Hong Kong leader tells US not to ‘interfere’ after fresh protests

Hong Kong's pro-Beijing Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that any change to its economic relationship with Washington would threaten mutual benefits. (AP)
Updated 10 September 2019

Hong Kong leader tells US not to ‘interfere’ after fresh protests

  • Washington has rejected Beijing’s allegations that it is backing the demonstrators
  • Trump has called for a peaceful resolution to the political crisis

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s embattled leader warned the United States on Tuesday not to “interfere” with her government’s response to the city’s pro-democracy movement, after fresh protests called on Washington to ramp up pressure on Beijing.

Millions of people have demonstrated over the last 14 weeks in the biggest challenge to China’s rule of the financial hub since its handover from Britain in 1997.

Protesters took to the streets again on Sunday, marching to the American consulate to call on Congress to pass a bill expressing support for the pro-democracy movement.

The proposed law could undermine Hong Kong’s special US trade privileges by mandating regular checks on whether authorities were respecting the Basic Law that underpins the city’s semi-autonomous status.

But Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that any change to its economic relationship with Washington would threaten “mutual benefits.”

“It’s extremely inappropriate for any country to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs,” she told reporters.

“I hope that no more people in Hong Kong actively reach out to tell the United States to pass the act.”

While some American politicians on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for the democratic goals of the protesters, President Donald Trump’s administration has maintained a more hands-off approach while it fights a trade war with China.

Trump has called for a peaceful resolution to the political crisis and urged Beijing to not escalate with a violent crackdown.
But he has also said it is up to China to handle the protests.

Washington has rejected Beijing’s allegations that it is backing the demonstrators and China has provided little evidence to back its claims beyond supportive statements from some US politicians.

Separately, more than 150 lawmakers in Britain have called on Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to offer second citizenship and the right of abode to residents of Hong Kong.

That would “send a strong message to China that the people of Hong Kong are not alone,” the open letter said.

Hong Kong’s protests were lit by a plan to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland, seen by opponents as the latest move by China to chip away at the city’s unique freedoms.

After Beijing and city leaders took a hard line, the movement snowballed into a broader campaign calling for greater democracy, police accountability and an amnesty for those arrested.

The protests show no signs of abating, and Lam has struck an uncompromising tone for much of the last three months. But last week, she made a surprise concession, announcing the full withdrawal of the extradition bill.

That was not enough to mollify pro-democracy activists, who denounced the move as too little and too late, and huge crowds thronged the streets again over the weekend.

In what has become a familiar pattern, Sunday’s main daytime rally to the US consulate passed off peacefully. But as evening set in, riot police chased groups of hardcore protesters who blocked roads, vandalized nearby subway stations and set makeshift barricades on fire.

Lam once again denounced demonstrators during her Tuesday press conference. “The crazy destruction made at MTR stations shows that protesters have acted beyond expressing their views on the extradition law and other demands,” she said, using the name of the firm that runs the city’s underground rail service.

“The escalating and continuous violence cannot solve the problems we face in Hong Kong.”


SpaceX aims to launch up to 4 tourists into super high orbit

Updated 22 min 16 sec ago

SpaceX aims to launch up to 4 tourists into super high orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL: SpaceX aims to launch up to four tourists into a super high orbit, possibly by the end of next year.
The private company is working with Space Adventures Inc. for the flight, officials announced Tuesday. Ticket prices are not being divulged but expected to be in the millions.
Space Adventures already has helped put tourists into orbit with trips to the International Space Station, working with the Russian space program.
For this trip, paying customers will skip the space station and instead orbit two to three times higher, or roughly 500 miles to 750 miles (800 kilometers to 1,200 kilometers) above Earth.
It’s a lofty goal that would approach the record 850-mile-high (1,370 kilometers) orbit achieved by Gemini 11’s Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon in 1966.
The tourist flight “will forge a path to making spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement.
Elon Musk’s California-based SpaceX already is dabbling in space tourism, signing on a Japanese billionaire to fly to the moon in three or so years. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic also plan tourist trips to space, but these will be brief up-and-downs, not orbital.
SpaceX will use the same kind of Dragon capsule that will launch NASA astronauts to the space station, possibly in another few months. The capsule has flown only once in space so far, making its debut last year in a successful test flight without a crew.
Space Adventures spokeswoman Stacey Tearne said the tourist flight could occur in the last quarter of 2021. The company is in discussions with “several potential clients.”
No professional pilot or astronaut will be required, Tearne said, because the Dragon is fully autonomous. But passengers will be able to control the spacecraft if required, she said in an email.
The cost will be in line with previous tourist flights, she said. Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil, paid $35 million for a 1 1/2-week space station flight in 2009. He said from orbit that it was “worth every penny and more.”
Like all previous space tourists, he launched on a Russian rocket from Kazakhstan.
This private Dragon flight from Cape Canaveral will be shorter, lasting up to five days, according to Tearne.
Based in Vienna, Virginia, Space Adventures helped arrange the flight of the world’s first space tourist, Dennis Tito, founder and chairman of Wilshire Associates in California. He flew to the space station on a Russian capsule in 2001, igniting the wrath of top NASA officials who opposed visiting tourists.
The company has arranged eight space missions, with one tourist going twice.
Space Adventures’ goal is to create “unique and previously impossible opportunities for private citizens to experience space,” Eric Anderson, company chairman, said in a statement.
NASA has softened its stance on space tourists, and is opening the station doors to paying customers once commercial crew flights by SpaceX and Boeing have been established.