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Hala Gorani Tonight

One Thousand Migrants Move To Belarusian Processing Center; Several European Nations Count Record-High New COVID Cases; Chinese Tennis Star Vanish From Public Sight After Accusing A Chinese Government Official Of Sexual Assault; Jury Selection For Ghislaine Maxwell's Trial Underway; Intensifying Arms Race Across Asia; Toxic Smog Engulfs India's Capital; Queen Elizabeth II Resumes Work; Britney Spears Says #FreeBritney Movement Saved Her Life. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired November 17, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNTIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, live from CNN in London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. Some migrants are now in a temporary

shelter while others are still freezing at the Belarus-Poland border. The Latvian Foreign Minister joins me in a moment. And a new wave of COVID-19

cases and further restrictions, and that's despite an impressively high vaccination rate in Ireland. So what is going on there? We'll take a closer


And alarm and worry. Tennis star Peng Shuai hasn't been seen publicly since she made a bombshell allegation against a top Chinese politician. After

days of camping in freezing cold, there is finally some respite for many of the migrants stuck at the border between Belarus and Poland.

About a thousand of them stayed overnight in a Belarusian processing center. There are images of that center. It's about a kilometer and a half

from that border itself. I mean, we're calling this respite because it's better than sleeping in the freezing mud obviously, but still it's

basically a giant warehouse.

Our team on the ground though says another thousand or so remained at the razor wire fence that blocks the entrance to Poland. We'll see how those

numbers look tonight. Meanwhile, Iraqi state media cite officials at the foreign ministry who say more than 300 Iraqis have requested to fly from

Belarus back to Iraq.

The flights are scheduled to take place Thursday. How will they make it to the airport? That's another question. This comes on a day of high-level

diplomacy. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a phone call with the Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

She urged him to provide humanitarian care for the people at the border and the EU has pledged nearly $800,000 in support for charities helping the

migrants. The question is, can these charities get to the migrants. Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance visited that processing

center we showed you a bit earlier and sent us this report.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We are right now in the middle of this processing center that over the course of

the past just 12 hours or so, since last night after that violence ended, Belarusian officials and forces have been moving the migrants from that

forest camp, bringing them indoors at this location about a mile back from the border crossing with Poland. It is still, you know, pretty -- you know,

rudimentary conditions that people are in.

But at least, we are inside with some shelter from the increasingly cold weather conditions outside. You know, people have got mattresses to sleep

on. They've got blankets to put over them. They're being given food, outside, they've been given hot tea and bread. The Belarusian officials

that we've spoken to say they aim to provide these people with at least one hot meal a day. Still not very much, but it's better than no hot meals a


And you can see the general atmosphere here is a lot -- sort of -- I wouldn't say happy, but people are a lot more comfortable than they were

outside in the freezing forest camp right up against the razor wire of the Polish border. The big question is, of course, what is going to happen next

to these people? Are they ever going to achieve their -- you know, objective of getting into the European Union?

It doesn't look like it at the moment. The reaction of the Polish authorities yesterday spraying the crowds with water cannon to push them

back from any prospect of getting near to the barricades was an indication that the Poles at least and the European Union in general are reluctant to

take these people in.

We're being told by Belarusian officials that they are waiting for a decision from Germany about whether there is some kind of humanitarian

corridor that could be opened, possibly via Poland, possibly by air, straight from here to Germany, but that is not confirmed at all. And in

fact, over the past couple of days, the Germans have made it clear they don't intend to take these people in either.

The alternative, according to Belarusian officials, is that these people will ultimately be deported back to their countries of origin. For the most

part, that would be Iraq, the majority of people here are from Iraqi- Kurdistan.


GORANI: Our Matthew Chance there reporting from that migrant processing center on the Belarusian side near the Belarusian-Polish border. Fred

Pleitgen has been based on the Polish side of that same border this week. He's got the latest on the response from the government there.



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, the crisis at the border between Poland and Belarus is of course far

from over. The Polish government certainly seems to believe that it has prevailed in what it calls its first round of the hybrid attack against its


The Polish government has said that it will continue to stand firm, but it also said in the forum of the Interior Minister that the Poles believe that

both NATO and the European Union stand firmly in their corner, and so, therefore, the Poles certainly are not going to change the way that they've

handled this crisis so far.

Now, the Polish government on the other hand, of course, does say that they believe that this is not over. They believe that attacks on their border,

that the crisis on the other side of the border is not going to go away any time soon. In fact, the government has said they believe that this could go

on for years rather than weeks or months, and in a long term, the Polish government is going to build a wall at its border The funds for that have

already been allocated and the Poles are saying that the construction of that border is going to begin at the end of this year.

Now, at the same time, you can feel that the situation at the border, it's sort of calmed down a little bit. There were a lot fewer attacks, as the

Poles put it, on their border in the past 24 hours. But at the same time, of course, there hasn't been a long-term solution yet, the European Union

now putting up 700,000 euros to give to NGOs inside Belarus to at least alleviate some of the worst suffering that is going on there. But what's

going to happen to the many people who are still stranded there in the long term is still completely unclear.

However, as far as Poland is concerned, they have made clear once again that those people are not going to get into the European Union via the

border here in Poland. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kuznica, Poland.


GORANI: Well, Belarus is backed by Russia and some in the west are accusing Vladimir Putin of either orchestrating this crisis or at least aiming to

capitalize on it, which could put the wider regional stability at risk. It's not just Poland that's involved here. Ukraine and EU members,

Lithuania and Latvia are watching carefully.

Edgars Rinkevics is the Latvian Foreign Minister, he joins us from the capital, Riga. Thanks for being with us, foreign minister. You met with

your fellow EU foreign ministers a few days ago to talk about this crisis. Are you satisfied that increasing sanctions on Belarus will have the

desired effect?

EDGARS RINKEVICS, FOREIGN MINISTER, LATVIA: Well, thank you very much for having me. And yes, indeed, we had foreign affairs council on Monday. I'm

satisfied that we reached political agreement, imposed what we call the fifth package. And we also talked if the situation is not improving, then

the sixth package would be prepared on those who are in first. So far, I'm very pleased with the solidarity and support from our fellow EU member


GORANI: Do you think that NATO should get involved? There was talk of triggering article four. Do you think this is the right move?

RINKEVICS: Well, we have considered it. Actually, we are discussing this issue with our Polish and Lithuanian allies since August when actually this

crisis started. And our assessment is that, indeed, this option remains as one of options that we could trigger, as you have said, but only if they

see the real deterioration. So far, we see that situation is managed by Polish authorities. We are expressing our full support and solidarity.

And if Poland believes that it's time to trigger article four, or Lithuania believes, we are going to get into the situation. I'm quite confident that

it's going to be trilateral decision, but at this point, our joint assessment is that we should do this mostly through EU channels and also,

of course, doing our national responsibility. But if things are getting worse --


RINKEVICS: It's an option.

GORANI: Yes, but you see the condition that these people are in. There must be on some level a humanitarian imperative here. The German Chancellor

Angela Merkel spoke with the leader of Belarus, Lukashenko. Do you think that some of these migrants, who may have legitimate asylum claims, should

be at least processed, at least heard by EU countries rather than have them freezing to death on a border at the doorstep of the European Union?

RINKEVICS: Well, first of all, let's call a spade as it is, spade. This is hybrid worker, this is not regular migration crisis. This has been

orchestrated by Mr. Lukashenko, and to that end, I would call this as a hostage situation or even a kind of terror act when those people have taken

hostages, and any kind of, let's say, submission to such kind of situation would actually make situation worse. We do work --


GORANI: So, you think, for instance, allowing any of these people in would make the situation worse in your view?

RINKEVICS: Yes, because I think that it will actually be used to get more people in, to deceive them, and actually to continue pressure. What is

important, I think that it is important that responsible young agencies also get access to Belarus.

We know how difficult it is, and that this situation is being managed by the United Nations. We can talk about repatriation, but actually, we cannot

at this time see this as a repetition of 2015. This is a huge difference from what we saw six years ago, and what is happening right now. And that's


GORANI: Well --

RINKEVICS: Quite a big different --

GORANI: Twenty-fifteen, you're talking about when Turkey allowed migrants to travel via the -- via water channels to the EU, but that was -- that was

millions of people. Here, we're talking about 2,000 people. One of the things you said about this crisis is, we should draw attention to what is

happening on the border between Russia and Ukraine. Do you think that this is the Russian President using this to distract from troop build-ups on the

Ukrainian border with Russia?

RINKEVICS: Well, definitely we should see the full picture, and I think that what we are seeing at EU borders from the Russian side as well as

reports about possible troop moments and actually some of activities at Russian-Ukrainian border, those are worrisome scenes.

It's difficult to say how much they're related, but we should be very vigilant. I think that to some extent we cannot determine how much this is

orchestrated from Moscow. I would not go with load -- let's say, announcements, but I would say that we know how integrated Russian and

Belarusian security services and military are.

So, from that point of view, we should be very careful analyzing the situation and we should look at both crises simultaneously and try actually

to manage those from NATO's and the EU's perspective as well.

GORANI: Thank you, the Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics for joining us live from Riga.

RINKEVICS: Thank you --

GORANI: Thank you for your time this evening. European leaders are leaning on booster shots now and targeted restrictions to try to manage these

soaring coronavirus numbers in Europe. Several countries are counting record-high case numbers.

We're almost two years into this, and we're at record-high case numbers in some places. Yesterday, both Slovakia and the Czech Republic reported their

highest number of new infections in the entire pandemic. Poland counted more than 20,000 new cases for the first time since April.

Those countries have vaccination rates that are well below the EU average. But cases are rising in countries with more vaccinated people as well. So

what's going on? Melissa Bell joins me now live from Paris with more on some of these figures we're seeing, these rising case numbers in countries

that have a very high proportion of vaccinated people. Melissa, tell us more on what experts are saying why this is happening.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Hala. That is perhaps the most worrying picture that's emerging from these surging COVID numbers here

in Europe. Now, once again, Hala, the epicenter of this pandemic. And of course, several factors at play. It's been nearly a year now that Europeans

have begun to get vaccinated, immunization levels may be dropping.

There is that need for boosters. There are those people who have chosen not to get vaccinated so far, but, yes, even in those areas where people have

been vaccinated in Ireland, is a perfect example. We've been hearing earlier today from the deputy prime minister of the Irish Republic who is

saying that 95 percent of the adult population is now fully vaccinated and yet, they're having to bring in new restrictions.

Bars, restaurants, cafes closing at midnight, encouraging people to work from home once again, and leaning towards boosters, those third doses,

which we now know, he said, would be necessary because he pointed out the 5 percent that have not yet been fully vaccinated of the adult population in

the Irish public.

That is, Hala, rep are causing a great deal of trouble. He said they represent 50 percent of those now in ICU, so that is a priority. A mixture

then of focusing on the boosters, focusing on the unvaccinated to try and get Europe out, away from these soaring COVID figures.


BELL (voice-over): These sparkling decorations in Parisian windows, a celebration of the return of the Christmas season. Also returning, the

threat of more COVID restrictions.

SUZANNE HEUFPEL, PARISIAN RESIDENT (through translator): That's why we came here as soon as we learned that the decorations were up, to make the most

of what little free time we might have left.


BELL: Already two regions in France announcing the return of mandatory masks in outdoor spaces. New infection rates in France are skyrocketing.

GABRIEL ATTAL, SPOKESPERSON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): Hundred and ten days ago, the virus was taking the stairs. Now, it's in the


BELL: This new wave of COVID-19 already harshly impacting France's neighbors. Germany battling its worst infection rate since the pandemic

began, again imposing restrictions in Berlin. Allowing only people who have been vaccinated or who recently recovered from COVID-19 to enter

restaurants, cinemas and sports facilities.

LOTHAR WIELER, PRESIDENT, ROBERT KOCH INSTITUTE (through translator): We have to assume that the situation throughout Germany will get worse. And

without additional measures, it will be unstoppable.

BELL: Austria seeing their cases exploding, taking more extreme measures, placing some 2 million unvaccinated people on partial lockdown. The new

mandate, unvaccinated people in Austria aged 12 and older can only leave their homes for work, food shopping or emergencies.

ALEXANDER SCHALLENBERG, CHANCELLOR, AUSTRIA (through translator): If the incidents of vaccinated people is down, it continues to rise exponentially

for the unvaccinated.

BELL: The lockdown, which began on Monday, enforced with random spot checks and police patrols being stepped up for at least the next ten days. The

move causing an outcry from some Austrians about the disparity of treatment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm here today because I want to fight for my rights. These measures are absolutely discriminatory.

BELL: In the Netherlands, protests against lockdown measures announced last week amid a jump of new COVID-19 infections, reaching a tipping point over

the weekend. With police firing water cannons on angry demonstrators, perhaps most alarming about the rise of new infections across Europe, new

cases striking areas with fairly high vaccination rates. In the Netherlands, almost 85 percent of the adult population has been fully


In France, that number is almost 75 percent. Germany, more than 65 percent, and Austria, almost 65 percent. Leaving many to wonder what, if anything,

will be able to stop a seemingly never-ending pandemic.


BELL: For now, Hala, it is very much a trend of rising COVID figures, health systems once again under strain, governments looking forward with

restrictions to put in place, and this for the fifth wave to have hit Europe, as you said a moment ago, nearly two years into the European

Pandemic. Hala.

GORANI: All right, Melissa, thanks very much. Ireland is one of the most vaccinated countries in the EU -- on earth really. But last week, it

recorded its highest number of new cases since January, and, most critically, more people are being hospitalized as well.

Ireland's leaders are trying to crackdown on the spread of the virus by setting a midnight curfew on pubs, restaurants and night clubs. That starts

Thursday. Let's talk about what's happening in Ireland. Professor Luke O'Neil is an immunologist at Trinity College in Dublin.

Thanks professor for being with us. Before my first question, I want to show our viewers two graphics. The first one shows the vaccination rate in

Ireland, which is extremely high. It's close to 90 percent fully vaccinated, 89.1 percent. And then the second graphic is the case numbers.

The seven-day moving average, which shows you just how much over the last four months or so, case numbers have gone up. So, we were told before we

got our first jab last year, two jabs, that's the way out. Here we are. What's going on?

LUKE O'NEILL, PROFESSOR OF BIOCHEMISTRY & IMMUNOLOGY, TRINITY COLLEGE: Well, the vaccines are working, remember. They're stopping severe disease

in the population. They might be stopping infection, but they're stopping severe disease. That's what vaccines are designed to do. That's the first

thing to say.

If Ireland didn't have that vaccine rate, we'd be in full lockdown now because it is Delta form you see. Now, there are increasing cases, that's a

concern, secondly, waning immunity is happening in the over 50s, and now we're embarking on a massive booster campaign.

And remember, this is still a new virus. These are still new vaccines we're learning all the time. We've learned from Israel and the U.K., we have to

get the booster out, and Ireland is now embarking on a massive booster campaign for those groups to protect them because the efficacy is waning in

those populations.

GORANI: The deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had this to say about why case numbers are increasing so rapidly in Ireland. Listen.


LEO VARADKAR, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, IRELAND: About 50 percent of people in hospital, in ICU are not fully vaccinated. So even that 5 percent can

create a lot of difficulty. And then also, it's very evident now that immunity from the vaccines is waning, and we could see that happening

across Europe. And that's why we're going to need to give people a third dose, and that's what we're pushing ahead with now at present.


GORANI: So it's what you're saying, but he's also saying the 5 percent or so who are completely unvaccinated are -- that 50 percent of those in ICU

have --


O'NEILL: Yes --

GORANI: Had no jabs whatsoever.

O'NEILL: That's still a big problem here. There's a good number still not vaccinated, even though we got to 90 percent, 10 percent aren't vaccinated.

They're ending up in the ICU more and more you see. So, again, there's a big campaign to convince them, please take the vaccine.

You're at risk if you don't get vaccinated, this Delta might get you, especially with high rates of infection in the vaccinated population who

aren't getting sick, it could spread into the unvaccinated and harm them. So, we're pressing for the unvaccinated and are begging them almost to

please turn up for vaccination.

GORANI: So, are we seeing, for instance, in the U.K. as you know, a few months ago, case numbers were very high, they were higher than continental

Europe. They've now started to go down. Is that because there's a correlation between that decline and the booster program accelerating? Is

that what's happening?

O'NEILL: It's partly boosters. The U.K. got to 11 million people boosted, which is a great number. We'd love to have those numbers in Ireland, so we

are now catching up, we hope. But remember, if you're infected and you're vaccinated, it's like getting a booster anyway.

So immunity will build up in that population naturally through infection. So, the U.K. is probably now seeing a situation where infection is like a

booster and then the other people are getting boosted as well. That combination may be responsible for this dip.

It's still not clear if it's going to keep going down. In Ireland, we're hoping it will peak in about three to four weeks is one prediction that we

have for these kinds of reasons. So, it's a combination of events really.

GORANI: So, are we looking at a future of a booster a year kind of thing with this virus? Because last year if you had told people after your second

jab, six months later you'll need a booster and then maybe a booster the following year, and you're still having to go home at midnight on Saturday.

I mean, they -- you would have depressed a lot of people. But this is the reality --

O'NEILL: Yes --

GORANI: We're facing in many countries.

O'NEILL: It is. I mean, we couldn't predict that this is a new virus. It's a new vaccine. We couldn't have predicted this really that a booster would

be needed. This will become a three-shot vaccine, it's the prediction in the end, that's what all --

GORANI: So, not --

O'NEILL: The evidence suggests -- no, not for --

GORANI: A fourth vaccine? You don't think a fourth or a second booster?

O'NEILL: If we did what we don't know. The hope is three will be enough. Data from Israel again is predicting 10 to 12 months protection from the

third --

GORANI: Yes --

O'NEILL: Shot. Now, what that means is every Winter, the vulnerable and the elderly will get a shot basically just like with flu. That's one prediction

that we have. But again, down now, you might need a fourth shot. The third shot is extremely strong. Again, the Israeli data is spectacularly strong,

having that third shot. You've got a massive anti-body response. But let's hope three might suffice. But again, we've got to keep an eye on it. It's a

moving target thus far. It's --

GORANI: Yes --

O'NEILL: Still very new. It's --

GORANI: That is very true. We're still learning. Luke O'Neil, Professor O'Neil of Trinity College in Dublin. Thank you so much for joining us this

evening on CNN --

O'NEILL: Pleasure.

GORANI: Still to come tonight, tensions are high in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as jurors deliberate the fate of Kyle Rittenhouse. Defense attorneys are

calling for a mistrial. And later, concern is growing around the world for a Chinese tennis star who vanished from public sight after accusing a

powerful figure of sexual assault. We'll be right back.



GORANI: You'll recognize his picture, one of the most visible figures from the January 6th, the U.S. Capitol insurrection, has been sentenced today to

more than three years in prison. Jacob Chansley became known as the QAnon Shaman after he stormed the Capitol shirtless with a horned bear-skin head

dress. Back in September, he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of obstructing Congress' certification of the 2020 vote.

In the U.S., the jury is in its second day of deliberations in a racially- charged trial. We've learned that defense attorneys for Kyle Rittenhouse filed a motion for a mistrial with prejudice. They're accusing prosecutors

of intentional overreach. Rittenhouse shot and killed two people and wounded another during last year's protests against police brutality in

Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was 17 at the time.

The city is bracing for possible unrest once a verdict is reached. Our crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz is live in Kenosha. And I

understand that the jury sent two more questions to the court. What were they?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they want to see video. It's not entirely clear how much of the video or what parts of the

video, but the jury has asked to see video and from the night of the incident. Remember, the video was kind of the star witness of this case.

So much video, so many of the events captured all on video by bloggers and Facebook live and other people and on Twitter. And so they are now asking

to see some of that video, and so just there's been some legal wrangling, the attorneys fighting with the judge and one another about what videos

they're going to show.

The judge also trying to figure out if he's going to bring the jury into the courtroom to show them the video or if they're going to do it in the

jury room. So that's what's pretty much happening today. It tells us that they're working through the evidence. Yesterday, we had them asking for the

instructions on the law, today, we have them looking through the evidence, going through it perhaps, trying to figure out, you know, a conclusion


GORANI: The judge in this case has been very controversial. In fact, he is one of the top-trending topics on Twitter right now. Why is that?

PROKUPECZ: Well, because he likes to read things about himself in the media, and his wife will watch local reports here in Kenosha about the case

and she then tells him. And then he comes in and he says, well, I don't understand why the media is mad at me or why they're doing these stories.

This is the way I do things. One of the things obviously that happened most recently was that tumbler where he had Rittenhouse reach his hand into the

tumbler to pick out the alternates that we were going to no longer be part of this jury. So, that was one of the things. Today, he's going after the

media because we're reporting on a motion that was filed by the defense on Monday.

They filed this motion for a mistrial with prejudice, which would mean that they're asking the judge to basically dismiss this case. The judge today

has taken issue with those of us in the media who are raising questions about if this motion was filed on Monday, why have we not heard about it?

We didn't learn of it until today, and the judge has still not made any decisions on it.

And we're already in deliberations.

GORANI: Right --

PROKUPECZ: So, of course, people are asking questions as to, like, what's going on here? So he's taken issue with us raising these questions,

claiming that he had not seen this motion until yesterday, it was filed on Monday, today is Wednesday. So those --

GORANI: Right --

PROKUPECZ: Are the kind of things. I mean, he makes comments certainly against the media. He's very opinionated. He likes to do things the way he

likes to do things. Perhaps that's why he's now trending.

GORANI: Thank you, Shimon Prokupecz for that, live in Kenosha. And speaking of juries, jury selection for Ghislaine Maxwell's sex trafficking trial is

under way in New York. Prosecutors have charged the British socialite with helping recruit underage girls for her long-time associate Jeffrey Epstein

and grooming them for abuse. Epstein, you'll remember died in jail in 2019 while awaiting trial. Twenty-seven prospective jurors are qualified so far,

60 are needed before the final selection can start.


And the trial can start subsequently after that, a few weeks after that.

Still to come tonight, an intensifying arms race across the Indo-Pacific could threaten the entire region and perhaps even the world. What the U.S.

and China intend to do about it ahead.

And then a Chinese tennis star who accused a former top Communist Party official of sexual assault hasn't been seen or heard from since. And people

are worried. We'll bring you that story coming up.




GORANI: Well, it is always good to talk face-to-face, even when you are rivals, right?

The U.S. and China are taking steps to improve relations on a few fronts after the first summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping. It was

face-to-face even though it was virtual.

The countries have agreed to ease visa restrictions on each other's journalists. The visas will now be valid from one year, up from three

months. And journalists will be allowed to more freely depart and return from both countries.

China expelled Americans working for several major news publications last year. The U.S. and China are also considering starting negotiations on arms

control, talking about the possibility of talks. May not sound like much but it is progress on an important issue that obviously concerns the entire

region beyond China. Will Ripley has more.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Potential arms talks between China and the U.S. cannot come soon enough, analysts say, as China continues to expand

its arsenal at what some feel is an alarming pace, putting the entire region on edge.

RIPLEY (voice-over): U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting virtually this week, as the world faces what analysts call

a growing threat, an intensifying arms race across the Indo-Pacific.


RIPLEY (voice-over): Potential flashpoints across the region raising the risk of a nuclear conflict, threatening the U.S., its allies and the world.

PETER LAYTON, VISITING FELLOW AT GRIFFITH ASIA INSTITUTE: If you have a serious conflict, you put it up (ph) with the nuclear weapons been used.

And we're not talking atomic bombs, were talking hydrogen bombs and this is a different level of warfare (ph) entirely.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The world's most assertive nuclear power, China. New satellite images suggest Beijing is building nuclear capable missile silos,

testing more ballistic missiles than the rest of the world combined, the Pentagon says, including what the U.S. calls a potentially game-changing

hypersonic weapon, a claim China denies.

The Chinese navy, now the largest in the world -- with a catch. Most of their warships are small but they are getting bigger. A new aircraft

carrier in Shanghai could launch early next year, with technology rivaling the larger, more advanced U.S. carrier fleet.

RIPLEY: How long is it going to take for China's navy to pose a credible threat to America's Navy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they still need to -- a lot of time.

RIPLEY: Are we talking years?

Are we talking decades?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, 20 to 30.

RIPLEY: Twenty to 30 years?


RIPLEY (voice-over): Full-size mockups of U.S. warships dot the desert in Xinjiang, possibly for target practice, analysts say. China also flexing

its flight muscles, flying warplanes near Taiwan in record numbers.

The islands leaders warn prostrate tensions are at 40 years high. Taiwan racing to modernize its military. New ships, more missiles. Billions of in

American made weapons, all to guard against an invasion. Taiwan's defense minister says could be possible by 2025. A war that could involve the U.S.

and other democratic allies. Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen told CNN last month in this exclusive interview.

Is Taiwan's strategy to try to be able to defend for a period of time before other countries could assist?

TSAI ING-WEN, PRESIDENT OF TAIWAN: We definitely want to defend ourselves as long as we can. But let me reiterate it's important that we have the

support of our friends.

RIPLEY: Taiwan's closest friend, at least geographically, Japan. Signaling support for Taipei. A thinly veiled warning for Beijing.

NOBUO KISHI, JAPANESE MINISTER OF DEFENSE (through translator): What could happen in Taiwan would likely be an issue for Japan. In which case Japan

would need to respond accordingly.

RIPLEY: Japan is staging its largest military drills in decades. Moving missiles, radar and troops to its southern islands about 100 miles from the

Taiwanese coast. Sending ships to the East China Sea, the site of territorial disputes with China.

Japan also facing a threat from North Korean missiles. Pyongyang believed to be ramping up production of uranium for its growing nuclear arsenal.

South Korea speeding up its own weapons development including submarine launched ballistic missiles. Australia will get nuclear powered submarines

part of a deal with the U.S. and the U.K. to counter China's rapid expansion. Militarizing manmade islands in the South China Sea.

Another military buildup in the Himalayas. A sight of deadly border clashes last year between China and India another nation with nuclear weapons.

LAYTON: The military forces are definitely being built up. They're getting into those arms races like that is certainly a difficult path.

RIPLEY (voice-over): A path charted primarily by Presidents Biden and Xi today and whoever leads tomorrow.

RIPLEY: The stakes could not be higher here in Taiwan, a self-governing island, vastly outspent by a much larger behemoth of a military just about

100 miles off its coast. And there are scores of Chinese missiles pointed right now at this island's capital that could arrive in a matter of


The hope here, that discussions between the U.S. and China on arms control could result in some sort of stabilization so the tensions here don't boil

over -- Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.


GORANI: Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka is adding her voice to growing concerns about the whereabouts of a Chinese tennis champion. Peng Shuai has

not been seen in public since she accused a former senior Communist Party official of sexual assault.

Where is she?

Our Ivan Watson has more.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The royalty of professional tennis expressing concern about the welfare of one

of their own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Honestly, it is shocking that she is missing.

WATSON (voice-over): Warnings echoed by other champions, past and present.

"I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and OK," writes Naomi Osaka, adding, #whereispengshuai.

"I've known Peng since she was 14," writes Chris Evert. "Where is she?"

Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis champion --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Peng Shuai moves into the quarterfinals --

WATSON (voice-over): -- hasn't been seen or heard from in weeks.


CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: This is really extraordinary.


BRENNAN: A top athlete, 35 years old, the name a lot of people know, formerly number one ranked doubles player in the world, just goes missing,


WATSON (voice-over): In early November Peng published this bombshell post on her Chinese social media account, an open letter to a former top

Communist leader named Zhang Gaoli, now aged 75, who Peng accuses of sexually assaulting her after the two had an affair.

"Why did you have to come back to me, take me to your home to force me to have sex with you?" the post reads.

"Yes, I did not have any evidence and it was simply impossible to have evidence."

CNN cannot independently confirm these allegations and we've reached out to Peng as well as Zhang and his wife through the Chinese government for

further comment with no results.

Shortly after the controversial post, Peng's online profile more or less disappeared.

WATSON: Until recently, Peng Shuai was one of the biggest tennis stars in China. But look what happens when you try to search for people with her

name in the Chinese internet.

You get the message, "No results found."

Censors have all but scrubbed the woman from the Chinese internet.

WATSON (voice-over): Beijing has zero tolerance for outside criticism of the country's ruling elite. Zhang was a member of the Chinese Communist

Party's seven-person politburo standing committee, the country's top decision-making body, a powerful man who rubbed shoulders with Chinese

leader Xi Jinping until his retirement in 2018.

In the past, foreign athletes have paid a price for challenging China. Beijing quick to cut off access to its lucrative market when players from

the NBA or Britain's Premier League criticized its human rights record.

BREMNER: Whether it is the NBA, whether it might be the International Olympic Committee in a few months, do they stand for human rights and

investigations of allegations of sexual assault?

Or do they stand all about money?

WATSON (voice-over): For now, professional tennis is not backing down. The chairman of the Women's Tennis Association demanding for Peng Shuai to be

heard, writing, "The allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship."

The ball is now in Beijing's court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that's a great forehand for Peng.


GORANI: And that was Ivan Watson reporting.

Still to come tonight, one of the world's most polluted capitals is struggling with an air quality crisis that only seems to be getting worse.

What to do about it?

And Britney Spears releases a video statement after her conservatorship finally came to an end. We will bring that to you.

What is life after her conservatorship for Britney?

That's next.





GORANI: An update on the political turmoil that continues to engulf Sudan. The Sudan Central Doctors Committee says 14 anti-coup protesters have been

shot dead today by security forces in the capital of Khartoum. Dozens of others are reported injured.

Phone and internet blackouts are complicating matters. Thousands of demonstrators have been marching to protest last month's military takeover.

And to India now, where the government has shut all schools and colleges in and around New Delhi until further notice, not because of COVID but because

of toxic pollution in the air. CNN's Vedika Sud reports on the country's worsening air quality crisis.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The toxic air in Delhi and neighboring states has residents gasping for breath. Waiting lines in

hospitals are getting longer as air pollution blankets the city. Medical experts say there's been a spike in respiratory problems.

DR. SURESH KUMAR, LNJP HOSPITAL, NEW DELHI: The air quality - when the air quality worsens some people suffer from chest infection and breathing

problems. Sometimes it gets so bad that we have to admit them.

SUD: After India's top court stepped in emergency measures have been implemented schools and colleges have been close to further notice. Non-

essential construction work and vehicle traffic have been halted for now. Six of eleven coal fired power plants around Delhi have been shut until

month's end.

SUD (on camera): According to the World Health Organization, air quality index between 0 and 50 is considered good. In the last two weeks parts of

the national capital region have reported levels higher than 500.

SUD (voice-over): India's Environmental Ministry Panel on Air Pollution has directed Delhi and other states to encourage private offices to allow work

from home. But for street vendors like Kumar, staying home is not an option.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pollution is unbearable; the government must take some steps. We are forced to work because we can't stay indoors forever.

SUD (voice-over): Environmental experts say quick fix solutions cannot be the answer to North India's toxic air levels.

ANUMITA ROYCHOWDHURY, EXECUTIVE DIR CENTRE FOR SCIENCE AND ENIVIRONMENT: If you look at India, right now, through satellite, you will find that the

entire Indo-Gangetic plain in Northern India is wrapped in a blanket of smog.

And this is because this time of the year when you don't have integrated plan for the entire region and aggressive action to address each and every

source of pollution in the entire region. That's where we have to step up.

SUD (voice-over): Delhi's air quality is an ICU and needs more than just emergency measures. For now Delhi's residents will be inhaling this toxic

air, which according to a report by the University of Chicago is 10 times worse in Northern India than anywhere else in the world -- Vedika Sud, CNN,

New Delhi.


GORANI: Still to come tonight, Britney Spears is finally independent and she's thanking her fans for it. We will tell you what she has been saying

about her big legal victory after the break.





GORANI: Well, Britain's Queen Elizabeth is back at work after spraining her back and Prince Charles says she is, quote, "doing all right."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People have been concerned. Sorry.



We send our best wishes.

PRINCE CHARLES: Yes. Once you get to 95, you know, it is not quite as easy as it used to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Thank you so much.

PRINCE CHARLES: It is bad enough at 73.



GORANI: Here she is at Windsor Castle greeting, General Sir Nicholas Carter, Britain's outgoing Chief of the Armed Forces. She is 95 years old,

as you just heard Prince Charles say there.

She missed several key engagements recently after spending a night in the hospital last month for what the palace called "preliminary investigations"

and she also missed the November 11th war remembrance ceremonies.

We have been following the case of Britney Spears on this show. It is both remarkable and unprecedented. It starts with a controversial

conservatorship, which kept the pop star from making her own financial or medical decisions for 13 years.

Then comes a movement to end it, the movement so big that some U.S. states are now looking at whether they should change their conservatorship laws.

The court-ordered arrangement was finally terminated last week and now, for the first time since the legal victory, Britney Spears is speaking about it

on Instagram.


BRITNEY SPEARS, ENTERTAINER: I'm just grateful honestly for each day and being able to have the keys to my car and being able to be independent and

so like a woman, and owning an ATM card, seeing cash for first time, being able to buy candles. It is the little things for us women but it makes a

huge difference and I'm grateful for that.


GORANI: And CNN's Lisa Respers France joins me now live, I found it surprising that she didn't have an ATM this whole time. She is buying

candles and talking about it as if it is a huge deal. We are getting a bit more insight into what her life was like over the last 13 years.

LISA RESPERS FRANCE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: It seems insignificant to us but it was a huge deal for Britney. When you think

about the fact that she wasn't allowed to have cash, according to her, she couldn't drive her own car, so she's incredibly grateful to the

#FreeBritney movement.

She says that they gave her a voice when her voice was muted. They're really the ones that pushed forth everything that she says has been going

on with her and let the world know that she did not have any freedom at all.

GORANI: But what happens now?

Is she completely independent?

FRANCE: She is pretty much completely independent. She can do what she wants with the termination and she's hinted that there's several big life

changes she would like to see happen, including getting married and possibly having another baby.

She has hinted she would love to have a girl. She has two sons. So you know, she finally has the ability to control her life in a way that she has

not had for the past 13 years.

GORANI: But several judges reviewed the case over many years and, until recently, came to the conclusion that a conservatorship was warranted.

Do we know why, what those decisions were based on?

FRANCE: Those decisions were based on a lot of things, including what was being put forth as what was potentially best for Britney. Keep in mind, a

lot of people, when they think Britney Spears, they think about 2007-2008, when she had a very public meltdown.

So it has always been portrayed by those who were in charge of the conservatorship that this was in place to protect Britney.

Britney says, no; this was in place to control her. She says she has worked very hard since she was a child and that she really has not been able to

enjoy the fruits of her labor because she was so tightly controlled.

So once people found out via the courts, she said things like, you know, she didn't even have control over her body and birth control. That's a huge


And so you know, there's a lot behind the scenes. We don't even really know what is going on with Britney Spears' health, her mental health. But what

we do know is where she stands at today is, as she says, she is extremely grateful for her freedom.


GORANI: Yes. On that, by the way, she thanked the #FreeBritney movement on Instagram. This is what she said.


SPEARS: The #FreeBritney movement, you guys rock, honestly. My voice was muted and threatened for so long and I wasn't able to speak up or say


And because of you guys and the awareness of kind of knowing what was going on and delivering that news to the public for so long, you gave it

awareness to all of them. And because of you, I honestly think you guys saved my life in a way, 100 percent.


GORANI: How instrumental was that movement?

You saw these funny memes about how we should have -- oh, apologies.

Can you still hear me?


GORANI: My microphone -- sorry. It just fell out of my pocket -- a lot of funny memes about how we should have the #FreeBritney movement take care of

the COVID pandemic because they were so efficient with this.

How instrumental were they in getting this case to the -- through this finish line here?

FRANCE: Hugely instrumental, because of their voice on social media it led to a documentary that really got everyone talking. They've been pushing for

years; there were two women who had a podcast. They started asking questions that a lot of people weren't.

People, like I said, just they had in mind what they termed crazy Britney, which is a horrible thing to say about anyone. And so it was just like, you

know, Britney Spears has a conservatorship. Somebody is taking care of her, she is fine. The #FreeBritney movement said, absolutely not.

We need to be looking at why this woman is a grown woman who is not allowed to drive a car, not allowed to control her own money, not allowed to do

anything unless her conservators say so.

So they were hugely instrumental. And as you can see from the clip that was played, she is so incredibly thankful to them. They're not just fans to her

now; they are family.

GORANI: Right. Lisa Respers France, thank you for joining us.

FRANCE: Thank you for having me.

GORANI: Thanks.

A self-portrait by the late Frida Kahlo just became the most expensive work by a Latin American artist ever to sell at auction.

This is called "Diego and I." It fetched almost $35 million in New York on Tuesday. Sotheby's said Kahlo completed this painting in 1949, five years

before she died, in the same year her husband, Diego Rivera, had started an affair with her friend.

They had a famously open marriage, before that was a way anyone described marriages. The sale more than tripled the previous record set by one of

Rivera's works. So there you have it.

Thanks for watching tonight. I'm Hala Gorani. Do stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming up next.