Listen to the full podcast episode here:
For the second year in a row, Hong Kong officials have banned an annual candlelight vigil commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre, citing concerns over coronavirus. Voters in Mexico will elect hundreds of politicians to local positions as well as 500 deputies to the lower house of its legislature, which could dramatically change the direction of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s tenure. Thailand will launch the first mass coronavirus vaccination program for its 66 million residents as the country struggles to grapple its most severe outbreak yet. The Supreme Court of Israel is due to hear back from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit after he asked judges to delay their decision on the eviction of Palestinian residents from the East Jerusalem neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah amid a surge in tension last month. And an interview with Jess Fino on Europe’s efforts to reopen to travel.
These stories and more are available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:
Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.
Today is June 3rd.
In this week’s forecast we’ll look at the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, Mexican local and legislative elections, Thailand’s vaccine drive, an Israeli court hearing on Palestinian evicitions in East Jerusalem, and Europe reopening to travel.
You can read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
Anniversary of Tiananmen Square crackdown
Information compiled by Vivian Wang
JIMMY: Friday is the 32nd anniversary of China’s violent crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square. And for the second year in a row, Hong Kong officials have banned an annual candlelight vigil commemorating the massacre. Officially, the vigil is banned due to coronavirus concerns.
But now Hong Kongers are struggling to find ways to commemorate the Beijing protests against corruption and political repression.
The government’s ban on the vigil comes as Hong Kong experiences tightened political control, including a national security law passed last year. That security law ultimately led to the mass arrests of pro-democracy activists.
Now, last year’s June 4 vigil was also officially banned due to the pandemic, but thousands still turned up at Victoria Park — more than 20 of which were arrested later for taking part in an “unauthorized assembly.”
The usual group behind the vigil won’t be organizing the event this year, but dissidents may still find ways to commemorate the event in Hong Kong.
However, with China’s Communist Party celebrating its 100th anniversary in July, both Hong Kong and Beijing officials will be on higher alert than usual.
Mexican local and legislative elections
Information compiled by Jeff Landset
JIMMY: On Sunday, voters in Mexico will elect hundreds of politicians to local positions as well as 500 deputies to the lower house of its legislature. What’s more, the election could dramatically change the direction of the tenure of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
López Obrador’s rise to power came after two unsuccessful runs for president that ultimately led to the creation of his own political party, MORENA.
And then in 2018, not only did he win, but he became the country’s first candidate to win an outright majority in 30 years.
He also publicly attacked the two institutions that oversee elections.
In light of this political fervor, this year’s elections are being called the most violent in 20 years.
At least 88 people running for office have been killed since September, including Alma Barragán, who was running for mayor of Moroleón.
Now, many of these political killings have to do with organized crime.
Cartels often finance politicians that help them and attack or kill those that don’t.
But this type of violence may have become more prevalent with López Obrador in office. He has a hands-off, long-term approach to dealing with organized crime.
If voters no longer want that strategy, López Obrador may lose his majority in the Chamber of Deputies.
Experts warn, if that happens, he may refuse to admit defeat and declare electoral fraud, as he has done before.
Thailand vaccine drive
Information compiled by Bada Kim
JIMMY: On Wednesday, Thailand will launch its first mass coronavirus vaccination program for its 66 million residents. The drive comes as the country struggles to grapple its most severe outbreak yet.
Now, Thailand had been enjoying a year of relative success in slowing the spread of coronavirus, thanks in part to the early closure of its borders. But since then, Thailand set almost-daily records in coronavirus deaths in April and May.
And the latest statistics show more than 80 percent of the country’ confirmed cases were detected during the current surge, which is believed to have been fueled by Thais traveling during the weeklong Thai New Year holiday in mid-April.
It’s this surge, plus the fact only 2.6 percent of the country’s population has been vaccinated so far, that has sparked much government criticism. Many are concerned over whether the country will reach herd immunity before it reopens its borders for tourists, quarantine-free.
There’s also a fair amount of anxiety in Thailand over vaccine supplies, even with the health ministry reassuring folks that there will be “a vaccine for everyone” starting Wednesday.
Now, Thailand is hoping the vaccine drive kickstarts the revival of tourism, its largest industry, starting with the popular resort island Phuket in July.
The plan includes inoculating most of Phuket’s residents before reopening to vaccinated travelers. The health ministry insists the plan is “on track”.
Sheikh Jarrah court hearing in Israel
Information compiled by Ahmed Namatalla
JIMMY: On Tuesday, Israel’s Supreme Court is due to hear back from the country’s attorney general on a case involving the eviction of Palestinian residents from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
Dozens of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah are at risk of losing their homes to Israeli settlers who claim ownership of the land the Palestinian homes are built on.
The Palestinians are appealing lower court rulings in favor of the settlers, who are basing their case on Israeli law that allows only Jews to reclaim land lost during war.
In addition to contributing to the worst spike in violence in at least seven years, the potential evictions have drawn international condemnation — including from the United States, which says it’s against the displacement of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and other East Jerusalem neighborhoods.
If the court rules in favor of the settlers, it could spark a new round of fighting. Hamas and other militias based in the Gaza Strip have threatened to renew rocket attacks on Israel if the evictions are carried out.
Europe travel reopening
Information compiled by Jess Fino
JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the reopening of travel in parts of Europe after more than a year of coronavirus-related restrictions. For more on that I recently spoke with Factal Editor Jess Fino.
JIMMY: Hi Jess!
JESS: Hi Jimmy, thanks for having me.
JIMMY: Thanks for taking time with us. So, as a journalist who lives in the UK and likes to travel, I have to imagine you’ve been keeping a pretty close eye on travel restrictions. What’s the latest? Is tourism coming back to Europe?
JESS: Oh yeah, you bet. We’ve all been waiting for it and yes, tourism is coming back, but with varying degrees of restrictions or requirements. So as vaccination campaigns against coronavirus progress across Europe, many countries are hoping to revive their economy by welcoming back tourists this summer. But inconsistent planning has left each country to implement their own set of rules for arrivals depending on their own coronavirus outbreak.
JIMMY: How different are the rules from country to country?
JESS: So we’re seeing a contrast between regions. For example, France said last week it will require mandatory quarantine periods for those coming from the UK due to the increasing prevalence of the coronavirus variant first detected in India. And in the UK, they’ve placed countries on amber and red lists – and also green lists – but it means arrivals need to take several tests and to quarantine upon arrival. But other countries, mainly Southern European countries, they rely heavily on tourism and are being less cautious because they so desperately need these tourists back. Spain is reopening its borders to all vaccinated tourists and to cruises next week, while Greece has become one of the first countries in the world to reopen its tourism.
JIMMY: Has the European Union weighed in on any of this?
JESS: Yes, so they’ve been keen to come up with a joint approach across member states. The European Union this week actually produced a digital coronavirus certificate enabling travelers who have been vaccinated or tested negative for the virus to move across countries. But travelers keen to take a much-anticipated vacation are still likely to face a lot of bureaucracy with different rules applying to different destinations.
JIMMY: The words bureaucracy and travel are two words that no one necessarily wants to hear in the same sentence. What type of rules can travelers expect?
JESS: Yeah, definitely. So some countries require a PCR test before arrival, which can cost about $140 US dollars. People returning to the UK also need to undergo several tests depending on which country they visited. So for example, I’ve just returned from Portugal this week to visit family and I had to take a PCR test before arriving to Portugal, plus a rapid test before returning to the UK and another PCR test after arriving. So all these tests can be very pricey. And while the government has pledged to lower the price of these tests, the rules can make travel out of reach for many pockets.
JIMMY: Do you see anything that could derail the reopening plans?
JESS: So the spread of the coronavirus is a concern because it’s growing in several countries, which could delay reopening plans. And with this high prevalence in the UK, it is unclear if the EU passport will apply to UK visitors and if they will expand it to other non EU countries.
JIMMY: Well, thanks for that. Let’s hope the things go smoothly and countries can start repairing their tourism economies. Thanks for catching us up to speed, Jess.
JESS: My pleasure.
JIMMY: Take care.
JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Vivian Wang, Jeff Landset, Bada Kim and Ahmed Namatalla. Our interview featured editor Jess Fino and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello at factal dot com.
This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.
Top image: Hong Kongers gather at Victoria Park for a candlelight vigil in 2010. Source: Timothy Tsui, Flickr