GLOBAL PULSE: Macron turns protectionist, China’s Orwellian crackdown in Xinjiang and Israeli women won’t have to give up their seats

MACRON WANTS PROTECTION

Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron wants to revive an old French ambition, namely to protect French companies from cross-border takeovers on the grounds of “vital strategic interests”. The European Commission allows and sets standards for such corporate takeovers in the interest of a free-market open economy. Germany’s Angela Merkel and Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni have also voiced their support for bringing new steps to screen takeovers on “national security grounds.” The Netherlands and France have proposed a mandatory one-year moratorium on all takeover attempts. Dutch-British consumer goods company Unilever, in particular, has been a vocal proponent of this protectionist shift in takeover code.

Having successfully fought off the populist challenge to the EU, Macron is demanding new measures that will bolster trade defenses, crowd out competition from China and screen foreign investments.

 

IN XINJIANG, AN ORWELLIAN SYSTEM GETS A GENETIC TWIST

Since Chen Quanguo, a controversial Communist party hardliner who is credited with quelling the unrest in Tibet, was drafted into Muslim-majority province Xinjiang last summer, social controls and security crackdowns have escalated. A huge military march rolled out outside Kashgar’s mosque on Friday, as police placed the city’s people on lock down.

Already only adults can enter mosques, broadcast calls to prayer or make unauthorised pilgrimages to Mecca. This year, Islamic names, face veils and beards have been outlawed. Imams must praise Xi Jinping during religious services. Some citizens have been told to surrender their passports, others have been instructed to install GPS tracking devices in their vehicles. In a genetic twist to an Orwellian system, there are also plans for mass collection of DNA samples.

 

KREMLIN’S NEW INTERNET GAMES

The internet has long been a wild horse the Kremlin has struggled to tame. In the last five years, the authorities have introduced new injunctions, restrictions, and a new draconian legislation. Russian internet users learned to adapt by using secure virtual private networks (VPNs). Now, Moscow wants to wipe anonymity out of the Internet. The lower chamber of parliament is considering two bills that would restrict the use of VPN services and anonymizing software by forcing users to tie accounts with cell phone numbers and people’s identities.

If history is anything to go by, messaging giants — Facebook, WhatsApp or Telegram — are unlikely to comply with the legislation. Blocking any one of these extremely popular programs would require serious political will. Experts call them incompetent, unimplementable laws.

 

ISRAELI WOMEN WON’T GIVE UP THEIR SEATS FOR MEN

An 82-year-old Holocaust survivor Renee Rabinowitz has become an unlikely icon for women’s pushback against religious orthodoxy in Israel’s culture wars. She was asked by the country’s national carrier, El Al, to move seats when an ultra-orthodox man refused to sit next to her. She just won a landmark court case for gender discrimination. Now flight stewards can no longer request female passengers to move seats to accommodate ultra-orthodox men who do not want to sit next to them. The judge called the practice “discriminatory” and a “direct transgression” of the Israeli law. This has become an increasingly familiar problem for airlines flying in and out of Israel. In February, 10 ultra-orthodox passengers stood in the aisles and refused to take their seats, causing a delay of a flight.

 

GERMANY ERASES A NAZI-ERA STAIN ON GAY MEN

Germany’s parliament has voted to quash the convictions of 50,000 gay men sentenced for homosexuality under a Nazi-era law that remained in force after the Second World War. The move offers them financial compensation for their years in prison and clears the names of men who were forced to live with a criminal record for decades. An estimated 5,000 of those found guilty under the statute are still alive.

Although it dated from 1871, the law criminalizing “sexual acts contrary to nature” was rarely enforced until the Nazis came to power. In 2002, the government introduced a new law that overturned their convictions, but that move did not include those prosecuted after the Second World War. The stain on democratic Germany’s legal history has been removed, said an official.

 

Picture Courtesy: Twitter @EmmanuelMacron

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