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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

China COVID Protests; Russia Nuclear Talks; Coral Reef Warning. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired November 28, 2022 - 17:00   ET


CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN HOST: Hello and a warm welcome. I'm Christina Macfarlane in London. This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

Ahead, unprecedented protest spread across China even as COVID cases climbed. But how far are demonstrators willing to go?


Then, Russia postpones nuclear talks hours before they were set to begin.

And a global wonder now in danger. What the U.N. is warning about Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Chinese authorities are doubling down on zero COVID. As rare mass protest against the policy are sweeping the nation. China has just reported its

highest ever number of COVID cases for a sixth day running. The Chinese officials and state media maintain that state's strict zero COVID measures

are quote, scientific and effective.

It comes as thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest after almost three years of lockdown and restrictions. It's the first time in

decades we've seen demonstrations on this scale in China, with some protesters openly calling for President Xi and the communist party to step


CNN's Selina Wang has this report from a protest in the Chinese capital, Beijing.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They chant, "Xi Jinping, step down", an extraordinary show of defiance in China. In Shanghai, they chant

for freedom, democracy, and an end to COVID lockdowns, even targeting the communist party and the supreme leader himself.

Unprecedented protests are erupting across China, the major metropolises to elite college campuses, even far flung cities.

Searing nationwide anger triggered by a deadly fire in China's far west Xingjian region. Water unable to actually reach the fire blazing from the

high floor of the apartment building. Videos indicate COVID restrictions prevented fire trucks from getting close enough, apparently blocked by

fences, and metal barriers normally used during lockdowns.

In the building's chat group, a mother pleads, help us. My kids are dying. We don't have enough oxygen.

At least ten people died.

The nation, grieving the deaths of victims that likely spent the last months of their lives trapped in that building.


Most of Xinjiang has been lockdown for more than 100 days. The protests even spelling into the capital.

They're chanting that they don't want COVID tests. They want freedom.

And many people are also holding white papers in their hands, which is a sign of solidarity against censorship.

They sing and cheer. Shout to be unsealed. And some even break down into tears.

A man with a loudspeaker shouts, we always supports the communist party but we want democracy and freedom.

I asked a protester how he was feeling, overwhelmed, he said. All conscientious Chinese people should come here and stand together.

I said, you realize that there is a risk being here? Of course there is, he responded.

And if we just turn the camera around, you'll see that there is a row of police.

Hours later, masses of police filed in pushing the protesters back. Demonstrators shout towards the authorities, we are not your enemy. We are

in this together.

These are unbelievable scenes in China, where public criticisms of the party can you lead to prison time or even worse.

In Shanghai, police arrested roughed up protesters, violently dragging them into cars.

No protests of this scale, demanding political reforms, have been seen since the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests in 1989 that led to a massacre

of unarmed protesters.

These demonstrators know what they are risking, but they are determined to make their voices heard.


MACFARLANE: These protests in China have also triggered demonstrations around the world. In Hong Kong, dozens gathered to stand in solidarity with

the protesters, as many are doing in the mainland. They held blank sheets of paper to symbolize China's government censorship.

One protester told CNN how years of lockdowns and restrictions have affected him and his family.


CHINESE PROTESTER (through translator): I am a victim. I cannot go home for many years, like 2 to 3 years, right? My parents were locked down for

three months. And even relatives of my good friends, they suicide because of the lockdowns, and I know that people die because of it, because of the

side effects of this policy, right?


I think everyone who has the sane mind should say something, do something to stop this unreasonable social measure.


MACFARLANE: Meanwhile, in Sydney, Australia, hundreds gathered to show support for those in China protesting COVID restrictions. They chanted from

Sydney to Shanghai, democracy will never die. China's zero COVID policy is set to have created extensive disruptions and damage to the world's second

largest economy.


BAOQIANG SUN, AUSTRALIAN PROTESTER (through translator): Thirty-three years ago, tanks were used to crack down on the citizens and the students,

and then, after 33 years, the government is doing exactly the same thing and cracking down on citizens. And Chinese people should never forgive what

the government did. We need to stand up and say no.


MACFARLANE: Well, to look at how these protests could play out in the coming days, let's bring in our Selina Wang from Beijing.

Selina, just a snapshot there of how these protests are playing out globally as well as in China. It's the first time during Xi Jinping's reign

or rule that we see such widespread protests. What's the government's response been so far, what are we seeing from them right now?

WANG: Yes, exactly. This is unprecedented since Xi Jinping took rule a decade ago, in fact, the most widespread protests involving demands for

political change since the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989.

Now, what is really telling is I was at that protest from Sunday night into Monday morning in Beijing. And they were crowds of people there. They were

chanting for an end to COVID lockdowns for freedom.

There were a lot of people gathered there. There was a heavy police presence but as far as what I witnessed, it was peaceful. Around 2:00 a.m.,

masses of police, they came in. They started to push us back, forcing us to disperse.

Well, I drove back to that exact same spot in Beijing last night. It was eerily quiet. It was a giant row of police fans with their lights flashing

parts in that area. It's hardly a person in the street at all.

Ands that's a reminder when it comes to the responses is that this is a police state, where they have a far-reaching security, surveillance

apparatus. The Internet is heavily surveilled. There is no communication platform like Facebook, or Twitter for people to easily mobilize and

gather, the dominant messaging platform here is monitored by authorities. It's incredibly difficult for a movement like this to continue.

Of course, this is a large country and Beijing is the capital, where there's always a heavy security presence. But the fact that from one day to

the next, to have protesters in the street, and then absolute quiet with police cars -- well, that's telling.

MACFARLANE: Yes, concerning how quickly that tide couldn't turn. We saw in your piece, Selina, you're talking a protester saying to you that they know

what they are risking. Having spoken to them, what's your sense of how determined protesters are to maintain these protests where they can. Of

course, in the face of crackdowns which we know may now be happening?

WANG: Yeah, look, I mean, these protests are happening in all different cities. People go to those gatherings, to the demonstrations, with very,

very different interests in mind.

In some of the cities, using the protest not just be around an end to zero COVID lockdown. They're spilling over into other demands for broader

reforms, for more freedom, for more democracy. The most embolden and defiant acts were in some of those protests in Shanghai when people were

actually calling for Xi Jinping himself to step down, calling for the communist party to step down.

Now, when I was speaking to the protesters in Beijing, it was interesting. There is disagreement among the people I was talking to. That mask-less man

I spoke to, it speaks volumes that he was willing to speak to me without his face covered. That's extremely rare, in public to be speaking to

foreign media, CNN in China.

But interestingly, he told me, he said, I'm not looking for regime change. Xi Jinping and the CCP, they can stay in power. I just want them to hear my

voice. There were other people at that protests I attended that started to shout for regime change. They started to shout for more political reforms.

I heard some other protesters say, no, no, no, let's not go that far. Let's have them here are voices. Tell them that we want more freedoms. But they

don't actually have to step down. So, this movement, like I said before, can't be this nationwide coordinated campaign, because of the ways

censorship and surveillance works in China, and that voices, they are desperate.

MACFARLANE: Yeah, people just desperate to be heard. Selina Wang, thank you so much for your reporting.

Well, both Ukraine and Russia say there is intense fighting around Bakhmut right now. The city is in Ukraine's Donetsk region, which Russia claims has

its own. Capturing the city will be a major win for Russia's military as it's forced to withdraw from areas in eastern Ukraine.


A Russian-appointed leader in the region says that its forces are now close to encircling the city. Ukraine denies this, saying they have not lost any

ground, despite some 200 artillery strikes per day, saying simply, Russia's army is failing to breakthrough.

Meanwhile, further south, residents in the liberated city of Kherson are living in what the United Nations calls, a dire situation. For most people,

there's no power or water. And Russian forces are in eyesight of the other side of the Dnipro River, firing shells on people who are going about their

daily lives, struggling to simply survive a war zone.

Matthew Chance is in Kherson and shows us what they're facing.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The devastation Russia's retreating forces left behind. A village in southern

Ukraine torn to shreds, and until now, abandoned to this war.

Valery (ph) told me he's lived here 51 years. And after evacuating for eight months, he's home to stay. Even amid this wreckage.

It's like a stone weighing on my soul. We built everything here with our own hands. It's hard to look at what those Russian scum did to us, he adds.

A short distance away in newly liberated Kherson, a pool of blood where Russia is attacking the city it just left behind.

Four were killed when this grocery store was hit. Now one desperate resident picks through the debris looting scraps of food and toilet paper.

"Is everything so bad?" we asked. "It's not good," he responds.

All right. Well, getting basic supplies, though, in Kherson, has become a massive risk. We've come to the seaport, it's the river port right on the

Dnipro River with this woman here Tatiana (ph) from Kherson to collect water so she can do her washing up and wash her clothes and go to the

toilet and things like that.

The water supplies have been completely cut off by the Russians. This is the only way. You can hear the artillery shells go off in the background.

This is the only way she can get water for her house.

And it's dangerous because this is basically the front line. The Russian forces have retreated to the other bank, right?

So the Russian forces are just across the river.

But the risk is one that has to be taken.

"What can we do?" Tatiana asks. "We can't live without water."

There's no electricity either. And people are cramming into makeshift charging stations like this one just to stay connected.

We found defiance here, too, in the face of hardship.

There's no water or power, Hannah (ph) tells me, but also no Russians. So we will get through this.

What do you think?

I think our enemies will all die soon, says Nastia (ph), who only just turned 9. We'll show them what you get for occupying Ukraine, she says.

For many, the hardships are already too much. Roads out of Kherson crammed with residents trying to leave.

But for those who stay, it is a desperate struggle to survive.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Kherson.


MACFARLANE: Now talks between the U.S. and Russia over their nuclear arms agreement are on hold, hours before they were set to begin.

The Biden administration's blaming Russia for the delay. The two countries were scheduled to discuss the agreement on Tuesday, but the State

Department says Russia abruptly postponed them.

Let's bring in CNN U.S. security correspondent Kylie Atwood, who's in Washington.

Kylie, what's the reason did Russia give for withdrawing? And how is it being viewed by the State Department?

KYLIE ATWOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we actually don't yet have a reason for why these talks are being postponed. It's the Russian

foreign ministry that said on some Russian state back media, they'll be postponing these talks which as you status posed to start tomorrow. And

then the State Department came out and said, that was a decision that was unilaterally made by Russia. Essentially, blaming Russia for the fact that

these talks on the single, lasting nuclear agreement between the two countries are not going to be starting tomorrow in Egypt as they plan to.

We heard from the NSC's John Kirby this afternoon, who said the U.S. is still trying to figure out what's the reasoning is for the delay in these

talks. They said that the U.S. embassies trying to get an answer from the Russian so we'll watch to see where that goes, and what the date, the new

day and gets put on the books actually is.


But it's an interesting moment because you had U.S. officials who view the fact that these talks were even happening in the first place as a positive

development, because you had Putin in recent months rattling the nuclear saber, around Ukraine and their invasion of Ukraine. That, of course, was

concerning but the fact that they were coming to the table to engage in these discussions around nuclear weapons with the United States was viewed

as a positive thing. They wanted to keep open dialogue on that topic.

But, of course, we should note that this treaty requires on-site inspections. And those inspections have not happened for the greater part

of two years because they were put on hold due to COVID-19. And, so the presumption of those inspections will be critical. But, of course, they got

to resume these talks before those inspections can actually happen.

MACFARLANE: Yeah, we'll wait to see if that happens. Kylie Atwood from the State Department for us, thanks very much, Kylie.

Well, the niece of Iran's supreme leader is accusing the government of being a murderous and child-killing regime. We'll tell you how Iran's

leadership is responding.

Plus, one of the world's most spectacular natural wonders may be added to the endangered list. We'll take a deep dive into Australia's Great Barrier



MACFARLANE: Welcome back, the World Cup is in full swing in Qatar. Organizers were hoping to avoid political battles but so far, politics have

been hard to ignore. In a show of solidarity with Iranian protesters, the U.S. Soccer Federation altered Iran's flag online. The now deleted image

shows the flag without the Islamic Republic emblem.

Iranian state media than called for Team USA to be kicked out of the tournament. This is all happening ahead of Tuesday when the two teams will

go head to head.


A source says, Revolutionary Guards have threatened Iranians players' families with imprisonment and torture if the players don't behave. As you

may remember, you could see here, the team didn't sing the national anthem before playing against England but did in their next match.

Well, meanwhile, a niece of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has a message for the world. Stop any dealings with this regime. She's calling

on foreign governments to cut all ties with Tehran, which she calls a child-killing regime. She said this in a video that her brother shared

after she was arrested last week.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is in Istanbul.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Farideh Moradkhani is a niece of the supreme leader. Her father is a -- was a well-known opposition figure. She

is also a rights activist who has been jailed for her activism in the past, according to Iranian activists.

On Wednesday, she was arrested according to her brother. And Iranian human rights activists who say that she was interested to serve 15 year sentence

for what was an ongoing case that had been going on for a few months. We don't have the details of this case, but what we do know is that a couple

days after her arrest, her brother posted this video online, a seven-plus minute video message in which Moradkhani slams the Iranian regime for

oppressing its people.

She also criticizes the international community and the United Nations saying that they were not doing enough to support the brave people of Iran.

She said she was called on the free people of the world as she describes it, to push their government to cut ties with the Iranian regime that she

describes as a murderous child-killing regime.

She says international sanctions against Tehran were laughable, and she called against action right now she says, saying that the world watched

back in 2019 as the regime crack down on protests. She said that shouldn't happen again, when hundreds of people are believed to have been killed

within several days of that crackdown.

She also likened her uncle to Mussolini, Hitler, Gadhafi, Saddam Hussein. And she called -- she ended her video message with the slogan of the

protests, women, life, freedom, clearly supporting the ongoing movement in her country.

While her position is not surprising, it's still considered very brave for someone to come out with this sort of statement while still inside Iran.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


KARADSHEH: Now, search and rescue efforts continue on the island of Ischia, where at least eight people have died and five remain missing after

a deadly landslide. The island was hit with torrential rain during the weekend, triggering the landslide. Cars, roads, buildings collapsed and

rushed away.

The governor of the region says most of the homes were not up to proper building code, adding to the destruction. Australia's Great Barrier Reef

must be listed as endangered according to a new U.N.-backed report. A team of UNESCO researchers spent ten days monitoring the world's largest coral

reef systems and says urgent action needs to be taken. UNESCO has now waited, was now waiting for responses from various governments including

Australia's which has pushed back on the recommendation.

We're joined by CNN's chief climate correspondent Bill Weir to learn a bit more about this.

So, Bill, tell us -- why is it important that the Great Barrier Reef is listed in this way. And what is the fear if it's not?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the listing is really a political, branding issue. It's a world heritage site. It's one of the

great Seven Wonders of the World naturally. Of course, it's precious.

But if you put that brand on it that it's an endangered, it's a black eye for the government in charged. So, a couple actually last year, when they

first floated this idea, the environmental minister under the Morrison government said, we strongly disagree with this. This is the best managed

reef in the world.

But that's the thing, it is the best manage reef. So, a year later, scientists went back and said, look, there is no sort of climate change

proofing this magnificent thing. It's warming up too fast and there is a delicate balance between the corals, these little colorful algae that sort

of live symbiotically. When it comes gets too warm, they break up. If you get the cool again, they get back together.

But it could take ten years for reeves to come back. Some of the ideas that have been flouted have been pumping coldwater down there, or maybe even

seeding clouds, raid cloud brightening to give shade for years at a time to cool it off.


These are sort of the desperate measures were at as we discuss this. And it's so tragic, because it's everything. There's like 1,500 different

species of fish, 400 species of coral, it's just the most magnificent living thing that can be seen from space, and it's slowly going away.

And, ultimately, the only thing that will save it is stopping with fossil fuel pollution, and pulling a lot of the CO2 out of the atmosphere in the

sea that's already there.

MACFARLANE: And it's been well-known, Bill, that this sort of bleaching of the Great Barrier Reefs been happening for sometime. And you said this is


Why are the Australian government pushing back? Are they worried about reputational damage here? What's the reason?

WEIR: I think so, sure. And, you know, maybe, you know, just being protective of some outsider telling you, your precious thing has been led

to go in this state. And in this is, of course, worth billions in terms of tourism. And it's such a partnership with that society. It is what

Australia is, the Great Barrier Reef.

So, to see somebody else brand it that way, I think that's what the pushback. But the new government, the new prime minister, Albanese, is much

more of an environmentalist. We'll see what he makes of this new endangered branded for the Great Barrier Reef.

MACFARLANE: Well, let's hope that everybody moves in the right direction on this because it is a sight to behold. I know you've been there, Bill, I

have to. And, obviously it's quite something. Thank you so much, Bill Weir.

WEIR: My pleasure.

MACFARLANE: And, finally, call off the green light for gaslight. The Merriam-Webster dictionary team is out with its 2022 world word of the

year. And gaslighting has the new top honor. No, we're not gaslighting you.

So, what is gaslighting you ask. Well, according to Webster's, it is, quote, the psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended

period of time. It causes someone to question the validity of their own thoughts.

I think we can all relate to that from one time to another.

That was THE GLOBAL BRIEF. Thank you so much for joining me.

Do stay tuned for "WORLD SPORT" coming up next, of course, with all the World Cup latest.