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Hong Kong police stabbing suspect arrested at airport after security law protests

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police arrested a 24-year-old man at the city’s airport in the early hours of Thursday on suspicion of attacking and wounding an officer during protests against a new national security law Beijing imposed on the financial hub.

Hong Kong police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested more than 300 people on Wednesday as protesters took to the streets in defiance of the sweeping security legislation introduced by China to snuff out dissent.

On Wednesday, police posted pictures on Twitter of an officer with a bleeding arm saying he was stabbed by “rioters holding sharp objects”. The suspects fled while bystanders offered no help, police said.

A police spokesman told Reuters the arrested man was surnamed Wong but could not confirm if he was leaving Hong Kong or working at the airport.

Local newspaper Apple Daily, citing unnamed sources, said the suspect was onboard a Cathay Pacific flight to London due to depart just before midnight.

A witness said “around 10 minutes before take-off, three police vehicles drove towards No. 64 gate, outside the Cathay Pacific plane” and around 10 riot police ran up the bridge to the aircraft.

Local television Cable TV, citing a police source, said police received an anonymous call at 11.43 pm, 12 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart, that the suspect was on his way to London. He bought a one-way ticket about two hours after the stabbing, the only purchase for that flight made on Wednesday, and arrived at the airport without luggage.

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He held an expired British National Overseas passport, a special status created under British law in 1987 that specifically relates to Hong Kong and provides a route to citizenship, the source told Cable TV.

Cathay Pacific did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying posted on Facebook on Wednesday that a bounty of HK$500,000 ($64,513) would be offered to anyone helping catch the fugitive and that confidentiality would be ensured.

The money would come via 803.hk, a website linked to Leung, which offers “crowdfunded” rewards for information leading to the prosecution of some anti-government protesters. The name of the site refers to an incident on Aug. 3, 2019, when a Chinese national flag was thrown into the sea during a protest.

Police said on Wednesday they had made around 370 arrests for illegal assembly and other offences, with 10 involving violations of the new security law.

The law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. It will also see mainland security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and allows extradition to the mainland for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

China’s parliament adopted the law in response to protests last year triggered by fears that Beijing was stifling the city’s freedoms, guaranteed by a “one country, two systems” formula agreed when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Beijing denies the accusation.

Chinese state media on Thursday praised the passage of the law, saying it would bring “prosperity and stability.”

“We must face up to the fact that the existence of legal loopholes in safeguarding national security has already made Hong Kong society pay a heavy price,” a commentary in People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, read.

($1 = 7.7504 Hong Kong dollars)

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Hong Kong police arrest nearly 200 in first protest under new security law

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested nearly 200 people on Wednesday as protesters took to the streets in defiance of sweeping security legislation introduced by China that critics say is aimed at snuffing out dissent.

Beijing unveiled the details of the much-anticipated law late on Tuesday after weeks of uncertainty, pushing China’s freest city and one of the world’s most glittering financial hubs onto a more authoritarian path.

As thousands of protesters gathered downtown for an annual rally marking the anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to China in 1997, riot police used pepper spray and fired pellets as they made arrests after crowds spilled into the streets chanting “resist till the end” and “Hong Kong independence”.

“I’m scared of going to jail but for justice I have to come out today, I have to stand up,” said one 35-year-old man who gave his name as Seth.

The new law will punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, will see mainland security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and allow for extradition to the mainland for trial.

China’s parliament adopted it in response to protests last year triggered by fears that Beijing was stifling the city’s freedoms, guaranteed by a “one country, two systems” formula agreed when it returned to Chinese rule.

Earlier on Wednesday, police cited the law for the first time in confronting protesters.

“You are displaying flags or banners/chanting slogans/or conducting yourselves with an intent such as secession or subversion, which may constitute offences under the … national security law,” police said in a message displayed on a purple banner.

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Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.

But critics fear it is aimed ending the pro-democracy opposition and will crush the freedoms that are seen as key to Hong Kong’s success as a financial centre.

The United States and its Asian and Western allies have criticised the legislation.

Police fired water cannon to try to disperse the protesters and said they had made more than 180 arrests for illegal assembly and other offences, with some involving violations of the new law.

A game of cat-and-mouse reminiscent of last year’s often violent demonstrations followed, with protesters blocking roads before running away from riot police charging with batons, only to re-emerge elsewhere.

Police posted pictures on Twitter of an officer with a bleeding arm saying he was stabbed by “rioters holding sharp objects.” The suspects fled while bystanders offered no help, police said.

On July 1 last year, hundreds of protesters stormed and vandalised the city’s legislature to protest against a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

Those protests evolved into calls for greater democracy, paralysing parts of the city and paving the way for Beijing’s new law.

‘BIRTHDAY GIFT’

In Beijing, Zhang Xiaoming, executive deputy director of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, told reporters suspects arrested by a new Beijing-run security office could be tried on the mainland.

He said the new office abided by Chinese law and that Hong Kong’s legal system could not be expected to implement the laws of the mainland. Article 55 of the law states that Beijing’s security office in Hong Kong could exercise jurisdiction over “complex” or “serious” cases.

“The law is a birthday gift to (Hong Kong) and will show its precious value in the future,” Zhang said, adding the law would not be applied retroactively.

(For highlights of the law, click)

Speaking at a flag-raising ceremony to mark the handover anniversary, the city’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, said the law was the most important development since the city’s return to Chinese rule.

“It is also an inevitable and prompt decision to restore stability,” Lam said at the harbour-front venue where 23 years ago the last colonial governor, Chris Patten, a staunch critic of the security law, tearfully handed back Hong Kong to Chinese rule.

Some pro-Beijing officials and political commentators say the law is aimed at sealing Hong Kong’s “second return” to the motherland after the first failed to bring residents to heel.

Luo Huining, the head of Beijing’s top representative office in Hong Kong, said at the ceremony the law was a “common aspiration” of Hong Kong citizens.

Some pro-democracy activists gave up membership of their groups just before the law came into force into force at 11 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Tuesday, though they called for the campaign to go on from abroad.

“I saw this morning there are celebrations for Hong Kong’s handover, but to me it is a funeral, a funeral for ‘one country two systems’,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki.

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Suspects arrested by Chinese agents in Hong Kong could be tried on mainland

BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Suspects arrested by Beijing’s new security office in Hong Kong could be tried on the mainland, a senior Chinese official said on Wednesday, a move certain to spark alarm in the Chinese-ruled city as a contentious new national security law takes effect.

Zhang Xiaoming, Executive Deputy Director of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, told reporters during a briefing that the mainland’s national security office abides by Chinese law and that Hong Kong’s legal system cannot be expected to implement the laws of the mainland.

“The law is a birthday gift to (Hong Kong) and will show its precious value in the future,” Zhang said, adding the law would not be applied retroactively.

Article 55 of the law states that Beijing’s national security office in Hong Kong could exercise jurisdiction over “complex” or “serious” cases.

The news comes a day after Beijing unveiled the full details of the much-anticipated law amid weeks of uncertainty and confirms widespread fears it will be harsher than expected.

Under the law, mainland security agencies will be based in Hong Kong officially for the first time, with powers that go beyond the city’s local laws.

Security was tight near the heart of Hong Kong’s government district on Wednesday only hours after new security law came into force and as the city marked the 23rd anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to China.

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The contentious law will punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for the Asian financial hub.

Among other details certain to rattle democracy and rights activists in the city is a ban on violators of the law standing for election and greater oversight of non-governmental organisations and news groups.

Speaking at a flag-raising ceremony to mark the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover in 1997, the city’s embattled leader Carrie Lam said the law was the most important development since the city’s return to Beijing.

“It is also an inevitable and prompt decision to restore stability in the society,” Lam said at the same harbour-front venue where 23 years ago the last colonial governor, Chris Patten, a staunch critic of the security law, tearfully handed back Hong Kong to Chinese rule.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.

Critics fear the legislation will crush wide-ranging freedoms in Hong Kong denied to people in mainland China that are seen as key to its success as a global financial centre.

“With the release of the full detail of the law, it should be clear to those in any doubt that this is not the Hong Kong they grew up in,” said Hasnain Malik, head of equity research, Tellimer in Dubai.

“The difference is that U.S. and China relations are far worse and this could be used as a pretext to impede the role of Hong Kong as a finance hub.” For more analysts comments, click

HONG KONG’S ‘SECOND RETURN’

Some pro-Beijing officials and political commentators say the law is aimed at sealing Hong Kong’s “second return” to the motherland after the first failed to bring residents of the restive city to heel.

Luo Huining, the head of Beijing’s top representative office in Hong Kong, said at the flag-raising ceremony the law was a “common aspiration” of Hong Kong citizens.

Critics of the legislation blasted the lack of transparency surrounding its details up until it was unveiled, with even Beijing-backed Lam saying she was not privy to the draft despite her insisting most people had no reason to worry.

The complex legislation came into force at 11 p.m. (1500 GMT) on June 30, giving Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people no time to digest it. Some pro-democracy activists quit their posts only hours before the law came into force, calling on the campaign for democracy to continue offshore.

“I saw this morning there are celebrations for Hong Kong’s handover, but to me it is a funeral, a funeral for ‘one country two systems’,” said democracy lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki.

Critics of the law fear it will crush wide-ranging freedoms promised to Hong Kong for 50 years when it returned to Beijing under a “one country, two systems” style of governance.

Neighbouring Taiwan, which Beijing regards as part of China and has said it would use force to reclaim it, said it had opened an office on Wednesday to help people fleeing Hong Kong.

Authorities barred an annual handover anniversary march due to be held on Wednesday, citing a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people in a bid to curb coronavirus, but many activists pledged to defy the order and march later in the afternoon.

On July 1 last year, hundreds of protesters stormed the city’s legislature to protest against a now-scrapped bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, trashing the building in a direct challenge to authorities in Beijing.

Those protests evolved into calls for greater democracy, paralysing parts of the city and paving the way for Beijing to directly impose national security law on Hong Kong.

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Cuba prevents protest over police killing of Black man

HAVANA (Reuters) – A raft of Cuban dissidents, artists and journalists said on Tuesday that state security agents had staked out their homes to prevent them from attending planned protests over the killing by police of a young Black man.

At least 40 dissident activists were also detained by police, according to exiled rights group Cubalex, with some later released.

Those included performance artist Tania Bruguera in Havana and the leader of Cuba’s most active opposition group, Jose Daniel Ferrer, who had been under house arrest in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.

Cuba does not usually comment on the detention of dissidents, which would give them more publicity. The government did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

No would-be protesters appeared able to make it to the site of what was supposed to be the main demonstration in Havana which was full of security forces. Some said state telecoms monopoly ETECSA had cut their mobile internet service overnight.

Protests against the state are rare in a country where public spaces are tightly controlled and Communist authorities are quick to crack down on dissent.

The calls for protests on Tuesday were triggered by news last week that police had shot and killed a 27-year-old unarmed Black man, Hansel Hernandez.

A woman who identified herself as his aunt denounced the killing on social media and called for justice, grabbing attention amid protests against police violence and racism in the United States.

For three days, authorities did not comment. But on Saturday, Cuba’s Interior Ministry issued a statement saying police had been chasing Hernandez, who had done jail time previously for other crimes.

Hernandez, who had committed an act of vandalism, started throwing stones at police as they chased him and hit one officer in the shoulder, throwing him to the ground, the statement said.

The officer shot Hernandez after firing off two warning shots, the statement said, adding that he acted in self defense and without the intent of killing him.

The Interior Ministry said it lamented his death.

Critics have denounced the government for not holding police to account by launching an investigation, especially given how quick officials have been to condemn U.S. police brutality, with extensive coverage in state media of the Black Lives Matter protests.

They also accuse the government more broadly of allowing police brutality and failing to adequately address racism in Cuba.

Cuba’s government prides itself on having improved the lives of Black Cubans by officially eliminating racial segregation after its 1959 revolution and providing universal access to education and healthcare.

But anti-racism activists say that by acting as if the issue of racism were resolved and suppressing debate over it, the government has prevented the steps needed to fully eradicate it.

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Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone must report to prison by July 14: judge

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. District Court judge in Washington has ordered that Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser to President Donald Trump, must report to prison by July 14.

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Irish coalition deal approved to end political deadlock

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland’s two dominant centre-right parties and the smaller Green Party agreed on Friday to form a new coalition government that will focus on climate action and end four months of political stalemate.

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin is set to be elected prime minister on Saturday, replacing Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar, in a deal that for the first time unites the two rival parties that have dominated Irish politics since independence a century ago.

Varadkar is then due to return to the prime minister’s office halfway through the five-year term under a novel rotation agreement.

The Greens needed the backing of two-thirds of its grassroot members, a higher bar than the larger parties that kept the deal struck last week in doubt until the votes were counted. It passed by a margin of 76% to 24%, a similar level to the two other parties.

After Varadkar’s caretaker government had to lock down the country to slow the spread of coronavirus, Martin said the reopening of the majority of the economy from Monday was “a moment of opportunity and a moment of hope for our people.”

He said he hoped the new government could tackle problems in housing, healthcare and climate change, which he described as “the existential challenge of our time.”

Upon Martin’s election at a special socially distant sitting of parliament on Saturday, Irish politics will be broadly split down left-right lines for the first time with the pro-Irish unity Sinn Fein taking over as the main opposition.

Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army, shocked the political establishment in February’s election by securing more votes than any other party for the first time. It has 37 seats in the fractured 160-seat parliament, the same number as Fianna Fail and two more than Fine Gael.

As kingmakers, the Greens were able to drive a hard bargain, including a commitment to a 7% average annual cut in greenhouse gas emissions, versus just 2% currently, an end to the issuing of new licenses for the exploration and extraction of gas and a greater focus on public transport infrastructure.

With three of its 12 members of parliament opposed to the deal, leader Eamon Ryan even enlisted the help of U.S. actor and activist Mark Ruffalo to persuade its 2,000 members to vote ‘yes’ during 10 days of debate.

Ryan said Ireland could now take its place in the wider world’s biggest challenge “to stop the madness that climate change will bring if it’s let go unchecked.”

The ratification avoids what Varadkar said would have been a political crisis had it been rejected, with parliament unable to pass new laws, including those underpinning a 6.5 billion euro ($7.3 billion) package to help businesses hit by the coronavirus crisis, until a prime minister is appointed.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, both of Fine Gael, are expected to remain in their roles when Martin names his new Cabinet on Saturday.

($1 = 0.8903 euros)

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London police to crackdown on illegal parties as officers attacked again

LONDON (Reuters) – London police will crackdown on illegal street parties after officers came under attack for the second night running as they tried to disperse an unauthorised gathering, the capital’s police chief said on Friday.

As Britain has begun to ease strict coronavirus lockdown rules, police have had to deal with a number of illegal parties and raves across the country with many people flouting guidelines that only groups of up to six can meet outdoors.

“It’s hot, some people have drunk far too much, some people are just angry and aggressive, and some are plain violent,” London police chief Cressida Dick said.

The events were unlawful and should not be happening, she said, warning: “We will come and close them down.”

On Wednesday night, 22 officers were hurt and a number of patrol cars were vandalised when trouble broke out at an unauthorised music event in Brixton, south London.

Officers came under attack again on Thursday night from revellers throwing missiles in the Notting Hill area of west London, the scene of one of a number of unlicensed music events,

“We’ve seen large numbers of people completely flouting the health regulations, seeming not to care at all about their own or their families’ health, wanting to have large parties,” Dick said.

Police will be prepared for further trouble this weekend.

“We know that having months of restrictions people have been frustrated and people will want to come together in gatherings but these illegal raves are obviously unacceptable,” Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News on Friday.

This month, big protests by anti-racism supporters have taken place in central London and other cities in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and some counter-demonstrations, some of which have turned violent.

About 140 officers had been injured in the last three weeks, Dick said. A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the violence against the police appalling.

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On Thursday, authorities in Bournemouth, a beach town in southern England, declared a “major incident” over what they called the irresponsible behaviour of crowds who had ignored public health guidance on coronavirus and badly overstretched local services.

Visitors arrived in large numbers in a spell of hot weather, resulting in gridlock on the roads, anti-social behaviour and alcohol-fuelled fights.

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Danish far-right party leader sentenced to jail on racism and defamation

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – The leader of Danish far-right party Stram Kurs, lawyer Rasmus Paludan, was disbarred from the legal profession and sentenced to three months in jail on Thursday after being found guilty of racism.

Stram Kurs (Hard Line) was close to getting into parliament in the last election in Denmark with a policy based on banning Islam and deporting hundreds of thousands of Muslims.

Paludan first came to public attention in 2017 when he started making anti-Muslim Youtube videos. His stunts have included publicly burning the Koran, sometimes wrapped in bacon, in what he said was a tribute to free speech.

Paludan was sentenced to 14 days of conditional imprisonment in 2019 for racist speech. He will now face one month of imprisonment with two additional months of suspended sentence after being found guilty of 14 different accounts of racism, defamation and hazardous driving.

Additionally, as part of his sentence, Paludan was disbarred for three years, had his driver’s licence suspended for one year and was fined around 40,000 Danish crowns ($6,012.23), the district court said in a statement.

Paludan denied all charges.

($1 = 6.65 Danish crowns)

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British police say 22 officers hurt in violence at illegal party

LONDON (Reuters) – Twenty-two police officers were hurt during trouble at an unauthorised music event in London overnight where crowds attacked some patrol cars, British authorities said on Thursday.

Parties have been banned during Britain’s coronavirus lockdown, though some people have been defying that.

“These are utterly vile scenes,” said Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel of the disorder in the capital’s Brixton area.

Police said they were attacked when responding to residents’ complaints about noise, anti-social behaviour and violence.

None of the officers were injured seriously, though two required hospital treatment, police said in a statement. Some police cars were damaged and four people were arrested.

“These gatherings are unlawful, as well as posing a risk to public health and against coronavirus restrictions. The violence shown towards officers is totally unacceptable and we will not tolerate it in any form,” said police commander Colin Wingrove.

Unverified images on social media showed a crowd – with one person holding an object that looked like a sword – confronting officers and attacking a police car.

Reuters was unable to independently verify those images.

Patel said the incident was particularly wrong given the recent stabbing at a park in Reading where three people died in what police said was a terrorism incident.

“Just last weekend, the whole country came together to praise our heroic police officers for putting their own lives on the line to keep us safe,” she said.

British police have issued warnings against holding parties or large gatherings during the lockdown to curb COVID-19. Three people were stabbed and a woman raped after thousands of young people attended a “rave” in northern England earlier this month, one of a number of such illegal events to take place recently.

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Democrats accuse 'president's fixer' Barr of political meddling in U.S. justice system

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Democrats blasted Attorney General William Barr at a hearing on Wednesday over accusations he had improperly meddled in criminal cases and antitrust probes for political gain, but they stopped short of pledging to take any steps to try and oust the nation’s top law enforcement official.

“Mr. Barr’s work at the Department of Justice has nothing to do with correcting injustice. He is the president’s fixer,” said Jerrold Nadler, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

“He has shown us that there is one set of rules for the president’s friends, and another set of rules for the rest of us.”

Nadler had mulled subpoenaing Barr to appear before the panel for a future hearing, but a Justice Department spokeswoman on Wednesday tweeted that Barr would voluntarily appear to testify on July 28.

Wednesday’s contentious hearing featured testimony from two current Justice Department employees who took the unusual step of publicly blowing the whistle against their own employer.

The hearing came at a time when Barr has come under growing scrutiny after he intervened in two prosecutions involving Trump allies, fired a federal prosecutor whose office is investigating Trump’s personal attorney, and oversaw the use of force by federal law enforcement officers against peaceful protesters in historic Lafayette Square.

Federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinksy testified on Wednesday that the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington was pressured from the “highest levels” of the Justice Department to scale back its sentencing recommendation for Trump’s longtime friend, Roger Stone.

“Roger Stone was being treated differently from every other defendant. He received breaks that are, in my experience, unheard of,” said Zelinsky, who withdrew from the case after senior department officials filed a new sentencing memo that backed away from the original recommendation of seven to nine years in prison.

Stone, 67, who was convicted of obstruction, witness tampering and lying to Congress during its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Republicans on the panel criticized Zelinsky, who admitted he had not directly spoken with Barr or the then-Acting U.S. Attorney Tim Shea about their reasons for scaling back the sentencing recommendation.

Zelinsky told lawmakers that Shea’s office declined his request for a meeting, and that J.P. Cooney, who supervises public corruption cases in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington, had told him that political motivations were behind the abrupt shift.

The second employee to testify on Wednesday was antitrust attorney John Elias, who spoke about the about the politicization of antitrust probes into marijuana companies and the auto sector.

With less than five months before U.S. elections, the partisanship displayed during the House Judiciary hearing was on display throughout the Congress. During the hearing, legislation to stop excessive force by police departments fell victim to partisan infighting in the Senate.

Donald Ayer, the former Deputy Attorney General under George H.W. Bush who also testified before the committee Wednesday, said he feared Barr’s misbehavior was only accelerating as the election draws closer.

“The drum beat of his misbehavior is accelerating,” he said. “I don’t know what’s next, but I’m scared to think about what it might be,” he said.

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