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Beijing Backs Hong Kong Leader Despite Election Setback


BEIJING — China’s second-highest official strongly backed Chief Executive Carrie Lam of Hong Kong on Monday despite the monthslong protests that have rocked the city and the recent landslide defeat in local elections of political parties aligned with her.

Mrs. Lam’s visit to Beijing over the weekend and on Monday was an annual year-end event for Hong Kong’s leaders, at which their performance is assessed by China’s leaders. But her visit is being closely watched for signs of her fate as Hong Kong’s leader after six months of protests punctuated by frequent street violence.

The protests began in June over an unpopular extradition bill Mrs. Lam pushed to pass that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China to face trial in a Communist Party-controlled judicial system. Mrs. Lam has quickly become a personal target for the city’s protesters, who see her as a symbol of a leadership that is overly beholden to its patrons in Beijing and not accountable to the city’s 7 million people.

The endorsement by China’s No. 2 official, Premier Li Keqiang, is the latest confirmation that Beijing stands behind Mrs. Lam — at least publicly.

“You have been leading the government in safeguarding social stability with the utmost effort,” Mr. Li said to Mrs. Lam in a televised excerpt released by the Hong Kong government. He praised her for rolling out a series of measures to help businesses and stabilize employment.

“It can be said that you rose to the challenges,” he said. “The central government fully affirms the efforts that you and the government have made.”

Mrs. Lam herself has said that she is willing to do whatever is necessary to bring peace to the city although she has denied rumors that she actually submitted her resignation over the summer. Senior Hong Kong officials and Beijing’s advisers have said that even if she wanted to resign, China’s leaders would not allow her to do so, seeing that as a sign of weakness.

Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, praised Mrs. Lam’s leadership of Hong Kong when she visited Shanghai in early November. But that visit was immediately followed by a two-week violent showdown between police and activists at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and then the almost complete collapse of pro-Beijing parties in local elections.

Democracy advocates swept 87 percent of the seats on neighborhood councils in those elections and took control of 17 of the territory’s 18 councils. They previously had about a quarter of the seats and controlled none of the councils.

The vote was hailed as a sign of enduring support for the protest movement despite increasingly violent clashes with the police. The contentious bill was formally withdrawn in September, but protesters say they will not stop until their other demands are met, including free and open elections of the territory’s leadership and legislature and an independent investigation into allegations of police brutality during the unrest.

The election results appeared to come as a surprise to Beijing, which, together with its allies in the city, had portrayed the vote as a way for Hong Kong’s silent majority to “end social chaos and violence” by signaling their unhappiness with the protest movement. State media in Beijing ultimately blamed the outcome of the vote on interference from hostile Western forces bent on stirring up unrest in the city.

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Protests Spread Across India Over Divisive Citizenship Bill


NEW DELHI — The Indian police cracked down heavily on protesting students Sunday night, blasting tear gas into a library and beating up dozens of young people as violent demonstrations against a contentious citizenship bill spread across the country.

Last week, the Indian Parliament passed a measure that would give special treatment to Hindu and other non-Muslim migrants in India, which many critics said was blatantly discriminatory and a blow to India’s founding as a secular democracy.

The legislation is a core piece of a Hindu-centric agenda pursued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, and many analysts predicted trouble. India’s large Muslim minority, around 200 million people, has become increasingly desperate and angry, certain that many of Mr. Modi’s recent initiatives are intended to marginalize them.

Protests immediately broke out in northeastern India, where several demonstrators were killed, and spread to Bhopal, Jaipur, Ladakh and Kolkata. Cars, buses and railway stations have been set on fire in an explosion of anti-government feeling.

On Sunday, when students at Jamia Millia Islamia University, a primarily Muslim university in New Delhi, organized a large demonstration, which many witnesses said started out peacefully, the police responded with force.

Videos widely circulated on social media show officers beating students with wooden sticks, smashing some on their heads even after they had been knocked down. In one video, a group of female students tries to rescue a young man from the grasp of the police. A squad of officers in riot gear tears him away and knocks him down with heavy blows. Even after the women form a protective circle around the downed student, officers can be seen trying to jab the young man with their wooden poles.

Dozen of students were hospitalized, some with broken bones, according to news media reports. Some witnesses said that gangs of older men appeared on campus to battle students, possibly an echo of past episodes of organized Hindu-Muslim clashes. Some students raced to seek shelter in a library where they were tear-gassed by the police.

Lokesh Devraj, a product designer who lives near the university, said he exited a metro station on Sunday afternoon and saw a stampede of terrified university students running toward him as the police charged, sticks in hand, beating at whatever crush of people they could find. The students did not resist, Mr. Devraj said, and had no sticks or stones in their hands.

A police officer ran at Mr. Devraj and his 65-year-old father, he said, waving a baton in his clenched fist. Mr. Devraj shielded his father from the blows and was beaten himself, he said. The police officer backed off only after Mr. Devraj explained that he was simply a resident trying to return home.

India, at around 80 percent Hindu and 14 percent Muslim, has a history of explosions of religious violence. With this citizenship measure, the Modi government has been pushing legislation guaranteed to create anger and despair in India’s minority Muslim community.

It comes against a steady drumbeat of anti-Muslim moves by Mr. Modi’s government and its allies across India’s states including: changing historic place names from Muslim names to Hindu ones; editing government-issued textbooks to remove mentions of historic Muslim rulers; and stripping away statehood from what was India’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, and indefinitely incarcerating hundreds of Kashmiris.

The new citizenship legislation, called the Citizenship Amendment Bill, expedites Indian citizenship for migrants from some of India’s neighboring countries if they are Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Parsee or Jain. Only one major religion in South Asia was conspicuously left off: Islam.

The legislation, which passed through both houses of Parliament and now awaits the president’s signature, which is expected, follows hand in hand with a divisive citizenship test conducted this summer in one state in northern India and possibly soon to be expanded nationwide.

All residents of the state of Assam, along the Bangladesh border, had to produce documentary proof that they or their ancestors had lived in India since 1971. Around two million of Assam’s population of 33 million — a mix of Hindus and Muslims — failed to pass the test, and these people now risk being rendered stateless. Huge new prisons are being built to incarcerate anyone determined to be an illegal immigrant.

Amit Shah, India’s powerful home minister and Mr. Modi’s right-hand man, has vowed to bring citizenship tests nationwide. A widespread belief is that the Indian government will use both these measures — the citizenship tests and the new citizenship legislation — to render millions of Muslims who have been living in India for generations stateless.

International organizations have sharply criticized the direction India is headed.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called the new bill “fundamentally discriminatory.”

And the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal body, called the measure a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction” and said that the United States should consider sanctions against India if the bill passes.

Maria Abi-Habib contributed from New Delhi.

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Protests Spread Across India Over Divisive Citizenship Bill


NEW DELHI — The Indian police cracked down heavily on protesting students Sunday night, blasting tear gas into a library and beating up dozens of young people as violent demonstrations against a contentious citizenship bill spread across the country.

Last week, the Indian Parliament passed a measure that would give special treatment to Hindu and other non-Muslim migrants in India, which many critics said was blatantly discriminatory and a blow to India’s founding as a secular democracy.

The legislation is a core piece of a Hindu-centric agenda pursued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, and many analysts predicted trouble. India’s large Muslim minority, around 200 million people, has become increasingly desperate and angry, certain that many of Mr. Modi’s recent initiatives are intended to marginalize them.

Protests immediately broke out in northeastern India, where several demonstrators were killed, and spread to Bhopal, Jaipur, Ladakh and Kolkata. Cars, buses and railway stations have been set on fire in an explosion of anti-government feeling.

On Sunday, when students at Jamia Millia Islamia University, a primarily Muslim university in New Delhi, organized a large demonstration, which many witnesses said started out peacefully, the police responded with force.

Videos widely circulated on social media show officers beating students with wooden sticks, smashing some on their heads even after they had been knocked down. In one video, a group of female students tries to rescue a young man from the grasp of the police. A squad of officers in riot gear tears him away and knocks him down with heavy blows. Even after the women form a protective circle around the downed student, officers can be seen trying to jab the young man with their wooden poles.

Dozen of students were hospitalized, some with broken bones, according to news media reports. Some witnesses said that gangs of older men appeared on campus to battle students, possibly an echo of past episodes of organized Hindu-Muslim clashes. Some students raced to seek shelter in a library where they were tear-gassed by the police.

Lokesh Devraj, a product designer who lives near the university, said he exited a metro station on Sunday afternoon and saw a stampede of terrified university students running toward him as the police charged, sticks in hand, beating at whatever crush of people they could find. The students did not resist, Mr. Devraj said, and had no sticks or stones in their hands.

A police officer ran at Mr. Devraj and his 65-year-old father, he said, waving a baton in his clenched fist. Mr. Devraj shielded his father from the blows and was beaten himself, he said. The police officer backed off only after Mr. Devraj explained that he was simply a resident trying to return home.

India, at around 80 percent Hindu and 14 percent Muslim, has a history of explosions of religious violence. With this citizenship measure, the Modi government has been pushing legislation guaranteed to create anger and despair in India’s minority Muslim community.

It comes against a steady drumbeat of anti-Muslim moves by Mr. Modi’s government and its allies across India’s states including: changing historic place names from Muslim names to Hindu ones; editing government-issued textbooks to remove mentions of historic Muslim rulers; and stripping away statehood from what was India’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, and indefinitely incarcerating hundreds of Kashmiris.

The new citizenship legislation, called the Citizenship Amendment Bill, expedites Indian citizenship for migrants from some of India’s neighboring countries if they are Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Parsee or Jain. Only one major religion in South Asia was conspicuously left off: Islam.

The legislation, which passed through both houses of Parliament and now awaits the president’s signature, which is expected, follows hand in hand with a divisive citizenship test conducted this summer in one state in northern India and possibly soon to be expanded nationwide.

All residents of the state of Assam, along the Bangladesh border, had to produce documentary proof that they or their ancestors had lived in India since 1971. Around two million of Assam’s population of 33 million — a mix of Hindus and Muslims — failed to pass the test, and these people now risk being rendered stateless. Huge new prisons are being built to incarcerate anyone determined to be an illegal immigrant.

Amit Shah, India’s powerful home minister and Mr. Modi’s right-hand man, has vowed to bring citizenship tests nationwide. A widespread belief is that the Indian government will use both these measures — the citizenship tests and the new citizenship legislation — to render millions of Muslims who have been living in India for generations stateless.

International organizations have sharply criticized the direction India is headed.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called the new bill “fundamentally discriminatory.”

And the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal body, called the measure a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction” and said that the United States should consider sanctions against India if the bill passes.

Maria Abi-Habib contributed from New Delhi.

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Top U.S. Envoy Warns North Korea Against Weapons Tests


SEOUL, South Korea — The top United States envoy on North Korea warned on Monday that if Pyongyang conducted a major weapons test in the coming days as feared, it would be “most unhelpful,” as Washington tried to de-escalate tensions with the country.

“We are fully aware of the strong potential for North Korea to conduct a major provocation in the days ahead,” Stephen E. Biegun, Washington’s top representative on North Korea, said during a news conference in Seoul. “Such an action will be most unhelpful in achieving a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

Mr. Biegun, who was recently also appointed the State Department’s No. 2 official, met with senior South Korean officials in Seoul on Monday amid signs that North Korea was preparing to launch a satellite or flight-test an intercontinental ballistic missile.

In the last 10 days, the country has conducted two tests that it called “very important” or “crucial” to improve what it called its “strategic nuclear deterrent.”

Officials and analysts in the region say those tests — at its missile engine and satellite-launch sites near the border with China — most likely involved a new booster engine and other technologies used to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile. That is raising fears that the North is moving rapidly toward reactivating its long-range nuclear missile program, whose advancement led to a crisis with Washington two years ago.

North Korea has resumed its weapons activities while warning that it would abandon diplomacy and might restart nuclear and long-range missile tests if Washington doesn’t make more concessions, such as lifting sanctions, by Dec. 31.

On Monday, Mr. Biegun dismissed that deadline, while stressing that the United States was ready for serious negotiations to produce a denuclearization deal that could satisfy both Washington and Pyongyang.

“Let me be absolutely clear: The United States does not have a deadline,” he said.

But he also appealed to his counterparts in Pyongyang.

“It is time for us to do our jobs,” he said of efforts to reach a deal on denuclearization. “Let’s get this done. We are here, and you know how to reach us.”

There has been speculation that Mr. Biegun was hoping to meet with North Korean officials on the inter-Korean border this week. And his appeal on Monday was seen as an open invitation to such a meeting, but there was no immediate response from North Korea.

When Kim Jong-un met President Trump in Singapore in June 2018, the North Korean leader promised to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” in return for “new” relations and security guarantees from Washington. But their two subsequent meetings, as well as lower-level talks between the two sides, have failed to make progress on carrying out the Singapore deal.

During their meeting in Hanoi in February, Mr. Trump rejected Mr. Kim’s demand that all major United Nations sanctions be lifted in return for the dismantlement of one of the North’s key nuclear fuel production facilities, but not its nuclear warheads.

North Korea has since sounded increasingly impatient, accusing Washington of trying to stall negotiations as Mr. Trump remains preoccupied with a congressional attempt to impeach him and even reviving an old insult against the American leader, calling him a “dotard.” Mr. Trump tweeted last week that the North should not “interfere” in November’s election.

Mr. Kim is widely expected to use a meeting of his Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, scheduled for this month, and his annual New Year’s Day speech to reveal his new policy options.

On Monday, Mr. Biegun lamented that the recent North Korean statements had been “so hostile and negative and so unnecessary,” and said they reflected “neither the spirit nor the content of the discussions” both sides had recently held. In these meetings, Mr. Biegun said, his team has offered “any number of creative ways to proceed with feasible steps and flexibility.”

But that failed to satisfy North Korea.

The country has resumed testing mostly short-range ballistic missiles and rockets since May, though Mr. Trump has largely dismissed such tests as involving weapons that do not directly threaten the United States.

But if North Korea returns to launching satellites or testing ICBMs, it would unambiguously contradict Mr. Trump’s assertion that he has largely resolved the North’s nuclear threat and could rekindle a crisis in the midst of the president’s re-election campaign.

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Exposed as Stasi Spy, a Newspaper Owner Tries to Reclaim His Story


BERLIN — When a wealthy married couple bought the Berliner Zeitung, a distinguished but ailing survivor of the East German press, they timed their newspaper’s big revamp for the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall last month.

In an attention-grabbing two-page editorial, the entrepreneurial couple, Silke and Holger Friedrich, urged a reimagining of history since German reunification. They argued that 30 years after the wall came down, East Germans should wrest back control of their own narrative from the West, and stirred controversy by defending the last East German leader.

But there was an essential piece of information that they left out.

A week later, a rival newspaper reported that Mr. Friedrich, 53, had been an informant for the Stasi, the feared secret police of Communist East Germany in the late 1980s.

Instead of apologizing, Mr. Friedrich chose to come out fighting.

He argued that he was coerced into being an informant and that he worked with his supposed victims to ensure that he disclosed little of value. He insisted that he has little, if anything, to be sorry for. But at the same time, he acknowledged that he could not be sure whether anyone was harmed as a result of his actions.

“I’m not an Easterner who has to apologize. I’m not an Easterner who needs to grovel,” he said in an interview at his newspaper’s offices.

In the hope of telling his side of the story, Mr. Friedrich granted access to his copy of his Stasi files to The New York Times and The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. He also had the former head of the Stasi Archives and a historian write an official report on his files.

In their report, the archivist and the historian verified the authenticity of the files, although they noted that there was no way of knowing whether the hundreds of pages represented all that the Stasi ever had on him.

The case reflects the debate within Germany over the legacy of the Stasi and those who collaborated with it and how some perceptions are evolving.

In its final throes, the Stasi used an estimated 189,000 informants to help maintain its grip on a Communist state of about 16 million. It was a source of terror in East Germany and of deep shame after its fall.

But in recent years, many Germans have taken a more nuanced view of those who collaborated with the secret police as it has become clearer that many of them were blackmailed or otherwise coerced.

“People are more willing to discuss the ambiguities surrounding those individuals who were acting as informers,” said Ned Richardson-Little, a historian at the University of Erfurt, in the former East Germany.

These changing perceptions have also been reflected in popular culture.

In 2006 the Academy Award-winning film “The Lives of Others” focused on the Stasi’s coldhearted methods. But last year, the film “Gundermann” was somewhat sympathetic in its portrayal of a real-life story of a Stasi informant, a coal miner turned popular singer. It won national awards and drew large audiences in the east in particular.

Mr. Friedrich’s file has more than 700 pages, more than 500 of them related to surveillance of him, rather than by him.

He was eventually dropped by his Stasi handlers, who noted in his file that he was proving unproductive.

The extensive report by Marianne Birthler, a former head of the Stasi archives, and the historian Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk, noted that even if Mr. Friedrich was trying to avoid harming others, there is no way to be certain that he didn’t.

Asked why he had not disclosed his Stasi past earlier, Mr. Friedrich said, “We felt it was better to get the business going before this came out to be better able deal with it.”

His interactions with the Stasi began after he joined the East German Army in 1986. In 1987, after being arrested on suspicion of planning to flee the country and held in a Stasi facility, he was given a choice between prison or collaboration.

“It didn’t take me 30 seconds to make up my mind,” Mr. Friedrich said in the interview, adding that he had always been honest with his family and friends about his involvement.

In Mr. Friedrich’s file, it said his handlers instructed him to befriend several specific people. But he appeared to have returned with little valuable intelligence.

The storm around Mr. Friedrich’s Stasi file has become a public spectacle.

It capped a turbulent introduction to public life for a couple who were little known until it was announced that they had bought the Berliner Verlag newspaper group, which publishes the Berliner Zeitung and several smaller titles.

Mr. Friedrich made his money in tech in the past decade or two, including a stint at the consulting firm McKinsey, and Ms. Friedrich founded an English-German private school in Berlin. They promised to bring technological and business expertise to bear on reviving the newspaper company. Its titles retain only a small fraction of the combined 2.5 million circulation that they claimed before the wall fell.

But several missteps brought controversy in the following weeks.

In one instance, they ran a glowing article on a business which Mr. Friedrich owned a stake in without noting the connection.

Still, the Friedrichs’ purchase of Berliner Verlag, for a price that is not publicly known, made it the only major newspaper publishing house in Germany in the hands of independent Easterners.

Their debut editorial attacked the bedrock of the official German narrative about the fall of the wall on Nov. 9. 1989 and reunification. For example, the couple suggested that keeping President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia closer to Germany might have been a wise move.

But it was another remark that provoked more intense controversy. They suggested that East Germany’s last dictator, Egon Krenz — who was part of efforts to repress the peaceful revolution of the 1980s — should be thanked for not violently cracking down on protesters.

While some said they went too far, others welcomed the call for a rethink.

“I might not share his opinions, but it’s about the question of who has the authority to interpret East German history and the history of the fall of the wall, and that is justified,” said Mandy Tröger, who teaches media and communication at the University of Munich. “Especially if you look at conventional media narratives, this op-ed can be seen as an act of emancipation.”

Robert Ide, the managing editor of the paper’s biggest local competitor, the Berliner Tagesspiegel, said that as an East German and a senior editor, “I think it’s really a good thing that the Berliner Zeitung is being revived with new impulses.”

Mr. Ide, who was 14 when the wall fell, did not criticize Mr. Friedrich for his actions as a young soldier — but he was less indulgent of Mr. Friedrich’s decisions as a rookie media owner.

“We can’t presume to know how we would have acted under those circumstances, but we can ask ourselves how would we have dealt with it today as publishers,” Mr. Ide said. “He could have come out with it on the 9th of November, and it could have been part of that new frank discussion.”

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Your Monday Briefing – The New York Times


Delegates at last week’s climate conference in Madrid were supposed to iron out the details of the Paris climate accords’ rules, set provisions for international carbon trading and ramp up climate-action targets.

Instead, they kicked all of that down the road, and some of the world’s biggest polluters — including Brazil, China, India and the United States — pushed back on a range of climate-friendly proposals and targets.

The outcome — a weak declaration about the need to reduce emissions — was widely denounced as one of the worst in a quarter-century of climate negotiations. António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, called it a lost opportunity.

What’s next: The delegates put off important decisions until next year’s climate negotiations in Glasgow, to be held right after the American election in November.

Details: If a new American president is elected, his or her administration could rejoin the Paris Agreement only after taking office in January 2021. That means China, the world’s largest emitter, would probably wait to see what direction the new administration took on climate change before committing to its own emissions targets.

Greta Thunberg: While returning to Sweden for a holiday break, the 16-year-old climate activist touched off a Twitter exchange with Germany’s national railway company by posting about “traveling on overcrowded trains” through the country.

The Conservative Party’s resounding victory in last week’s general election, shown above, made one thing clear: Britain will leave the European Union next month.

But the win — the party’s biggest electoral victory since Margaret Thatcher captured a third term in 1987 — raises a raft of new questions about Britain’s political and economic future.

Can the Conservative government, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, deliver on its pledge to negotiate a trade deal with the European Union by the end of next year?

In Scotland and Northern Ireland — where majorities of voters opposed Brexit in a 2016 referendum — the results of last week’s election has stoked talk of breaking away from the United Kingdom.

That’s particularly true in Scotland, where the dominant Scottish National Party has vowed to press for a second independence referendum (which Mr. Johnson has already rejected).

The Labour Party’s current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has said he would step down in the new year in the wake of his party’s devastating defeat in working-class areas of the Midlands and the north of England.

The question now is whether the party lurches to the center or elects a younger leader in Mr. Corbyn’s hard-left mold. And many of the probable challengers are women — in a party that has never had a female leader.

Bits and bobs: We have other coverage, including a look at how the election’s results are being seen in Europe and the United States, and a map that breaks down the election results.

Opinion: Our columnist Roger Cohen writes that by voting to keep the Conservatives in power, “Britain has marginalized itself irreversibly in a fit of nationalist delusion.”

Don’t die at home on a weekend. That’s what a newspaper in northern France advises its readers.

In many countries, the job of certifying a death falls to nurses, coroners, pathologists and other officials. But in France, where the overall number of doctors is increasing, medical doctors must visit the deceased’s home to verify the death — a policy that’s widely seen as impractical at a moment when many peripheral areas face acute doctor shortages.

Some see these so-called medical deserts as a betrayal. “We felt abandoned by the state,’’ said Frédéric Deleplanque, who had to wait more than two days for a doctor to certify the death of his father-in-law in the northern city of Douai.

Why this matters: The uneven distribution of doctors in France is seen as a symbol of the divisions that fueled the Yellow Vest protests and the rise of the far-right National Rally political party.

Another angle: France is on track to receive a record number of applications from asylum-seekers this year, even as the flow of migrants to Europe has slowed since reaching a peak in 2015. Our reporter visited a vacant school building in Lyon that serves as a makeshift shelter for hundreds of African migrants whom the local government wants to expel.

By his early 20s, he had become a deadly assassin, or sicario, and an instrument of the drug cartels that are tearing Mexico apart. So when the police caught him, they saw a chance to take down a cartel from the inside.

Our reporters traced the making of the sicario, and the off-the-books police operation that ended with dozens of arrests. The story is a rare window into the cartels that are battling each other for control of local drug sales and smuggling routes to the United States.

U.S. impeachment: The House of Representatives is expected to take a historic vote on Wednesday on two articles of impeachment against President Trump.

Argentina: A former Argentine police officer who lived in a Paris suburb for decades — and worked with French security officials — was being extradited on Sunday to face charges of crimes against humanity committed during the country’s dictatorship.

Italy: Ahead of crucial regional elections next month in the liberal stronghold of Emilia Romagna, tens of thousands of people rallied in Rome over the weekend to protest the populism of the country’s far-right Italian leader, Matteo Salvini.

Hong Kong: The semiautonomous territory’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, is set to meet President Xi Jinping of China in Beijing today, amid speculation of a possible reshuffle of her cabinet.

What we’re watching: This Polish ad for an online marketplace, which our climate reporter John Schwartz just ran across. “I am sappy,” he writes. “Commercials can make me cry. This one did. Enjoy.”

It told the story of Billy Batson, an orphan who transforms into the superhero Captain Marvel by saying a word made up of the first letters of six powerful names: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury.

His biggest battle was in the courtroom. Fawcett Comics retired the character after a long lawsuit by the company that became today’s DC Comics, who argued that there were too many parallels to their Superman.

Nearly 20 years later, DC licensed Billy’s alter ego, but by then, Marvel Comics had grabbed the trademark name for its own Captain Marvel. He’s now part of Disney’s huge, lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe.

So Billy’s alter ego is now named Shazam, and fighting for market share. His Warner Brothers movie came out this year, and his arch enemy Black Adam’s spinoff, starring Dwayne Johnson, is due in December 2021.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Mike

Thank youTo Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. George Gustines, an editor who covers the comic book industry for The Times, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode includes an interview with the U.S. senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president. • Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Annual internet award (five letters). . You can find all our puzzles here. • Greg Winter, who was just named our international managing editor, began his career with The Times as a summer intern.

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In France, Dying at Home Can Mean a Long Wait for a Doctor


“There are doctors, if they don’t know the patient well, say to themselves that they don’t want trouble later on,’’ said Dr. Olivier Bouchy, the vice president of the French Medical Council in the department of Meuse. “Signing a death certificate is not harmless.’’

Like with many things in France, tradition is perhaps also an obstacle to changing the doctor’s role in certifying deaths. The death certificate process, Dr. Bouchy said, harked back to an earlier time.

“Who declared a death in the royal court? It was the doctor of the king,’’ Dr. Bouchy said. “We remain rooted in very ancient traditions.’’

In France, the state’s role in regulating people’s daily lives — including in matters of health — remains strong. So the lack of a doctor, especially at the emotionally vulnerable moment when a family member dies, can feel like a deep betrayal.

“We felt abandoned by the state,’’ said Frédéric Deleplanque, who had to wait more than two days for a doctor to certify the death of his father-in-law, Jean-Luc Bajeux, a retired autoworker. “We were nothing.’’

On a Saturday morning earlier this year, Mr. Deleplanque discovered his father-in-law, who had been ill, in his apartment in Douai, slumped in his wheelchair on his way to the toilet. He turned off the heat and the television before reaching an emergency operator on the phone.

“He told me to touch my father-in-law to make sure he was dead,’’ Mr. Deleplanque recalled. “I told him he was deceased, but he insisted. So, there you go, I touched him, he’s cold.’’

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U.S. Secretly Expelled Chinese Officials Suspected of Spying After Breach of Military Base


WASHINGTON — The American government secretly expelled two Chinese Embassy officials this fall after they drove on to a sensitive military base in Virginia, according to people with knowledge of the episode. The expulsions appear to be the first of Chinese diplomats suspected of espionage in more than 30 years.

American officials believe at least one of the Chinese officials was an intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover, said six people with knowledge of the expulsions. The group, which included the officials’ wives, evaded military personnel pursuing them and stopped only after fire trucks blocked their path.

The episode in September, which neither Washington nor Beijing made public, has intensified concerns in the Trump administration that China is expanding its spying efforts in the United States as the two nations are increasingly locked in a global strategic and economic rivalry. American intelligence officials say China poses a greater espionage threat than any other country.

In recent months, Chinese officials with diplomatic passports have become bolder about showing up unannounced at research or government facilities, American officials said, with the infiltration of the military base only the most remarkable instance.

The expulsions, apparently the first since the United States forced out two Chinese Embassy employees with diplomatic cover in 1987, show the American government is now taking a harder line against suspected espionage by China, officials said.

Recent episodes of suspected spying add to the broader tensions between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies and biggest strategic rivals. That conflict is heightened by a trade war that President Trump started in July 2018 and that shows only tentative signs of abating.

On Oct. 16, weeks after the intrusion at the base, the State Department announced sharp restrictions on the activities of Chinese diplomats, requiring them to provide notice before meeting with local or state officials or visiting educational and research institutions.

At the time, a senior State Department official told reporters that the rule, which applied to all Chinese Missions in the United States and its territories, was a response to Chinese regulations imposed years ago requiring American diplomats to seek permission to travel outside their host cities or to visit certain institutions.

The Chinese Embassy said in October that the new rules were “in violation of the Vienna Convention.”

Two American officials said last week that those restrictions had been under consideration for a while because of growing calls in the American government for reciprocity, but episodes like the one at the base accelerated the rollout.

The base intrusion took place in late September on a sensitive installation near Norfolk, Va. The base includes Special Operations forces, said the people with knowledge of the incident. Several bases in the area have such units, including one with the headquarters of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six.

The Chinese officials and their wives drove up to a checkpoint for entry to the base, said people briefed on the episode. A guard, realizing that they did not have permission to enter, told them to go through the gate, turn around and exit the base, which is common procedure in such situations.

But the Chinese officials instead continued on to the base, according to those familiar with the incident. After the fire trucks blocked them, the Chinese officials indicated that they had not understood the guard’s English instructions, and had simply gotten lost, according to people briefed on the matter.

American officials said they were skeptical that the intruders made an innocent error and dismissed the idea that their English was insufficient to understand the initial order to leave.

It is not clear what they were trying to do on the base, but some American officials said they believed it was to test the security at the installation, according to a person briefed on the matter. Had the Chinese officials made it onto the base without being stopped, the embassy could have dispatched a more senior intelligence officer to enter the base, the theory goes.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry and Chinese Embassy in Washington did not reply to requests for comment about the episode. Two associates of Chinese Embassy officials said they were told that the expelled officials were on a sightseeing tour when they accidentally drove onto the base.

The State Department, which is responsible for relations with the Chinese Embassy and its diplomats, and the F.B.I., which oversees counterintelligence in the United States, declined to comment.

Chinese Embassy officials complained to State Department officials about the expulsions and asked in a meeting whether the agency was retaliating for an official Chinese propaganda campaign in August against an American diplomat, Julie Eadeh. At the time, state-run news organizations accused Ms. Eadeh, a political counselor in Hong Kong, of being a “black hand” behind the territory’s pro-democracy protests, and personal details about her were posted online. A State Department spokeswoman called China a “thuggish regime.”

So far, China has not retaliated by expelling American diplomats or intelligence officers from the embassy in Beijing, perhaps a sign that Chinese officials understand their colleagues overstepped by trying to enter the base. One person who was briefed on reactions in the Chinese Embassy in Washington said he was told employees there were surprised that their colleagues had tried something so brazen.

In 2016, Chinese officers in Chengdu abducted an American Consulate official they believed to be a C.I.A. officer, interrogated him and forced him to make a confession. Colleagues retrieved him the next day and evacuated him from the country. American officials threatened to expel suspected Chinese agents in the United States, but apparently did not do so.

China is detaining a Canadian diplomat on leave, Michael Kovrig, on espionage charges, though American officials say he is being held hostage because Canada arrested a prominent Chinese technology company executive at the request of American officials seeking her prosecution in a sanctions evasion case.

For decades, counterintelligence officials have tried to pinpoint embassy or consulate employees with diplomatic cover who are spies and assign officers to follow some of them. Now there is growing urgency to do that by both Washington and Beijing.

Evan S. Medeiros, a senior Asia director at the National Security Council under President Barack Obama, said he was unaware of any expulsions of Chinese diplomats or spies with diplomatic cover during Mr. Obama’s time in office.

If it is rare for the Americans to expel Chinese spies or other embassy employees who have diplomatic cover, Mr. Medeiros said, “it’s probably because for much of the first 40 years, Chinese intelligence was not very aggressive.”

“But that changed about 10 years ago,” he added. “Chinese intelligence became more sophisticated and more aggressive, both in human and electronic forms.”

For instance, Chinese intelligence officers use LinkedIn to recruit current or former employees of foreign governments.

This year, a Chinese student was sentenced to a year in prison for photographing an American defense intelligence installation near Key West, Fla., in September 2018. The student, Zhao Qianli, walked to where the fence circling the base ended at the ocean, then stepped around the fence and onto the beach. From there, he walked onto the base and took photographs, including of an area with satellite dishes and antennae.

When he was arrested, Mr. Zhao spoke in broken English and, like the officials stopped on the Virginia base, claimed he was lost.

Chinese citizens have been caught not just wandering on to government installations but also improperly entering university laboratories and even crossing farmland to pilfer specially bred seeds.

In 2016, a Chinese man, Mo Hailong, pleaded guilty to trying to steal corn seeds from American agribusiness firms and give them to a Chinese company. Before he was caught, Mr. Mo successfully stole seeds developed by the American companies and sent them back to China, according to court records. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

The F.B.I. and the National Institutes of Health are trying to root out scientists in the United States who they say are stealing biomedical research for other nations, China in particular. The F.B.I. has also warned research institutions about risks posed by Chinese students and scholars.

Some university officials say the campaign unfairly targets Chinese citizens or ethnic Chinese and smacks of a new Red Scare.

Last month, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a former C.I.A. officer, was sentenced to 19 years in prison, one of several former American intelligence officials sentenced this year for spying for Beijing.

His work with Chinese intelligence coincided with the demolition of the C.I.A.’s network of informants in China — one of the biggest counterintelligence coups against the United States in decades. From 2010 to 2012, Chinese officers killed at least a dozen informants and imprisoned others. One man and his pregnant wife were shot in 2011 in a ministry’s courtyard, and the execution was shown on closed-circuit television, according to a new book on Chinese espionage.

Many in the C.I.A. feared China had a mole in the agency, and some officers suspected Mr. Lee, though prosecutors did not tie him to the network’s collapse.

For three decades, China did have a mole in the C.I.A., Larry Wu-Tai Chin, considered among the most successful enemy agents to have penetrated the United States. He was arrested in 1985 and convicted the next year, then suffocated himself with a trash bag in his jail cell.

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World

Soccer Broadcast Pulled After Arsenal Star Criticized China as Anti-Muslim


A state-run television network in China canceled a live broadcast Sunday of an English Premier League soccer match after the Arsenal star Mesut Özil publicly condemned the country’s treatment of fellow Muslims.

A state media report by The Global Times confirmed that the match between Manchester City and Arsenal had been pre-empted because of comments that Mr. Özil made Friday on Twitter that excoriated China over the mass detention of Uighurs, a largely Muslim Turkic minority in Xinjiang, in northwestern China.

China Central Television instead aired a match between Tottenham Hotspur and the Wolverhampton Wanderers, with state media characterizing Mr. Özil’s comments as “false” and saying that he had “disappointed” Chinese soccer fans.

Mr. Özil, who is from Germany and is of Turkish heritage, sought to draw attention to the internment of Muslims in China with his posts on Friday: “They shut down their mosques. They ban their schools. They kill their holy men. The men are forced into camps and their families are forced to live with Chinese men,” read identical posts on Mr. Özil’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, according to a translation by The Guardian.

The episode recalled a similar firestorm in China in October, during which the general manager of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, tweeted his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Arsenal lost 3-0 to Manchester City.

Categories
World

Soccer Broadcast Pulled After Arsenal Star Criticized China as Anti-Muslim


A state-run television network in China canceled a live broadcast Sunday of an English Premier League soccer match after the Arsenal star Mesut Özil publicly condemned the country’s treatment of fellow Muslims.

A state media report by The Global Times confirmed that the match between Manchester City and Arsenal had been pre-empted because of comments that Mr. Özil made Friday on Twitter that excoriated China over the mass detention of Uighurs, a largely Muslim Turkic minority in Xinjiang, in northwestern China.

China Central Television instead aired a match between Tottenham Hotspur and the Wolverhampton Wanderers, with state media characterizing Mr. Özil’s comments as “false” and saying that he had “disappointed” Chinese soccer fans.

Mr. Özil, who is from Germany and is of Turkish heritage, sought to draw attention to the internment of Muslims in China with his posts on Friday: “They shut down their mosques. They ban their schools. They kill their holy men. The men are forced into camps and their families are forced to live with Chinese men,” read identical posts on Mr. Özil’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, according to a translation by The Guardian.

The episode recalled a similar firestorm in China in October, during which the general manager of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, tweeted his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Arsenal lost 3-0 to Manchester City.