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

Robie de Guzman   •   November 29, 2019   •   290

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The police officials have withdrawn from the campus and the cordon around the university has been lifted while the campus has been handed to the college’s administration, the police added.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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Hong Kong leader asks to maintain election day peace to resume dialogue

Robie de Guzman   •   November 26, 2019

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks to reporters during a press conference in Hong Kong, China, 26 November 2019. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy candidates rose to a landslide victory in the district council elections on 25 November 2019 in a record voter turnout, sending a strong message to the government and its allies. EPA-EFE/FAZRY ISMAIL

Hong Kong’s chief executive asked Tuesday to maintain the “peaceful and safe environment” witnessed in last weekend’s local elections day to resume dialogue and find a solution for protests that have rocked the city since June.

Carrie Lam made the statements during her weekly press conference – the first after her crushing defeat in the elections, in which the pro-democracy opposition won 388 of the 452 available seats.

Asked whether she would yield to the protesters’ demands and investigate alleged police brutality in protests, Lam said she would “set up an independent review committee” to look at the protests’ causes and “identify the underlying problems, social, economic or even political and to recommend measures that the Government should take.”

The Hong Kong leader said she would take as an example the response of British authorities to the riots in Tottenham, London, in 2011.

Regarding the election result, Lam said “this particular election has clearly reflected that many voters wanted to express their opinions and views to the Government, to myself.”

“The views and opinions expressed are quite diverse. There are people who wanted to express a view that they could no longer tolerate the violence on the streets, there are of course people who felt that the Government has not competently handled the legislative exercise and its aftermath,” the leader said.

She called for an end to the violence and demanded to maintain the “relative calm and peace that we have seen in the last week,” which allowed elections to be held in a “peaceful and fair environment” despite doubts on whether it would be wise to hold them.

Lam congratulated elected candidates and praised those who stood for elections, “especially those who were threatened” during the process.

Lam had dismissed the idea that elections were a test toward her government’s support.

“The voices of Hong Kong residents were heard. Hong Kong residents don’t want the society to be in a chaotic situation and […] so we could restore order to our normal life,” she added.

With a record of more than 71-percent voter turnout, the elections showed society’s support toward the protest movement and their dissatisfaction with authorities’ actions, since the after pro-democracy candidates took more than 85 percent of the seats.

Being a simple majority electoral system in which the candidate who gets the most votes is elected, the difference in the vote percentage was much smaller: the pro-democracy bloc gained 57 percent of the votes while the pro-Beijing camp received 41 percent. EFE-EPA

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Taiwan feels for HK, stands against China’s ‘one country, two systems’ policy

Marje Pelayo   •   November 26, 2019

Taiwan Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu during a briefing with members of international media in Taipei, Taiwan (November 22, 2019) Photo: Chris Narag / UNTV Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan – The months-long protest in Hong Kong may have ended with a victory for pro-democracy group but still, an influx of Hong Kong nationals seeking residency in Taiwan caught the attention of Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).

MAC Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng in an interview on Thursday (November 22) said most Hong Kong nationals moved to Taiwan to invest, to get married to Taiwan citizens or mostly to study based on statistics from the National Immigration Agency (NIA).

The minister did not give a direct answer when asked if the recent influx of Hong Kong nationals to Taiwan was caused by the anti-government protests that lasted nearly six months.

Similar to Hong Kong, Taiwan also experiences diplomatic pressure from China and what happened to Hong Kong is a matter of concern not just to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Joseph Wu.

“The situation is very sad for us to see and if you look at the current situation it doesn’t seem to [have] an immediate solution to it,” he said in a meeting with reporters in Taipei.

“On the other hand, the demand of people of Hong Kong for more freedom or more democracy is not being met. And on the other hand, the Chinese seems to be ready to apply more control over Hong Kong,” he added.

Since the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, Taiwan has been vocal in its opposition against China’s call for unification under “one country, two systems” policy similar to Hong Kong.  

Since then, several countries switched their allegiance from Taiwan to China as the latter announced it would refuse any diplomatic ties with any country that would recognize the former’s self-rule.

Just recently, two of Taiwan’s former allies, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands shifted recognition to China.

Wu accused China of making “false” aid promises such as billions-dollar worth of infrastructure projects to some of Taiwan’s former allies.

“To lure Taiwan’s allies to build ties with them, China often makes promises with huge amounts of money,” Wu said

“But we realize those promises were not fulfilled,” he added.

At present, only 15 countries recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty, most of them are less developed ones.

They are:

  1. Belize (1989)
  2. Guatemala (1960)
  3. Eswatini1 (1968)
  4. Haiti (1956)
  5. Honduras (1965)
  6. Marshall Islands (1998)
  7. Nauru (1980–2002, 2005)
  8. Nicaragua (1990)
  9. Palau (1999)
  10. Paraguay (1957)
  11. Saint Kitts and Nevis (1983)
  12. Saint Lucia (1984–1997, 2007)
  13. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (1981)
  14. Tuvalu (1979)
  15. Vatican City (1942)

Recently, Tuvalu expressed their support for Taiwan despite offers from China.

President Tsai is seeking reelection in January 2020. If she wins, she vows to continuously defend Taiwan’s democracy. MNP (with inputs from Amiel Pascual)

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