Protesters began gathering once again in the political heart of Hong Kong Friday morning after the embattled administration of Chief Executive Carrie Lam refused to meet an ultimatum for Lam’s resignation and the withdrawal of a divisive extradition bill.
Hundreds of black-clad protesters streamed into the forecourt of the Legislative Council, accompanied by democratic lawmakers, to further demand the unconditional release of all protesters arrested to date and an investigation into the police handling of the demonstrations that have rocked the semi-autonomous enclave for the past 10 days.
Others took up positions by the Central Government Offices and nearby Tamar Park. The approach to the headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army, which overlooks the protest area, was cordoned off by police.
Student unions and other groups have called on Hongkongers to commit acts of “civil disobedience” in a movement that has widened into a rebellion for greater political freedom and a deepening embarrassment for the territory’s sovereign power, Beijing.
Writing Thursday in British newspaper the Independent, prominent Hong Kong campaigners Joshua Wong and Alex Chow suggested that the movement’s aims were no longer even confined to Hong Kong.
“Our long-term hopes rely on whether we can pressurize the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] to devolve its power to the people and implement genuine electoral democracy at various administrative and community levels,” they said. “We must remember that a democratic Hong Kong could lead to a more democratic China.”
Friday’s protest follows days of unrest. On June 9, huge numbers of people—more than a million, according to organizers—marched to protest an extradition bill that would, for the first time, have allowed the extradition of fugitives to mainland China. The government says the bill is necessary to prevent Hong Kong from becoming a haven for criminals, but critics fear that Beijing will use the bill to detain political opponents and silence its many detractors in the city.
On June 12, protests around the legislature turned violent, forcing the body, which is dominated by pro-Beijing lawmakers, to shelve a debate on the bill. More than 80 were injured in clashes with police, who used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the streets.
Lam then announced that the legislation would be postponed, but this did not pacify Hongkongers, who turned out in even greater numbers on June 16 to call for the bill’s complete withdrawal and Lam’s ouster. The march, which organizers claim was two million strong, saw the young and the elderly, political activists and business figures, religious groups and families, take to the streets in an unprecedented show of unity.
The marches forced a public apology from Lam for the extradition bill debacle, but it was criticized for being belated and insufficient. Protesters are now expected to step up their actions in the run up to the July 1 anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty.
Speaking earlier in an exclusive interview with TIME, Wong said the battle was far from over. “The Hong Kong government and Beijing have turned a whole generation of students from citizens to dissidents,” he said. “I think President Xi might be really angry at how Carrie Lam generated more than a million dissidents that live in and love this place.”
—With reporting by Laignee Barron and Aria Hangyu Chen / Hong Kong
It’s time for the U.S. to take military action against Iran – not to start a war, but to blow some things up in retaliation for Iran shooting down a U.S. surveillance drone Thursday in international air space, just days after setting off explosives that damaged two oil tankers.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday the three so-called spitzenkandidaten – or lead candidates – for the European Commission presidency had each failed to receive enough support among European Union leaders in Brussels.
Iran shooting down a U.S. surveillance drone in the politically sensitive Strait of Hormuz has created a dangerous new level of tension between the two countries
President Donald Trump said Iran made a “big mistake,” and later added that it was a “new wrinkle” for Iran and the U.S.
Days after saying that Iran attacked two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, the United States is now accusing the country of shooting down an unmanned surveillance aircraft in international airspace. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps declared that it had stuck down the RQ-4 Global Hawk over Iranian airspace, but the United States countered that the incident was an “unprovoked attack” and that the aircraft had been traveling in international airspace.
A few days ago, the U.S. officials also accused Iran of firing missile at a different drone that had been responding to the attack on the tankers.
But what exactly is an RQ-4A drone, and why does this attack matter? TIME spoke to drone aircraft experts to find out what you need to know.
What is the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone?
In technical terms, the drone that Iran shot down was a U.S. Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS-D) aircraft, which is a Navy version of the Air Force’s high-flying RQ-4A Global Hawk. In simple terms, it is an unmanned aircraft that is intended for surveillance at sea.
Unlike the missile-launching MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones that are used to conduct airstrikes, Global Hawk drones are unarmed are used only to collect information.
To do this, they fly at altitudes of up to 60,000 feet–– almost twice as high as a commercial airliner. At that height, the drone can see beyond the curvature of the Earth.
“This drone typically has as its most important defense altitude,” says Amy Zegart, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies. “It flies at a very high altitude, so the fact that the Iranians were able to shoot it down shows that they have some pretty significant capabilities. In some ways, the shoot down is a signaling mechanism to the United States that Iran is more capable than we might have assumed.”
Global Hawks are also expensive, says Zegart. The cost of a single drone was more than $176 million in 2011, according to the military––more than 10 times the price of drones like the Predator and Reaper.
Global Hawks may be used for surveillance, but they’re not considered to be stealth aircraft. The drone has a 130-ft wingspan, similar to a Boeing 737 passenger jet. It is large, heavy and slow compared to combat aircraft, Dan Gettinger, the co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, tells TIME.
“They’re not fast. They have a high profile––they’re easily observable on radar. They’re purposely designed to fly slowly at high altitudes. They’re able to essentially loiter over an area and collect as much data as possible,” Gettinger says.
Such an aircraft would be carrying advanced technology such as high definition and infra-red cameras, as well as sensors that can intercept telephone and radio chatter.
Douglas Barrie, a senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies tells TIME that this kind of aircraft would be sent on missions to conduct maritime surveillance or to peer inside a country from outside its borders.
“The range of the sensors onboard would allow you to see, certainly, areas of Iran of interest, while you’re still in international airspace,” Barrie says.
What happened to the drone?
The U.S. and Iran are telling conflicting stories. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard said that it shot down the aircraft over Iranian airspace. Revolutionary Guard’s Commander and Chief Hossein Salami said on Iranian TV that the U.S. aircraft crossed a “red line” and that Iran sent a message that it will respond to aggression, according to Reuters.
“Iran is not seeking war with any country, but we are fully prepared to defend Iran,” Salami said.
The U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of military operations in the Middle East, says the drone was attacked in international airspace at the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman. The Strait is especially significant because much of the world’s oil supply flows through it.
“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false. This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace,” Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesperson for U.S. Central Command, said in statement Thursday.
Has this happened before?
Although it’s not unusual for smaller drones to face attacks, attacks on drones that are as large and sophisticated as the RQ-4 are rarer, Barrie says. Such aircraft fly at high altitudes and are hard to hit with short-range missiles.
Americans may remember that Iran allegedly captured a smaller drone––the RQ-170 Sentinel––in 2011.
Gettinger argues that what’s happening now is a very different, and that now there’s a higher risk of escalation. In 2011, the United States declined to claim the aircraft.
“It was a very secret drone on a secret mission,” Gettinger says. “Here, it’s a much more public event.”
What does it mean that a drone was shot down?
Zegart warns that while the diplomatic situation isn’t as dire as it would be if an aircraft with American pilots had been shot down, she considers Iran’s attack to be an aggressive move for Iran, especially since the drone wasn’t carrying weapons.
“It’s a signaling device that Iran has capabilities that we might not have anticipated before––but it’s certainly less aggressive than shooting at something that would risk human lives,” said Zegart.
U.S. efforts to collect surveillance don’t mean that the drone was being used in an aggressive way, she says.
“Regardless of where you come down on is this international airspace or Iranian airspace, this was not an escalatory move by the United States. It was an escalatory move by Iran,” Zegart says. “You can imagine in some circumstances, gathering intelligence can be deescalating, because everyone has a better picture of what’s going on on the ground. So the simple fact of sending a surveillance drone over a conflict area does not in itself lead to escalation necessarily.”
Zegart warns that the situation is “very dangerous” and that the Trump Administration should take the potential for escalating tensions seriously.
“The President’s use of Twitter is perhaps the biggest wildcard here,” says Zegart. “There are a lot of mixed messages coming out of the Administration whether you’re listening to the National Security Adviser or the President or the Secretary of State. So messaging discipline––which has never been a hallmark of this administration––is all the more important with this particular adversary. I think we can’t assume that an adversary like Iran is going to discount what the President says on Twitter is just Trump being Trump.”
Beyond the current situation, Gettinger, of the Center for the Study of the Drone, argues that the U.S. is likely to see more incidents like this. Drones are becoming increasingly popular in regions with high political and military tensions.
“Because of this proliferation of drones, and because of the perceived low risk of deploying them in these situations, there is a potential that we could see more of these incidents in the future,” Gettinger says.
The firestorm over former Vice President Joe Biden’s comments this week highlighting his ability to work with segregationist southern senators is also bringing renewed attention to his 2003 eulogy for Strom Thurmond, the former South Carolina senator and “Dixiecrat” presidential candidate who supported segregation.
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis launched a projectile into southern Saudi Arabia late on Wednesday which the Saudi-led coalition said landed near a desalination plant without causing damage or casualties.