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Quest Means Business

Tech Bosses Face Fresh Grilling on Capitol Hill; Uyghur Families Desperate to Reunite; H&M and Nike Face Backlash in China for Xinjiang Concerns. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 25, 2021 - 16:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone. The closing bell has just rung on Wall Street and the Dow Jones has just posted its best session

of the week. Those are the markets and here are the main stories we will be following.

Joe Biden says he won't back down to China over its stance on human rights. We'll explore that question.

Also, we have exclusive reporting torn apart by oppression, Uyghur parents are desperate to reunite with their families. In a CNN exclusive, our David

Culver travels to Xinjiang to look for the lost children left behind -- a heartbreaking story you don't want to miss.

And in Washington, lawmakers take on the biggest names in tech over misinformation. We are live in the nation's capital and I am coming to you

live from London. It is Thursday the 25th of March. I'm Hala Gorani and this is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

Tonight, Joe Biden claims he will hold China accountable for what he calls blatant human rights violations. It was his first official White House news

conference, and the U.S. President said new sanctions against two Chinese leaders clearly got the attention of Beijing.

Mr. Biden said China's President Xi Jinping understands the U.S. position on the Uyghur minority living in Xinjiang province. He said this is how he

presented the case in their phone call last month.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Americans value the notion of freedom. American values human rights. We don't always live up to our

expectations. But there's a value system. We were founded on that principle.

And as long as you and your country continues to so blatantly violate human rights, we're going to continue in an unrelenting way to call to the

attention of the world and make it clear -- make it clear what's happening.


GORANI: Well, this takes us to a CNN exclusive story: children torn from their families and kept from leaving China's Xinjiang province.

Their parents sometimes country's away, desperate for answers turning to CNN for help in tracking down their loved ones. In a new and in a

heartbreaking report, Amnesty International estimates China's policies toward ethnic Uyghur Muslims have split up thousands of families. The U.S.

and other countries have labeled China's treatment of Uyghurs as genocide.

China, for its part denies the human rights abuse allegations, claiming their actions are justified to combat religious extremism and prevent


But in an exclusive report, CNN's David Culver, senior producer Steven Jiang, and photojournalist Justin Robertson traveled to the heavily

surveilled region. With the parents' permission, they went in search of the lost children of Xinjiang.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Followed by a convoy of suspected undercover Chinese police vehicles --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tail is still on us.

CULVER (voice-over): Mimicking our every turn through China's far Western Xinjiang region.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they want to know exactly where we're going.

CULVER (voice-over): Blocking roads that lead to possible internment camps and keeping us from getting too close to so-called sensitive sites.

How we ended up on this journey had less to do about us and more about who we were looking for. CNN searching for the lost Uyghur children of

Xinjiang, a region in which several countries, including the U.S., allege China is committing genocide against the ethnic Uyghur Muslim minority.

Thousands of families have now been ripped apart through China's actions. We tracked down two of them.

Now in Adelaide, Australia, Mamutjan Abdurehim constantly replays the only recent videos he has of his daughter and son.


CULVER (voice-over): He has not held his wife or their children in more than five years. He is among thousands of families from Xinjiang who have

been torn apart, according to a new Amnesty International report.

MAMUTJAN ABDUREHIM, FATHER OF CHILDREN IN XINJIANG: April on 17th, the mass internment started then. And I was one of the first people detained.

My wife was detained, too.

CULVER (voice-over): Before they were separated, Mamutjan was studying for a PhD in Kuala Lumpur. His wife was studying English there.

ABDUREHIM: We were happy as a family. It was a good old day.

CULVER (voice-over): But Mamutjan's wife lost her passport while abroad in Malaysia. Chinese officials told her that to renew it, she had to go back

to Xinjiang.

She brought the couple's two young children with her, thinking they would soon be able to travel back to be with her husband. But that was late 2015.


CULVER (voice-over): Amnesty says the forced separation of families allows China to control the narrative, keeping something precious to dissuade

their loved ones outside the country from bad-mouthing China.

Chinese officials have repeatedly pushed back against claims of genocide in Xinjiang. The Foreign Minister recently calling it preposterous, adding --

"We welcome more people from around the world to visit Xinjiang. Seeing is believing. It is the best way to debunk rumors," he said.

So, we decided to try to find the missing children ourselves. With permission from their parents, the five-plus hour flight from Beijing ended

with a strange request from the cabin crew. As we approached Kashgar's Airport to land, all window shades had to be shut, no explanation why.

We went through a standard COVID test for all arriving passengers, loaded up a rental car and roamed without anyone stopping us. Though, like much of

China, you're always watched.

You immediately encounter the vibrant, richly diverse culture of this region, the faces also different. Perhaps not what you'd expect in China.

From the Grand Bazaar to the Central Mosque, we strolled through the reconstructed old town. It is here we began to notice, people trailing us.

CULVER (on camera): There are usually individual men on phones, kind of keeping a social distance, shall we say.

CULVER (voice-over): But it seemed they wanted to know who we were searching for. This video of Mamutjan's little girl was a critical clue for

us. We matched the alleyways of old Kashgar with a backdrop in the video, the first day, no luck.

CULVER (on camera): Another dead end, this might be it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's try this.

CULVER (voice-over): Twenty-four hours and 20,000 steps later, we weaved our way through one last corridor and suddenly.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know this man, is he your father?

CULVER (voice-over): The daughter and her grandparents, Mamutjan's mom and dad were not expecting us, but they let us into their home.

Muhlise told me she is going to turn 11 in May, but amidst her innocence an awareness not to say too much. She told us she had not spoken to her father

since 2017.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: Their passports were confiscated.

CULVER (voice-over): And when we asked her.

CULVER (on camera): What would you want to say to him if you could talk to him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

CULVER (voice-over): "I miss him," she later told me.

CULVER (on camera): Can you tell me some of what you're feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

CULVER (voice-over): "I don't have my mom with me right now, I don't have my dad, either. I just want to be reunited with them," she told me.

Off camera, her grandmother, overcome by grief.

As I asked about her mother and if she had been sent to a camp?

CULVER (on camera): How long was she away for?

CULVER (voice-over): She quickly bolted to her grandfather, translating our question from Chinese to Uyghur for them. Camps are too sensitive a topic

to discuss. As they talked, notice the sudden murmurs in the background. It seemed word of our visit had gotten to officials and back to the family,

bringing an abrupt end to our visit.

CULVER (on camera): She wants the family together. She didn't want to say they want to go abroad.

CULVER (voice-over): But we still wanted to know where Mamutjan's wife and son were. The family said they've been living with her parents at a house


CULVER (on camera): It's locked on the outside, so unless they're gone for the day or they are gone permanently.

CULVER (voice-over): We asked the Chinese government if the wife is currently in a camp. They have not gotten back to us.

While on the ground in Xinjiang, there was a second set of children we wanted to track down. Their parents are in Italy.

ABLIKIM MAMTININ, FATHER OF TRAPPED CHILDREN (through translator): My children thought that we abandoned them, that we don't care about them.

CULVER (voice-over): After having five children and getting pregnant with a sixth, they say authorities wanted to force their mother to have an

abortion and throw the father in jail.

MIHRIBAN KADER, MOTHER OF CHILDREN TRAPPED IN XINJIANG (through translator): The policies were too strict, it was impossible to take on all

of our children together with us. So we left our homeland and our children in desperation.

CULVER (voice-over): The older children, now aged between 12 and 16 were left behind with their grandparents. Mihriban and Ablikim hoped the

separation would be temporary until they could secure more visas.

But they went nearly four years unable to contact their children, and they got word that family members were being rounded up and being sent to camps.

Determined to reunite the family, their cousin in Canada, Arafat Abulmit choreographed their escape attempt from half a world away. Their parents

had finally secured visa approvals from Italy for their children. In June 2020, Arafat managed to communicate to the kids.

ARAFAT ABULMIT, COUSIN OF UYGHUR CHILDREN: This is your only shot. If you just stay, your life is going to be staying there, nothing we can do.


CULVER (voice-over): On their, own they traveled more than 3,000 miles, father than from L.A. to New York, recovering hidden passports, eventually

flying into Shanghai.

CULVER (on camera): When the children arrived here in Shanghai, they were excited and happy. They never thought they would make it this far.

CULVER (voice-over): But their repeated attempts to obtain their visas failed. Arafat also says multiple hotels turned the kids away because they

are Uyghur. They finally found a place willing to take them in. All the while they dropped geolocation pins for Arafat to know that they were okay.

The last pin dropped on June 24th, a few blocks from the hotel.

CULVER (on camera): Do you know who these children are? Have you seen them before?

CULVER (voice-over): Arafat in Canada watched. Then silence, minutes to hours, to days, to weeks.

ABULMIT: And then I tell my aunts, they might be detained. Mihriban in Italy, they start crying like -- they cannot believe it.

CULVER (voice-over): After several phone calls, he learned that police had tracked them down. China's giant surveillance network zeroing in on the

four children. Arafat later found out they've been sent back to Xinjiang and thrown into an orphanage.

In Rome, the parents heard the devastating news of their children's detention, as they begged for help outside of Italy's Ministry of Foreign

Affairs Office. The Italian government refused to comment to CNN on what happened. China has also not responded to requests for comment on the two

families' cases.

Having found Muhlise for her father, we hoped to find the four Ablikim children to bring their parents some comfort. We headed out before sunrise,

leaving Kashgar for the hour or so drive to get to the orphanage where they were sent.

That's the eldest boy, Yahyar standing in front of the building a month ago. As we drove, we watched as one car after another trailed us.

After making a pass by the orphanage, we headed to one of the kids' schools where we asked to see the kids. Eventually, local officials showed up and

asked for about 30 minutes to get back to us.

CULVER (on camera): It was more than two hours ago, but they've yet to let us talk to the children.

CULVER (voice-over): We later made contact with Yahyar through video chat.

CULVER (on camera): Do you want to be with them? Do you miss them?

CULVER (voice-over): "I do," he says. He answered quickly and kept looking off camera. Someone was directing him to answer.

"Tell them that you see your sister every day," the voice said.

CULVER: He's been coached. Can you tell us about your journey, trying to reunite with your parents last year?

CULVER (voice-over): When we asked about the Shanghai escape attempt, he deflected. Much like Muhlise, here was another child, clearly aware that

the way they speak and what they say could impact those they love. After about eight minutes we ended the call.

CULVER: They are literally right over there and we can't see them.

CULVER (voice-over): We later learned that three of the children were interrogated about our conversation, despite the pressure that the children

face every day, late last month they even risked sending out a photo message to their parents.

The four of them, lined up holding a sign in Chinese, saying, "Dad, Mom, we miss you." A rare glimpse of an uncensored truth.

With each passing hour of our being on the ground in Xinjiang, it seemed the number of likely security agents trailing us increased, adding pressure

to our search.

But before leaving, we reconnected with Mamutjan, who was hungry for any information on his wife and kids and desperate to see his little girl.

We watched him as he watched her.

ABDUREHIM: That's my mother.

CULVER: Do you know this man? Is he your father? Your dad? We've been talking to him.

ABDUREHIM: That's my father. They got so old. I haven't seen them in four years.

CULVER (voice-over): For Mamutjan, it is part relief seeing that she is okay, even proud that she still wants to be a doctor.

CULVER: What would you want to say to him if you could talk to him?

CULVER (voice-over): But to see her break down, sending her love to her father, no dad, no matter how strong, can hide that agony for long.

ABDUREHIM: Poor thing. What kind of country does this to people? To innocent people? She definitely misses me, too.

CULVER: She clearly -- your little girl, is hurting but she loves your lot. And that came across right away.


ABDUREHIM: It is terrible. It's a terrible situation, I cannot even describe my feelings right now. I will try to bring them here in Australia.

I will try my best, I will do everything I can.

CULVER (voice-over): Beneath that relentless determination, an inconsolable grief for years lost and a hope for families to be whole once more.

David Culver, CNN, Xinjiang, China.



GORANI: Absolutely heartbreaking. Now, David mentioned in his report that they had not received a response from the Chinese government. However, just

in the last hour, the Chinese Ambassador to the United States spoke exclusively with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. He claimed that our reporting

from the region was well, I'll let you listen to what he told Christiane.


CUI TIANKAI, CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Frankly, there has been so much fabrication so far. So I cannot.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: But you know that that's not fabricated, Ambassador. Right? You know that that's not


TIANKAI: It's very unfortunate. I think it's very unfortunate. It is immoral to take advantage of any particular family situation and

manipulate. This is not true journalism. It's very unfortunate for CNN.

AMANPOUR: What I don't understand is when you talk about international rules, genocide, and the violation of people's human rights based on

ethnicity and identity and religion is against international rules. Why would a country as developed as China do that kind of thing? Why?

TIANKAI: China is not doing these things. Let me make it very clear. China is not doing these things. And it's very unfortunate. Some people including

some journalists, they start with very strong bias and prejudice. That's their problem.

That's how they come to very different conclusions about particular situations very much against real facts.


GORANI: Well, that's the reaction from the Chinese Ambassador to the United States. Now, this is having ripple effects in the corporate world as well.

Companies like H&M and Nike said months ago, that they were concerned by reports that cotton producers in Xinjiang allegedly use forced labor. Now,

they are facing a backlash on Chinese social media.

A group linked to the Chinese Communist Party has accused H&M of spreading rumors. Chinese celebrities have said they are cutting ties with the

clothing company and with Nike. The hashtag #ISupportXinjiangCotton has been read more than a billion times on Weibo.

Clare Sebastian is following this story from New York. So this is really the big conundrum facing so many huge companies that want to do business in

China, right, is that if they want to take a stand against allegations of forced labor or what's happening to the Uyghurs, for instance, then they're

facing this backlash. How do they work that into their business approach for that huge market?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Hala, this is a huge conundrum. The Chinese consumer, perhaps one of the most powerful forces on

the planet for companies who really want to become profitable on a global scale, and we're seeing them tread very carefully with this balancing act.

H&M, the statement that they originally put out last year has calmed down. They still have one statement on their website saying that they are very

concerned about reports of forced labor in Xinjiang and they don't source cotton from there, but they have stayed fairly tight lipped just one

statement they put out on Chinese social media that said this does not represent any political position.

"H&M always respects Chinese consumers. We are committed to long term investment and development in China." No word from Nike or Adidas, another

company embroiled in this. Both of those who have faced backlash online have lost celebrity endorsers, but a very difficult balancing act.

And I would argue, look, we've seen this in the past, companies treading a fine line of issues like Taiwan, like the protests in Hong Kong. But when

it comes to the situation in Xinjiang, something that clearly the U.S. and its allies around the world have described as genocide, major human rights

abuses, companies now face an even bigger dilemma because if they are seen to be sort of not coming down hard enough on these issues, they could face

backlash outside of China.

So this poses an even more difficult choice for them.

GORANI: Right. It's not just those companies, it's obviously tech companies as well. What they do in terms of modifying their product for the Chinese

market when they're asked to et cetera.

Thanks very much, Clara Sebastian, for joining us live from New York.

And still to come, speaking of the Big Tech companies, the heads of Facebook, Twitter and Google are answering to U.S. lawmakers about

misinformation on their platforms. We'll have the very latest from today's tech hearing. Coming up next.



GORANI: Welcome back. The heads of Facebook, Twitter and Google addressed misinformation and extremism today in a congressional hearing on Capitol

Hill in Washington.

This is the first time that Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai have testified in front of U.S. lawmakers since the COVID-19 vaccine


One congressman asked Zuckerberg, why false information about vaccines keeps appearing on Facebook.


REP. MIKE DOYLE (D-PA): Why in the midst of a global pandemic that has killed over half a million Americans that you haven't taken these accounts

down that are responsible for the preponderance of vaccine disinformation on your platforms?

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: Congressman, yes, we do have a policy against allowing vaccine misinformation --

DOYLE: Well, I know you have the policy. But will you take the sites down today? You still have 12 people up on your site doing this. Will you take

them down?

ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, I would need to look at the -- and have our team look at the exact examples to make sure they are violating the policies

since we have the policy in place.

DOYLE: Look at it today and see -- because those still exist.


GORANI: Donie O'Sullivan has been following the hearing. What should we make of that response? That answer by Mark Zuckerberg about, you know,

misinformation, disinformation accounts promoting vaccine conspiracy theories?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Yes, that's sort of what you saw there is basically what's been happening all day. I mean, they're going

around in circles. Members of Congress are presenting, you know, examples of misinformation, of disinformation, whether it's about the COVID vaccine,

whether it's about what led off to the insurrection here in the United States on January 6, and you know, they're getting wishy washy answers from

these company executives.

And there's a lot of frustration, you know, I think, actually on both sides today. You know, these executives have done hearings like this in the past.

They've done them a few times now before, so they're getting a bit savvy on how they can run the clock down, how they can answer questions without

actually answering questions.

And we saw in a lot of instances, Members of Congress asking Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai for yes, no answers. And we actually saw Jack

Dorsey, the Twitter CEO tweeting during today's hearing just to show his frustration. We have that tweet now, where a Twitter user said, "It would

be awesome if some member engaged Jack in a substantive discussion on Twitter's protocols. They could achieve a lot of what they're aiming for,"

and Jack tweeted that he agreed with that.


O'SULLIVAN: So I think there's a sense on the side of the executives that there's not a substantive enough discussion happening and there's a sense

on the side of the lawmakers that these companies do not want to face up for their responsibility and perhaps culpability in the spread of vaccine

misinformation, and all that played out here with the insurrection.

GORANI: So we don't usually do celebrity news. Well, I don't on CNN anyway. But when someone like Chrissy Teigen, who's a just prolific Tweeter, she's

still on Instagram, but Chrissy Teigen, the wife of John Legend, says "I'm quitting Twitter." So this is -- we're talking about millions and millions

of followers.

And so therefore engagement with Twitter that could, you know, suffer as a result? Well, why did she quit Twitter? This is someone who shares her

personal life, you know, almost every hour of every day.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, we've seen a lot over the past year that members and followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory really harassed Teigen, they

really, really went after her.

Her reasons for quitting Twitter right now, she followed up today with another post on Instagram about leaving Twitter. She said that the company

in her view had actually done a lot for her, that they had tried to cut down on the harassment, but in the end, that it was all just a bit


But you know, I think this is an important example to raise, Hala, as you mentioned, you don't often talk about celebrities. But this -- the move she

made is a move that many people many women, particularly women of color are finding themselves having to make when it comes to social media, because

there are so many anonymous trolls, anonymous bot accounts that can absolutely overwhelm somebody with abuse.

Even if you're, you know, a private citizen, you can be harassed in that way. And a lot of people -- we've been speaking to experts, people are

leaving these social media platforms because they don't find it to be a safe or welcoming place to engage in discussion online and that is

something which is quite concerning.

I mean, especially for Twitter. Twitter posted Chrissy Teigen at their annual conference for staff right before the COVID outbreak here in the

U.S. last year and they called her the Mayor of Twitter -- for them, you know, she was one of their big stars, and I think her leaving will generate

a lot of soul searching at the company.

GORANI: Yes, absolutely. Although, she did say it wasn't because of the trolling and she even praised, as you mentioned, Donie, Twitter, but it is

a complicated relationship when you have the number of followers that she has, if you feel like you're not getting anything out of it anymore.

Perhaps it's better for everybody to just move on, but she's still on Instagram, so there's that.

Thank you, Donie O'Sullivan.

E.U. leaders are debating a controversial proposal meant to boost the supply of vaccines for member states. We will have a live report on their

Virtual Summit today, after this.



GORANI: Hello, I'm Hala Gorani and there's more "Quest Means Business" in a moment when we'll discuss E.U. plans to stop vaccine stockpiles from

leaving the block with a very questionable vaccine roll out.

And a log jam in one of the world's trading routes could take weeks to clear. We'll look at the potential ripple effects for the global economy.

Before that, let's bring you the news headlines this hour.

The president announced a major new goal for Americas -- sorry. The U.S. president has announced a major new goal for America's COVID vaccine drive,

to get 200 million doses into people's arms during his first 100 days in office.

Joe Biden made the announcement at his first White House presidential news conference. Last week the U.S. surpassed Mr. Biden's initial goal of 100

million shots.

Also among the headlines, a bill to restrict voter access and the U.S. state of Georgia has been sent to that states Senate after being passed by

the Republican majority in the House of Representatives there.

Georgia voters were pivotal in giving Democrats control of the White House and U.S. Senate this year. President Biden says any efforts to restrict

voting rights are un-American.

A senior Saudi official denies threatening to harm the person who led the U.N. investigation into Jamal Khashoggi's murder. The U.N. stands by the

account of Agnes Callamard.

She told the Guardian that the official -- the Saudi official had threatened to have her quote, taken care of. She said it happened at a

meeting last year between Saudi and U.N. officials and that a colleague warned her about it.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny says his health is declining in prison. He says he's receiving no treatment for severe back and leg pain

and accuses prison authorities of torturing him through sleep deprivation.

Russia's Penitentiary Service says Navalny is in generally good and stable health.

And the award winning actress, Jessica Walter, has died at the age of 80. Her daughter tells CNN she died in her sleep at home in New York. Walter

spent six decades in show business, expanding her fan base recently with her starting role in the hit TV series, "Arrested Development."

Well, E.U. leaders are holding crisis talks.

E.U. leaders are holding crisis talks on how to boost vaccine supplies and speed a troubled roll out across Europe. The met for a virtual summit today

and made divisions over proposed new restrictions on exporting vaccines out of the block.

Given the massive short fall in vaccine doses promised by drug makers, notably AstraZeneca, some countries want to block vaccine stock piles from

leaving the E.U.

Fred Pleitgen is following the story; he is in Berlin this evening. So you know, the vaccine roll out obviously much, much slower than anyone would

want in the E.U. certainly slower than in the U.K., for instance. What are E.U. leaders -- I mean what solutions do they think can speed up this

vaccination process at this point?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think, Hala, right now the main thing they're talking about is possible -- a mechanism for

possible export restrictions. That certainly seems to be something that the European parliament wants.

It also seems to be something that the European Commission wants and that a lot of the member states want as well. Now of course that mechanism needs

to be very flexible. That's what many E.U. leaders have been saying and they certainly don't want to use that in too many cases.

From what we've heard from Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European - - from the E.U. Commission, she was basically singling out AstraZeneca as far as these possible export restrictions are concerned.

She said in one of her recent statements that AstraZeneca so far is the only company that has underperformed on the contract signed with the

European Union. You have others, of course, like Moderna and BioNTech where the E.U.'s saying that's perfectly fine. In fact, BioNTech, for instance,

is delivering more vaccines.

The big question is when and how would such a mechanism be used. The E.U. was sort of trying to frame this as being an invitation to reciprocity, as

they call it. They believe that they're being unfairly treated by countries like the U.K. and also the U.S. where they're saying, look, there have been

doses that have gone to these countries but there really haven't been any - - in fact there haven't been any doses coming back to the European Union. And they're saying they want that to change.

Now of course there are some leaders, notably Angela Merkel here, of -- of Germany who are saying, this really needs to be a last resort because of

course all of these are international supply chains that are evolved as well.

For instance, if the European Union were to block exports of vaccine to the United Kingdom, there are also raw materials for vaccines coming from the

United Kingdom to the European Union.

And really no one wants there to be a shortage of vaccines because there is some sort of battle been the U.K. and the E.U. Both sides signed a

declaration saying that they want to make this a win-win situation somehow but it really is unclear how they want to do that, Hala.

GORANI: But the Europeans have come under so much criticism for not planning ahead, for not going all in with the pharmaceutical makers, for

not -- for not sort of -- because when you have a pandemic, you know, that's not the time to be conservative with your spending.

You know you got to throw all the money you can at some of these drug makers. Some of the criticism for France, for instance, is that they didn't

do that and that they were really too cavalier about planning very aggressively ahead for this vaccine roll out. How are the European leaders

responding to this criticism?

PLEITGEN: Well, you know what, it -- it really is very different across the board. I think one thing that's really taking hold is that European leaders

are saying that yes, the roll out is obviously way too short -- way too slow. And they're also saying that the European Union really didn't do a

very good job in negotiating a lot of these contracts.

They negotiated way too long, they went way too much into details and they really wanted things in the contracts that -- that other countries

basically said look, we don't necessarily need to have that.

And other countries got their vaccine first and got their -- got a lot more of the vaccine. It was very interesting to see that of Emmanuel Macron. He

said today that yes, that criticism is actually valid. He believes that the -- that the E.U. and E.U. states were not bold enough with the vaccine, did

not dare to go further and -- and to try and make it happen.

He singled out the United States and said by example he believes that they are doing a much better job. The big problem that a lot of these European

leaders have now, Hala, is that obviously they are in this situation and there simply isn't more vaccine available right now.

And of course a lot of people in the E.U., a lot of people in the E.U. member states are saying they find it very critical that there is a lot of

vaccine being exported from the E.U. and that European citizens don't get it -- don't get enough of it.

And that's one of the reasons why they're talking about this export restriction mechanism now. But that criticism is certainly something that

is not going away anytime soon and -- and -- and certainly is one that is seen as very valid across the board here in Europe.

GORANI: All right. Fred Pleitgen, good to see you. Thanks very much coming to us live from Berlin.

The U.K.'s vaccine rollout is far ahead of the European Unions and perhaps nowhere is that disparity more evident than along the border between

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Nic Robertson has that story.


NIC ROBERSTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: 111-years-old, Mary Devlin (ph) gets her second vaccine shot.

How do you feel now you've had your second shot?

UNKNOWN: I feel wonderful.

ROBERSTON: Her doctor, Dr. Frances O'Hagan (ph), is on a roll.

UNKNOWN: I'm going to give you your vaccine. That's it, you're all done.

ROBERTSON: Putting shots in arms at a Northern Ireland clinic in Armagh, just as fast as she can. All her over 60s, done.

DR. FRANCES O'HAGAN, GENERAL PRACTITIONER ARMAGH, NORTHERN IRELAND: She's fantastic. And at every clinic there's a real feel good atmosphere.

ROBERTSON: At a nearby sports center, the same buzz. Dozens of health officials delivering 1,200 shots a day. So far across Northern Ireland more

than one-third of the population have had their first shot of vaccine roll out, according to the government is going well.

South of the border in the Republic of Ireland. It's an entirely different story. Just across the Irish border in Monaghan, government vaccine

supplies are stalling. Local doctor, Illona Duffy, has no shots for the next few days.

DR. ILLONA DUFFY, GENERAL PRACTITIONER, MONAGHAN, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: The real issue is that we're a large practice. We have over 1,500 patients over

the age of 70 and to date we've only been able to vaccine about 210 of those patients.

ROBERTSON: In Monaghan, people eye the other side of the border with vaccine envy. Unlike the U.K., Ireland relied on the E.U. for vaccines and

are way behind.

UNKNOWN: It's a bit frustrating for people her, like you know what I mean.

UNKNOWN: These are all over dues (ph).

ROBERTSON: In his bar, Raymond Aughey, is counting the cost of being shuttered through COVID restrictions for almost a year. A slow vaccine roll

out in the South is adding to his woes, business lost to Northern Ireland.

RAYMOND AUGHEY, OWNER, THE SQUEALING PIG: They'll probably be open so much faster. And when they open the young people are just going to flock across

to the border.

ROBERTSON: On the border roads, Irish police run occasional COVID check points, preventing non-essential journeys (ph). They began when rocketing

infections in the North spilled over, spiking outbreaks in Ireland.

In the first month of full cross border operation, police here have handed out more than 140 fines to drivers coming from Northern Ireland. However,

there is no reciprocal system on the other side of the boarder.

Both sides of the border, the uneven COVID response is worrying politicians.

BRENDAN SMITH, CHAIRMAN, FIANNA FAIL PARLIMENTARY PARTY: Pandemics don't recognize borders. We're a very small community, a small island on the

northwestern periphery of Europe. We need to work together to deal with health issues.

ROBIN SWANN, NORTHERN IRELAND HEALTH MINISTER: If we do get an actual (ph) cross border movements and we actually see a higher degree of people who

aren't vaccinated actually starting to come into Northern Ireland and mix with -- with our people here and then that's where we'd be concerned.

ROBERTSON: Paradoxically, Northern Ireland's vaccine success offers hope south of the border.

DUFFY: Now that the rates in the North are so low, and so now that we know that that will probably continue because there will be less community

transmission because so many people are vaccinated, I think we're going to find that our rates will reflect that.

ROBERTSON: Both sides of the border hoping for a leveling up fast. Nic Robertson, CNN, along the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border.


GORANI: Next, trouble in the Suez Canal where the longer it takes to dislodge a grounded containership, the bigger the cost to global trade.

We'll be right back.


Well, it could take days, it could even take weeks to free a massive containership stuck in the Suez Canal. That timeline comes from the head of

a salvage company helping to dislodge the Ever Given, which ran to ground in one of the world's busiest waterways.

They have been trying to excavate the area around its bow. The rocky soil is apparently adding to the -- well, when you look at the digger though,

you wonder how long is this going to take. And you see all the dots, they represent ships, at least 160 vessels loaded with fuel and cargo, are

waiting to use this key shipping lane.

About 12 percent of global trade relies on the Suez Canal. Vessels may soon decide to go around Africa's southern tip, which is really taking the long

way home and it would cause big delays with big consequences, big economic consequences for the entire global economy. John Deftarious has more.


JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A traffic jam like no other in the world of trade, at least 160 ships are waiting to transit through the Suez Canal

after efforts to dislodge the giant vessel wedged across it failed.

Attempts were made to free the 224,000 ton, Ever Given, using eight tugboats and dredging the surrounding mud and sand. But so far, the vessel

won't budge.

Canal authorities suspended traffic through the vital waterway, Thursday, when it became clear the rescue plan wasn't going to be quick or easy.

A team of Dutch and Japanese salvage experts were drafted in to help and expressed caution over the time it could take.

PETER BERDOWSKI, CEO BOSKALIS (through translator): It could be days to weeks depending on what you come across. You have to realize that the

equipment you need is, of course, not necessarily around the corner.

DEFTERIOS: Around 12 percent of the world trade volume passes through the canal normally and it usually handles the equivalent of $10 billion a day

in cargo. Industry experts are concerned if the situation is not resolved soon, there could be a big impact on the oil market; shipping and container

rates leading to a rise in the cost of goods we all depend on.

The Ever Given first became stuck on Tuesday after being caught in high wind and a ferocious sand storm, which caused low visibility and poor

navigation. Its owner, Japanese shipping company Shoei Kisen KK, is bracing itself for law suits from affected parties but say their main focus at this

critical juncture is refloating the ship.

John Defterios, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


GORANI: Well, Ben Wedeman joins me live. He's monitoring the situation from Beirut. What -- what is on this boat?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, Hala, it's good to hear from you again. I hope your show is back on. On this boat

is thousands and thousands of containers, each one obviously containing something different.

But this is a ship -- one of the largest container ships on earth, as I'm sure we've said time and time again. It's as long as the Empire State

Building is wide.

And what's obvious is that, you know, the size of shipping has become so big that it's very hard for the Egyptian authorities to basically keep up

with the growth. The side of the Suez Canal in the 50 -- last 50 years, the width of it has basically doubled and clearly it's still not big enough.

And the fact that this problem -- this problem is now facing us all, basically the -- there's going to be -- have some -- there's going to --

many of these ships will have to diverted around the African continent, Cape Horn.

And that is going to add about an extra 6,000 kilometers and 12 days to their voyage. Now it's important to keep in mind that since the Suez Canal

opened in 1869, there have been periods of closure.

1956 to '57 as a result of the war between Egypt on the one hand and Israel, the U.K. and France on the other. And from 1967 when Israel

occupied the Sinai Peninsula until 1975 when it was reopened again.

So this is not unheard of but certainly the level of trade between Europe and Asia has grown many folds since then. So this is going to be a fairly

disruptive -- have a disruptive impact on world trade. Hala.

GORANI: And -- and -- and can we put a price tag on this? How much this is costing per day, per hour?

WEDEMAN: Well, there -- I -- I forget the specific sum but we're talking about billions of dollars perhaps everyday that the Suez Canal is closed.


There are about, on average, 50 ships going through the canal every day. And, of course, we're quoting the figure of 160 ships currently stuck on

the northern and southern end. But let's keep in mind, many of these ships are coming from the far east, and so really the pipeline goes back

thousands and thousands of kilometers.

And so we're talking about hundreds of billions, if not perhaps, if this goes on for weeks, trillions of dollars up in the air at this point until

the Egyptian authorities and those salvage companies can finally unstop this problem. Hala?

GORANI: Ben Wedeman, our Senior International Correspondent in Beirut. Good to see you. Thanks very much. And still ahead, following the money, the

U.S. and U.K. sanctioned two giant holding companies in Myanmar. What it means in the wake of the country's military coup. We'll have that coming



GORANI: Welcome back. The U.S. has announced new sanctions against holding companies that support Myanmar's military. It follows last month's military

coup, which has led to protests and clashes across the country. The leader of Myanmar's military coup is closely linked to one of the company's

targeted by these sanctions. Ivan Watson has this report, untangling the army's economic web.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The military in Myanmar is responsible for much more than the February 1st coup and ensuing crackdown

against protesters. The military has also long been heavily involved in the business of making money.

CHRIS SIDOTI, U.N. INDEPENDENT INTERNATIONAL FACT-FINDING MISSION ON MYANMAR: The military has a tentacle in almost every part of the Myanmar


WATSON: Chris Sidoti was a member of United Nations' fact-finding mission, which published a 2019 report on the economic interests of the Myanmar

military. It concluded that the same generals, who have been accused by the U.N. of committing human rights abuses against ethnic groups like the

Rohingya's, are also in charge of two of the biggest conglomerates in the country, Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited and Myanmar Economic


UNKNOWN MALE: Today, MEC is one of Myanmar's leading conglomerates.


WATSON: Their portfolios include banks, oil and gas extraction, mining, ports, hotels, telecommunications, breweries, and even a golf resort. A

separate 2020 report by Amnesty International exposed the unique relationship between international combat divisions and the conglomerate


MONTSE FERRER, RESEARCHER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Almost every single top officer of the military holds shares in this large business conglomerate

that's collecting profit and dividends.

WATSON: At the top of the pyramid, this man, Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander in Chief of Myanmar's armed force. He declared himself ruler of the country

during the coup of February 1st. But the U.N. report also identifies him as Chairman of the Patron Group, part of MEHL's corporate leadership. He's

essentially a business mogul in an army general's uniform.

That unusual position highlighted at the 2018 launch ceremony for Mytel, a cell phone company joint venture between a Myanmar military owned

conglomerate and a telecommunications company owned by the Vietnamese military. Min Aung Hlaing shared the stage with Vietnamese top brass.

At a press conference weeks after the coup, a military spokesman seemed to anticipate the Junta would face international criticism. He said sanctions

are expected, and they've come from mainly western governments.

BIDEN: A new executive order enabling us to immediately sanction the military leaders who directed the coup, their business interests as well as

close family members.

WATSON: The treasury department targeted two adult children of Myanmar's top general, accusing them of benefitting "from their father's position and

malign influence." Washington also sanctioned the adult children's companies, including a restaurant, a media production company, and a chain

of gyms called EverFit.

Despite the sanctions, I can still access an app from EverFit on my IPhone's app store. I can also download another app called OCCDS, and that

stands for the Office of the Commander in Chief of the Defense Services. It's basically a public relations media platform for Min Aung Hlaing, the

military dictator of Myanmar.

On the bloody streets of Myanmar's cities and towns, the death toll continues to grow. The military seeks to crush the popular uprising against

the coup. The struggle over the future of democracy in Myanmar is also a battle over who will control the country's economy. Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong



GORANI: Two days after Israelis cast their ballots, we've got the final numbers from Israel's national elections. But we don't really have the

final results. I'll explain after this.