The most popular party in Catalonia has a new strategy for wresting control away from the authorities in Madrid after a declaration of independence failed last month.
The Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) party is planning a raft of measures that would challenge restrictions imposed by the Spanish state as it fought to bring the rebel region to heel, ERC secretary-general Marta Rovira said in an interview on Friday.
The group is drawing up plans to help people struggling to pay fuel bills during the winter and wants to increase subsidies for entrepreneurs, Rovira said.
However, first the party needs to defend its majority in the regional assembly.
The ERC is running on its own in a Catalan election for the first time in five years on Dec. 21, after the mainstream separatist alliance Junts pel Si broke down due to disputes over the handling of last month’s push for an independent republic.
In 2015, Junts pel Si took control of the assembly with support from the radicals of the CUP and set the region on course for its collision with the Spanish state last month.
Polls suggests that separatists groups could repeat that majority, but the race would go down to the wire.
“Now is the time to start putting together the nuts and bolts of the republic, the moment for symbolic declarations has past,” Rovira, 40, said at the party’s headquarters in Barcelona. “If the Spanish government wants to stop us from working to prevent people getting their power cut and impede our economy from prospering, then they will have to explain themselves and take responsibility.”
The ERC and the rest of the separatist movement is trying to keep supporters engaged after they failed to deliver on their promises after years of campaigning that climaxed last month.
Activists were primed to defend the Catalan government from Spanish police after lawmakers in Barcelona declared independence on Oct. 27, but deposed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium in secret instead, leaving supporters leaderless and confused.
The ERC is on track to be the largest group in the next parliament with 37 or 38 seats, followed by Puigdemont’s group with 24 or 25 seats, according to a Gesop poll for El Periodico released this week.
The CUP would get seven or eight seats, enough for another majority in the 135-seat regional chamber, but only by a whisker.
“We need to work to take this country forward, and if we do that transparently and with clear objectives we will generate a wider social consensus,” Rovira said.
While Puigdemont campaigns from self-imposed exile in Brussels, eight members of his former government, including former vice president and ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, are in jail in Madrid as the National Court investigates whether to bring charges of rebellion against them.
Rovira is effectively leading the ERC campaign while Junqueras is behind bars.
An ERC-led government in Barcelona would seek to free the jailed politicians as its first priority and then end the direct rule from Madrid that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed to restore order after the Catalan uprising, Rovira said.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting