Top stories from around the world in 2019

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Lloyd Jones, AAP World Bureau Chief
(Australian Associated Press)

 

TOP INTERNATIONAL STORIES OF 2019

PROTESTS

Peaceful rallies in Hong Kong in June against a proposed law to allow extradition of suspects to mainland China for trial turn violent.

Soon police are firing tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets and the odd live round at masked protesters hurling bricks and petrol bombs.

A nightly cat and mouse game ensues as protesters clash with police then melt away. Public buildings, banks and shops are vandalised and protests at times close train lines, major roads and the airport.

Hundreds are injured, including police, one student dies after falling from a carpark during a protest and thousands are arrested.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam withdraws the proposed extradition law but protesters continue to demand her resignation, democratic reforms and a probe into police brutality.

The protests pose a challenge to China’s President Xi Jinping but authorities, wary of another Tiananmen Square, hold off sending in troops.

In November a siege begins of the Polytechnic University where students stockpile petrol bombs and use a makeshift giant slingshot against police. Many slip past officers to escape, leaving behind a wrecked campus.

On November 25, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy candidates win a symbolic landslide in district council elections but the rallies continue.

Other protests flare across the world in 2019, including in Chile, Bolivia, Iraq and Iran where clashes with security forces leave many dead.

TRUMP

US President Donald Trump keeps tweeting, sending stock markets up or down with a few finger taps, mainly over the US-China trade dispute and its on-again, off-again negotiations.

After imposing or threatening tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s goods, the US and China in December reach a “phase one” trade deal to reduce US tariffs in exchange for China buying more US farm and other products.

Trump wants a trade win ahead of the 2020 presidential election and his impending impeachment by a Democrat-led House of Representatives.

In March, US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election finds no evidence Trump committed a crime, though it doesn’t exonerate him of obstructing justice.

In September, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces an impeachment inquiry over reports Trump pressured Ukraine to help smear Democratic rival Joe Biden by withholding defence aid money.

Trump faces articles of impeachment laid by the House in December. A trial is expected in January 2020 in the Republican-led Senate, which is highly unlikely to find him guilty.

BREXIT

The drawn-out Brexit saga defeats British Prime Minister Theresa May, who three times fails to gain parliamentary backing for her exit deal with the European Union.

In May she tearfully announces she’s stepping down in June, and in July, Boris Johnson wins the leadership of the Conservatives to become PM.

Johnson too loses parliamentary votes on Brexit, is found by the Supreme Court to have unlawfully suspended parliament and fails to keep his promise to leave the EU by October 31.

But he concludes a new Brexit deal, succeeds in getting parliamentary approval to hold a snap election and on December 12 secures a solid majority, allowing him to claim a mandate to leave the EU.

After the crushing Conservative win, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announces he won’t lead his party to the next election.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, meanwhile, demands another independence referendum after her SNP party wins big. Johnson says no.

NZ MOSQUE

On March 15 a gunman opens fire at two mosques in Christchurch in an attack streamed live on social media that leaves 51 people dead.

Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant is arrested and charged with terrorism, murder and attempted murder.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and a gun buy-back scheme. Ardern also helps launch a global campaign to prevent the online posting of extremist content.

The deadliest terror attack of 2019 occurs in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday when militant Islamists coordinate suicide bombings at churches and hotels, killing over 250 people.

But in a blow to the Islamic State terror group, its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi dies during a US special forces raid in northwest Syria on October 27.

NZ VOLCANO

New Zealand’s White Island volcano erupts on December 9 when 47 people, mostly tourists from a cruise liner, are visiting.

Rescuers risk their own lives to bring survivors off the island and a defence force team later lands there on a daring mission to retrieve six bodies. About a week after the disaster, 18 people are confirmed dead, 16 of them Australians, and more than 20 others remain in hospitals in NZ and Australia with burns.

Inquiries are launched amid questions about why tourists were allowed onto an active volcano.

Other major disasters in 2019 include Cyclone Idai that kills more than 1000 people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, a mining dam collapse in Brazil that kills more than 300 people and the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing MAX 8 jet at Addis Ababa that kills 157.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg becomes the face of youth demands for genuine global action on climate change, beyond hollow promises and “clever accounting”.

Thunberg, who is named Time magazine’s person of the year, crosses the Atlantic on a zero-carbon yacht to attend a UN climate summit in New York in September.

She angrily tells world leaders “how dare you” for failing to take strong action to curb global warming.

Returning to Europe on another yacht to attend the COP25 summit in Madrid, she says the meeting has become an opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes rather than find solutions.

Australia is criticised at the summit for trying to use “carry-over credits” to meet its 2030 climate targets.

COP25 postpones the regulation of global carbon markets until 2020, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noting a lack of political will to make real progress.

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