Thousands converge on Hong Kong parliament in fresh anti-government action

Protesters gather on a driveway near the police headquarters in Hong Kong on June 21, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 21 June 2019
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Thousands converge on Hong Kong parliament in fresh anti-government action

  • The protest comes after the government refused to meet the demands of demonstrators who have marched in their millions to oppose a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland
  • After converging at Hong Kong’s main government complex before rush hour, hundreds of protesters poured onto Harcourt Road outside the parliament building

Thousands of black-clad protesters blocked a highway outside Hong Kong’s parliament Friday, demanding the resignation of the city’s pro-Beijing leader over a controversial extradition proposal that has sparked the territory’s biggest political crisis in decades.

The protest comes after the government refused to meet the demands of demonstrators who have marched in their millions to oppose a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.

The movement has morphed into a larger rebuke of Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s administration.

Opposition groups, after putting on the biggest political rallies in Hong Kong’s history, have called for the complete withdrawal of the legislation and for Lam to step down.

After converging at Hong Kong’s main government complex before rush hour, hundreds of protesters -- many wearing face masks and chanting anti-government slogans -- poured onto Harcourt Road outside the parliament building, blocking the major artery completely before allowing some vehicles to trickle through.

Protesters, who have been largely leaderless during the anti-government rallies, were encouraged to “hold picnics” outside the legislature.

Many sat with umbrellas unfurled to block the sun, others sprayed water to keep them cool in the heat. Some found shade under a bridge near the complex.

“Physically and mentally, I’m really tired. But there’s no other way. As a Hong Konger you can’t not come out,” said 21-year-old student Cheung Po Lam.

“I’m very dissatisfied with... (the government’s) attitude,” he added.

Some at the government complex brought placards asking the police not to shoot at them, in a reference to sporadic violence last week between security officials and protesters.

In addition to ousting Lam and cancelling the extradition bill, protesters also want the release of those detained during those clashes, and an investigation into allegations of police brutality.

“The government still hasn’t responded to our demands, After so many days... they are all talking rubbish and shifting the blame on one another,” protester Poyee Chan, 28, told AFP.

“So I feel we need to come out and tell them: we citizens won’t accept such fake responses.”

‘Blossom everywhere’

The call for Friday’s protest was made by the city’s student unions, as well as informal organisers over social media and messaging apps like Telegram.

“Blossom everywhere,” read a statement circulated Thursday in a Telegram chat group.

“There are many ways to participate. Think carefully about your own ways to show your love to Hong Kong. June 21 is not the end of the fight, there will be more in the coming days.”

The groups had also recommended a mass strike, but it was not immediately clear which business or professional groups would support such a call.

Lam has so far defied calls to step down, and while she has apologised and suspended the bill indefinitely, it has failed to quell anger.

Administrative offices at the complex were closed on Friday “due to security considerations”.

Although Hong Kong was returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, it is still administered separately under an arrangement known as “One country, two systems”.

The city enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland but many residents have been alarmed in recent years by what they feel is a tighter grip by Beijing.

Opponents of the extradition bill fear it will ensnare the people of Hong Kong in mainland China’s opaque and politicised justice system, and also give Beijing a tool to target its critics based in the semi-autonomous territory.

The Chinese government had supported the extradition proposal, and accused protest organisers of colluding with Western governments. It dismissed expressions of support for the Hong Kong opposition as interference in the city -- and China’s -- internal affairs.

But Beijing said after the bill’s suspension that it respected and understood the decision.


Dutch court cuts state’s liability for Srebrenica deaths

In this Wednesday, March 20, 2019 file photo, a woman prays at the Potocari memorial center for victims of the Srebrenica genocide, in Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina. (AP)
Updated 20 July 2019
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Dutch court cuts state’s liability for Srebrenica deaths

  • The 350 were among the almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the genocide at Srebrenica, the worst massacre in Europe since World War II

THE HAGUE: The Dutch Supreme Court on Friday slashed the state’s liability for 350 victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, saying peacekeepers had only a “slim” chance of preventing their deaths.
The 350 men were among 5,000 terrified residents who had sought safety in the Dutch peacekeepers’ base when the besieged Muslim enclave was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995.
The lightly armed Dutch troops eventually became overwhelmed and shut the gates to new arrivals before allowing Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic to evacuate the refugees.
The men and boys were separated and taken in buses to their deaths, their bodies dumped in mass graves.
Judges, however, on Friday reduced from 30 percent to 10 percent the Dutch state’s responsibility for compensation to the families in a case brought by the Mothers of Srebrenica victims’ organization.
The 350 were among the almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the genocide at Srebrenica, the worst massacre in Europe since World War II and the darkest episode in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
“The Dutch State bears very limited liability in the ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’ case,” the Supreme Court said. “That liability is limited to 10 percent of the damages suffered by the surviving relatives of approximately 350 victims.”

After the ruling, Mothers’ president Munira Subasic, who lost family members including her son, husband and father in the massacre, expressed disappointment.
“Today we experienced humiliation upon humiliation. We could not even hear the judgment in our own language because we were not given a translator,” she told AFP.
At Srebrenica “every life was taken away 100 percent. There is little we can do with 10 percent, but yes, the responsibility still lies where it does.”
“I only have two bones. I have found less than 10 percent of his body,” she added, referring to her teenage son.
The Dutch government accepted responsibility, saying it was relieved that “finally there was some clarity.”
A Dutch court originally held the state liable for compensation in 2014. In 2017 the appeals court upheld that decision before it was referred to the Supreme Court.
The lower court had said in 2017 that the Dutch actions meant the Muslims were “denied a 30 percent chance of avoiding abuse and execution,” and thus the Dutch state was liable for 30 percent of damages owed to families.
The Supreme Court agreed that “the state did act wrongfully in relation to the evacuation of the 5,000 refugees” in the compound, including 350 Muslim men the Bosnian Serbs were unaware of.
It said the Dutch peacekeepers “failed to offer these 350 male refugees the choice to stay where they were, even though that would have been possible.”
But explaining the decision to reduce the liability, the Supreme Court said that “the chance that the male refugees would have escaped the Bosnian Serbs had they been given the choice to stay was slim, but not negligible.”
Reacting to the ruling, Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld said in a statement the cabinet would “examine how to best implement the liability for damages suffered by the relatives in such a way it does justice to the Supreme Court ruling.”

In a swipe at the failure of other foreign powers to act during the 1995 crisis, the top court added that the “chance of Dutchbat (the Dutch UN mission) receiving effective support from the international community was slim.”
Former Dutchbat soldiers attending the case said they were disappointed on behalf of the victims’ families.
“I think the final judgment is a bit disappointing, especially when you see the court ruling of 30 percent and now it’s downgraded to 10 percent,” said Remko de Bruijne, a former Dutch blue helmet who served at Srebrenica.
“I think that’s not fair for the Mothers of Srebrenica but, on the other hand, now it’s clear,” he told AFP.
Srebrenica has cast a long shadow over The Netherlands, forcing a the government to resign in 2002 after a scathing report on the role of politicians in the episode.
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is currently serving a life sentence in jail in The Hague after being convicted of genocide over Srebrenica and war crimes throughout the 1990s.
Ex-military chief Mladic, 76, dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia,” is currently appealing a life sentence on similar charges at an international tribunal in The Hague.
Slobodan Milosevic, Karadzic’s long-time patron during the war, was on trial in The Hague at the time of his death in 2006.