Modi criticised after excluding Muslims from religious persecution citizenship offer 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing renewed criticism after tabling legislation today which will exclude Muslims from an offer of citizenship rights to religious refugees.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill will see nationality defined by religion for the first time in India’s history but only to followers of six faiths – including Christians, Sikhs and Hindus – from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

It will allow them to acquire Indian citizenship if they live or work in the country for six years and are fleeing religious persecution. However, critics argue it is the latest move to discriminate against Muslims.

“[The Bill is] couched in the language of refuge and seemingly directed at foreigners but its main purpose is the de-legitimisation of Muslim citizenship,” said historian Mukul Kesavan.

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Assam, Gujarat and West Bengal today  in protest.

“We will fight and oppose the bill till the last drop of our blood,” vowed All Assam Students’ Union adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya.

A group of 1,000 academics released a statement arguing the Bill undermines the pluralistic and secular history of India.

Home Minister Amit Shah dismissed their concerns and said the proposed legislation is backed by India’s 1.3 billion population.

Hundreds of people took to the street in Assam to protest the Bill, which comes after the National Register of Citizens stripped 1.9 million people of their citizenship there Credit: Anupam Nath/AP

The BJP first proposed the Bill as an electoral promise in 2014 but it was abandoned in 2016 after protests.

This time, MPs in the lower house of parliament voted unanimously in favour of passing the Bill – 293 to 82 – and it will now be voted on in the upper house.

The date for this has not yet been disclosed but it needs approval from both houses for it to become law.

Since his landslide re-election in May, Modi and the BJP have faced repeated claims of anti-Muslim discrimination.

In August, he revoked Muslim-majority Jammu & Kashmir’s autonomous status and the region remains under curfew and an internet blackout.

Later that month he announced 1.9 million people in Assam will face detainment and deportation to Bangladesh.

While Modi claimed it was part of a wider crackdown on illegal immigrants, campaigners say it is an attempt to render Indian Muslims stateless.

US House draws Beijing anger as it approves Uighur bill demanding sanctions on senior Chinese officials

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would require the Trump administration to toughen its response to China’s crackdown on its Muslim minority, drawing swift condemnation from Beijing.

The Uighur Act of 2019 is a stronger version of a bill that angered Beijing when it passed the Senate in September. It calls on President Donald Trump to impose sanctions for the first time on a member of China’s powerful politburo, even as he seeks a deal with Beijing to end a trade war buffeting the global economy.

Just last week, Mr Trump signed into law legislation supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong despite angry objections from China.

The Uighur bill, which passed by 407-1 in the Democratic-controlled House, requires the US president to condemn abuses against Muslims and call for the closure of mass detention camps in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

It calls for sanctions against senior Chinese officials who it says are responsible and specifically names Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who, as a politburo member, is in the upper echelons of China’s leadership.

The revised bill still has to be approved by the Republican-controlled Senate before being sent to Mr Trump. The White House has yet to say whether Mr Trump would sign or veto the bill, which contains a provision allowing the president to waive sanctions if he determines that to be in the national interest.

In a statement on Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry called the bill a malicious attack against China and a serious interference in the country’s internal affairs.

"We urge the US to immediately correct its mistake, to stop the above bill on Xinjiang from becoming law, to stop using Xinjiang as a way to interfere in China’s domestic affairs," said the statement, attributed to the ministry’s spokeswoman, Hua Chunying.

China has consistently denied any mistreatment of Uighurs and says the camps are providing vocational training. It has warned of retaliation "in proportion" if Chen were targeted.

The White House and the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China responded on Monday to the Hong Kong legislation by saying US military ships and aircraft would not be allowed to visit Hong Kong, and announced sanctions against several US non-government organisations.

Analysts say China’s reaction to passage of the Uighur bill could be stronger, although some doubted it would go so far as imposing visa bans on the likes of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has called China’s treatment of Uighurs "the stain of the century" and has been repeatedly denounced by Beijing.

Global Times, a tabloid published by the official People’s Daily newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, tweeted on Tuesday that Beijing would soon release a so-called unreliable entities list imposing sanctions against those who harm China’s interests.

It reported that China was expediting the process for the list because the US House bill would "harm Chinese firms’ interests", and that "relevant" US entities would be part of Beijing’s list.

Republican US Representative Chris Smith called China’s actions in "modern-day concentration camps" in Xinjiang "audaciously repressive," involving "mass internment of millions on a scale not seen since the Holocaust."

"We cannot be silent. We must demand an end to these barbaric practices," Mr Smith said, adding that Chinese officials must be held accountable for "crimes against humanity."

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called China’s treatment of the Uighurs "an outrage to the collective conscience of the world," adding that "America is watching."

Chris Johnson, a China expert at Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said passage of the bill could lead to a further blurring of lines between the trade issue and the broader deteriorating China-US relationship, which Beijing in the past has tended to keep separate.

"I think there’s a sort of piling-on factor here that the Chinese are concerned about," he said.

Mr Trump said on Monday the Hong Kong legislation did not make trade negotiations with China easier, but he still believed Beijing wanted a deal.

He said on Tuesday, however, that an agreement might have to wait until after the November 2020 US presidential election in which he is seeking a second term.

Johnson said he did not think passage of the Uighur act would cause the delay, but added: "It would be another dousing of kindling with fuel."

The House bill requires the president to submit to Congress within 120 days a list of officials responsible for the abuses and to impose sanctions on them under the Global Magnitsky Act, which provides for visa bans and asset freezes.

The bill also requires the secretary of state to submit a report on abuses in Xinjiang, to include assessments of the numbers held in re-education and forced labor camps. United Nations experts and activists say at least 1 million Uighurs and members of other largely Muslim minority groups have been detained in the camps.

It also effectively bans the export to China of items that can be used for surveillance of individuals, including facial and voice-recognition technology. 

Ohio bill says doctors should ‘reimplant’ ectopic pregnancies or face murder charge, despite it being medically impossible

Lawmakers in Ohio have introduced a bill requiring doctors to “reimplant an ectopic pregnancy” into a woman’s uterus or face a charge of "abortion murder", despite the fact no such medical procedure exists. 

The bill, which is among the most extreme anti-abortion legislation to date, also legally recognises a fetus as an  “unborn child” and proposes charging abortion providers with aggravated murder unless the procedure was necessary to save a woman’s life. 

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg implants outside of the uterus, most often on a woman’s fallopian tube. The embryo cannot survive but the growing tissue can cause life-threatening bleeding if left untreated. 

It is currently medically impossible to remove and "reimplant" the embryo. However, the legislation put forward in Ohio states that doctors should take "all possible steps to preserve the life of the unborn child", including "attempting to reimplant an ectopic pregnancy into the woman’s uterus". 

The proposed legislation, House Bill 413, was put forward by two Republicans in Ohio’s House of Representatives and has almost 20 co-sponsors. One of its main sponsors, Representative Candice Keller, said: “The time has come to abolish abortion in its entirety and recognise that each individual has the inviolable and inalienable right to life.”

“Any provider performing an abortion by any method…will be subject to already existing murder statutes,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

It comes as a number of Republican-controlled states have enacted increasingly extreme anti-abortion bills in a bid to bring a legal challenge to abortion rights to the US Supreme Court.

Previous versions of this bill have not received serious consideration, but this is the first such bill introduced since Ohio enacted the “heartbeat bill”, which bans abortions as early as six weeks, and anti-abortion activists are optimistic about the current bill’s success.

The proposal has drawn criticism from medical professionals in the state. Dr David Hackney, an obstetrician and gynecologist, discussed the requirement to "reimplant" ectopic embryos on Twitter, writing: “I don’t believe I’m typing this again but, that’s impossible”. “We’ll all be going to jail,” he added.

Trump signs bill supporting Hong Kong protesters which could harm talks to end trade war with China

President Donald Trump has signed into law a bill that backs protesters in Hong Kong despite furious opposition from Beijing in a move that could prolong the trade war between China and the United States.

The bill, which was approved unanimously by the Senate and the House of Representatives last week, compels the State Department to certify every year that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to earn favourable trading terms with the US, a position that helps the city to be a leading centre for global commerce. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act also threatens sanctions for human rights violations.

Congress backed a second bill, which Mr Trump also signed, banning the export to Hong Kong…

Who are the five key people in the Donald Trump impeachment hearings 

The televised impeachment hearings began on Wednesday with a second hearing on Friday, both broadcast live across America.

As proceedings unfold previously little known witnesses, and members of Congress, will become household names.

Bill Taylor

The first witness to be called on Wednesday was Bill Taylor, the US chargé d’affaires in Kyiv.

He was chosen by Democrats to lead off for two reasons – the damning nature of a 324-page deposition he has already given in private, and his personal background.

Bill Taylor served in Vietnam Credit: AP

Mr Taylor, 72, has served the country for 50 years, starting as a cadet at West Point, as an infantry officer in Vietnam, at Nato, and at the state department.

In his deposition behind closed doors…

New Zealand to hold referendum on euthanasia after parliament passes bill to legalise

New Zealand lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday that would legalise euthanasia, paving the way for the public to vote on the issue in a referendum next year.

The bill, which enables terminally ill people to request a medically assisted death, was passed 69-51 in parliament, after several amendments and years of heated debate.

Previous attempts by lawmakers to legalise euthanasia have failed, and when the bill was introduced in parliament again in 2017 it was met with several concerns including the possible vulnerability of elderly patients being coerced.

The bill has since been amended with what its sponsors say are safeguards, including a requirement that patients be diagnosed as having less than six months left to live.

The patient must be the first to suggest assisted dying, and two doctors must agree that the patient is well-informed and other legal criteria are met.

The bill passed 96-51 in parliament Credit: REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

The politician behind the bill, David Seymour of the libertarian ACT Party, said people who are genuinely concerned have absolutely nothing to fear as there are robust safeguards in place.

"It is entirely about choice. Just as their rights and choices are respected, they will also need to respect the choices of others," Mr Seymour said.

The fate of the law rests in the hands of New Zealanders who will vote in a referendum at the general election which must be held by November next year. The pubic will also be voting in a referendum over legalising recreational cannabis.

Recent polls have indicated that a majority support the measure to legalise euthanasia. However, there has also been a strong resistance from faith-based organisations and medical professionals. The bill received 39,000 public submissions, most of them opposing it.