HONG KONG, August 16 -- Liu Yifei, the actress starring in Disney's upcoming live-action "Mulan" remake, waded into the Hong Kong protest controversy on Thursday by expressing support for the city's police, who anti-government demonstrators accuse of using excessive force to quell unrest.
"I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now. What a shame for Hong Kong," she posted on Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese social media platform.Immediately, people began posting #BoycottMulan on Twitter -- which is banned in China. Twitter users accused the actress of supporting police brutality, and called out the fact that she's an American citizen. "Liu is a naturalized American citizen. It must be nice. Meanwhile she pisses on people fighting for democracy," one person tweeted. Other public figures, actors and singers like Tony Leung Ka-fai and Daniel Chan have spoken out against protester violence and vandalism. Pop star Denise Ho came out in strong support of the protesters -- she even gave a speech about the protests at a United Nations meeting last month.
Celebrities outside of Hong Kong and China have also chimed in. Kim Eui Sung, a South Korean actor who starred in the cult 2016 zombie apocalypse film "Train to Busan," expressed support for the protesters on Instagram, writing, "We are watching you, praying for you. #freehongkong." After being bombarded with critical and pro-Beijing comments, he posted another photo -- the infamous Tank Man shot from the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Sports drinks brand Pocari Sweat was also cheered by protesters and boycotted by the opposition after the company pulled ads from a local broadcaster perceived as pro-Beijing. Even bubble tea has been caught in the mix, with a Taiwanese chain urging solidarity with protesters. And with the unrest showing no end in sight, both sides are settling in for the long haul."So disappointed," said one Twitter user of Liu's Weibo post. "Was so excited for Mulan too."
WARSAW, January 8 -- Poland and Italy's right-wing rulers are to cement their "special relations" at a meeting in Warsaw, in what could make a new anti-EU league a major force in the next European Parliament (EP).
The meeting, between Polish ruling party chief, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and Italian interior minister and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, on Wednesday (9 January) is to discuss Poland's membership in Salvini's new EP group, according to Italian daily La Repubblica. "It's a meeting at the highest level. If [party] president Kaczynski meets another politician, it's a sign of a certain special relationship, which is how we're treating it," Polish foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz also told Polish radio station RMF on Saturday.
"We have to discuss matters related to the European Parliament," Czaputowicz added. Jacek Sasin, an MP from Kaczynski's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, said it was "uncertain" whether the meeting would "deliver a certain objective, an agreement". But Salvini and Kaczynski would "exchange ideas ... on how the European Union should function", he said. "There are definitely different points of view between us and Mr Matteo Salvini ... but that doesn't mean we don't have some ideas in common on how the [European] project should be modified," he added.
Kaczynski's party currently sits in the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, which has 73 deputies. But the ECR is likely to collapse when its British Conservative party members leave after Brexit, leaving PiS homeless in Brussels. The main group, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), already has a Kaczynski-type member, Hungary's nationalist leader Viktor Orban, whom it has kept in its club to try to contain him. But the EPP is also home to Poland's main opposition party, the Civic Platform, ruling out PiS membership. That leaves the new Salvini-led group as an option, whether to gain power in the EP, or to gain leverage in Warsaw's fight against EU sanctions on PiS' abuse of rule of law at home. "The message [of Wednesday's meeting] is: The Polish government is shifting its position to the anti-European fringe," Slawomir Nitras, a Civic Platform MP, said. "It [the Polish government] is not just sceptical [of the EU], it's joining up with forces who are thinking of how to dismantle the European Union," he added. "If he [Salvini] ... persuades Law and Justice to join, it will be one of the largest groups in the next European Parliament," Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, a former Polish prime minister who left PiS, also said. Salvini has already convinced French and Dutch far-right parties, the National Rally (formerly known as National Front) and the Party for Freedom, to join.
If PiS, as well as Austria's far-right Freedom Party, come on board, it could get 140 MEPs or so, making it the third largest in the EP. If Salvini becomes Italian prime minister, as many expect due to his party's surge in polls, and if PiS wins Polish elections this year, then the new group would also have two leaders from the G6, or group of six largest EU states.
WARSAW, December 24 -- Winter is back in Poland, accompanied by smog—and renewed concern about its impact on people’s health.
Poland has some of the worst air quality in Europe, with 33 of the continent’s 50 most polluted cities, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report last year. This is highlighted by the European Air Quality Index launched in November by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Commission, a map that enables users to find out whether the air they are breathing is safe in real time.
The situation is worst in southern Poland, where towns frequently fall into the index’s “very poor” category for high levels of particulate matter PM2.5 and PM10, two key pollutants. The main culprit: the coal used to heat people’s houses. At the EU level, the poor air quality in cities across Europe is causing concern. In a recent statement, EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella called air pollution an “invisible killer”. In Europe, exposure to particulate matter decreases the life expectancy of every person by an average of almost one year, amid higher risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and lung cancer, according to the WHO.
WARSAW, December 6 -- Slovakia’s Defense Minister Peter Gajdos has signed three separate, preliminary Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOAs) with the United States to acquire 14 F-16 Block 70/72 fighters for the Slovak air force.
But it was subsequently revealed that the ministry failed to obtain the rest of the government’s approval for the decision. Under the signed agreements, the aircraft are to be acquired the by the end of 2023 under a program estimated to be worth about €1.6 billion (US $1.8 billion). The fighters are to replace Slovakia’s Soviet-designed Mikoyan MiG-29 jets.
“The final decision on the signing of the agreement on the replacement of the [Slovak] Air Forceʼs fighter jet fleet falls fully within the competence of the [Slovak] government. The MoD has never cast any doubt whatsoever on this proposition,” the ministry said in a Dec. 1 statement.
Representatives of Slovakia’s opposition party Ordinary People (OĽaNO) have called on the country’s Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini to dismiss Gajdos, accusing the minister of pursuing the acquisition in a disorganized manner and without adequate public supervision.
“With such major spending, it is important to make procurements perfectly prepared and under public control,” Veronika Remisova, a member of parliament for the OĽaNO party, said on Facebook Dec. 4.