Nov 6, 2019

Legendary Beijing bookstore The Bookworm closes

Photo: Simon Song/South China Morning Post/Getty Images

The Bookworm, a center of literary life in Beijing and a refuge for expats, will close, "unable to renew its lease amid crackdown on 'illegal structures,''' reports Hong Kong's South China Morning Post.

The state of play: A co-founder of the store says the store has fallen victim to restructuring by city planners and wouldn't tell the South China Morning Post if there is a political reason. However, the paper notes that "there has been talk that the free-flowing discussions on contemporary affairs, social and political issues that Bookworm hosted antagonized Chinese censors."

Evan Osnos of The New Yorker — whose book, "Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China," was based on eight years of living in Beijing — told me the closing is sad:

"A true institution, and I mean that in every sense. It was a place where writing and truth-telling was celebrated. I can think of a half-dozen times I interviewed someone there, or was interviewed there. I stopped in there most recently a few weeks ago when I was in town, and I actually thought to myself, well, it's a good sign that it's still here, and books are on the shelves. I spoke too soon. A bad sign of the times."

Go deeper: Protests around the world aimed squarely at existing governments

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Violence in Hong Kong as leader denounces "enemies of the people"

Riot police mass today in Hong Kong. Photo: Ivan Cheung/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hong Kong endured one of the most violent days in five months of protests today, with police shooting a protestor at close range, protestors lighting a man on fire, and Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam denouncing "enemies of the people."

Why it matters: More than 60 people were wounded, according to Lam, and tear gas filled the air in the Central business district in the middle of the work day. Chris Johnson, a former top CIA China analyst now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Michael Morell on the Intelligence Matters podcast that protest leaders realize violence by more "hardcore" elements risks sapping western support.

Go deeperArrowNov 11, 2019

Trump signs bill expressing support for Hong Kong protesters

Photo: Xinhua/Li Xueren and Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

President Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on Wednesday, reaffirming U.S. support for the city's autonomy after months of pro-democracy protests.

Why it matters: The bill, which was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House, serves as a major rebuke of China at a time when Washington and Beijing are engaged in critical trade talks. China has warned that it will take retaliatory measures if the bill becomes law.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 27, 2019

House passes bill expressing support for Hong Kong protestors, rebuking China

Pro-democracy protesters gather for a rally in Victoria Park, Hong Kong. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images.

The House voted 417-1 on Wednesday evening in favor of the Senate's unanimously-passed Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, sending the bill to President Trump's desk. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was the sole "no" vote.

The big picture: The bill reaffirms the U.S.' commitment to supporting democracy and human rights in Hong Kong as it relates to city's autonomy. The legislation comes amid months of violent clashes between police and protestors in Hong Kong, and could set up a confrontation between the U.S. and China in the midst of Trump's high-stakes trade war. The White House has not yet commented on whether Trump intends to sign the bill.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 20, 2019