Hong Konger ‘missing’ after crossing China bridge checkpoint

The man was traveling by bus on Friday afternoon along the bridge-and-tunnel network linking Hong Kong, Macau and mainland city Zhuhai. (File/AFP)
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Updated 15 December 2019

Hong Konger ‘missing’ after crossing China bridge checkpoint

  • The man texted his son saying he was being detained
  • Mainland police set up a checkpoint in Macau ahead of President Xi visit

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s immigration department said Sunday they have received reports a man went missing on a cross-border mega bridge to the gambling hub of Macau that currently hosts a Chinese mainland police checkpoint.
The disappearance first emerged on Saturday when the man’s son told local media his father had texted to say he was being detained while passing through an artificial island manned by Chinese police on his way to the semi-autonomous city of Macau.
The man was traveling by bus on Friday afternoon along the bridge-and-tunnel network linking Hong Kong, Macau and mainland city Zhuhai, his son said.
“His last message said ‘I got arrested’,” the son told Cable News, speaking anonymously.
The artificial island in the middle of the Pearl River Delta lies in Chinese mainland waters.
It does not normally host a checkpoint. But mainland police set one up there last week with X-ray machines and facial-recognition checks ahead of an upcoming visit to Macau by President Xi Jinping.
Hong Kong’s immigration department told AFP it had “received a request for help” regarding a resident “who was suspected to have gone missing... when traveling to Macau via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai Macau Bridge.”
The spokesman added that the department was reaching out to the city’s trade office in the Chinese province of Guangdong, which borders Macau.
Security is being ramped up in Macau ahead of Xi’s visit to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its handover from Portugal to China on Friday.
Last week Guangdong’s public security department said it was setting up a checkpoint on the artificial island to “create a favorable social environment” for the anniversary celebrations.
Hong Kong’s security bureau declined to comment on whether it was aware of the new checkpoint on the bridge.
AFP reporters passed through the checkpoint last Wednesday. It was manned by dozens of heavily armed SWAT officers, and bus passengers had their luggage, faces and identity documents screened.
The Macau celebrations come as Hong Kong has been convulsed by six months of huge and often violent pro-democracy protests as the city chafes under Beijing’s rule.
The protests were initially sparked by a now-abandoned plan to allow extraditions to the mainland where the courts are opaque and controlled by the Communist Party.
The 2015 disappearance into mainland custody of five booksellers who published salacious tomes about China’s leaders also sparked outrage.
The bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai is an engineering marvel but some have criticized the undeclared costs which ran into the tens of billions.
A newly opened high-speed rail link to the mainland has also proved controversial because part of the terminus in the heart of Hong Kong’s Kowloon district is governed by mainland Chinese law.


Mahathir to form unity govt, sorry for quitting in haste

Updated 27 February 2020

Mahathir to form unity govt, sorry for quitting in haste

  • UMNO, a Malay-based party, has been in power for the past 61 years, and critics say it has openly embraced cronyism and race-based politics

KUALA LUMPUR: In an unprecedented address broadcast live to the public on Wednesday, Malaysia’s interim Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad confirmed that he would try to form a nonpartisan administration.

“I think right or wrong, politics and political parties need to be put aside for now. If it is possible, I will try to establish a government that does not favor any party. Only the interests of the nation will take precedence,” he said in his first public comments since the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government collapsed on Monday, following his resignation as prime minister — although he remains the country’s acting leader.

He added that politicians and political parties “are too political” — so much that they had forgotten about the health and economic issues threatening the country.

In light of the recent coronavirus outbreak and the severe economic aftershocks faced by the country due to its ongoing political drama, the Malaysian leader also conveyed his apologies to the public for resigning in haste.

“I apologize to all Malaysians for the country’s political turmoil that may cause anxiety,” the 94-year-old said. “As a normal human being, I am not alone in making mistakes. I apologize if my resignation was wrong.”

Mahathir quit the top job in Putrajaya and the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (BERSATU) on Monday, following political maneuvers by certain factions within the alliance and amid accusations of a power grab by some.

“I resigned because I didn’t see the power and the position as the be all and end all — as my goal. For me, that power and position is a means to an end or a tool to achieve an objective. And our objective is the good of the nation,” Mahathir said.

The Peoples Justice Party (PKR) tried to consolidate power with an opposition party bloc, including the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), to form a “backdoor government” on Sunday. The plan failed because they did not get Mahathir’s backing after he realized the UMNO would be part of the coalition.

UMNO, a Malay-based party, has been in power for the past 61 years, and critics say it has openly embraced cronyism and race-based politics. The billion-dollar 1MDB scandal involving UMNO’s former president, Najib Razak, led to the PH party, under Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim, winning the 2018 elections.

“I can accept UMNO members who leave UMNO and join other parties. But UMNO will join this unity government and treat it as the UMNO Party. This is unacceptable to me. That drove my decision to resign,” explained Mahathir.

Malaysian head of state Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah subsequently appointed Mahathir as the interim prime minister on Monday, while the country was in the process of transition.

Professor James Chin, a political analyst at Tasmania University’s Asia Institute, told Arab News that Mahathir is trying to put together a balanced coalition.

“He wants individuals, not parties,” said Chin. “If Mahathir gets his way to form a unity government, there will be no specific ideology, so that all sides are represented.”

Adib Zalkapli, director of political consultancy firm BowerGroupAsia, told Arab News that Mahathir’s agenda for the unity government is unrealistic.

“Some of the parties are ideologically different. UMNO, for example, is defined by its opposition to the Democratic Action Party’s (DAP) ideology of Malaysian Malaysia,” he said. “They cannot be in the same coalition.”

The king will interview MPs to assess who might get majority support as prime minister — or whether a general election is needed.

The PH party told reporters on Wednesday that they have chosen PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as the “prime ministerial candidate for the Alliance government.” Other parties, including Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) from Borneo, are backing Mahathir, while opposition parties such as the UMNO have pushed for a snap election.

“The statement by the Alliance showed they want the king to decide, which means the Alliance did not get a deal with Mahathir,” Chin said, adding that it would be a major challenge to the 60-year-old king, as he is “young and untested.”

“The Mahathir-Anwar partnership has collapsed. Nobody knows who has the support of the majority of the MPs. It’s up to the king now to end the uncertainty,” Zalkapli said. “His Majesty may decide based on who will likely form the most stable government.”