Hong Kong protesters plan march to US Embassy

The unrest has become the biggest challenge to Beijing’s rule since Hong Kong’s return from Britain. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 September 2019

Hong Kong protesters plan march to US Embassy

  • Police fire tear gas after protesters vandalize subway stations, block traffic
  • Hong Kong has been rocked by three months of unrest sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial

HONG KONG: Thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong urged President Donald Trump to “liberate” the semiautonomous Chinese territory during a peaceful march to the US Consulate on Sunday, but violence broke out later in the business and retail district as police fired tear gas after protesters vandalized subway stations, set fires and blocked traffic.

Demonstrators flooded a park in central Hong Kong, chanting “Resist Beijing, Liberate Hong Kong” and “Stand with Hong Kong, fight for freedom.” 

Many of them, clad in black shirts and wearing masks, waved American flags and carried posters that read “President Trump, please liberate Hong Kong” as they marched to the US
Consulate nearby.

“Hong Kong is at the forefront of the battle against the totalitarian regime of China,” said Panzer Chan, one of the organizers of the march. “Please support us in
our fight.”

Hong Kong has been rocked by three months of unrest sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. Many saw the extradition bill as a glaring example of the erosion of civil liberties and rights promised under a “one country, two systems” framework when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong’s government promised this past week to formally withdraw the bill, but that failed to appease the demonstrators, who have widened their demands to include calls for direct elections for the city’s leaders and an independent probe into alleged police brutality against protesters.

The unrest has become the biggest challenge to Beijing’s rule since Hong Kong’s return from Britain. Beijing and the entirely state-controlled media have portrayed the protests as an effort by criminals to split the territory from China, backed by
hostile foreigners.

Protesters on Sunday urged Washington to pass a bill, known as the Hong Kong Democratic and Human Rights Act, to support their cause. 

The bill proposes sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials found to suppress democracy and human rights in the city, and could also affect Hong Kong’s preferential trade status with the US

A group of protesters sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” before handing over an appeal letter to a US Consulate official.

Just before the rally ended, violence broke out after riot police detained several people and chased a crowd out of the nearby Central subway station. Angry protesters smashed glass windows and sprayed graffiti at the station’s exits.

Protesters burned cardboard boxes and other debris to start a fire at one of the exits. They also set fire at a nearby street, but firefighters quickly snuffed it out.

The government said protesters also blocked traffic at a major thoroughfare near City Hall in the area, paralyzing traffic. In the type of cat-and-mouse battle that has characterized the summer-long protests, riot police pursued groups of protesters down streets, but they kept regrouping.

Police fired multiple rounds of tear gas in the Causeway Bay shopping area after protesters heckled them and refused to leave. They also searched dozens of young people on the street and inside subway stations.

The US State Department said in a travel advisory Friday that Beijing has undertaken a propaganda campaign “falsely accusing the United States of fomenting unrest in Hong Kong.” It said US citizens and embassy staff were targeted and urged them to exercise increased caution.

FASTFACT

Protesters have urged the US to pass a bill, known as the Hong Kong Democratic and Human Rights Act, to support their cause.

Some American legislators are pressing Trump to take a tougher stand on Hong Kong. But the president has suggested that it’s a matter for China to handle, though he also has said no violence should be used. Political analysts suggest Trump’s response has been muted because he doesn’t want to disrupt talks with China over their tariff war.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said last week that he would recommend Trump take “more forceful action” if Chinese authorities crush the demonstrations. The protests are an embarrassment to China’s ruling Communist Party ahead of the Oct. 1 celebration of its 70th anniversary in power.

Separately, well-known Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong said in a statement through his lawyer that he was detained at the city’s airport early Friday for breaching bail conditions. Wong, a leader of Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy protest movement, was among several people detained last month and was charged with inciting people to join a protest in June.

Wong had just returned from Taiwan, where he gave speeches on Hong Kong’s protests, and is due to visit Germany and the US. He said a court had approved his overseas trips.

He described his detention as a procedural hiccup and said he expected to be released Monday. 

His prosecution comes less than two months after his release from prison for a two-month sentence related to the 2014 protests.


Mali holds election despite coronavirus and insurgency

Updated 29 March 2020

Mali holds election despite coronavirus and insurgency

  • The coronavirus pandemic has posed a further threat to the vote but authorities in the West African nation have insisted it will go ahead
  • Polls opened on Sunday and turnout in the capital Bamako appeared low, a Reuters witness said

BAMAKO: Mali held its long-delayed parliamentary election on Sunday despite an insurgency in its central and northern regions, concerns about coronavirus and the recent kidnapping of the main opposition leader.

The election, originally scheduled for 2018, has been postponed twice because of intensifying violence in parts of Mali where the government struggles to suppress jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

The coronavirus pandemic has posed a further threat to the vote but authorities in the West African nation have insisted it will go ahead, promising to enforce additional hygiene measures to protect Mali's 7.6 million voters.

"The government will do everything to make sure this is the case," President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said in the run-up to the election.
Mali had confirmed 20 cases of coronavirus as of Sunday morning.

Polls opened on Sunday at 0800 and turnout in the capital Bamako appeared low, a Reuters witness said.

There was no queue at one polling station, which allowed voters to cast their ballot while keeping the recommended distance from each other. Handwashing facilities were meant to be available, but the kits arrived too late for early voters.

"I voted without a problem, but the hygiene kit against coronavirus wasn't there," said 30-year-old driver Ibrahim Konare. "The priority for the new parliament should be the fight against insecurity and the eradication of coronavirus."

It was not clear how voting was going in the large areas of central and northern Mali that are effectively lawless and used by the jihadists as a base for attacks in Mali and into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

Mali's main opposition leader Soumaila Cisse was ambushed last week while on the campaign trail in the northern region of Timbuktu. The attackers killed Cisse's bodyguard and took Cisse and six members of his delegation hostage. They have not been seen since.

The election will select 147 lawmakers for the national assembly, which has not had a mandate since 2018 because of the electoral delays.
Polling stations close at 1800 GMT with results due in the coming days. A second round is scheduled for April 19 in constituencies where no candidate wins a majority.

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