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LE MONDE, AFP, (France), REUTERS

Worldcrunch

PARIS - Like the United States, France now finds itself in front of an open "reparations question" for its past role in slavery.

Visiting Africa for the first time since his election, French President François Hollande found himself entangled in the thorny question of compensation for the descendents of the victims of slavery.

At a joint press conference in Dakar with Senegalese President Macky Sall, the two heads of state were asked if Africa should ask for reparations for France’s centuries-long role in the slave trade, Reuters reports. Sall answered, “I am not an activist of the past. We do not forget it… but moral recognition should be enough.”

Hollande spoke next: “Reparation means not only moral reparations. It is also about knowing what we want to do together. Are we capable of creating shared development?” The French president later visited the island of Goree, a former slave holding center that is now a memorial and UNESCO world culture site.

The question of reparations has unleashed a torrent of comment in Africa and France. Although France abolished slavery in 1848, and celebrates that day every year on May 10, it was one of the principal countries participating in the slave trade in the decades and centuries before that.

Far from paying reparations to former slaves, France actually received payments from the nation of Haiti from 1825 to 1946 to compensate for the loss of France’s colony in Haiti after a slave revolt created an independent state there in 1804. When slaves in France and its colonies were freed in 1848, colonists who had owned sugar plantations in Haiti and still claimed property there were paid reparations for the loss of their slaves, according to the Agence France Presse.

But with France mired in its own deepening economic crisis, French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem insisted that any reparations for France’s role in slavery would be “moral only,” Le Monde reported.

However, an umbrella group of black organizations in France has met twice with officials of French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s office, and an interministerial meeting has been called for November 8 to discuss the subject further, the AFP reports.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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