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Myanmar’s Deposed Civilian Leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, Faces Two Years In Jail 

Myanmar’s deposed civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is currently facing two years in jail after her original sentence was halved by the country’s military this week. 

Previously, Suu Kyi was sentenced to four years in prison on charges of incitement and breaking Covid-19 rules. This marks the first verdict against the Nobel Peace Prize winner since the military seized power back in February. 

Suu Kyi, 76, was Myanmar’s state counselor and de facto leader of the country before she was ousted and detained by the military ten months ago and slammed with almost a dozen charges that when combined added up to a maximum sentence of 100 years. 

According to media reports, several of the charges involved corruption, which each carry a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, violating Covid-19 pandemic restrictions during the 2020 election campaign, incitement, illegally importing and possessing walkie talkies, and breaking the colonial-era Official Secrets Act — which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.”

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Suu Kyi has rejected all allegations and her supporters are claiming that the charges against her are political. The Zabuthiri Court in Naypyidaw initially sentences Suu Kyi to two years in prison after they found her guilty of incitement, and two years after being found guilty of violating section 25 of Disaster Management Law. The military later cut down both sentences to one year. 

Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, said in a statement, “the farcical and corrupt decision is part of a devastating pattern of arbitrary punishment.”

“The harsh sentences handed down to Aung San Suu Kyi on these bogus charges are the latest example of the military’s determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms in Myanmar.”

“There are many detainees without the profile of Aung San Suu Kyi who currently face the terrifying prospect of years behind bars simply for peacefully exercising their human rights. They must not be forgotten and left to their fate,” Yu Hah expressed. 

More than 1,300 people have been killed by Myanmar security forces since the initial coup, and more than 10,000 individuals have been arrested according to advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. 

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The United Nations Security Council called for an immediate cessation of violence across Myanmar as troops continued to increase tension and hostility towards civilian militias. Nationwide protests against the junta troops have been occurring since the coup, and all have been met with brutal crackdowns and media suppression. 

“As violence escalates, displacing tens of thousands of people and setting up a humanitarian crisis in the middle of an ongoing pandemic, the situation in Myanmar today is alarming in the extreme. Without a decisive, unified and swift international response this can and will get worse.”

The verdict came one day after security forces entered into a protest in the city of Yangon. At least five people were killed due to a vehicle plowing through anti-junta protesters. One reporter who witnessed the incident told media outlets that it was a military vehicle that rammed through demonstrators. 

According to a statement from Myanmar’s military, eleven protesters were arrested, including two men and one woman who were injured. The statement from the military did not acknowledge the reported deaths or vehicle attack. 

The UN in Myanmar condemned the incident slamming the “reported attack on a number of unarmed civilians in Kyimyindaing Township, Yangon, in which a vehicle belonging to security forces rammed into protesters who were then fired upon with live ammunition leading to deaths and injuries to numerous people.”

Experts Warn Omicron Covid Variant Is A ‘Reason To Be Worried’

The Omicron Covid-19 variant was first detected in South Africa, and has now spread to 14 countries, with some experts claiming the variant has already reached the US. Scientists are working to figure out how much more dangerous and contagious the new variant is when compared to other variants, especially as international governments race to ease travel restrictions. 

The US has been imposing travel restrictions on travelers from South Africa since Monday, as well as other countries around the region. The variant has already been confirmed in Canada, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, discussed the variant on the news recently. 

“The new variant is likely already in the United States, but the government is better positioned to detect cases of the new strain than it was a year ago.”

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As of this week, most travelers from southern Africa are barred from entering the United States, and restrictions have been renewed for all travel from southern Africa to most European countries. Within 36 hours of discovering the new strain, scientists in South Africa alerted the world and began testing current vaccines against the strain immediately. Dr. Anthony Fauci discussed the increased risk for unvaccinated Americans when it comes to any variant. 

“The US certainly has the potential to go into a fifth wave of high infections if enough people don’t come forward for vaccination and booster shots.”

South Africa’s government and president, however, are worried that the region is being unjustly blamed for the new variant, when the reality is these variants only have the opportunity to develop due to uneven distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines throughout the world. 

“We want all travel bans to be reversed, as they have no basis in science. These restrictions are completely unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country,” South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said. 

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“I think there’s good reason to be worried. I don’t think that means that we’re powerless, answers are coming. We need to collect data. We need to investigate and understand this variant,” said Professor Anne Van Gottberg of South Africa’s Institute for Communicable Diseases.

“We should be doing the things that we know work when you’re dealing with a pandemic virus. It’s not the time to panic. We should be concerned, and our concern should spur us to do the things that we know work,” Dr. Fauci said.

Fauci explained that “the concern over the new variant comes from the number and type of mutations found around the spike protein, the part of the virus molecule that allows it to attach itself to human cells. The high number of mutations and where they were found suggests that this would be more transmissible, and also suggests that it might evade some of the immune parameters that we have, such as antibody and plasma treatments, and the current vaccines.”

“It appears to be spreading very readily and has a transmission advantage. One of the key things we don’t know right now is whether the new variant causes more severe COVID-19 symptoms than previous strains.”

Omicron currently accounts for more than 2,000 new daily cases in South Africa. One expert in the nation is worried that the daily infection rate could triple within the next week alone. 

“I am expecting we will top over 10,000 cases by the end of the week per day,” Dr Salim Abdool Karim said during an online press briefing by the Health Ministry.

 United Nations Health Expert Condemns US Over Threat To Abortion Rights 

Special rapporteur for the United Nations, Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, is calling on the US Supreme Court to uphold the right to abortion in America. Dr. Mofokeng is arguing that the US is risking undermining international human rights laws and are indirectly threatening the right to a safe abortion for other countries around the world. 

Dr. Mofokeng is one of many global observers whose main job is to travel the world and defend human rights. She argues in a brief filed in a US court that by overturning abortion rights, the nation would be violating international human rights treates that were ratified by the US; including the convention against torture, and forcing a woman to carry their pregnancy to term, regardless of the personal risk for the mother and child. 

In an interview, Mofokeng told the media she could have “filed a brief on abortion rights, in any other court, in any other abortion case, globally. However, the US courts are dealing with the direct threat posed to abortion rights in the supreme court’s upcoming session.

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“We have this joke among us that when the US sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold. So we know that politically that what happens in the United States… does have an impact in precedents elsewhere in the world.”

Roe vs Wade is the famous 1973 court case that gave Americans the constitutional right to an abortion in privacy. At the time, the case invalidated numerous state abortion bans and restrictions, and allowed individuals to terminate a pregnancy up to the point where the fetus can survive outside the womb; around 24 weeks. 

“If that gets overturned, it has catastrophic implications, not just for the US. I fear overturning Roe would embolden global attacks on reproductive rights.”

Mofokeng’s  most recent UN report outlined “the challenges Covid-19 posed to reproductive rights, and how colonialism continues to impact global policies on reproduction, from sterilization to abortion bans.”

“It means that even those people who are conservative, who are anti-rights, in any country in the world, will actually now start referencing the US court as an example of jurisprudence that should be followed, and this is why this is so dangerous.”

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“If Roe … [were] overturned, many US states will implement bans or near-bans on abortion access that will make individual state laws irreconcilable with international human rights law. This would cause irreparable harm to women and girls in violation of the United States’ obligations under the human rights treaties it has signed and ratified,” Mofokeng’s brief argued.

“The denial of safe abortions and subjecting women and girls to humiliating and judgmental attitudes in such contexts of extreme vulnerability and where timely health care is essential amount to torture or ill treatment.”

In one recent analysis, the Guttmacher Institute found “26 states are certain or likely to outlaw abortion should Roe be overturned.”

“The rise in global anti-gender and anti-women’s rights is such that people will grasp at anything that seems to make their case solid, and  the case before the supreme court now relies on non-medical, non-scientific misinformation,” said Mofokeng.

“It means we have a risk of now having global jurisprudence – or at least influences in the global world – using jurisprudence that’s ill-informed. And that’s very dangerous, to undo the court’s decisions takes decades, sometimes a lifetime, – and that’s why it’s dangerous.”

Covid-19 Deaths Surpass 5 Million Globally As Pandemic Progresses 

More than 5 million people have now died from Covid-19 during the two year span of this pandemic. The world is continuing to battle this virus, its highly infectious strains, and any new mutations that may appear. 

According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been 5,000,425 Covid-19 related deaths around the world. 745,836 of those deaths were in the United States, making it the country with the highest Covid death rate. 

Despite the rise in deaths and infections, particularly among the unvaccinated, many countries are lifting pandemic restrictions and ending lockdowns. The rapid development of Covid vaccinations helped aid these reopenings, as they are clinically proven to reduce severe infection, hospitalization, and death from Covid-19.  

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Unvaccinated individuals are at a much larger risk of contracting the virus and being hospitalized for it. Now that we’re approaching the winter season, healthcare experts are worried for those at more of a risk of infection. 

During the week of Oct. 18-24, “the number of weekly Covid cases and deaths had increased slightly from the previous week, with over 2.9 million new cases and more than 49,000 new deaths, a 4% and 5% increase, respectively,” according to the World Health Organization.

Europe accounted for more than half (57%) of global new weekly cases and was the only region to report a higher number of cases when compared to the week before. 

According to reports, “the highest numbers of new cases were reported in the U.S. (with 512,956 new cases, although this represented a 12% decrease from the previous week), the U.K. (which reported 330,465 new cases; a 16% increase) and Russia, which reported 248,956 new cases; a 15% increase from the previous week.”

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The alpha and delta variants have dominated the globe especially among unvaccinated citizens. The delta-plus variant is also being reported in the US, UK, and Australia. The new mutation of the delta variant is currently being examined to see if it could make Covid-19 even more infectious. 

The World Health Organization announced last week that they would be closely tracking the delta subvariant, which has appeared in 42 countries now. 

“An increase in AY.4.2 sequence submissions has been observed since July. The majority of cases stemming from the AY.4.2 variant have been detected in the U.K., and these are rising in frequency,” the organization said in a report last week. 

“A gradual increase in the proportional contribution of AY.4.2 has been observed [in the U.K.]; accounting for an estimated 5.9% of overall Delta cases reported in the week beginning 3 October 2021. Epidemiological and laboratory studies are ongoing to assess if AY.4.2 makes the virus more transmissible or makes antibodies against the virus less effective.”

United Nations Reports Record High Greenhouse Gas Levels Throughout World 

The United Nations announced this week that greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere hit record levels in 2020, and the world is “way off track on capping rising temperatures.”

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a report that showed carbon dioxide levels surged to 413.2 parts per million in 2020, which shows an exponential rise in the rate of emissions last year when compared to the rest of the decade. There was, however, a temporary decline in emissions during the initial phase of Covid-19 lockdowns. 

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said “the current rate of increase in heat-trapping gases would result in temperature rises far in excess of the 2015 Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average this century.

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“We are way off track. We need to revisit our industrial, energy and transport systems and whole way of life. We need a dramatic increase in commitments from our world’s nations.”

Glasgow, Scotland hosted the climate talks where the UN met to discuss capping the global warming rates on Earth at the 1.5-2 degrees Celsius upper limit originally set out in the Paris Agreement. 

“It is going to be very, very tough this summit. I am very worried because it might go wrong and we might not get the agreements that we need and it is touch and go, it is very, very difficult, but I think it can be done,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a news conference.

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia claimed that the nation will be aiming to reach net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2060, adding that they also plan on doubling emission cuts within the next decade alone. 

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The nation of Ottawa offered an official plan where they would have developed nations donate up to $100 billion a year to poorer countries to tackle climate change by 2023. This plan calls on more developed nations to put in more effort when it comes to helping poorer nations. 

According to a poll performed by Reuters, economists found that hitting the Paris Agreement goal of net-zero carbon emissions will require more investments from richer countries. If the world continues on as it is, the average global temperature will increase by “1.6C, 2.4C and 4.4C by 2030, 2050 and 2100 respectively, which would also result in 2.4% lost output by 2030, 10% by 2050 and 18% by 2100,” according to the median replies to the poll.

In London, climate activists are taking action into their own hands by blockading major roads and disrupting traffic in the city’s financial district; similar protests are occuring all throughout Europe as well. 

“Greenhouse gas emissions are provoking climate catastrophes all over the planet. We don’t have time. It’s already late and if we don’t join the action against what’s happening, we won’t have time to save what is still left,” said Alberto, 27, a sociologist who took part in a sit-in protest in Madrid which blocked off one of the largest shopping streets in the city.

Australia’s Prime Minister Says International Travelers Won’t Be Welcome Until At Least 2022

Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined plans for lifting some of Australia’s toughest Covid-19 this week. Part of this outline stated that foreign tourists won’t be welcomed back until at least 2022. The country will instead be prioritizing the return of skilled migrants and students by reopening external borders when they reach a certain rate of vaccination.  

Morrison’s benchmark for reopening will be once 80% of the population aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated. He also announced plans to allow vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents to fly overseas in November; citizens haven’t been able to leave since March 2020. 

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Australia has been reporting the lowest level of immigration since World War II due to these strict travel restrictions. Australian universities and businesses have been struggling to cope with the lack of international students and tourists who typically support these institutions financially. 

Australia’s travel restrictions, however, has allowed life to return to a fairly normal place due to the lack of infection. As of right now some of its biggest cities, like Sydney and Melbourne, are currently experiencing shutdowns due to minor outbreaks. These shutdowns are what has helped keep Australia’s rate of infection low. 

The difficulty with restricting citizens from international travel is that half of Australia’s population was born overseas, or has at least one immigrant parent. Morrison said the priority will be to get migrants and international students back before tourists, but did not specify when he thinks those groups will be allowed back. 

Before the pandemic, the Australian Tourism Export Council made 33 billion American dollars in a year. That sort of revenue could help Australia’s recovery efforts immensely, which is why the Council is hoping international visitors will be able to return by March. 

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As of right now, however, the lack of specificity in the plan to reopen borders has many workers within Australia’s tourism/travel industry worried. 

“International tourist arrivals have to be part of the plan. Even if they’re not the first priority, we’d like to see how this is going to be worked out. There are many businesses that are just hanging on,” said Daniel Gschwind, chief executive of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council.

Morrison said that the “government would work toward a complete quarantine-free travel for certain countries, such as New Zealand, when it is safe to do so,” but did not give a clear timeline as to when that will happen. Any international travelers that are able to travel into Australia currently must quarantine in a hotel for two weeks. 

Australia is currently battling outbreaks of Covid-19 and its variants while rushing to get as many citizens vaccinated as possible. It’s initial vaccine rollout was slow, but is starting to gain some momentum now.

US Special Envoy To Haiti Resigns Over ‘Inhumane’ Expulsions Of Haitian Migrants 

The Biden Administration’s special envoy to Haiti resigned this week after citing “inhumane large-scale expulsions of Haitian migrants to their homeland,” which has already been ravaged by natural disasters, and civil unrest. 

Daniel Foote was appointed to the envoy position back in July after Haiti’s president was assassinated. An envoy refers to a messenger or representative, especially one on a diplomatic mission, within the government. Beyond the recent headlines regarding the harsh treatment Haitian migrants have been enduring, Foote was known for often complaining about the lack of urgency coming from Washington when it came to improving Haiti’s conditions and infrastructure after so many natural disasters. 

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Foote wrote Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week, stating that he was “stepping down immediately with deep disappointment and apologies to those seeking crucial changes.”

“I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs to daily life.”

“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own,”  he wrote

One official within the White House claimed that Foote had consistently tried to have a greater oversight presence in Haiti, especially when it came to policies that would improve the nation’s infrastructure. The administration consistently told Foote his requests were not appropriate, according to the official who chose to remain anonymous. 

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The White House and Biden Administration has been under major fire in recent weeks when it comes to Haiti. Many Democrats and immigration rights activists have gone online to condemn the government for expelling thousands of Haitians without a chance to seek asylum; which violated American principles.

Even more recently, images were blasted all over social media showing Border Patrol agents on horseback using aggressive tactics against Haitian migrants, including a whip, leading many to make the obvious comparison to slavery and the power dynamics that still exist within the American system to this day. 

US officials are currently ramping up their deportation efforts and organizing to get seven expulsion flights from the US to Haiti a day; this would mark one of the swiftist and large-scale expulsions from the US in decades, and in the middle of a worldwide health crisis. 

“When someone who is tasked with Haiti policy at the highest level resigns because recommendations are ignored and dismissed it’s not only troubling, but shows you this administration does not tolerate anyone who won’t go along with their distorted view of the facts. Dan Foote is a world class diplomat who refuses to be told what to do. I wish more foreign service officers had his courage to stand up and call out their bosses,” said Damian Merlo, a Republican strategist who has worked for years on Haiti policy and is now a registered lobbyist for the country’s government. 

Australia And New Zealand Rethinking ‘Covid Zero Strategy’ Amid Spreading Of Delta Variant 

Australia and New Zealand are rethinking their current Covid-19 strategies due to a surge in new cases caused by the spreading of the Delta variant. Initially both countries had strategies implemented that would bring the total number of cases down to zero before any type of social gatherings would be allowed, however, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently claimed that he believes it’s unlikely his country will ever return to zero cases. 

“Australia’s focus needs to shift to hospitalization rates rather than case numbers. The highly infectious nature of delta raised some pretty big questions about New Zealand’s approach of eliminating the disease,” Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

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In the beginning of the pandemic both Australia and New Zealand were advocates for the Covid Zero strategy. This meant that both nations closed their borders and implemented local guidelines to focus more on slowing down community-level transmission without having to worry about international visitors. 

This strategy was extremely successful, and prevented massive waves of new infections and deaths, like we saw here in the US. However, the spreading of the new delta variant has challenged this strategy greatly. In fact, Australia recently reported its highest number of daily infections for a second day straight. New Zealand is currently under the strictest lockdown measure that they’ve been in since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“With a virus that can be infectious within 24 hours of someone getting it, that does change the game a bit. With our Level Four lockdown, we are very well placed to be able to run it to ground, but we have to be prepared for the fact that we can’t do that every time there is one of these.”

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Hipkins explained that the Covid Zero strategy had worked wonderfully pre-delta, but now it’s looking like a less adequate way to combat the new variant. The spreading of this variant also has to do with the vaccination rates in both nations. 

In both New Zealand and Australia less than 30% of the population is fully vaccinated. Australia’s Morrison claims vaccination rates need to reach 70-80% of the eligible population before restrictions are lifted again. 

Writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Morrison said rising cases “need not impact our plan to reopen, and reopen as soon as we can.”

“So while right now our national strategy is necessarily about suppressing the virus and vaccinating as many people as possible, a one-eyed focus on just case numbers overlooks the fact that less people are getting seriously ill, let alone dying.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently laid out a plan that would ease lockdown restrictions as the government speeds up its vaccination rollout. Their goal is to reopen their borders by 2022.

Manila Residents Overcrowd Vaccination Centers Ahead Of Two-Week Lockdown 

Residents in the Philippine capital of Manila are rushing to get their Covid-19 vaccines ahead of the weekend, as the nation announced they would be going under another two-week lockdown starting Friday evening. 

Manila is home to about 13 million residents. The nearby province Laguna, as well as the cities of Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro will also be placed under lockdown. The lockdown measures in general are predicted to cost the economy $4 billion.

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Residents will not be able to leave their homes except for essential shopping. Covid-19 cases have been on the rise in the Philippines since July. A majority of the spreading is due to the highly infectious Delta variant that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned is just as contagious as chickenpox. 

The Delta variant in general has already caused a slew of severe outbreaks across Southeast Asia, especially in countries with poor vaccination rates. So far, about 10% of the Philippines 108 million population is vaccinated. 

Mixed messaging from authorities has now led to crowds rushing vaccination sites this week to get their inoculations before lockdown. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that during the lockdown if an unvaccinated person leaves their home they will be escorted back by the police, but then clarified the next day that this would likely not be enforced. 

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However, that initial threat of police interaction caused many to want to get their vaccines to avoid police interaction when they might just be going to the store for their family. 

Back in June, Duterte threatened jail to individuals who refused to get vaccinated, so it makes sense that residents would want to rush to vaccine centers this week. 

The Department of Health urged the public not to believe in “fake news. Vaccinations will continue even under the hard lockdown in Metro Manila.”

The Philippines reported 8,127 new infections and 196 new deaths this Thursday, bringing the nation’s total to more than 1.6 million infections and 28,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Chinese Billionaire Sun Dawu Sentenced To 18 Years In Prison 

Billionaire Sun Dawu is a vocal critic of the Chinese government. Now, Sun has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles,” according to an official statement published by the court. 

Sun was arrested back in March, he owns the company Hebei Dawu Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Group, which owns farming operations in China and employs about 9,000 people in poultry processing, pet food production, and other industries. 

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Sun was found guilty of “gathering a crowd to storm state institutions, obstructing public service, picking quarrels and provoking troubles, disrupting production and operation, conducting coercive trade, illegal mining, illegal occupation of agricultural land, illegal absorption of public deposits,” the People’s Court of Gaobeidian said in a statement. 

Dawu was also fined 3.11 million yuan ($480,000) as a part of his sentence. He’s one of very few powerful figures in China who has remained outspoken against the ruling communist party. He publicly accused the government of attempting to cover up the extent of the African swine flu outbreak in 2019, which killed more than 100 million pigs in the nation. 

There have also been local reports that claimed Sun was in the midst of a land dispute with a local government owned farm. Dawu claimed dozens of company employees were injured after a 2020 fight with the police when a group led by Dawu attempted to stop state farm staff from tearing down one of its buildings. 

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Chinese Human Rights Defenders is an advocacy group that recently claimed Sun was “being put on trial as a blatant attempt to punish him for his support of human rights.” 

“Sun Dawu has made extraordinary contributions to improving the life of Chinese citizens living in rural China. His support of rights defenders was an extension of his concern for the welfare of people on the margins of the Chinese economy,” said Ramona Li, senior researcher and advocate for CHRD.

Private enterprises in China have been subjected to multiple restrictive guidelines from the government in recent months. The Communist Party recently said that all private sector entrepreneurs need to be “politically sensible people who will firmly listen to the party.”

Chinese billionaire Ren Zhiqiang was also imprisoned for 18 years back in September 2020 on corruption related offenses. Ren was widely attributed to an essay that referred to Chinese president Xi Jinping as a “clown” for his coronavirus prevention strategy.