Hong Kong economy worst since the global financial crisis

Government data released on Friday shows Hong Kong is now officially in recession.

For the first time in 10 years, the economy of the dynamic independent province of China, is retreating. Plagued by violent protests and a searing trade war between China and the United States, Hong Kong has put in its worst quarter in a decade.

In the third quarter, from 1 July to 30 September 2019, the economy sank by 3.2% compared to the second quarter.

As the second quarter GDP (gross domestic product) reading was also negative, Hong Kong officially is now in recession, having met the qualifying requirement of two consecutive quarters of contraction.

The state of the economy is now equivalent to what it was at the onset of the GFC (global financial crisis) in 2008-9.

To make matters worse, there is nothing on the horizon to say the deterioration will not continue.

The protests on the street have becoming increasingly violent, to the point where people are being killed.

Once a vibrant tourist attraction for international visitors, and from the Chinese mainland, the province’s hotels these days are deserted, and many of the numerous flights into the island are largely empty. Tourist arrivals in August fell nearly 40% from the same period last year.

Retail sales are plunging. In August, sales were down 23% compared to the same month last year, the worst monthly report ever.

In September retail sales tumbled 18.3%.

Hong Kong’s key stock market index, the Hang Seng, has been dropping on several days by hundreds of points as investors flee.

“We assume the violent protests will continue for the whole year in 2020 unless the Hong Kong government will do something really special, which it seems to be avoiding,” Iris Pang, an economist at ING China said Friday.

HK police shoot protester as violent riots intensify

A Hong Kong police officer shot at masked protesters on Monday morning, hitting at least one in the torso, as anger sparked by the recent death of a student spilled into the rush hour commute.

The shooting, which was broadcast live on Facebook, is the latest escalation in more than five months of seething pro-democracy protests that have engulfed the international financial hub and battered its reputation.

Footage showed a police officer drawing his sidearm in the district of Sai Wan Ho as he tried to detain a masked person at a junction that had been blocked by protesters.

Another masked individual then approached the officer and was shot in the chest area, quickly falling to the ground, clutching their left side.

Seconds later, two more live rounds were fired by the officer during a scuffle and another masked protester went to ground, although the footage was less clear as to whether he was struck.

Hong Kong Protesters Vandalize Subway Station, Storm Mall Police made arrests across Hong Kong amid anger over demonstrator’s death and arrest of pro-democracy lawmakers

Police then detained the two people on the ground.

A pool of blood could be seen near the first individual whose body initially appeared limp, although the person was later filmed conscious and even trying to make a run for it.

The second man was conscious, shouting his name to reporters as he was handcuffed.

A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to AFP that live rounds were fired at more than one protester in Sai Wan Ho and that a statement would be issued.

Hospital authorities said three people were admitted from the incident, one with a gunshot wound.

Commuter chaos

Hong Kong has been upended by 24 consecutive weeks of huge and increasingly violent rallies, but Beijing has refused to give in to a movement calling for greater democratic rights and police accountability.

Tensions have soared in recent days following the death on Friday of a 22-year-old student who succumbed to injuries sustained from a fall in the vicinity of a police clearance operation the weekend before.

The city has seen four days of violent protests since Alex Chow’s death as well as tens of thousands attending peaceful mass vigils.

Using online messaging forums, activists had called for a general strike on Monday morning.

Flashmob protests sprung up in multiple districts during the commuter period, with small groups of masked protesters targeting subway stations and building barricades on road junctions.

Even before the shooting in Sai Wan Ho, tear gas had been fired in at least two other locations.

One video circulated by protesters on messaging channels from Kwai Fong district showed a police officer trying to drive his motorbike multiple times into protesters who had gathered on a road.

Unpopular police force

Monday’s shooting is the third time protesters have been shot with live rounds by police. The two previous instances last month came as protesters attacked police officers and the victims, both teenagers, survived their wounds.

With no political solution on the table, officers have been left to battle violent protesters and are now loathed by large chunks of the deeply polarized population.

Immediately after Monday’s shooting, crowds of locals gathered to hurl insults at officers who responded with pepper spray and made multiple arrests.

Police have defended their tactics as a proportionate response to protesters who have embraced throwing bricks and petrol bombs as well as vandalizing pro-China businesses and beating opponents.

But an independent inquiry into the police has become a core demand of the protest movement, with public anger fuelled by weekly videos of controversial police tactics and aggressive interactions with locals.

In one incident which sparked uproar, a police officer on Friday evening shouting at protesters that he and his colleagues were “opening a bottle of champagne” after the death of the student.

The force said the officer was later reprimanded for his language.

Both Beijing and Hong Kong’s unelected leader Carrie Lam have rejected an independent inquiry, saying the city’s current police watchdog is up to the task.

But last week, in an embarrassing setback, an international panel of experts appointed by authorities to advise the watchdog said it did not currently have the capability or resources to carry out such a huge probe.

US House passes bill in favor of HK protesters

The US House of Representatives has passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act that stipulates annual State Department reviews of the autonomy of Hong Kong, as well as other measures supporting demonstrators.

“On one side, you have a repressive regime crushing democratic freedoms in Hong Kong. On the other, you have young people speaking out for freedom and democratic reforms. Proud to stand with Representative George McGovern in support of today’s bipartisan votes showing the House’s commitment to Hong Kong,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was passed by the House earlier on Tuesday, a move that came after Hong Kong demonstrators urged the US Congress to pass the measure.

The bill says that “The Department of State shall report annually to Congress as to whether Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous from China to justify its unique treatment. The report shall assess whether China has eroded Hong Kong’s civil liberties and rule of law as protected by Hong Kong’s Basic Law.”

The Act also stipulates annual reports by the US Department of Commerce, with regard to China’s “efforts to use Hong Kong to evade U.S. export controls and sanctions.” It would also allow the president to impose sanctions and US entry bans on individuals found to be responsible for torturing people in Hong Kong.

Besides, US House members on Tuesday passed two other measures on Hong Kong, one supporting the protesters and another temporarily freezing US exports of crowd control equipment, such as rubber bullets and tear gas. The exports would resume once Washington receives proof that Hong Kong police are not violating human rights.

Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997 and enjoys a special administrative status, has seen a wave of demonstrations that were initially organised in protest against proposed amendments to the city’s extradition law.

After the controversial extradition bill, which would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial, was withdrawn, more demonstrations were organized with protesters unleashing additional demands.

Beijing views the situation to be the result of foreign interference in China’s domestic affairs and expresses full support for the actions of local authorities, which have stressed that force is only being used against protesters who engage in violent or unlawful behaviour.

Why China may use military force against Taiwan

China is implementing the largest military build-up the world has seen since the end of World War II. The uppermost question that needs to be answered is why.

China has been investing heavily in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) even though the country is not at war and despite the fact that no country is directly threatening or targeting the authoritarian nation. Nonetheless, Chairman Xi Jinping has prioritized modernization of the PLA.

Who is the primary target in China’s military sights?

That is the question ANI asked Andrei Chang, founder of KanwaAsian Defence. There was no doubt in the editor’s view: “Taiwan is number one.” While Xi has been busy militarizing the South China Sea via a chain of reclaimed reefs that now host runways, ship berths, and military facilities, Taiwan remains the strategic priority for China.

Chang elaborated: “The South China Sea is already done in the first stage because they built many, maybe three, artificial military bases, including airports. If there’s a possibility of trouble with the USA, America may invade such ocean islands and isolate them. In the case of a small-scale confrontation occurring, this is what will happen in the South China Sea. But the main, main target, the first priority, is Taiwan.”

The Canadian resident, who has studied the PLA for decades, said that Xi wants to not only learn from Mao Zedong but to actually go beyond what Mao achieved because Xi “is a very ambitious guy”.

“He really wants to do some big thing, according to my information. He always talks to high-ranking military commanders, and it’s this generation’s mission to achieve unification. I do think the most dangerous area is Taiwan, and that’s why many things in the military parade focused on Taiwan.”

Chang was referring to the massive parade on 1 October when the PLA showed a plethora of new hi-tech weapons, of which 40 per cent had never been shown to the public before. Indeed, that parade demonstrated just how much research and development, as well as investment, is being poured into the PLA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of China.

With so much new shiny equipment in its hands, is the PLA willing to use it forcefully at the behest of its communist leaders? Would China actually be willing to attack Taiwan?Chang gave his opinion.

“Yes, it’s very possible. Otherwise, why have they invested so much? At the moment, however, I think the first priority is economic and political warfare. They’ve penetrated Taiwanese society so much, including the press and media to make them more pro-Chinese. It’s psychological warfare and propaganda warfare at the moment, as well as economic warfare against Taiwan. But if nothing works, Xi Jinping might think of the military struggle.

“He [the president] always uses the phrase ‘military struggle preparation’ or ‘military struggle combat readiness’. He is serious and he could do anything within his term.”

Given that Xi has already changed long-held rules -abrogating a regulation requiring the general secretary of the party to retire after two five-year terms – that means Xi has plenty of time to bring Taiwan to heel and to consider military options if current methods continue to fail.

Of course, the complicated and increasingly violent mess that has enshrouded Hong Kong for the past few months – a territory that is normally pragmatic and mostly concerned with making money – is demonstrating to all in Taiwan the dangers of embracing China. Indeed, the way Xi has handled Hong Kong is irreversibly repelling many Taiwanese.

What is more, China has modernized its military while the world’s preeminent superpower – the USA – has been otherwise engaged in operations in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Belatedly, the USA is reacting to this surge in Chinese military capability, which now enjoys superiority in some technological areas.

The semi-panic that the US military and its political overlords are suddenly experiencing after neglecting the Asia-Pacific region for so long is becoming evident. An example is the formal guidance that General David Berger, Commandant of the US Marine Corps (USMC), recently published. He declared the corps would now focus on Asia-Pacific and that China specifically was a “long-term threat”. In other words, he recognized it is time for the USMC to gird its loins against the PLA.

Referring to all US forces in the Pacific, the USMC commandant wrote: “…Our (forward-deployed) forces currently lack the requisite capabilities to deter our adversaries and persist in a contested space to facilitate sea denial.” This is a serious admission, acknowledging that the Chinese might win a shoot-up, and certainly that the PLA has got the jump on the US Marines.

While the USA was preoccupied with fighting insurgencies in the Middle East, China became a peer competitor. Retired US Navy Captain Jim Fanell, the former head of navy intelligence in the Pacific and who was fired for voicing concerns about the rise of the PLA because it was politically unpalatable, noted: “…When it comes to war at sea, they [the PLA Navy] are today the superior competitor.”Indeed, China has an arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as anti-ship missiles that easily outrange those on USN warships, plus its cyber and space capabilities threaten American command-and-control systems.

A source, a former middle-ranking officer in the USMC with many years of experience in Asia, told ANI: “US Marine Pacific commanders would go to Washington, and return shaking their heads that nobody at Headquarters Marine Corps was interested in the Asia-Pacific, much less the China threat. Even the Pacific Command was often in appeasement mode. Only the Middle East ‘sandbox’ mattered, while willy-nilly engagement went on with China to show Beijing that we meant no harm.”Belatedly, the USA is now beginning to adjust its military strategy in response to China. Beijing developed its own anti-access area denial (A2/AD) strategy whereby it aims to keep the US military at arm’s length from China’s coast.

Yet such an A2/AD strategy works both ways. The American source thus told ANI, “The Asia-Pacific has many islands and archipelagos with narrow confined seas. So marines occupying or seizing key terrain and using their own anti-ship missiles, long-range rockets, air defense weapons, smart sea mines and suchlike can just as easily turn Asian island chains and nearby seas into no-go zones for Chinese ships and aircraft trying to break out into the Pacific Ocean.”

The former USMC officer noted that the USA has been forced to adopt its own A2/AD strategy against China. “General Berger is calling for an asymmetric approach – just like US officials pester Taiwan to employ against the more powerful China. It is embarrassing to American self-image but better than slugging it out with the Chinese.”

However, Beijing cannot just consider Taiwan and the USA in isolation. China famously tested Indian resolve for more than two months along their mutual border in the Doklam region in mid-2017.

Is China likely to behave badly against India yet again?

Chang assessed: “Not at the moment. They’re too busy with the South China Sea and especially with Taiwan, while another issue is the economy. The trade war with the US has damaged their general power so much. We will see next year and the coming five years: If their economy suffers weakness, that will probably be a new mission they must do – how to keep the economy growing, otherwise they will have no more investment in the military.”

He continued: “Talking about the Indian border, it’s not their priority. Of course, they have a demand and ambition for territory, especially on the western side.

“However, I think they tried to test the attitude of India before. If you’re soft, if India is soft, China will be tougher. If India is very tough, they will be very soft. They’re not so stupid. They still calculate, so the Indian attitude is very tough and I think China will compromise as they did 2-3 years ago. But the Indian border is not their first priority.”

Although the PLA totally outstrips the combat power and technology level of India’s military, Beijing cannot discount its presence along its southern periphery.

Chang told ANI, “Why do they worry about that? Probably now they are focusing on the Taiwan issue. But if they really launch a war against Taiwan, Beijing worries about India’s reaction. Perhaps India can use the opportunity to launch some small-scale incursions or to occupy more territory to force China to conduct a counterattack. This is their scenario in military exercises – we’ve seen it many times.”

The last thing China wants is a two-front war. If it was militarily engaging Taiwan – and correspondingly this would also bring the USA into the equation – then China certainly cannot tolerate or allow another front against India. Therefore, the latter is an important factor in China’s overall calculus, and India beefing up its military along the Himalayas gives the PLA pause for thought and perhaps acts as a subduing factor for China.

Despite projecting an image of great strength and technological advancement, the PLA still has Achilles heels. The editor of Kanwa identified anti-submarine warfare as one of these. “First of all, the anti-submarine equipment is not enough in terms of quantity, and also we have no idea of the quality. They still use the Russia Kamov [Ka-32 helicopter], so I don’t think it will be more advanced than NATO standards for anti-submarine systems.” Chang highlighted another weakness of the PLA as being strategic weapon systems such as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Even though the PLA Rocket Force rolled no fewer than 48 ICBMs of four different types (DF-5B, DF-31AG, DF-41, and JL-2) through Tiananmen Square on 1 October, questions remain over China’s ability to miniaturize and deploy nuclear warheads.

Chang explained: “I don’t think they can carry more multiple independent re-entry vehicles (MIRV) than the US or Russia,” he surmised. Based on the missile size and shape, Chang believes that the new DF-41 ICBM, making its debut in Beijing, does not carry more than four MIRV warheads, of which one or two would be decoys in any case.

However, China is benefiting greatly from technological help from Russia, even though China invariably ends up copying Russian equipment and then reverse engineering it. Such an approach denies Russia the possibility of further export sales but it does not dampen Moscow’s enthusiasm to sell high-tech weapons to Beijing. The newest equipment that China has purchased directly from Russia is Su-35 fighters and S-400 air defense systems.

Chang also pointed out that China’s ballistic missile defense owes much to the Russian input too. “They’ve tested it so many times and they’ve cooperated with Russia to build early-warning radar systems to track and search for ballistic missiles, especially ICBM targets. This is major progress and President Putin announced it a few days ago that Russia helped China develop a national missile defense system. It means they have both defensive and offensive systems. Not any country, including the US, is doing such things.”

Memorable pictures from Independence Day protests in Hong Kong

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A protester lies with a gunshot wound outside Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai Pan-fried Buns in Hong Kong, October 1, 2019.

Amateur video of violent demonstrations in Hong Kong captures the moment when a policeman points a pistol at a black-clad protester and fires a round, after which the young man falls to the floor.

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A protester is shot by a police officer in Tsuen Wan Tai Ho Road, Hong Kong, China October 1, 2019.

The footage, taken by students during a chaotic melee in the Tsuen Wan area of the city, is the first known instance of a protester being shot with live ammunition during weeks of clashes between police and pro-democracy campaigners.

Police confirmed that an officer opened fire at a protester, saying he was acting in self-defense.

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An anti-government protester runs through a cloud of tear gas during a protest in Sham Shui Po district in Hong Kong, October 1, 2019.

The incident came as thousands of protesters, some wearing Guy Fawkes masks, took to the streets to defy the city’s Chinese rulers on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.

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Riot police charge at anti-government protesters during a demonstration at Wan Chai district, on China’s National Day in Hong Kong, October 1. REUTERS/Susana Vera

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A riot police detain an anti-government protester during a demonstration on China’s National Day, in Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong, October 1.

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An anti-government protester throws an object during a demonstration on China’s National Day, in Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong, October 1.

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Anti-government protesters are seen during a protest on China’s National Day, in Wong Tai Sin, Hong Kong, October 1.

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An anti-government protester sets up a barricade at the entrance of Admiralty Station

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An anti-government protester throws a molotov cocktail during a protest on China’s National Day in Hong Kong, October 1.

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An anti-government protester takes cover under an umbrella during a demonstration in Sha Tin district, on China’s National Day in Hong Kong, October 1.

China explains the problem with Hong Kong, says it’s not about human rights

China said the comments made by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini confuses right and wrong, and is an example of interfering in China’s internal affairs, a spokesperson for the Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) said in a statement on Saturday.

The spokesperson said the Hong Kong police had elaborated on their operations of arrests, which were based on evidence and in accordance with the laws.

The EU official expressing “concern” over the operations is to obstruct the enforcement of law by the police, tolerate illegal and violent acts, disturb the rule of law and recklessly meddle in Hong Kong affairs, the statement said.

Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on Friday called the detention of three Hong Kong activists “extremely worrying” and urged the HKSAR government to respect the freedom of expression and assembly of the Hong Kong people.

“So you would feel relieved if the lawbreakers were not held accountable and continued to harm Hong Kong?” the spokesperson asked.

“The current problem in Hong Kong is by no means about the so-called human rights, freedom or democracy, but whether to uphold the rule of law and whether to fight against crimes in accordance with law,” the spokesperson added.

The “freedom” of a small number of people to disregard the rule of law is depriving the majority of people of their freedom to work and live normally under the law, the spokesperson stressed.

Instead of denouncing those violent protesters’ radical acts, some EU politicians, on the other hand, hindered the efforts the HKSAR government has made to stop the violence and chaos and resume orders, said the spokesperson.

Noting that Hong Kong is at a critical moment of whether to resume the rule of law or to “slide into a bottomless abyss,” the spokesperson urged the EU to distinguish right from wrong and stop supporting the lawbreakers.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson expressed strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition against remarks by some U.S. politicians. 

It is reported that the U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Representative Jim McGovern, and a White House official have criticized the recent arrests by the Hong Kong police, painting the perpetrators as mere “dissenters,” urging the HKSAR government to immediately drop the charges and threatening with a bill on Hong Kong, the spokesperson said.

In response, the spokesperson said that the remarks have distorted the truth, condoned the offenders, flagrantly interfered with Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs, and again revealed the hypocrisy, hegemonic thinking, and prejudice of American politicians. “We deplore and firmly oppose such comments,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said that the Hong Kong police have clearly explained the arrests. Violence is violence, and crime is crime, which cannot be justified by any aspirations.

“Would there be any respect for the rule of law and justice left if those who instigated and participated in violence and illegal rallies were allowed to go unpunished?” the spokesperson said.

Hong Kong lawyers seeking proof of US involvement in riots

Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation will propose an application to United Nations (UN) to investigate whether the U.S. is involved in Hong Kong’s recent riots, seniors of the foundation announced Friday at a press conference in Hong Kong.

The foundation – as an ex parte applicant – applied for UN’s fact-finding inquires of U.S. institutions and personnel, including Julie Eadeh, an American diplomat in Hong Kong who was earlier caught meeting with Hong Kong’s protest activists Joshua Wong Chi-fung.

The foundation, established in 2014, is a non-profit organization in Hong Kong

Kacee Ting, Vice Chairman of the Executive Council of the foundation told CGTN: “We have seen many details and facts, showing high degree of possibility that foreign forces have funded, sponsored, mastered and provided supplies and training to frontline protestors in Hong Kong.”

Ting said if the application is accepted by the UN, the Chinese government will be informed to adopt the application formally.

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters shut down airport

One of the world’s busiest airports canceled all flights after thousands of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters crowded into the main terminal Monday afternoon.

Hong Kong International Airport said in a statement that the demonstration “seriously disrupted” airport operations.

Hong Kong has experienced more than two months of mass protests calling for democratic reforms and an independent inquiry into police conduct, with both the protesters and police adopting ever-more extreme tactics.

Only flights that had already begun boarding or those cleared for landing were allowed to use runways at the airport, the AP reports.

“All other flights have been canceled for the rest of today,” the statement said. Many protesters wore eye patches after reports that a young woman lost an eye after being hit by a police beanbag round fired at close range during protests on Sunday.

A massive traffic jam soon formed on the highway leading back to Hong Kong’s city center, with some people walking in the sweltering weather.

Earlier on Monday, Hong Kong police showed off water cannons that could be deployed in the case of future demonstrations, a development which Amnesty International has warned could lead to serious injuries if misused within the densely-populated city’s confined spaces.

At the airport, a flight attendant protesting on his day off, who gave only his surname, Lau, to avoid repercussions from his employer, said heavy-handed police tactics had alienated some people.

“The police have told a lot of lies to Hong Kong people. We cannot believe them anymore. We have to come here to protest,” Lau said. China has reportedly threatened to bar air crew who take part in protests from its air space.

What legal practitioners think of Hong Kong protests and the rule of law

Legal professionals have expressed their worries that the recent turmoil in China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) will erode the rule of law, hoping the society could get back on the right track as soon as possible.

No society will accept challenge to law

“The most intolerable thing is that it is illegal, and illegal demonstrators are making Hong Kong society unrest,” said Tony Kan Chung Nin, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and founding president of the Association of Hong Kong Professionals.

The rally this weekend was completely illegal, he said, criticizing that the violent protesters’ actions seriously undermine the rule of law in Hong Kong.

“In any country or region, if people do not comply with the law, society will fall into chaos,” he stressed.

Jimmy Ng Wing-ka, a member of Legislative Council of HKSAR, said that every resident in Hong Kong should abide by the law and should not participate in illegal rallies.

Lawrence Ma, chairperson of Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, said violent demonstrators have violated laws.

Several Hong Kong lawyers stressed that these violent offenders must not be tolerated and must be severely punished for their illegal acts in accordance with the law.

Opposition camp responsible for undermining rule of law

The recent violence will seriously affect the confidence and cognition of the general public and the international community on the rule of law in Hong Kong, said Jimmy Ng Wing-ka.

He added that the opposition camp has two purposes for excusing illegal rallies: winning more votes and challenging the government.

Other legal professionals noted that the behavior of the opposition camp helps the violence become more and more serious.

Whole society should support the police

Tony Kan Chung Nin highly praised the performance of the Hong Kong police as “professional and rational.”

“Now, some extremists are not having peaceful demonstrations, but [engaging in] serious violence against the police. The police can increase their force to deal with extremists,” he noted.

Giving adequate warnings first and then took necessary and appropriate measures of force – this is very appropriate and civilized, Jimmy Ng Wing-ka said.

Hong Kong residents should firmly support the HKSAR government and police to exercise their lawful duty, the legal professionals stressed.

Hong Kong Assembly: Dozens arrested by HKSAR gov’t

A spokesman for the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) issued a statement on Monday, condemning the violent acts during the illegal assembly on Sunday which posed threats to the safety of police and local residents.

Regarding the incident yesterday, police have arrested at least 49 persons for offenses including unauthorized assembly and possession of an offensive weapon.

“Some radical protesters acted violently in parts of Sheung Wan and Western District, including hurling bricks at police officers, committing arson and pushing towards the police cordon line a cart with burning cardboard papers, threatening the safety of police officers and members of the public,” the spokesman said.

“We express regret over such behaviors which are illegal and caused inconvenience to members of the public,” the spokesman said, appealing once again to members of the public to express views in a peaceful and rational manner and abide by the law.

Hong Kong police on Sunday confirmed that 11 men aging from 18 to 68 had been arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly, hiding weapons and attacking police, Senior Superintendent of the Police Public Relations Branch Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan said in a media briefing.

China angry with the West for ‘double standard’ during Hong Kong riots

 

The central government firmly supports the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government’s administration and Hong Kong police in their strict law enforcement and punishing violent protesters, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Hua Chunying said on Monday during a daily media briefing.

“How dare some U.S. politicians regard violent acts, attacking police officers using lethal weapons in the HKSAR, as ‘peaceful protests’?” Hua said, adding that it is an absolute “double standard” for Western countries to ignore the violent and illegal acts in Hong Kong while cracking down on their own domestic violence.

Hua also called on all HKSAR residents to unite and protect the Hong Kong they truly love and do not let the “dark clouds and poisonous rain of the U.S. jeopardize the beautiful sunshine and fresh HKSAR air.”

Hua’s response comes after Eliot Engel, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement on Friday criticizing the Hong Kong police’s handling of recent protests.

Meanwhile, Yang Guang, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, urged all sectors in Hong Kong to oppose violence and uphold the rule of law at a separate press conference.

Earlier on Monday, a spokesperson for the HKSAR government condemned the violent acts during an illegal assembly on Sunday, which posed threats to the safety of police and local residents. Police have arrested at least 49 people for offenses including unauthorized assembly and possession of an offensive weapon, he said.

Hong Kong citizens hold assembly in search of solutions to political violence

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents gathered Saturday afternoon at Tamar Park to attend an assembly on the theme of “Safeguarding Hong Kong,” calling for an end to the recent street violence.

An estimated 300,000 people from all over Hong Kong participated in the rally showing their support for the police, expressing their willingness to safeguard the rule of law and ensure prosperity and stability in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR).

The enthusiasm of attendees ran high against the backdrop of heavy showers. Pouring in from all over Hong Kong, placard in hand, groups and individuals chanted slogans to oppose protesters who earlier launched a series of violent attacks against Hong Kong police.

A fleet of around 12 fishing boats circled Victoria Harbor next to the rally with banners draped over the side of the vessels that read “Cherish Hong Kong, Stay Together,” showing their support for the rally in a way unique to fishermen.

Apart from the main venue in the Hong Kong Island, sub-venues in various districts of New Territories, Kowloon and outlying islands were also set up to welcome passersby to fully express their voices.

The “Safeguarding Hong Kong” series of activities mainly includes four parts.

The first part is “Say No to Violence, Support Hong Kong Police,” aimed at condemning attacks on police officers and expressing support for the police to continue maintaining order in Hong Kong society.

The second part is “Say No to Rift, Ensure Security and Stability,” criticizing the violent actions by protesters for destroying the facilities in the Legislative Council building. They also express the desire of the majority of Hong Kong residents to live and work in peace.

The third part is “Say No to Repercussion, Protect the Economy” with the hope to restore a good business environment soon.

The fourth part is “Safeguard Hong Kong, Cheer on all people,” calling on the general public to act on stopping the violence, while at the same time supporting the SAR government on enforcing the law and implementing measures to stabilize economy and improve people’s livelihood as soon as possible.

Triad gangsters declare war on Hong Kong protesters

Hong Kong’s opposition Democratic Party is investigating attacks by suspected triad gangsters on train passengers on Sunday, after a night of violence opened new fronts in the political crisis now deepening across the city.

Screams rang out when men, clad in white t-shirts and some armed with poles, flooded into the rural Yuen Long station and stormed a train, attacking passengers, according to footage taken by commuters and Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting.

Some passengers had been at an anti-government march and the attack came after several thousand activists surrounded China’s representative office in the city, later clashing with police.

Lam, who was injured in the attack, said he was angry about a slow police response after he alerted them to the trouble, government-funded broadcaster RTHK reported.

Lam said it took police more than an hour to arrive after he alerted them and they had failed to protect the public, allowing the triads to run rampant. The party is now investigating.

“Is Hong Kong now allowing triads to do what they want, beating up people on the street with weapons?” he asked reporters.

Police said early on Monday they had not made any arrests at the station or during a follow-up search of a nearby village but were still investigating.

Yau Nai-keung, Yuen Long assistant district police commander, told reporters that an initial police patrol had to wait for more reinforcements given a situation involving more than 100 people.

Groups of men in white were seen by eye-witnesses with poles and bamboo staves at a nearby village but Yau said police saw no weapons when they arrived.

“We can’t say you have a problem because you are dressed in white and we have to arrest you. We will treat them fairly no matter which camp they are in,” Yau said. Hong Kong has been rocked by a series of sometimes violent protests for more than two months in its most serious crisis since Britain handed the Asian financial hub back to Chinese rule in 1997.

Protesters are demanding the full withdrawal of a bill to allow people to be extradited to mainland China for trial, where the courts are controlled by the Communist Party, fearing it would undermine Hong Kong’s judicial independence.

They are also demanding independent inquiries into the use of police force against protesters.

On Sunday, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse activists on the edge of Hong Kong’s glittering financial district after they had fled China’s Liaison Office.

The Chinese government has condemned the action, which saw signs and a state symbol daubed with graffiti.

The unrest in Hong Kong marks the greatest popular challenge to Chinese Leader Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

The Hospital Authority said 45 people were injured in the Yuen Long attack, with one in a critical condition. Some 13 people were injured after the clashes on Hong Kong island, one seriously, the authority said.

Some police had been injured in the clashes after protesters hurled bricks, smoke grenades and petrol bombs, said a police statement.

Taiwan and the U.S. complete arms deal worth $1.3b

 

The State Department on Thursday cleared a massive arms deal for Taiwan, worth up to $1.3 billion.

The move comes as at a time when the Trump administration continues to rely on China to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

The potential package includes seven different items sought by the Taiwanese government:

  • Early Warning Radar Surveillance Technical Support ($400 million)
  • AGM-154C Joint Stand-off Weapon (JSOW) ($185.5 million)
  • AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation (HARM) Missiles ($147.5 million)
  • MK 48 6AT Heavy Weight Torpedoes ($250 million)
  • MK 46 to MK-54 Torpedo Upgrade ($175 million)
  • SM-2 Missile Components ($125 million)
  • AN/SLQ-32A Electronic Warfare (EW) Shipboard Suite Upgrade ($80 million)

As with all foreign military sales, the agreement must be cleared by Congress and then go through actual negotiations over the equipment and dollar figures. As a result, the sale will likely shift and end up below the $1.3 billion estimate.

A U.S government official, speaking on background ahead of the announcement, said the weapons offer does not reflect any change in the long-standing “One China” policy. China does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation.

“Taiwan’s defensive capability gives it the confidence to engage with the mainland in dialogue to improve cross-Strait relations,” the official said.

“In this context, our arms sales to Taiwan support peace and stability — not only in the Taiwan Strait, but also in the entire Asia Pacific region. We support further development of cross-Strait relations at a pace and scope acceptable to people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”

The approval comes at a time when the White House is vocally putting pressure on China to control North Korea.

Speaking Wednesday at a conference organized by the Center for a New American Security, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said China represents a vital lever to pressure North Korea to step back from nuclear weapons.

“I think one the key elements of the strategy is that decision, how much China is able, really willing, able to help,” McMaster said.

“China does have a great deal of control over that situation, largely through coercive power related to its economic relations.

“The North Korean problem is not a problem between the United States and North Korea. It’s a problem between North Korea, China and the world. And China recognizes that this is a big problem for them,” McMaster added.

Violent protests in Hong Kong may increase political pressure from China

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A pro-democracy lawmaker who tried to stop Hong Kong protesters from breaking into the legislature this week says China will likely use the vandalizing of the building as a reason to step up pressure on the Chinese territory.

Democratic Party member Lam Cheuk-ting was one of at least three lawmakers — all sympathetic to the protesters — who stepped in front of them Monday as they repeatedly drove a metal cart and thrust poles into a thick window until it shattered and collapsed. Hours later, protesters swarmed into the legislature, leaving a trail of destruction before riot police ordered them out three hours later.

“After the incident, I have strong reason to believe that the central government together with the Hong Kong government will try their very best to tighten their control in Hong Kong and try to undermine the ‘one country, two systems’ furthermore,” Lam said Wednesday.

Many people in Hong Kong worry that China is chipping away at the freedoms and rights they were guaranteed for 50 years after the then-British colony was returned to China under a “one country, two systems” framework 22 years ago this week.

As hundreds of thousands of people marched on Monday to voice these fears, a much smaller group of young protesters decided to break into the legislature, which was closed for a national holiday marking the anniversary of Hong Kong’s July 1, 1997, handover to China.

They started with a thick glass wall, hammering it over and over with a large cart. “Please listen to me, it’s very dangerous,” Lam screamed at them, warning that they could face long prison sentences for their actions. Another lawmaker who stood between the cart and window was tackled by a protester, and later appeared dazed and slightly injured.

Lam said that the young protesters, who have blocked streets, police headquarters and other government buildings in a series of protests over the past three weeks, have sacrificed enough. “It’s time for us to try our very best to convince them not to sacrifice anymore, but some of them even told us they are well prepared to die for Hong Kong,” he said, recounting Monday’s events at the site. “It’s very sad. It’s very sad.”

Hong Kong police have blocked off the legislative building as a crime scene. Protesters sprayed slogans in the main chamber, tore down and bashed portraits of legislative leaders and tipped over file cabinets in offices, strewing papers on the floors. At least one elevator was heavily damaged, as were a metal curtain-wall that was forcefully pried open and glass walls that were shattered on two sides of the building.

A Chinese government spokesman said that “violent lawbreakers” had intentionally damaged Hong Kong government facilities, calling them “serious illegal acts that trample on the rule of law and endanger social order.”

Police said late Wednesday night that one man had been arrested, accused of criminal destruction and forced entry into the building, while 12 other people were arrested in connection to protest activity earlier Monday.

The demonstrators had grown increasingly frustrated that, despite repeated disruptive protests, the government had not given them a response to their demands. They include the formal withdrawal of a suspended extradition bill that would allow suspects to be sent to China for trial, the resignation of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, the release of those arrested after a June 12 protest and an independent investigation into the unusually harsh police response on that day, which included tear gas and rubber bullets.

The government says the suspension of the bill effectively killed it. Carrie Lam, who was criticized for disappearing from public view for two weeks, said Tuesday that releasing suspects without investigation would violate Hong Kong’s rule of law.

Lam, the pro-democracy lawmaker, said the protesters felt hopeless and powerless and wanted to make noise to show the government and the outside world that they would not give up: “That was their choice, even if I don’t agree with them, even if they understand the tactic may not work, they still wanted to try to show their anger and frustration to the government and the international community.”