2019 has been quite a year, from protests erupting in various parts of the world, to a Swedish teen taking centre-stage on climate change, to the shocking suicides of K-pop stars, and more. TISG takes a look back at some of the events that caught the eyes of the world in the last 12 months.
While they started six months ago as demonstrations against a now-rescinded extradition bill that would have allowed for criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China, the protests in Hong Kong show no signs of abating.
The demonstrators later expanded their cause to “5 demands”: (1) The complete withdrawal of the extradition bill; (2) A retraction from the government of the characterisation of the protests as “riots”; (3) The release and acquittal of protesters who had been arrested; (4) The establishment of an independent commission to investigate police behavior during the protests, and (5) The resignation of the Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, as well as full freedom to elect the city’s Legislative Council and Chief Executive.
On Christmas Eve, the protests turned into clashes with the police, with demonstrators throwing petrol bombs and the police using batons and pepper spray.
2. Other Protests
Hong Kong is by no means the only area that saw people massing in record numbers. 2019 is the year in which people came together in Lebanon, Iran, Chile, Bolivia, France, Germany and other places over climate change, economic woes, taxes, legislation on citizenship and refugees.
One week before Christmas, the United States House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump, making him the third US President in history to be impeached after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.
The vote, on whether or not Mr Trump had abused power and obstructed Congress, was along party lines, with Democrats voting for impeachment and Republicans voting against it. What will follow is a trial in the Senate but Mr Trump is likely to remain in office because the Republicans have a majority there.
4. Najib Razak Trial
In Malaysia, all eyes have been on former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s 1MDB corruption trial, which began on Nov 18. Prosecutors have alleged that he tampered with an official audit of 1MDB funds to prevent both criminal and civil suits against him.
While Najib is facing several counts of money laundering, graft and corruption, he has repeatedly pleaded innocence and pointed the finger at fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, who is also known as Jho Low, as the criminal mastermind behind the siphoning of approximately S$6 billion from the sovereign wealth fund.
5. US-China Trade War
The two biggest economies in the world continued to suffer from trade tensions for the third year running and the impact began to be felt all over the world.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted in October that global economic growth would fall to 3 per cent, the slowest in 10 years, while experts from the United Nations warned last month that prolonging trade tensions would make for a lose-lose situation for all.
6. Greta Thunberg
Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg was in the limelight this year for inspiring the biggest climate strike in history, which was joined by 4 million people in many countries. The 16-year-old, who has autism, captured the world’s attention when she spoke to world leaders at the United Nations in September, calling them to accountability for running roughshod over the earth’s resources and leaving the future in danger.
7. PKR Implosion
2019 saw the implosion of the PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) in Malaysia, with the party split into two factions, one led by PKR president Anwar Ibrahim and the other by his deputy, Mr Mohamed Azmin Ali.
Despite attempts to show that the rival factions have called a truce, the division within the party is accepted as an open secret, with both sides claiming loyal followers. Those loyal to Mr Azmin, however, have planned a parallel congress, which has served to push the ideal of party unity further away.
In May, Indonesian President Joko Widodo was re-elected to another 5-year term. The President bested former general Prabowo Subianto at the polls, winning 55.5 per cent of the vote to Mr Prabowo’s 44.5 per cent, according to the election commission.
With the re-election, Indonesia has sidestepped the trend towards electing strongmen seen in many other nations in the past few years.
9. K-Pop Suicides
This year saw the sad side of the otherwise glamorous world of K-pop, especially with two suicides occurring in a little over a month. One female singer, Choi Sulli, committed suicide in October, and not six weeks later singer Goo Hara followed suit.
Sulli had been openly unhappy about attacks from trolls, as well as rumours that she had had plastic surgery. Before her death, she had complained of “mental health” problems and “depression”.
On March 15, a gunman with white supremacist leanings mercilessly shot at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 people, all the while live-streaming the attacks on Facebook.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern immediately condemned the shootings as an act of terrorism, calling March 15, 2019, “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”. She sprang into action and, within a week, successfully got a law changed that would ban assault rifles and military-style semi-automatics. -/TISG