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Covid restrictions ignored in Hong Kong as hundreds of protesters take to the streets

Maya Taylor

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Covid restrictions ignored in Hong Kong as hundreds of protesters take to the streets | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia
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Hundreds of Hong Kong residents have defied police orders, taking to the streets to mark one year since pro-democracy protests began. They assembled in the Central district and marched to nearby streets, shouting various political slogans including, “Fight to the End”. There were also large gatherings in shopping malls, with people singing protest anthems and holding up “Liberate Hong Kong” signs.

Posting on Twitter, police warned that they could use force to break up the crowds, adding that those violating current restrictions on gatherings could get 5 years in jail. Pepper spray was used in one incident where protesters were tackled to the ground. The police have urged people to stop breaking the law, accusing activists of blocking roads and building makeshift barricades. So far, 53 people have been arrested.

“Lawful protests are always respected but unlawful acts are to be rejected. Please stop breaking the law.”

Thai PBS World reports that Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has voiced her opposition to the protests, urging citizens to remain calm and saying “lessons need to be learnt on all sides”.

“Everyone has to learn their lesson, including the Hong Kong government. Hong Kong cannot bear that kind of chaos, and the people of Hong Kong want a stable and peaceful environment to be able to live and work here happily.”

Tuesday was the one year anniversary of pro-democracy protests that originally began in opposition to a now dropped extradition bill that proposed sending lawbreakers to China to face trial. Months of protests followed, often leading to violent scenes and accusations of police brutality, wreaking significant damage on the Hong Kong economy well before the Covid-19 crisis added to the devastation.

The virus outbreak and associated restrictions meant things quietened down for a bit, but China’s introduction of a new national security law has stoked the still burning embers of democracy protests and led to hundreds taking to the streets once more. Their objections are echoed by critics of the law worldwide, who say it strikes a blow at the “one country, two systems” policy agreed when Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997.

For its part, China blames foreign interference for the protests, as it rushes to enact the national security law, which will outlaw what it sees as activities aimed at undermining China’s authority or campaigning for Hong Kong independence.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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World

Hong Kong resumes travel bubble discussions with Thailand and Japan

Maya Taylor

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Hong Kong resumes travel bubble discussions with Thailand and Japan | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Ruslan Bardash on Unsplash

Hong Kong’s commerce chief, Edward Yau, says the Special Administrative Region is once again chatting to Thailand authorities, and Japan, regarding the possible formation of “travel bubbles”. The talks were suspended last month as Hong Kong battled a third wave ‘spike’ of the Covid-19 virus. Now, the idea of mutually beneficial travel agreements is back on the table, subject to a agreed testing procedures to screen travellers for the virus, in both directions.

A report in the Bangkok Post says Yau made the announcement while speaking at a webinar hosted by the Hong Kong Productivity Council. He says that, while Hong Kong is in travel bubble talks with up to 10 countries, talks are at a more advanced stage with Thailand and Japan.

“It may be some time yet before any arrangements are put in place, as all countries involved continue to monitor the development of the pandemic.”

He noted that travellers would have to take Covid-19 tests that are “mutually recognised”, and the test results would be sent to the destination country, via the airlines, for confirmation before they were being allowed to board.

“Once landed, the local health department could demand further testing.”

Last year, around 2.3 million Hong Kong residents visited Japan, compared to just 20 in July this year. Hong Kong has not been able to receive any foreign visitors since a ban on international arrivals implemented in March, at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak regionally. Repatriating Hong Kongers are required to undergo a mandatory 14 day quarantine. In June, Hong Kong saw a 99% drop in visitor numbers year-on-year, with numbers down 90% in the first 6 months of the year, compared to the same period in 2019.

Hong Kong is emerging from a small third wave of the virus, after a spike in new cases last month saw it record over 100 new cases a day for 12 days. However, after the re-introduction of some restrictions, including restaurants only offering take-away food after 6pm, numbers have started to fall again.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Pro-Beijing activists fined for mass gathering while celebrating arrest of Hong Kong media tycoon

Maya Taylor

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Pro-Beijing activists fined for mass gathering while celebrating arrest of Hong Kong media tycoon | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

A group of pro-Beijing activists have been fined for violating social distancing rules after they gathered to celebrate the arrest of Hong Kong media boss, Jimmy Lai. Coconuts reports that around a dozen people came together outside the offices of Lai’s Apple Daily newspaper, toasting his arrest with champagne and party poppers. One woman accused Lai of colluding with foreign forces and destroying Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.

“This celebration is our citizen’s wishes come true; we are extremely happy today.”

Pro-Beijing activists fined for mass gathering while celebrating arrest of Hong Kong media tycoon | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Apple Daily screenshot

However, the celebration was short-lived as police arrived to charge them with violating social distancing measures currently in place to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Initially, the revellers tried to reason with officers, ignoring orders to disperse, but 7 of them, 3 men and 4 women, received fines for violating a ban on mass gatherings. The penalty is a fixed amount of HK$ 2,000 (around 8,000 baht).

Jimmy Lai was arrested at his home yesterday and is being charged under the controversial national security law imposed by Beijing at the end of June. Officials accuse him of colluding with foreign forces. It’s understood at least 8 of his employees at Apple Daily have also been arrested and the paper’s headquarters have been raided.

Critics of the national security law say it has been introduced to curtail individual liberties and press freedom and that it violates a British-Sino undertaking put in place when Britain returned the territory to China in 1997. Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong has taken to Twitter to criticise Lai’s arrest, accusing China of attempting to turn Hong Kong’s media into propaganda outlets controlled by Beijing.

“Using its sweeping powers under #NationalSecurityLaw, #China now extends its reach to #HK media by clamping down on critical voices on media, halting flow of information to international audiences and turning the city’s media outlets into state-controlled propaganda apparatus.”

SOURCE: Coconuts

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Hong Kong

Hong Kong officials arrest high-profile media boss under new national security law

Maya Taylor

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Hong Kong officials arrest high-profile media boss under new national security law | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Anthony Wallace/AFP

The arrest of the Hong Kong media tycoon, Jimmy Lai, is the latest in a number of arrests carried out under the controversial national security law introduced by Beijing at the end of June. Thai PBS World reports that 71 year old Lai stands accused of colluding with foreign forces. He has been a longtime critic of the Beijing administration and a fervent pro-democracy activist. His arrest is being seen as further evidence of attempts to stifle press freedom and curtail liberties guaranteed to Hong Kong at the time of its handover from British rule in 1997.

Steven Butler, Asia Programme Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists says Lai should be released immediately, saying his arrest, “bears out the worst fears that Hong Kong’s National Security Law would be used to suppress critical pro-democracy opinion and restrict press freedom. Jimmy Lai should be released at once and any charges dropped.”

The controversial new law introduces strict punishment, including up to life in prison, for anything China considers subversion or secession, terrorism or colluding with foreign forces. Its supporters say its introduction will bring more stability, after more than a year of political unrest in Hong Kong. However, opponents of the new law accuse Beijing of using it to crush dissent and the freedom of the press.

The arrest of Jimmy Lai is the latest in a number of arrests across Hong Kong, with police confirming 7 people have been apprehended for violation of the national security law. All are believed to be local men, aged between 39 and 72. Officials say more arrests may follow.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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