China threatens US after Trump passes bills backing Hong Kong protesters
Robie de Guzman • November 28, 2019 • 512
Beijing – The Chinese government Thursday threatened the United States with “countermeasures” and “consequences” after the US president signed two bills into law backing Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters.
Donald Trump in a statement said he had signed the bills — the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act 2019 and one against crowd control munition exports to the territory — out of “respect” to Chinese President Xi Jinping and the people of Hong Kong.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement Thursday responded by reminding “the US that Hong Kong is part of China and Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs where no foreign government or force shall interfere. This Act will only further expose the malicious and hegemonic nature of US intentions to the Chinese people, including our Hong Kong compatriots.”
“We urge the US to not continue going down the wrong path, or China will take countermeasures, and the US must bear all consequences,” it added.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng also summoned US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad “to lodge stern representations and strong protest” to the passing of the Act, state news agency Xinhua reported Thursday.
The two countries are still immersed in negotiations to end their trade war, which could be affected by the bills, however the statement does not specify the countermeasures it intends to apply.
The Hong Kong government also expressed its “strong opposition” to the new laws, saying in a statement that they “contravene in Hong Kong’s internal affairs” and would harm relations with the US.
“The two acts are unreasonable. Although human rights and democracy are mentioned in the title of the Act, some of the provisions in the Act are actually about export control and enforcement of the sanctions imposed by the United Nations in Hong Kong, which are totally unrelated to human rights and democracy in Hong Kong,” a government spokesman said.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act 2019, passed last week by the US Senate, requires the US State Department to conduct a review at least annually as to whether Hong Kong retains enough autonomy from mainland China to qualify for special trade considerations, and threatens sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations.
Following the approval by the Senate last week, the Chinese government threatened that “China will take strong opposing measures and the US has to bear all the consequences” if it was passed into law. Beijing also reportedly summoned a senior US diplomat over the move.
The second bill signed into law Wednesday prohibits US exports of specified police equipment such as teargas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun guns to Hong Kong.
“They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all,” Trump said.
At the weekend, the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong swept the local elections, winning 388 of the total 452 district council seats up for grabs. The side aligned with Beijing suffered a crushing defeat with only 59 councilors, compared to the almost 300 it had, while independents won five seats in the elections which saw a record 71.2% turnout.
Hong Kong was passed to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, although it still retains a degree of independence from Beijing under the “one country, two systems” formula. According to the handover deal between London and Beijing, this political system — which includes certain legal freedoms not recognized in mainland China — must be preserved until 2047. EFE-EPA
The United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Canada scolded China on Thursday (May 28) for imposing a new security law that they said would threaten freedom and breach a 1984 Sino-British agreement on the autonomy of the former colony.
British foreign minister Dominic Raab said the four countries were “deeply troubled” by the decision of China’s People’s Congress, which democracy activists in Hong Kong fear could erode its freedoms and jeopardise its role as a global financial hub.
China says the legislation will aim to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in the city but the plan, unveiled in Beijing last week, triggered the first big protests in Hong Kong for months.
Raab said Britain will give greater visa rights to British national overseas (BNO) passport holders from Hong Kong unless China suspends the proposed security laws. (Reuters)
The United States reached a grim milestone on Wednesday (May 27) as the coronavirus death toll exceeded 100,000 people, amid the ongoing global scramble to contain the virus and find a vaccine.
Currently, the death toll for coronavirus cases across the United States stands at 100,008 people, according to a Reuters tally.
The loss has largely hit urban areas, especially New York, with elderly people and minorities disproportionately affected.
On the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, nurses and doctors are caring for the living. But there is another front line of those caring for the dead.
Funeral homes in New York are chaotic and overwhelmed. It can be weeks before bodies are embalmed or buried.
Most COVID-19 victims die alone, and when they die, their families are told to quarantine. The women try to find ways for them to say goodbye.
“I don’t want to apologize because I am doing the absolute best I can, but if it’s not good enough, I am sorry. Like, deeply sorry,” says 25-year-old resident funeral director of the International Funeral & Cremation Services Funeral Home Lily Sage.
In early May U.S. President Donald Trump offered his condolences from the Rose Garden in the White House. “We mourn for every life the virus has claimed,” he said. “And we share the grief of all of you who have lost a loved one.”
For medical workers that grief can be overwhelming.
The shifts are long and the scenes are heartbreaking inside a Maryland hospital where nurses and doctors have been treating coronavirus patients for weeks, unable to let family inside to visit loved ones on their death beds.
One of the hardest moments of a recent work day for Biocontainment Nurse Tiffany Fare was, “having to see a family member of a COVID patient, say goodbye over an iPad rooms away.”
At an event in Pennsylvania in mid-May Trump hailed the work of medical workers. “They are warriors…they are running into death, just like soldiers run into bullets,” he said. “It is incredible to see, it’s a beautiful thing to see.
Dr. Erick Eiting, Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s emergency department medical director in New York, has been at the center of the storm aiding patients, whose ages range from people in their 20s to their 80s, as they discover new symptoms and evolving treatments. He said the hospital’s visitor policy was recently changed so that novel coronavirus patients nearing the end of their lives don’t have to die alone.
“That’s one of the most tragic pieces of this disease, is because it’s so contagious, that people do end up just dying alone,” he said on one overnight shift.
As bodies pour out of hospitals, 28-year-old Alix Monteleone, has a seat at the front line from the window of her third-floor Brooklyn apartment. “We see it and we’re like, this is very serious,” she told Reuters.
Refrigerated trucks have fanned out across the city to process the pile up of corpses. Their stops include the parking lot right below her window to serve the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center.
“This is very real. And we’re seeing so much chaos manifest outside of our home that we can’t imagine how bad it is inside. You know, we stopped counting how many bodies came out,” Monteleone said.
It was at this time in April that Trump once again offered his assurances. “We’re going to have a rough week. We’re going to have maybe a rough a little more than a week. But there’s tremendous light at the end of that tunnel.”
Early data from U.S. states show African Americans are more likely to die from COVID-19, highlighting long-standing disparities in health and inequalities in access to medical care, experts said.
Not all states have released demographic data showing the virus’ toll on different racial groups.
In Louisiana more than half of the deaths have been African American, a far larger percentage than the state’s population of African Americans.
Gary Harrell knew 10 of them. “It’s just hard, You wake up one in the morning and – like yesterday – and you kind of worry about what news you’re going to get. The first thing was a message from a friend who is asking that I assist her with her father’s obituary. He had passed on Sunday,” he recalled. “And then within a few hours, I got another text message as I’m driving. And that text informs me that my aunt had passed away. And, you know, it’s just it just all becomes very surreal.”
In New York, city officials hired contract laborers to bury the dead in its potter’s field on Hart Island as the city’s daily death rate from the coronavirus epidemic reached grim new records.
The city has used Hart Island to bury New Yorkers with no known next of kin or whose family are unable to arrange a funeral since the 19th century.
Typically, some 25 bodies are interred each week by low-paid jail inmates working on the island, which sits off the east shore of the city’s Bronx borough and is accessible only by boat.
Now, about 24 bodies are being buried daily, five days a week, according to Jason Kersten, a spokesman for the Department of Correction, which oversees the burials.
Many of those who have died have been elderly, with nursing homes accounting for a large portion of the deaths in the United States.
Even before the coronavirus had swept through her Seattle-area nursing home, Susan Hailey was already eager to leave.
The 74-year-old had come to the facility for rehabilitative care following knee-replacement surgery, and was due to leave in March before a bad fall left her with a broken ankle and an extended move-out date.
Then a wave of severe respiratory illness swept through the nursing home at the end of February. The facility went into lockdown and residents were forced in quarantine. A week later, Hailey tested positive for the coronavirus. She survived. Others did not.
“I remember one morning getting up because they were going to make my bed. And they called a code blue. And my aid ran across the hall and came back and said ‘he died.’ Just very nonchalant. And I couldn’t get over the callous way that it was put,” Hailey told Reuters.
It was a very different ending for retired firefighter Gary Holmberg who was only supposed to be at the Pleasant View nursing home in Maryland for a few weeks, recovering from a fall at his assisted living center.
Pleasant View has become the site of one of Maryland’s worst outbreaks, 40 miles outside the U.S. capital of Washington, D.C. At least 98 of the facility’s residents and staff tested positive and 17 people associated with the home have died, according to the Carroll County Department of Health.
The 77-year old became one of more than a dozen of the nursing home’s residents who died from the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“I think about it every night. I think about, you know, me telling him I’m going to get him out of there, I’m going to get him out of there and not being able to do it in time,” his son Rob Holmberg, 47, told Reuters.
It’s a grief shared by people who rush to the scenes to help, such as Anthony Almojera, a 17-year veteran paramedic and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). In his eyes, this has been one of the most devastating times in the department’s history.
The coronavirus outbreak in New York City has pushed ambulance service to its limits, said Almojera in an interview with Reuters. The department went from an average of 4,000 calls to almost 7,000, putting a strain on EMTs and paramedics.
“I don’t know if any of us will ever be the same after this and that’s something we’re going to have to manage,” he told Reuters.
For registered nurse Julia Trainer the pandemic has given her an important life lesson, “Tell everyone that you love them because you never know when you won’t be able to tell them again.”
That’s a lesson not lost on 18-year-old Minnoli Aya.
The last text message she received from her mother, a physicians assistant in New York was “Home soon,” “Love you.”
“I kept texting her wanting to believe it wasn’t true,” Minnoli told Reuters.
Each night in New York City, neighborhoods around hospitals cheer for healthcare workers to express gratitude for the risks they are taking to save lives. Minnoli watches videos of the applause on social media.
“I can’t help but think, what about the ones who have fallen? What about the ones who are already dead?” Minnoli said.
It took the United States 38 days after recording its first fatality on Feb. 29 to reach 10,000 deaths on April 6 but only five more days to reach 20,000 dead, according to a Reuters tally.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has lead the state with the highest death toll in the United States.
“It is a tough time, but a lot of people have shown a lot of courage and a lot of beauty and they’ve had very tough lives — and let’s appreciate them,” he added.
Every night in New York City, people lean out their windows and flood balconies, applauding essential workers.
In mid-April Brian Stokes Mitchell added star power to the evening salute, belting out ‘The Impossible Dream” from his balcony as part of an ongoing tribute to the responders to the coronavirus in the hardest-hit American city. (Reuters)
China’s National People’s Congress’ third session closed on Thursday (May 28) after parliament members voted on a proposal to implement Hong Kong’s national security legislation.
“The session made a decision to establish a legal system and enforcement mechanism for the national security of Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region,” chairman of the standing committee of the NPC, Li Zhanshu, told delegates at the closing ceremony.
“It will uphold and improve the ‘one country, two systems’ policy. It is in line with the Constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law and is in the interest of all Chinese people including Hong Kong people,” he added.
The legislation received 2,878 votes while one voted against and six abstained. The draft national security law has received international criticism with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declaring that Hong Kong is ‘no longer autonomous.’
Hong Kong, which has freedoms not granted in the mainland such as freedom of assembly and freedom of the press, has experienced months-long anti-government protests which sparked from a now-withdrawn extradition bill. (Reuters)
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