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Austria to Impose National Lockdown Monday; Israel's COVID-19 R Rate Hits 1; China's Influence in Africa Grows; China under Pressure over Tennis Star Peng Shuai; COP26 Did Not Address Climate Apartheid. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired November 20, 2021 - 03:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, I'm Michael Holmes, thank you for your company.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, Dutch police, clashing with rioters, as protests of new COVID restrictions, turned violent.

Plus, the fight to save the life of a Chinese journalist, jailed for her reporting at the COVID epicenter at the beginning of the pandemic.

And the U.S. secretary of state had a warning for Ethiopia. Its war in Tigray has put the country on a path to destruction.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: Angry protest in Europe over new restrictions aimed at stopping a devastating wave of COVID infections.


HOLMES (voice-over): Riot police in Rotterdam, using water cannon and they say warning shots were fired after protesters torched vehicles and threw rocks. Seven people were reportedly hurt.


HOLMES: Western Europe is seeing some of the highest numbers of infections since the pandemic began. Austria is imposing a total lockdown, beginning Monday, and says that every eligible person must be vaccinated by February 1st. Let's go live to Barbie Nadeau, standing by in Rome with the latest.

That Austria lockdown, just speaking to the severity of this wave and also, the concerns that governments have, likely to see more moves like that.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I think we will see it across Europe, these targeted lockdowns, mostly, focused on people who haven't been vaccinated yet. They, of course, pose a grave threat to people who have been

vaccinated and don't have their booster shots yet. Part of the problem, here in Europe, is the fact that the booster program is slow to roll out. So a lot of people have waning immunity right now, even though they are vaccinated, Michael.

HOLMES: The other thing that Austria is doing, is mandatory vaccines for everyone.

How might that impact what other nations might do, with moves to mandatory shots and those moves to exclude or isolate the unvaccinated?

There seems to be a sense that governments are losing patience with the unvaccinated.

NADEAU: That's right. In so many ways, this is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated. You see strict restrictions in Austria, we've got those in France and in Italy, where people can't go to work, can't go into restaurants without proving they've been vaccinated or had a recent negative test, where they recovered from COVID.

You see the restrictions, trying to favor those people who have taken the responsibility, to be vaccinated and punish those who haven't yet. But there is still a very strong no-vax movement, here all across Italy.

We see that in Germany, where the numbers are just rising and they've reached another record with more than 60,000 cases, in a single 24- hour period. It is concerning to these governments; they don't want to lock down the economy again. But unless everyone gets vaccinated and gets their boosters, it is the weapon that they have against the pandemic, right now.

HOLMES: This, all, of course, going into winter as well. Barbie, thank you so much. Barbie Nadeau, in Rome.

Israeli medical experts are keeping a close eye on new cases there as the COVID transmission rate has been going up. New infections are still, far lower than in early autumn, but officials are taking no chances. CNN's Hadas Gold, in Jerusalem, for us.


HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For so much of the pandemic, people have been looking to Israel as a glimpse into the future, because of how quick the government was to start administering vaccines, including the third booster doses, which began in late July.

Now there are worrying signs. The R number, showing how many people one positive case infects, reaching its highest level, in two months. Showing, the virus may be spreading, once again, after weeks of declining cases.

The alarm bells, not quite ringing here yet. No new guidelines have been put into place. Health experts here say it is just too early to say whether this is a fifth wave. That is because the average number of cases is still, lower than it was previous months and most importantly for the hospital system, the serious cases are at their lowest level since July.

Health experts say a variety of factors are contributing to this rising R rate. A million or so people haven't gotten their booster dose, even though they are eligible to do so. The public has relaxed on guidelines, like mask wearing, even though they are still required indoors.


GOLD (voice-over): And the colder weather is bringing people indoors, more often.

And unvaccinated children are making up a large portion of new infections. That is why there is hope, that as children aged 5 to 11 start to get vaccinated next week, that the R rate will start to drop, once again -- Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.


HOLMES: Pharmacies across the U.S. could be busy this weekend, as all adults are now, eligible for a COVID booster. Late on Friday afternoon, CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, signed off on the extra shot for everyone 18 and older, who are at least six months past their second dose.

Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been okayed for booster doses. It does not matter what your first dose was. It comes as COVID infections in the U.S. are ticking up. The U.S. holiday season begins with Thanksgiving this Thursday.

Zhang Zhan is a Chinese citizen journalist, who documented overcrowded hospitals in Wuhan, in China, during the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic. Her work landed her in a Chinese prison, where she has been on a months-long hunger strike. And as David Culver reports, her family hopes they can save her, before it is too late.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Traveling alone to the original epicenter in the height of China's COVID 19 outbreak last year, she documented the plight of Wuhan residents under a brutal lockdown.

For that 38-year-old Zhang Zhan has been languishing behind bars for 18 months now on a hunger strike and on the brink of death, her family and lawyer filing a petition for medical parole and the hope of saving her life.

In early February 2020, Zhan, a lawyer turned activists highlighted harsh realities on the ground. She posted more than 100 clips on YouTube showing hospitals flooded with desperate patients and shops empty.

ZHANG ZHAN, JAILED CITIZEN JOURNALIST: Maybe I have a rebellious soul. Why can I film that?

I was just documenting the truth. Why can't I show the truth?

CULVER (voice-over): In May of last year, authorities from Shanghai detain Zhan then putting her on trial for picking quarrels and provoking trouble, a charge often used to silence government critics.

According to the verdict seen by CNN officials accused Zhan of recklessly fabricating and spreading content that distorted the coronavirus control measures in Wuhan and for seriously disturbing the public order.

Last December, a court sentenced her to four years in prison. Family members say Zhan went on a hunger strike soon after her arrest. Her condition in jail rapidly deteriorating, authorities even forced to put in a feeding tube, the five-foot 10 Journalist now weighing less than 88 pounds, a skeleton of her former self.

On Twitter her brother posted she may not survive the coming cold winter. Zhan not the only one targeted for trying to expose the realities in Wuhan.

Chen Quishi, another lawyer who posted videos critical of the authorities' early mishandlings, disappeared for more than a year, only recently resurfacing in public, jailed for 15 months after they archived news reports of the Wuhan outbreak that had been censored.

Others like Fang Bin, who uploaded the video of body bags in a Wuhan hospital, have simply vanished from public view.

Also silenced, numerous whistle-blowers, the most famous Dr. Li Wenliang. Police had reprimanded him for spreading rumors when he first tried to tell friends and colleagues about the dead mystery illness. His eventual death from COVID made him a martyr in China, with a government begrudgingly embracing him as a hero.

To counter all the critical voices, the propaganda czars later even deployed more than 300 state media journalists to Wuhan, pulling out all the stops to reclaim the narrative and effort that's continued to this day as state media breathlessly cover other countries COVID debacles and conspiracy theories on the virus origins trying to sow doubt and deflect blame.

As for Zhang Zhan, she's never wavered in believing her own innocence with her lawyer telling CNN:

ZHANG KEKE, ZHANG ZHAN'S LAWYER: She told me that she thinks her arrest, prosecution, trial and detention were unlawful and only by going on a hunger strike did she feel she could express her frustrations.

CULVER (voice-over): A desperate call for attention on China's growing intolerance for unfiltered information.

CULVER (on camera): We did reach out to Zhang's family to see if they want to comment on a record. They declined our request for an interview. They don't want to anger the government any further to as to potentially worsen the situation -- David Culver, CNN, Beijing.


HOLMES: As pressure mounts on China to provide information on the whereabouts of Peng Shuai, Chinese state media now says that she will make a public appearance soon. The latest, coming up.

Also, we show how some kind volunteers and a veterinarian gave a stray dog a leg up, with four new paws.


HOLMES: What a story that is. We will have that after the break.




HOLMES: The U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is warning that the war in Tigray has launched Ethiopia on what he calls a path to destruction. Blinken will wrap up his three-nation tour of Africa in the coming hours.

He spoke with CNN's Stephanie Busari earlier and called on Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, to bring the warring sides together. Stephanie joins me now with more from Abuja in Nigeria.

What else did he tell you, Stephanie?

STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN.COM SUPERVISING EDITOR, AFRICA: Michael, so, Secretary Blinken on this trip, really throwing his diplomatic weight behind efforts to resolve conflict on the continent. We spoke about the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia and the need for a cease-fire. Take a listen to what he had to say.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This has to happen as soon as possible (INAUDIBLE) with every passing day what we're seeing is an increase in communal tensions.


BLINKEN: That really risk ripping the country apart and spilling over to other countries in the region. So there's tremendous urgency, which is why we are engaged, every single day, in supporting efforts by the African Union, by others, engaging directly ourselves to try to bring people together, to actually start talking.

BUSARI: Many people have called for premier -- prime minister Abiy to be stripped of the Nobel Peace Prize.

What is your view of that? BLINKEN: Well, those kinds of decisions are up to the Nobel committee. But that is really not the issue. I think the issue now, it is -- and as the duly elected leader of the country, for the prime minister to have played the role that is so vital, which is trying to bring the country together.

And to, again, end the violence and deal with the profound differences that have emerged over the last year and also to make sure that people are getting the help and assistance they need.

That is his responsibility, as the leader of the country. But it is also incumbent upon everyone else involved to do the same thing, to engage in good faith. There is no military solution to the challenges in Ethiopia.

None of the different combative parties can prevail by military means. That is a path to destruction for the country and misery for the people of Ethiopia, who deserve a lot better.

So, I hope that all of the leaders, starting with, again, the leader of the country, the prime minister, will do that, bring people together and work through these problems politically.


BUSARI: So, Michael, Secretary Blinken faced a lot of firefighting in this first official visit to sub-Saharan Africa. But it wasn't all doom and gloom.

He also announced efforts to bolster relations, with the announcement of the U.S.-Africa summit. And many people are saying it's a response to China's huge influence on the continent.

For too long, African leaders have been saying that they have been treated as unequal partners by the U.S. and other Western leaders and that, it is time, for Africa, to be recognized as the major geopolitical player that it is. Michael?

HOLMES: Thanks, Stephanie, Stephanie Busari, there, appreciate it.

Britain, moving to pass a blanket ban on Hamas, the group that rules Gaza. The military wing of Hamas, already, is designated a terrorist organization in the U.K. The home secretary, now, wants the ban to continue in the political wing as well. Nic Robertson, with more.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: This still has to go before the British Parliament before it becomes law. But once passed into law -- and there is no expectation that it won't be -- someone who supports Hamas could face up to 14 years jail time. That would be maximum sentence for organizing or helping fundraise for Hamas or even waving a Hamas flag.

Priti Patel, the home secretary, saying this organization is deeply anti-Semitic, rabidly anti-Semitic. Those were her words. And she said that this should help make the Jewish community in the United Kingdom feel safer.

She said that the organization has access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry, access to terrorist training. It is a terrorist organization, she said.

So that vote likely going before Parliament, likely to come next week. No significant political voices, subsequent to Priti Patel's announcement have come forward, yet to raise concerns.

But undoubtedly, there will be politicians who have some concerns about this move. But, absolutely, bringing the U.K. back into line with the European Union, which it left just a couple of years ago -- Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


HOLMES: But it is not just the E.U. that Britain, will then, be in line with. It will also join Canada, Israel, Japan and the U.S., all of which consider Hamas a terrorist organization, in its entirety.

The Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, welcomed Britain's proposal, unsurprisingly. But Hamas says, it shows bias toward the Israeli narrative.

As calls from the international community grow louder, demanding answers on the whereabouts on tennis star Peng Shuai, the editor-in- chief of the state-run newspaper, "Global Times," says Peng will appear in public soon.

He also claims to have confirmed, through sources, that recent photographs of Peng, at home, shared by a state media journalist, depict her, quote, "current state." CNN, however, has not confirmed when those photos were taken and, if indeed, they came from her.


HOLMES: Now Peng, seemingly, vanished weeks ago, after accusing of former Chinese vice premier of sexual assault.

In Brazil, the Amazon rain forest is rapidly disappearing these days. A new government report finding deforestation had increased 22 percent this year, reaching a 15-year high. The surge coming, despite Brazil's government pledging to end illegal deforestation within the decade.

That was just one of the commitments made at the COP26 summit last week. And although world leaders acknowledged some of the problems contributing to the climate crisis and included unprecedented language in their agreement about moving away from fossil fuels, some experts say it didn't go enough.

They say that global warming will continue to have a devastating impact and especially in the most vulnerable places.


SALEEMUL HUQ, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND DEVELOPMENT: As far as I'm concerned, it is a failure, absolute failure. It's a death sentence for the poorest people on the planet. And not only that, the polluters are saying, to hell with you, we don't care. We're not going to give you a penny.



HOLMES: Philip Alston is a professor of law at NYU.

Professor, great to get your voice on this. Back in 2019, you spoke of climate apartheid, the poorer states bearing the brunt of climate change impact. Well now, COP26 is done.

Have your concerns of 2019 been alleviated in any meaningful sense?

PHILIP ALSTON, PROFESSOR OF LAW, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I don't think very much attention at all was really given to what I call the climate apartheid dimension, the failure of the rich countries to really generate funding they promised long ago in Paris. The reluctance, even of the poorer countries, to actually give any significant priority to trying to mitigate the impact on the poorest, was not at all a priority at COP.

HOLMES: As you pointed out, obviously, which nations and people, for that matter, will be able to protect themselves with technical know- how and money, be able to finance a reasonably comfortable life, despite the environmental damage.

But what happens to the poor, even though they contribute the least to climate change?

In many ways, it's a human rights issue, isn't it?

ALSTON: Yes, it is, absolutely. One very quick point: it is true that in the climate apartheid metaphor, the rich are able to basically look after themselves. But I think it's also very important to emphasize how the rich are going to be hit.

The very wealthy in New York City, all spend their summers and much of the rest of the year on Long Island. Sea level rise on Long Island is predicted to be between 2 and 4 feet well before the end of the century.

And with the increasing severity of storms and so on, the rich will find themselves underwater. But it is true, nonetheless, that they can simply move to higher ground and can relocate, will get insurance and so on.

But the poor will simply be inundated. And what we are looking at is the likelihood of hundreds of millions of people -- some estimates go up to 1 billion, which is just unimaginable -- who will be displaced and, thus, need to find somewhere else to live.

HOLMES: And what happens to poor people ultimately will impact rich people at the end of the day. To the point you were making there, there are risks, it's fair to say, of actual conflict (ph), tangible upheaval as a result of the climate migration.

You mention food shortages and so on, if these countries aren't helped. It's in the interest of rich nations help the poorer countries.

ALSTON: If we look at what the forced migration of 1 million people into Europe from Syria and elsewhere did recently in Europe and then we multiply that by many hundreds of millions, we are going to have a huge uprising by people who are resisting the invasion of the hordes who are coming their way.

We are going to move quickly to emergency regimes designed to keep people out, to suppress them. There is going to be all sorts of major upheavals in terms of the political systems that we currently have.


ALSTON: And it's going to be complete chaos.

HOLMES: We are almost out of time but, real quick, if you can, what immediate things should be done?

ALSTON: I think we need to -- we are not planning now for the very real emergencies that are going to happen.

The focus is on, let's try to get global warming down; let's try to keep it to 1.5 percent and then we will address the specific consequences.

But the truth is, we are not going to be below 1.5 degrees. There's a very good chance we will be as high as 3 degrees. We can predict with great certainty, right now, that there are going to be a number of really major crises. And we need to plan for them.

HOLMES: Dire warnings, indeed, but realities as well. Professor Philip Alston, thanks so much for your time.

ALSTON: Thanks, Michael.


HOLMES: And we will leave you this story of canine triumph over adversity. Get this, a stray Russian dog named Monika now has a fresh shot at mobility after a brutal act. Rescuers think someone cut off her paws, just to be cruel.

But a crowd funding operation was organized and thankfully she ended up at a clinic, where a veterinarian fitted her with what you see there, prosthetic legs. The doctor says Monica's bones should grow and adapt to the artificial titanium limbs, "like antlers on a deer," he says.

Once recovered, she will be able to walk into her new home, which is, apparently, going to be in London.

I'm Michael Holmes, thank you for your company, "AFRICAN VOICES CHANGEMAKERS" is up next.