Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Mattha Busby

First Thing: China brings in ‘emergency’ level censorship over protests

Chinese officials link hands to block protesters crossing a road
China has been rocked by protests this week against its zero-Covid policy. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Good morning.

Chinese authorities have initiated the highest “emergency response” level of censorship, according to leaked directives. It includes a crackdown on virtual private networks (VPNs) and other methods of bypassing online censorship after unprecedented protests demonstrated widespread public frustration with the zero-Covid policy.

The clampdown, including the tracking and questioning of protesters, comes alongside the easing of pandemic restrictions in an apparent carrot-and-stick approach to an outpouring of public grievances, Helen Davidson reports.

During an extraordinary week in China, protests against zero-Covid restrictions included criticism of the authoritarian rule of Xi Jinping – which was further highlighted by the death of the former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin.

Leaked directives issued to online Chinese platforms, first published by a Twitter account devoted to sharing protest-related information, have revealed authorities’ specific concerns about the growing interest among citizens in circumventing China’s so-called Great Firewall with VPNs.

  • “Freedom in China is precious: Tiananmen Square protest veteran salutes new generation. Activists have despaired for decades as Beijing has hardened its grip. Now they see a turning tide.

  • Winnie the Pooh joins Chinese Covid lockdown protests. Disney stores in Japan are selling a line of merchandise featuring a frowning Pooh looking at a blank sheet of white paper – a symbol of ongoing protests in China.

Senate votes down railroad worker paid sick leave measure

Chuck Schumer said: ‘I’m very glad that the two sides got together to avoid a shutdown.’
Chuck Schumer said: ‘I’m very glad that the two sides got together to avoid a shutdown.’ Photograph: Michael McCoy/Reuters

Senators have voted down a measure, passed in the House on the day before along party lines, that would provide seven days of paid sick leave to railroad workers. The provision a norm in every other leading democratic country.

It fell eight votes short of a 60-vote threshold needed for passage in the Senate.

The Senate, meanwhile, passed a bill to bind rail companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached between the rail companies and union leaders in September. That settlement had been rejected by some unions involved, which represent a majority of members, creating the possibility of a strike beginning 9 December.

The US president, who built a reputation on being pro-labor, has put himself at loggerheads with the unions after asking Congress to avert a strike.

  • Biden defends contract deal. He noted the wage increases it contains. “I negotiated a contract no one else could negotiate,” Joe Biden said. “What was negotiated was so much better than anything they ever had.”

Kanye West suspended from Twitter after posting swastika inside Star of David

Kanye West, pictured in 2018 during a meeting with the then US president Donald Trump.
Kanye West, pictured in 2018 during a meeting with the then US president, Donald Trump. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, has been suspended from Twitter after he tweeted an image of a swastika blended with a star of David, less than two weeks after he returned to the platform.

The suspension took place hours after Ye praised Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in an interview on InfoWars, a show hosted by the rightwing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Ye was one of several high-profile Twitter users whose accounts were banned or restricted on the site who then had them reinstated after Elon Musk took over as owner. His account was unlocked on 21 November, having previously been restricted for tweeting an antisemitic message.

  • “Kanye. Elon. Trump.” Leading Republicans in the US Congress have deleted a tweet posted in October that seemingly expressed support for Ye.

  • “I tried my best,” says Musk. The Twitter chief tweeted: “I tried my best. Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended.”

In other news …

López Obrador supporters in Mexico City
Although he maintains a high approval rating, it remains to be seen whether Amlo’s eventual successor can inspire a similar fervor to one of the most popular, and polarizing, politicians in Mexican history. Photograph: Isaac Esquivel/EPA
  • The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, provided a stunning show of political force for his movement on Sunday, drawing hundreds of thousands of supporters out into the streets of Mexico City in a march. But many critics saw it as a blatant political maneuver.

  • Many Hondurans losing faith president Xiomara Castro will deliver the radical pro-women changes they were promised after a key campaign promise to legalise emergency contraceptives without restrictions was not acted upon after almost a year.

  • Indonesia’s parliament is expected to pass a new criminal code that will penalise sex outside marriage, with a punishment of up to one year in jail, officials have confirmed.

Stat of the day: Big polluters given almost €100bn in free carbon permits by EU

A steel worker
Steel is among the energy-intensive sectors to have benefited from the free pollution permits. Photograph: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

Big polluting industries have been given almost €100bn (£86bn) in free carbon permits by the EU in the last nine years, according to an analysis by the WWF. The free allowances are “in direct contradiction with the polluter pays principle”, the group said.

Free pollution permits worth €98.5bn were given to energy-intensive sectors including steel, cement, chemicals and aviation from 2013-21, Damian Carrington reports. This is more than the €88.5bn that the EU’s emissions trading scheme charged polluters, mostly coal and gas power stations, for their CO2 emissions. Some polluters were also able to make billions in windfall profits by selling the permits they did not use.

Don’t miss this: ‘I can only paint in my sleep’

Lee Hadwin
Lee Hadwin: ‘I can never remember what I’ve done.’ Photograph: Paul Bamford/the Guardian

“By the time I was about four, I started sleepwalking,” says Lee Hadwin. “At night, I used to go under the stairs and scribble on the wall. I have a distinct memory of sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, aged seven, to get checked out. The doctor was adamant that there was nothing to worry about, and advised my parents to ‘let him get on with it’.

“When I was 15, I would still be getting up to make art in the middle of the night – even if I was staying over at a friend’s house. By this point, I was no longer just making scribbles. I was sketching anything from portraits of Marilyn Monroe to abstract noughts and crosses, and fairies.”

Climate check: Airbus boss warns of delay in decarbonising airline industry

Germany’s climate minister, Robert Habeck (second left), observes a model of an Airbus ZEROe hybrid-hydrogen aircraft during his tour of the ILA Berlin air show in June.
Germany’s climate minister, Robert Habeck (second left), observes a model of an Airbus ZEROe hybrid-hydrogen aircraft during his tour of the ILA Berlin air show in June. Photograph: Filip Singer/EPA

The launch of commercial flights of aircraft designed to reduce aviation’s damaging impact on the climate could be delayed by a shortage of net zero fuels, the chief executive of Airbus has warned. Guillaume Faury said he had concerns about the pace of investment in facilities to produce “green” hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel.

Aviation is proving to be one of the hardest industries to decarbonise because battery technology is not yet advanced enough to power planes beyond relatively short journeys. Airbus has said it aims to fly zero-emissions hydrogen aircraft in commercial service by 2035 but Faury said a lack of green production of the gas “could be a reason for delaying the launch of the programme”.

Last thing: ‘The monarchy must do better on race’

Ngozi Fulani appears on daytime television in the UK to discuss the remarks.
Ngozi Fulani appears on daytime television in the UK to discuss the remarks. Photograph: GMB/ITV

At a reception in London this week to honour those working to end violence against women and girls, Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality party, witnessed racist remarks from a member of the royal household directed at her friend and fellow activist Ngozi Fulani.

“Lady Hussey’s prolonged interrogation about where Ngozi was really from, what her nationality was and where her people were from, was not – as many people have insisted to me over the past 24 hours – the kind of well-meaning curiosity that all of us experience from time to time (though it’s possible that Hussey believed that it was).”

Sign up

First Thing is delivered to thousands of inboxes every weekday. If you’re not already signed up, subscribe now.

Get in touch

If you have any questions or comments about any of our newsletters please email

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.