex marriage, making history and giving a huge boost to the LGBTQ movement. Almost 200,000 people celebrated by marching through Taipei in a riot of rainbow colours, and since then, thousands of same-sex couples have married.
On Sept 24, an impeachment inquiry against US President Donald Trump was initiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on whistleblower information that Trump had abused his power of presidency to interfere and pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to perform two political favours. At the time of writing, the House of Representatives has voted to impeach Trump, making him the third president to be impeached, with Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton being the other two. (Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.)