Your Thursday Briefing

A pro-Trump mob storms the U.S. Capitol.

By Melina Delkic

Good morning.

We’re covering turmoil in the United States Capitol building, sweeping arrests in Hong Kong and an oligarch family drama.

The U.S. Capitol under lockdown

Thousands of pro-Trump protesters stormed the Capitol building, halting the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Congress. Senators and members of the House were locked inside their chambers, Vice President Mike Pence was evacuated, and the mayor of Washington imposed a curfew.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump had gathered his supporters at the White House and vowed to “never concede” before urging them to march to the Capitol to register their discontent.

Police officers ran door to door in the legislative building ordering lawmakers and staff to evacuate just before the protesters swarmed the hallways. Videos posted on social media showed protesters barreling past barricades outside the Capitol and clashing with officers.

On the ground: Representative Nancy Mace, a freshman Republican from South Carolina, described seeing protesters “assaulting Capitol Police.” In a Twitter post, Ms. Mace shared a video of the chaos and wrote, “This is wrong. This is not who we are. I’m heartbroken for our nation today.”

A final stand: Before the process was brought to a halt, former Trump allies had called for an end of the push to overturn the election results. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, said overturning would “damage our republic forever.” The vice president also rejected Mr. Trump’s pressure to block the certification.

Georgia update: In the two key races in Georgia that will decide who controls the Senate, the Rev. Raphael Warnock beat the Republican incumbent, Kelly Loeffler, while Jon Ossoff, also a Democrat, led David Perdue. Ballots are still being counted. Follow our latest updates here.

Beijing’s heavy hand in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong police arrested 53 elected pro-democracy officials and activists early Wednesday, the largest roundup yet under the new national security law imposed by Beijing to quash dissent. The 53 people were targeted for their efforts to choose candidates to run in the city’s legislative elections in September.

About 1,000 officers fanned out across the city, searched dozens of locations and seized more than $200,000 in funds. The authorities cast a wide net, detaining figures who had called for aggressive confrontation as well as those who had supported more moderate tactics. The message was clear: Beijing is in charge.

My colleague Vivian Wang, who covers China, told me that it was a powerful show of force. “The arrests today show that the government is willing to go after anyone who’s been even tangentially involved in pro-democracy activities.”

Timing: It happened as the crackdown’s most vocal critics, the U.S. and Britain, were distracted by their own crises.

Video: From Bloomberg, the former lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting recorded the moment he was arrested.

Some Chinese apps banned in the U.S.

With just two weeks before the end of his term, President Trump signed an executive order prohibiting transactions with eight Chinese software applications. The moves were a final push to solidify his administration’s harsh stance against Beijing.

The order cited “bulk data collection” as a security concern and targeted Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, WPS Office and their subsidiaries.

In another move that is likely to inflame tensions with China, the New York Stock Exchange reversed course for the second time and said on Wednesday it would delist three major Chinese state-run firms: China Unicom, China Telecom and China Mobile. The decision came after a day of pressure from the Trump administration and Congress.

E.U.-China deal: President-elect Joe Biden’s call to European allies to work with him on a joint strategy toward Beijing has been thrown into doubt after European leaders quietly sealed an investment deal with China at the end of last year.

If you have 7 minutes, this is worth it

A yacht, oligarchs and family drama

When Tatiana Akhmedova tried to recoup the $615 million owed by her Russian oligarch husband in their divorce, he refused to hand over a single ruble and stayed far from the courts that might force him to do so. So, she’s trying a new approach in what has become Britain’s priciest and most dramatic divorce war: She is suing her son, above.

As our reporter put it, if you’re looking for uplifting stories of family, love and community, read something else. This is a feel-awful yarn for a feel-awful era.

Here’s what else is happening

The virus: The E.U. drug regulator approved the Moderna vaccine. The World Health Organization is criticizing China for not authorizing a team of international experts to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

North Korea crisis: The country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, admitted that his efforts to rebuild the country’s moribund economy have failed, as he opened the first Workers’ Party Congress in five years. The congress was expected to adopt a new five-year economic plan and reshuffle party leadership.

Sexual violence in Iran: The government approved a bill that criminalizes violence and sexual misconduct against women and specifies punishments for perpetrators. The decision to move ahead with the law, the first of its kind in Iran, comes in the aftermath of a #MeToo movement and shocking reports of so-called honor killings.

Snapshot: Above, prayers at the Kanda Myojin shrine in Tokyo. Around the globe, people who hoped that 2021 would banish a year of horror are struggling with the reality that the hardest challenges may lie ahead — “not just the realization that the vaccines aren’t an instant panacea,” but also that “life is still upended everywhere,” writes our Rome bureau chief.

What we’re reading: This Oprah Magazine profile of Stacey Abrams, the politician and activist who shot to prominence for her successful voter rights efforts in Georgia. In case you’ve never heard of her, this is a good place to start.

Now, a break from the news

Cook: This risotto with peas and sausage is flexible. For vegetarians, the broth does not have to be chicken. Omit the butter and cheese, and you’re in vegan territory.

Watch: The documentary “My Rembrandt” looks at art collectors whose interests in Rembrandt have taken on faintly obsessive dimensions.

Do: Is a nicer garden among your New Year goals? In advance of the growing season, it’s helpful for gardeners to acknowledge what went wrong in the previous year, and figure out what to do instead.

There’s no need to be bored. At Home has ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.

And now for the Back Story on …

Ai Weiwei on the power of books

The artist and human rights activist spoke to our Books desk about the Cultural Revolution, the books on his mind and more. His new book, “Human Flow: Stories From the Global Refugee Crisis,” came out in December, following up on his 2017 documentary on the global migrant crisis.

What’s the last great book you read?

The last great book I read was “Permanent Record,” by Edward Snowden.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

I stopped reading classic novels before I was 24 years old.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

My ideal reading experience was when I was living in exile at a detention camp with my father, Ai Qing, during the Cultural Revolution. At that time, we burned all of his books to avoid further political persecution. I was not yet 10 years old; I believe it was 1967.

It confirmed in me how powerful those words printed on paper, and the images in between, could be. My sister helped me when I asked her to bring me more books. She sent me books such as “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,” by Vladimir Lenin, and “The Communist Manifesto,” by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. I completely disassociated with the concepts in those books, but I can still feel the power of the language and logic structure.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

I have a book called the “Yingzao Fashi,” which was a Song dynasty-era construction manual originally written 1,000 years ago.

What book, if any, most influenced your decision to become a visual artist or contributed to your artistic development?

I would say that Ludwig Wittgenstein’s and Franz Kafka’s works have been influential, and, if you include artists, Duchamp’s writing as well. It’s just a few, but still, shining intellectual minds.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]

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