EPISODE 1: HONG KONG PROTESTS

Imagery via AP

EPISODE 1: HONG KONG PROTESTS

DENIZ AKKAYA

Aquarius’s 2,300-year rule has just begun, but everyday humanity shows that it is ready to take a new path.

Astrologically speaking, the fragmentation of our social, political, and economic structures is seen as the inevitable effects of a major cosmic event. Hong Kong’s protests, which began in the summer of 2019, are the latest in its long history of struggles for independence.

Imagery via Louis Trerise

Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula were ceded to Britain, first in 1842 and then in 1860. The rest of Kowloon, The New Territories, and the surrounding 235 islands were leased to Britain again for 99 years from the Qing Empire in 1898. At the end of these 99 years in 1997, Hong Kong became an autonomous region, its political and cultural elements divided between Britain and China. Citizens lived under a One-Country: Two-System policy; with more freedom, democracy, and trade than citizens in China. When the policy ends in 2047, Hong Kong will be completely under the jurisdiction of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Imagery via Tyrone Siu/Reuters

The protests, which began in June 2019, had only one goal in the first phase: the government withdrawing a controversial bill that would have allowed the fugitives to be returned to China. Protesters are worried that Beijing might use the bill to prosecute people for political reasons under China’s strict legal system. Unlike other cities in China, which are tightly governed by the authoritarian central government, Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous city with its own legal and political systems. So the protesters feared that the bill would allow China to reach these rare freedoms. Hong Kong has been shaken by pro-democracy, anti-government protests for more than six months, and violence and anger have grown across the country. The peaceful protests, which began as mass marches, turned into the biggest political crisis the city has seen in modern times. The disproportionate use of force by the Chinese government has turned peaceful protests into violent conflict, and protesters have become occupiers with five main demands:

i.Withdraw the Extradition Bill completely.

ii.Launch an independent investigation to investigate police violence.

iii.Retract the classification of protesters as “rioters”.

iv.Release those arrested in protests.

v.Dual universal suffrage, meaning for both the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive.

Imagery via Louise Trerise

Hong Kong’s leader is elected by a small selection committee dominated by the central authority and pro-Beijing voters. So these demands reflect a longstanding call for full democracy that Hong Kong did not have. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam accepted the initial request by withdrawing the bill. However, this wasn’t enough to make the protesters forget their friends, whom they lost as a result of disproportionate power, and just like that Lam was too late to stop the protests.

We heard the first footsteps of the age of Aquarius, with the Hong Kong protests in June 2019, heralding a new system that will overthrow the existing order and serve all beings on the planet.  Hong Kong first started with the Umbrella Revolution in 2014 to revolt against the Chinese government. Now Thailand, inspired by The Umbrella Revolution, is trying to stop its government. As we approach the great conjunction on December 21, let’s see who else the age of Aquarius will make us hear. Stay tuned for Episode 2.

Cover imagery via Reuters

UYGHUR CAMPS: WHERE SLAVERY AND FAST FASHION MEETS

UYGHUR CAMPS: WHERE SLAVERY AND FAST FASHION MEETS

DENIZ AKKAYA

Who made my clothes?

According to the coalition consisting of more than 180 human rights group, majority of the biggest fast fashion brands and retailers violate human rights by forcing millions of Uyghur people to work in Xinjiang region of northwest China. Persecutions including torture, splitting families and mandatory sterilization of Uyghur women towards the Uyghur population finally drew the attention of the world. Mass discrimination and oppression of millions of Uighurs by the Chinese government fits the UN definition of genocide. So, what does the fashion industry have to do with this?

The answer is fast fashion apparently. The report published by the Coalition to End the Forced Labour Force in the Uyghur Region in July 2020 brought the ongoing genocide to the international agenda and is what links this whole issue to the fashion industry. So, what did the coalition find? They found that many of the world’s largest fashion brands and suppliers have a huge share of human rights violations committed on Uyghurs. Despite these abuses, the coalition of human rights groups suggested that the world’s leading clothing brands are still using threads from prison camps in Xinjiang. In these camps, prisoners of 1.8 million Uighurs, other Turkic and Muslim people collect cotton and produce yarn through extensive state-sponsored surveillance and forced labour system. Slavery and persecution camps, called “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, are described as the biggest genocide of an ethnic and religious minority since the World War II.

 China, the world’s largest cotton producer, produces 84% ​​of its cotton in the Xinjiang region. One in five cotton products sold worldwide is tainted by slave labour and human rights violations in Xinjiang. This is how this genocide is hiding in the global fashion chain. The Coalition’s report includes brands such as Gap, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, H&M, Nike, Uniqlo and Zara among the brands that supply their cotton and yarns from Xinjiang. What do you think fashion brands did in response to the emergence of this uncomfortable reality? PVH Corporation, owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, H&M and Ikea said they will stop buying cotton from Xinjiang. Uniqlo said no products were produced in the region, while Muji said they will continue to supply cotton yarn from the area, but they are unaware of the slave labour claims.

Looking at the big picture: we see an inhumane example of how the fashion industry and the world can ignore a genocide for economic interests, by being involved in such crimes. This is true for every industry, not just fashion. Capitalism and globalization fuel these industries to commit these crimes and make them invisible. The knowledge that everything we consume can never be ethical is depressing, yes. But if that serves as our biggest reason for demanding systemic change, then we can make a change. Seeing that the system is flawed is the first step: it is time for other people to see it.