Beijing backs Hong Kong leader as pro-democracy protests continue
Robie de Guzman • December 16, 2019 • 195
Beijing on Monday said it supports Hong Kong’s leader and is committed to the “one country, two systems” policy that gives autonomy to the Asian financial hub rocked by months of pro-democracy protests.
Chinese President Xi Jinping praised embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s leadership during her official visit to Beijing and said she had done well in “difficult situations”.
“Facing difficulties and pressure, Chief Executive Lam has stood firm on the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, governed in accordance with the law, and remained dedicated. You did plenty of work in difficult situations,” Xi said, according to Hong Kong media outlets.
Xi also reiterated support to Hong Kong police, which has faced accusations of abuse of power and brutality in handling the months-long protests in the former British colony.
The Chinese president said the city was facing its “most critical and complicated” situation since it was returned to China in 1997.
Lam, who arrived in Beijing on Saturday, also met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and received his backing during her visit.
“The central government will continuously uphold one country, two Systems steadfastly, as always. As in the past, we support you and the SAR (semi-autonomous region) government administering Hong Kong in accordance with the law,” Li told Lam in a meeting at the Great Hall of the People.
Radio Television Hong Kong broadcast the opening remarks of the meeting.
Lam acknowledged that Hong Kong had been suffering an economic crisis since the first half of this year.
“There has been an obvious economic downturn. It was caused by some external factors, including the US-China trade dispute,” she said.
This was the second meeting between Xi and Lam within two months and marks her first Beijing visit since opposition groups swept the Hong Kong district council elections last month.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong on Sunday, thousands of demonstrators returned to the streets to reiterate their demands and express their discontent with Lam’s government.
In the middle of the pre-Christmas shopping season, groups of masked protesters, dressed in black, the color chosen by the pro-democracy side, visited several shopping malls in the former British colony, chanting slogans for freedom and justice.
There were acts of vandalism and minor clashes with the police recorded at least at one mall.
Also on Sunday, several hundred people, many of them social workers, gathered to reiterate their demands of the pro-democracy movement.
The demands include direct universal suffrage to elect a chief executive and other representatives, freeing of almost 6,000 detainees, protests not to be considered unrest and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.
Among those attending the gathering, some called for more mass strikes, while others sat down to write Christmas cards to the demonstrators who have been imprisoned, along with other small acts of protest.
The Hong Kong protests, which have been drawing massive crowds since June have mutated into a movement that seeks to improve the democratic mechanisms that govern Hong Kong and safeguard the region’s partial autonomy from Beijing.
However, some demonstrators have opted for more radical tactics than peaceful civil disobedience, and violent clashes with the police have been frequent.
The months of protests have put Hong Kong’s economy in recession for the first time in a decade, having contracted by 2.9 percent in the third quarter, due to falling imports and exports, retail sales and declining tourism. EFE-EPA
An advance World Health Organization team of medical experts arrived in China on Monday (February 10) to investigate the coronavirus outbreak, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.
Tedros, who visited Beijing for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese ministers in late January, returned with an agreement on sending an international mission. It took nearly two weeks to get the Chinese government’s green light on its composition.
Tedros said there had been “concerning instances” of transmission from people who had not been to China.
“It could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire,” he told reporters. “But for now it is only a spark. Our objective remains containment.”
The virus has spread to at least 27 countries and territories, according to a Reuters count based on official reports, infecting more than 330 people. The two deaths outside mainland China were in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
The death toll from the outbreak has now surpassed that of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed hundreds worldwide in 2002/2003. (Reuters)
Cebu Pacific announced passengers with flights between China, Hong Kong and Macau booked on or before January 24, 2020 and travelling until February 29 may rebook their flights for free or refund their tickets in full.
In their Facebook post, Cebu Pacific said passengers can avail the following options:
● Rebook flights (new flight date within 30 days of original travel date); ● Refund tickets in full; ● Store the value of the ticket in a Travel Fund for future use
Jakarta – The president of Indonesia on Wednesday visited an island in disputed waters of the South China Sea amid a weeks-long standoff between Indonesian and Chinese vessels, an outgrowth of the ongoing territorial spat in which Jakarta and Beijing both claim sovereignty over the area.
Joko Widodo made the symbolic trip to Natuna Besar – the main island of the Middle Natuna Archipelago in the Riau Islands province – in a bid to assert Indonesia’s claims of ownership of the waters. There, he met with local fishermen and talked to reporters.
“I am here too to ensure law enforcement for our sovereign rights – our country’s sovereign rights – over the richness of our marine natural resources in the exclusive economic zone,” Widodo said. “Why are Bakamla (the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency) and the Navy here? To ensure the rule of law.”
The leader, who was re-elected to a second term in April of last year, added that Indonesia had a district, a regent and a governor in the area. “There are no more debates. De facto, de jure, Natuna is Indonesia.”
Meanwhile, Geng Shuang, the main spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said Wednesday that Beijing had repeatedly reiterated its sovereignty and jurisdiction over relevant waters in the South China Sea.
“I have to stress that China and Indonesia have no territorial sovereignty disputes. Our claims for maritime interests in certain waters in South China Sea overlap,” Geng said. “We are ready to properly handle the differences with Indonesia and uphold the peace and stability in the region as well as our two countries’ relations. Actually, we have been in communication through diplomatic channels.”
The face-off between the two Asian nations erupted in the second half of December when a Chinese coast guard ship that was escorting several fishing vessels entered waters that Jakarta says belong to its EEZ (though Beijing claims the waters as its own, along with most of the South China Sea).
In response to the incursion, Indonesia summoned the Chinese ambassador, issued a letter of protest and sent warships and fighter jets to strengthen its military presence in the area, which it re-named the North Natuna Sea in 2017. Beijing, in turn, deployed another coast guard boat.
On Tuesday, Indonesia sent four more warships as reinforcement. The Southeast Asian country currently has a naval presence of 10 military vessels around Natuna.
The dispute over the Natuna Islands dates back to 2016, when Indonesia decided to build military bases in the region following a series of conflicts with Chinese fishing boats.
Besides Indonesia, China is locked in sovereignty disputes over the South China Sea with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Beijing stakes claim on nearly the entire South China Sea region, an area through which $5 billion worth of commercial traffic passes annually, and which boasts large fishing zones and is reportedly rich in oil and gas reserves. EFE-EPA
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