Hong Kong protesters, police in chaotic clashes

Anti-government protesters walk on the street while people watch from a bridge during a protest in Tai Po district of Hong Kong on Sunday, October 13, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 13 October 2019

Hong Kong protesters, police in chaotic clashes

  • Hardcore black-clad activists trashed shops and metro stations and erected road blocks around the city late Sunday
  • Police made numerous arrests and deployed tear gas to disperse protesters

HONG KONG: Hong Kong pro-democracy activists and riot police clashed in chaotic scenes around the city on Sunday with police in full riot gear chasing protesters through crowds of horrified lunchtime shoppers.
Several rallies in shopping mall started peacefully around midday with a few hundred people at each chanting slogans such as “Free Hong Kong,” but by late afternoon hardcore black-clad activists trashed shops and metro stations and erected road blocks around the city.
Police made numerous arrests and deployed tear gas to disperse protesters, saying they used “minimum force.” Television footage showed shoppers screaming and some injured when police charged inside a mall.
The young protesters, many wearing face masks to shield their identity, were often supported by shoppers.
In one mall a group of riot police, shields out front and pepper spray canisters in, hand were forced to retreat backwards by chanting shoppers until they were outside of the mall.
In another incident, a group of 50 shoppers inside a mall faced off against riot police outside, chanting “Hong Kong police mafia.” The shoppers cheered when police drove off.
Hong Kong’s police, once praised as “Asia’s finest,” have been accused of using excessive force in dealing with protesters and have lost the confidence and respect of many Hong Kongers.
Hong Kong has been battered by four months of often massive and violent protests against what is seen as Beijing’s tightening grip on the Chinese-ruled city.
The protests started in opposition to a now-abandoned extradition bill but have widened into a pro-democracy movement and an outlet for anger at social inequality in the city, which boasts some of the world’s most expensive real estate.
The unrest has plunged the city into its worst crisis since Britain handed it back to China in 1997 and poses the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
Hong Kong is facing its first recession in a decade due to the protests, with tourism and retail hardest hit.
Hong Kong’s protests have also taken on an element of civil disobedience by residents angry at what they see as excessive force by riot police and a heavy-hand by the government which introduced colonial-era emergency laws to quell unrest.
Sporadic small protest rallies often now consist of face-mask wearing school children, office workers, shoppers and the elderly. Hardcore activists who clash with police tend to emerge later in the day.
The Hong Kong government introduced emergency laws to ban the wearing of face masks at public rallies, a move that sparked some of the worst violence since the unrest started in June.
The violence has seen police trade tear gas and rubber bullets with protesters throwing petrol bombs and bricks. Two people have been shot and wounded during protests.
Police have arrested more than 2,300 people since June. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said that since September, nearly 40 percent of those arrested were under the age of 18 and 10% under 15, without giving the total number of arrests.
Protesters have targeted Chinese banks and shops with links to mainland China. A group wielding hammers damaged a Huawei store on Sunday.
Demonstrators believe China has been eroding Hong Kong’s freedoms, guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula introduced with the 1997 handover.
The now-withdrawn extradition bill, under which residents would have been sent to Communist-controlled mainland courts, was seen as the latest move to tighten control.
China denies the accusation and says foreign countries, including Britain and the United States, are fomenting unrest.


Trump says terminating US relationship with WHO over coronavirus

Updated 29 May 2020

Trump says terminating US relationship with WHO over coronavirus

  • Trump said the WHO had failed to make reforms to the organization that the president had demanded earlier this month
  • “China has total control over the World Health Organization despite only paying $40 million per year compared to what the United States has been paying,” he said

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Friday said he is terminating the US relationship with the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus, saying the WHO had essentially become a puppet organization of China.
Appearing in the White House Rose Garden, Trump went ahead with repeated threats to eliminate American funding for the group, which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Trump said the WHO had failed to make reforms to the organization that the president had demanded earlier this month. He said Chinese officials “ignored their reporting obligations” about the virus to the WHO and pressured the WHO to “mislead the world” when the virus was first discovered by Chinese authorities.
“China has total control over the World Health Organization despite only paying $40 million per year compared to what the United States has been paying which is approximately $450 million a year. We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly but they have refused to act,” said Trump.
“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” he said.
Trump has long questioned the value of the United Nations and scorned the importance of multilateralism as he focuses on an “America First” agenda. Since taking office, Trump has quit the UN Human Rights Council, the UN cultural agency UNESCO, a global accord to tackle climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.
The World Health Organization is a UN specialized agency — an independent international body that works with the United Nations. The WHO and a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s decision.