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Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam asks for dialogue after rejected concessions

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam asks for dialogue after rejected concessions | The Thaiger
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Hong Kong’s leader Thursday urged pro-democracy protesters to end their demonstrations after her surprise decision to bow to one of their key demands was condemned as too little, too late.

Carrie Lam, the city’s pro-Beijing chief executive, surprised many on Wednesday when after three months of rallies she suddenly announced she was scrapping a hugely unpopular extradition law.

The protests were sparked by a proposed bill allowing extraditions to the authoritarian mainland but as Beijing and Lam refused to budge the movement morphed into a broader campaign calling for democratic reforms and police accountability.

At a press conference today, Lam continued her newfound conciliatory tone, saying her decision to fully withdraw the bill was an attempt “to help prevent violence and stop chaos as soon as possible, resume the social order and help our economy and people’s livelihood to move forward”.

“It is obvious to many of us that the discontentment in society extends far beyond the bill,” she added, saying she recognised that anger over inequality and the government had spiralled and needed to be solved.

She renewed her appeal for protesters to enter into a dialogue with her administration and called on moderate protesters to abandon their more militant allies who have frequently clashed with riot police over the last 14 weeks.

Airport protest plans

Hong Kong’s protests are leaderless and organised through social media, encompassing a vast swathe of the city, from moderates to more radical groups.

Since Lam’s announcement on Wednesday evening there has been uniform condemnation across the protest spectrum with activists vowing to keep up their campaign.

At a “citizens press conference” on Wednesday evening, a useful gauge of the youth-led wing on the frontlines at rallies, an unidentified woman wearing a mask and helmet rejected the concession.

“If Carrie Lam had withdrawn the bill two months ago, that may have been a quick fix,” she said. “But applying a band-aid months later on to rotting flesh will simply not cut it.”

Online forums used by protesters have filled with calls for new rallies – including plans on Saturday to disrupt transport links to the city’s airport, a major regional aviation hub.

More moderate pan-democrat lawmakers have also rejected the concession and even some pro-establishment figures within Lam’s camp have said the bill withdrawal will not do enough to curb public anger.

Beyond calls to scrap the extradition bill, protesters had four core demands: an inquiry into police conduct, an amnesty for anyone arrested, a retraction of the label “rioters” to describe protesters and universal suffrage — the last a major red line for Beijing.

So far Lam has consistently rejected those four demands, even though many say backing an independent inquiry could peel some moderate protesters away from the movement.

The timing of Lam’s bill withdrawal was a surprise but it came after leaked audio recordings emerged of her suggesting her options were limited because Beijing viewed the protests as a direct threat to China’s sovereignty and national security.

China has increasingly portrayed the protests as a foreign-backed “colour revolution” and described radical demonstrators as “terrorists” and “separatists”.

Speaking Thursday, Lam insisted her decision to withdraw the bill was hers alone and that she received no direction from the mainland – although she said Beijing supported the move.

“They respect my decision and they support it at every stage.”

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Protests

Hong Kong and Thai protesters form the “Milk Tea Alliance”

The Thaiger

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Hong Kong and Thai protesters form the “Milk Tea Alliance” | The Thaiger

Links to continue to grow between the core Hong Kong protest movement and the current Thai protests. The alliance is being called “The Milk Tea Alliance”…milky orange-coloured sweet tea is popular in both Thailand and Hong Kong.

Democracy supporters in Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan are sharing their criticisms and demands for change against “regimes” they claim are stymying attempts at democracy and closing down freedoms of speech. ‘Thailand and Hong Kong Together’ is a new Facebook page which is helping to draw attention to the 2 protest movements and help the Thai protesters with donations of supplies and protection during the current protests.

The site has already gathered some 20,000 followers and is headlined “Can You Hear The People Sing”, a reference to the freedom anthem from the musical Les Miserable.

The Bangkok Post reports that around a dozen Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters were rallying outside the Thai consulate in Hong Kong last Monday showing solidarity with their protest peers in Thailand.

Holding banners bearing the message “Stand with Thailand”, the small group gathered outside the Thai consulate on October 19. Joshua Wong, one of the leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, was in the group. They chanted displaying the 3 finger salute gesture borrowed from the movie ‘Hunger Games’, which has become the symbol of the protest in Thailand.

Wong says that while people in Thailand continue to demonstrate, the “Milk Tea Alliance” should stand with them.

“We shall weather the authoritarian storm and reclaim our freedom, irrespective of the cost, the pain and tears ahead of us.”

Prominent Thai activist Netiwit Chotiphatphisal says that the Thai and Hong Kong protesters are facing similar challenges and can share their experiences, and tactics.

“Protesters in Thailand understand the importance of protecting themselves with hard hats and umbrellas, which are both iconic protest gear used by protesters in Hong Kong.”

“We also feel the threat from China in Thailand, so we know how people in Taiwan and Hong Kong feel. Even though the Milk Tea Alliance is an abstract coalition, we are now connected by a common vision.”

“The protesters are trying to make the Thai government look ridiculous and ruthless at the same time.”

Netiwit was referring to the Thai protesters almost intuitive use of social media and messaging as they play cat-and-mouse with Thai authorities and police, moving their protest locations and announcing fake locations for rallies.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Deutche Wella

Poster developed by Hong Kong protesters comparing their “Quest for democracy”…

Hong Kong and Thai protesters form the

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Hong Kong

Up to 5,900 jobs to go as Hong Kong carrier Cathay Dragon shuts down

Maya Taylor

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Up to 5,900 jobs to go as Hong Kong carrier Cathay Dragon shuts down | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Kwok Ho Eddie Wong / Flickr

Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific is set to close its subsidiary, Cathay Dragon, with the loss of up to 5,900 jobs. The carrier, that used to be called Dragon Air before being absorbed by Cathay, has become yet another casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic that has decimated the aviation business.

The Bangkok Post reports that 5,300 jobs are expected to go in the airline’s Hong Kong base, with a further 600 axed overseas, accounting for 17% of Cathay’s total workforce. Cathay Dragon primarily operated short-haul routes within Asia, including direct flights from Hong Kong to Bangkok and Phuket.

Cathay Pacific bosses have hammered out a HK$2.2 billion restructuring plan that involves thousands of job cuts, pilots and cabin crew having to sign cheaper contracts, and total closure of its subsidiary carrier. The South China Morning Post describes the plan as, “life or death”, reporting cuts to a total of 8,500 jobs across the group. The parent airline is understood to be applying for approval to absorb Cathay Dragon’s routes into the Cathay Pacific network, as well as that of its low-cost carrier, HK Express.

Cathay Pacific CEO, Augustus Tang, says the restructuring plan is essential to Cathay’s future survival as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic show no sign of abating.

“The global pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on aviation and the hard truth is we must fundamentally restructure the Group to survive. We have to do this to protect as many jobs as possible and meet our responsibilities to the Hong Kong aviation hub and our customers.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post| South China Morning Post

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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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