China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

This handout photograph taken and released by the Hong Kong Government on December 16, 2019 shows Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam during her annual duty visit, in Hong Kong Hall at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (File/AFP)
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Updated 16 December 2019

China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

  • The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday
  • The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections

BEIJING: China’s premier told beleaguered Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Monday that she had Beijing’s “unwavering support” after a huge rally earlier this month and her government’s thrashing at recent local elections.

The city has been upended by six months of massive pro-democracy protests that have seen violent battles between police and hardcore demonstrators, as well as regular transport disruption.

Protesters have called for the unpopular Lam to stand down as leader, but Li Keqiang said Beijing would give “unwavering support” to her government to maintain the “long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.”

“The central government fully recognizes the efforts you and the SAR (special administrative region) government have paid,” said Li, at a meeting with Lam in the Hong Kong Hall of the imposing Great Hall of People in Beijing.

He said Lam’s government had “tried its best to maintain social stability” amid “an unprecedentedly severe and complicated situation.”

But he also called for the Hong Kong government to “step up studies of the deep-seated conflicts and problems that hinder Hong Kong’s economic and social development” in order to restore calm to the city.

“Hong Kong is yet to get out of its plight. The SAR government must continue its hard work, stop violence and subdue chaos according to laws and restore order,” Li told Lam.

The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday.

At the meeting with Li, she said she was grateful for the premier’s “care for Hong Kong.”

The semi-autonomous city is ruled under the “one country, two systems” principle, which gives the territory rights unseen on mainland China — rights protesters say are steadily being eroded.

The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections.

A week ago, around 800,000 people marched peacefully through the city’s streets, urging the government to respond to their five demands — which include an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for those arrested, and fully free elections.

But public anger remains as Beijing and Lam show no sign of giving further concessions despite the election success.

This weekend the relative calm was broken by clashes between black-clad pro-democracy protesters and Hong Kong police in some of the city’s shopping malls.

And earlier this week an international panel of experts hired to advise Hong Kong on the police response to protests announced they were quitting, saying the watchdog was not fit for purpose “in a society that values freedoms and rights.”


Out of work marriage registrars wait for couples to say ‘I do’ in Bangladesh

Updated 07 July 2020

Out of work marriage registrars wait for couples to say ‘I do’ in Bangladesh

  • Lockdown restrictions mean more people opt for virtual weddings

DHAKA: There were days when Khalilur Rahman Sardar would struggle to take a lunch break during office hours.

As one of Bangladesh’s 7,500 registrars officiating marriages in the country, his days were busy and diary always full.

However, after the government imposed social distancing restrictions in March to limit the spread of coronavirus in the country, the number of couples getting married in person fell drastically as well. Dhaka-based Sardar told Arab News on Monday that he’s been rendered jobless by the pandemic.

“Usually, I register around 20-40 marriages per month. But I have registered only two marriages in June. If the pandemic continues for an indefinite period, I don’t know how we will survive,” said Sardar, who is the president of the Bangladesh Muslim Marriage Registrar Association (BMRA).

With strict restrictions on movement, he said that a majority of couples, especially those residing in different cities, were choosing to get married online, resulting in a “total disaster” for most registrars.

Whereas earlier couples could walk into a marriage registrar’s office to legalise their wedding, nowadays the registrar receives a power of attorney from either the bride or groom to sign on their behalf in the registration book and make the wedding official.

In some cases, the bride or groom sends a signed and scanned copy of a “promise note” as a document of surety for the registrar. In addition to this, the registrar also enlists a guardian to send a video recording of the virtual ceremony for further proof. 

According to law, marriage registrars receive a 12.5 percent commission of the total amount of “Den Mohor,” the money pledged by the groom to his bride as part of a necessary process in a Muslim marriage.

Registrars bear all their office expenses from these earnings.

However, with no source of income due to couples opting for virtual weddings, the BMRA has appealed to the government to grant them a stimulus package or some financial relief.

“We also need to survive, just like other professionals in society. But in a situation with almost no work, how can we do that?” asked Iqbal Hossain, secretary-general of the BMRA.

“Our work volume is down to 5 percent of the normal workload. It’s become a question of our very existence and if it goes like this, many of our colleagues will be forced to switch the profession,” Hossain said.

However, virtual marriages have brought relief for some couples.

“Our marriage ceremony was scheduled to take place in the last week of May. But the COVID-19 pandemic compelled us to postpone all the ceremonies, and it was just a virtual marriage,” said Nusrat D., a resident of Dhaka’s Bangshal area.

She said that since her husband lives in Europe and couldn’t visit Bangladesh due to the international travel ban, they had no option but to exchange vows online.

Wedding planners in Dhaka are making optimum use of the lockdown restrictions, providing tailored packages for virtual marriages.

With charges ranging from $100 to $200, the packages include the services of a marriage registrar, a live musical show which is streamed online and an option to connect a guest list of up to 1,000 people.

“In the past month, I organised a virtual marriage where the groom was in Chottogram, and the bride was in the United Kingdom. I have four to five more clients who have signed up for the package,” said Labib Mohammad, chief executive of Selvice, an event management firm.