Hong Kong anti-extradition protesters move barricades ahead of debate

Robie de Guzman   •   June 12, 2019   •   1225

Anti-extradition law protesters removing barricades | Courtesy: Image grabbed from a Reuters video

Chaotic scenes erupted in Hong Kong on Wednesday (June 12) as tens of thousands of demonstrators stormed key roads next to government offices to protest against a proposed extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Thousands of protesters rallied in and around Lung Wo Road, an important east-west artery near the offices of embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as hundreds of riot police warned them to stop advancing.

Some protesters erected barricades to block traffic in the heart of the Asian financial center, with many defying police calls to retreat, in scenes reminiscent of pro-democracy protests that rocked the city in late 2014.

Officials said the legislative session for the second reading of the controversial extradition bill has been delayed as protesters have blocked entry to the chamber and government headquarters.

A spokesman for bourse operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) said a cocktail reception on Wednesday evening to celebrate 19 years of being listed, at which Lam is guest of honor, would go ahead. (REUTERS)

Hong Kong leader closes ranks with Beijing, condemns US law

Robie de Guzman   •   December 3, 2019

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference at the Central Government Offices in Hong Kong, China, 03 December 2019. EPA-EFE/JEROME FAVRE

Hong Kong – The chief executive of Hong Kong on Tuesday closed ranks with Beijing and condemned the United States Senate’s passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which she lambasted as unnecessary and unjustified.

Carrie Lam said in a press conference that the US legislation would have an impact on the city’s economic development by undermining confidence and creating an unstable environment for Hong Kong-based businesses.

“This is completely unnecessary and very regrettable,” Lam said. “For now, it undermines confidence; it creates an unstable environment.”

The leader of the Chinese semi-autonomous region added that US firms were also concerned, as they too might be affected by the law.

“All this is creating uncertainty and won’t go well for any economic development,” Lam said.

She described the HKHRDA as clear interference by Washington in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, echoing the stance of Beijing, which on Monday responded by banning the stopover of US military ships and aircraft in the city and imposed sanctions on several non-governmental organizations and human rights groups.

“We will follow the law in supporting the central government and we will follow up on the measures they take,” said Lam.

The chief executive also criticized the American law for suggesting that the rights of Hong Kong residents were being violated and stressed that they enjoyed freedom of the press, religious liberty, and freedom of assembly.

The HKHRDA, which was signed into law by US President Donald Trump, requires the State Department to conduct reviews at least annually evaluating whether Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to merit a change to its current status as a preferential trade partner. It also prescribes sanctions on individuals found to have abused human rights in Hong Kong, including Chinese officials.

“The US government will have to conduct certain reviews after this passing; let’s see how they conduct them,” she said. “Of course, there will be an impact. This is an overseas foreign government taking such a measure.”

On the other hand, Lam announced a fourth round of relief measures to bolster the economy of the region, whose gross domestic product could contract by up to 1.3 percent for the entire fiscal year as it reels from the double impact of both the ongoing US-China trade war and the massive anti-government protests that have swept the city since June.

Lam did not specify what the new measures would look like. Instead, she committed to finding a way of stopping the violence as soon as possible to allow the economy to recover. “But now, cold water has been poured on the situation,” she said, in reference to the US law.

Retail sales plummeted by 24.3 percent in October due to the protests. Hong Kong’s finance secretary, Paul Chan, said it was the biggest inter-annual drop in the city’s history. EFE-EPA

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Hong Kong police end 2-week-long siege of university campus

Robie de Guzman   •   November 29, 2019

Officers from a bomb disposal unit examine items used by protesters to make petrol bombs on the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China, 28 November 2019. EPA-EFE/JEROME FAVRE

The Hong Kong police ended the nearly two-week-long siege of the Polytechnic University at noon on Friday with the withdrawal of all officers surrounding the campus, a day after having discovered a large cache of diverse weapons such as Molotov cocktails, bows and chemicals stowed there.

“After two days, police have removed all dangerous goods and have handled scenes of crime at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU),” the police said in a statement.

The officials seized a total of 3,989 bottles of petrol bombs, 1,339 pieces of explosives, 601 bottles of corrosive liquids and 573 pieces of weapons, according to the statement.

The police officials have withdrawn from the campus and the cordon around the university has been lifted while the campus has been handed to the college’s administration, the police added.

“We reiterate that police adopt a flexible approach in solving the crisis at the PolyU. Police make every effort to resolve the situation peacefully,” the statement said.

The police entered PolyU on Thursday morning – for the first time since they began the siege – to remove dangerous items and gather evidence from the campus.

On Friday morning, the police announced that it would end the siege during the day following repeated calls this week by PolyU’s management for the embattled force to unblock the campus, given that most protesters have left the compound, located in the harbor-side district of Hung Hom in Kowloon.

It is, however, still unclear whether there are still protesters inside – on Wednesday night, one of them emerged and told the press he reckoned there were still 20 people remaining.

The siege began on Nov. 17, when anti-government protesters clashed violently with police in Hung Hom. Many protesters fled into PolyU, but they soon found themselves stuck there as the police besieged the campus and decided to arrest anyone walking out of the campus.

Over the next few days, hundreds of people barricaded inside PolyU handed themselves in while some others used their own ways to escape, including abseiling down from a bridge. Those who stayed put were reluctant to leave, out of fear of being charged with rioting – an offense that carries a maximum jail sentence of 10 years – and of being subdued by police with violence.

So far, the police have arrested or taken down the personal details of over 1,000 people walking out of the campus.

The police’s retreat ends a dramatic episode of the months-long protest movement that has incurred the wrath of Hongkongers supporting the movement, as well as the academic world.

This week, over 3,700 professors and lecturers around the globe, including prominent academics such as Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker, signed a petition condemning the “use of disproportionate force and retaliatory brutality by Hong Kong police against students in university campuses” in Hong Kong. EFE-EPA

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China threatens US after Trump passes bills backing Hong Kong protesters

Robie de Guzman   •   November 28, 2019

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang speaks to reporters during a daily Foreign Ministry press conference in Beijing, China, 28 November 2019. China responds with anger and warns of countermeasures after US President Donald Trump’s signing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on 28 November 2019. EPA-EFE/HOW HWEE YOUNG

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

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