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“Only China can make decisions on Hong Kong constitution” – Beijing

May Taylor

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“Only China can make decisions on Hong Kong constitution” – Beijing | The Thaiger

Beijing has reacted angrily after a HK court overturned the ban on face masks, popularly used by protesters.

Authorities in China have hit back at the decision by a Hong Kong court to overturn a ban on face masks, insisting that only China can rule on constitutional matters in the territory. AFP reports that such a reaction could fuel further unrest in the territory already unsettled by months of violent protests that show no sign of abating.

Concerns remain among pro-democracy activists at what they see as China’s gradual undermining of the democracy and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” policy in place since the handover from Britain in 1997.

The ban on face masks was brought in last month, with HK chief executive Carrie Lam invoking legislation that had not been used for over 50 years. Activists had been using masks in an attempt to remain anonymous while participating in rallies and often violent protests across the city.

Yesterday, Hong Kong’s high court ruled that the ban on face masks was unconstitutional, a verdict which has rattled Chinese authorities. A parliamentary spokesperson Jian Tiewei says only China had the right to make such a judgment.

“No other institution has the right to make judgements or decisions.”

He added that the court’s finding would have a negative impact on Carrie Lam’s leadership and refused to rule out Beijing retaliating in some way.

With protests and clashes now taking place regularly since June, China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, warns that while Hong Kong authorities attempt to restore order, Beijing will not sit back forever.

“The Hong Kong government is trying very hard to put the situation under control. But if the situation becomes uncontrollable, the central government would certainly not sit on our hands and watch. We have enough resolution and power to end the unrest.”

His statement came as Hong Kong police laid siege to the city’s Polytechnic University, where hundreds of protesters were holed up, using improvised bows and arrows and Molotov cocktails to attack police. Most been arrested, and others managed to escape by abseiling down a bridge to waiting motorbikes. But it’s understood that around 100 protesters still remain on the campus.

SOURCE: france24.com | AFP

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Hong Kong

China retaliates on pro-democracy bill by imposing sanctions on US

May Taylor

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China retaliates on pro-democracy bill by imposing sanctions on US | The Thaiger

PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Following US President Trump’s signing of a bill to protect the rights of Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigners, China has hit back, with foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying announcing a suspension of US warship visits and sanctions against American NGOs.

“In response to the unreasonable behaviour of the US side, the Chinese government has decided to suspend reviewing the applications for US warships to go to Hong Kong for rest and recuperation as of today.”

She added that US-based NGOs that had acted “badly” during the recent protests in Hong Kong would also face sanctions. While she didn’t go into detail on what these might look like, she singled out the National Endowment for Democracy, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, claiming that there is “a large amount of facts and evidence that make it clear that these non-governmental organisations support anti-China”, and accusing them of bearing “great responsibility for the chaotic situation in Hong Kong.”

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act which has just become law, mandates that the US president must conduct a yearly review of Hong Kong’s preferential trading status and threaten to remove it if China takes any steps that negatively impact on the freedoms enjoyed by the territory under the One Country, Two Systems rule.

The timing couldn’t be worse for US President Trump, as he attempts to deal with an impasse in trade talks between the two countries, in hopes of securing a partial deal to coincide with his re-election campaign.

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong continue to push for increased freedoms and an independent enquiry into police brutality during the protests. Their rallies have been running since June and have turned increasingly violent, decimating the city’s tourism and retail sectors.

Hong Kong’s Finance Chief issued a warning earlier this week that the region was about to record its first budget deficit in fifteen years. See story HERE.

SOURCE: Herald Live

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Hong Kong

Hong Kong Finance Chief warns of first budget deficit since 2004

May Taylor

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Hong Kong Finance Chief warns of first budget deficit since 2004 | The Thaiger

Hong Kong’s Finance Chief, Paul Chan, says the city is about to record a budget deficit as a result of the protests that have rocked the territory since June, coupled with the ongoing US-China trade war. It will be the first budget deficit in fifteen years, the last one having been caused by the SARS crisis that hit the region hard, killing around 300 people.

Thai PBS World reports that Chan predicts an economic contraction of 1.3% for 2019 and blames a number of factors, including the 2019-2020 deficit on decreased tax revenues and a slowdown in land sales.

“At the end of the financial year, the SAR (Special Administrative Region) government will be in the red. Hong Kong’s economy is now in extremely difficult times.”

The pro-democracy protests taking place in the city since June have become more violent in recent months, decimating the retail sector and hitting tourism hard. Sales fell by 24% in October, which was the fourth consecutive month of double-digit declines, according to the Thai PBS World report.

The drop is being felt all the more keenly given that October is normally a month in which tourists from China flock to Hong Kong during the Chinese holiday known as “Golden Week”. Instead, there has been a 46% drop in visitors from the mainland.

And it’s not just the protests that are hitting the economy hard, with the ongoing US-China trade war also having a significant impact on the city that has traditionally linked a controlling, Communist China with the markets of the Western world.

Given that Beijing has not yet come up with a solution to the current political crisis, news of the budget deficit is unlikely ro restore confidence among investors.

Hong Kong Airlines is just one of many businesses to find itself struggling, with the city’s aviation regulator giving it five days to find more money or risk having its licence suspended. The carrier has already announced a delay in paying some of its employees as a result of financial woes caused by a drop in passenger numbers.

SOURCE: thestar.com.my

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Bangkok

Thailand’s Pulse Clinic now opens in Hong Kong

The Thaiger

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Thailand’s Pulse Clinic now opens in Hong Kong | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Jonathan Wong

Today is World Aids Day. Whilst the treatments and social acceptance of HIV and AIDS has come a long way since those scary days in the early 80s, stigmas remain, particularly in Asia. The Thaiger would like to commemorate the day by featuring a story about local Thai hero Dr Deyn Natthakhet Yaemim who has made knowledge about HIV/AIDS more available and modern treatments accessible in the Land of Smiles. And now Malaysia and Hong Kong as well.

Discrimination against sexual minorities remains rife in Asian health care. An encounter at a hospital in Thailand five years ago prompted Dr Deyn Natthakhet Yaemim to open a venue where LGBT community members are treated sensitively and, importantly, can access health care without discrimination, easily, and with the knowledge they’ll be treated with the same respect as other hospital patient would expect.

An encounter with unprotected sex five years ago, found Deyn visiting a Bangkok hospital to get an emergency anti-HIV drug known as PEP, post-exposure prophylaxis. This antiretroviral medication significantly reduces, but doesn’t eliminate, the chance of contracting the HIV, if taken within 72 hours of the sexual encounter. But the reaction from an attending nurse was a shock.

“Are you gay? How can you behave like that?” “Why are you gay?”

Deyn eventually received the PEP medication but not after being made to feel unwelcome and stigmatised.

The incident spurred him to open the Pulse Clinic in Bangkok in 2015.

“When we opened in Bangkok, it was like customers were coming to my family’s house and we treated them that way, like you would a friend or a relative.”

The first clinic in Thailand was a totally family affair. Deyn’s mother was a nurse, his gay brother worked in reception, and his father in security.

In the first year the first Bangkok Pulse Clinic served 9,000 patients. Now there are three other Pulse Clinics in Thailand, another in Bangkok, one in Phuket, and another opening up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as well as the new clinic in Hong Kong. (Story continues below…)

Thailand's Pulse Clinic now opens in Hong Kong | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Local Thai hero Dr Deyn Natthakhet Yaemim, owner of Pulse Clinics

PEP and PrEP

PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis. It means taking antiretroviral medicines (ART) after being potentially exposed to HIV to prevent becoming infected. PEP must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV, but the sooner you start PEP, the better. Every hour counts. If you’re prescribed PEP, you’ll need to take it once or twice daily for 28 days. PEP is effective in preventing HIV when administered correctly, but not 100%.

PrEP, on the other hand, (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is when people at very high risk for HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected. A combination of two HIV medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine), sold under the name Truvada® (pronounced tru vá duh), is approved for daily use as PrEP to help prevent an HIV-negative person from getting HIV from a sexual or injection-drug-using partner who’s positive. Studies have shown that PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV if it is used as prescribed. PrEP is much less effective when it is not taken consistently. www.cdc.gov

The recently opened Hong Kong outpost of the Pulse Clinic is in Central, where Deyn and staff welcome patients from the local LGBT community. But stigma against HIV still exists in Hong Kong forcing many Hongkongers living with HIV to go Thailand for treatment in the past.

“If they are HIV positive, they’d do treatment there as well because they feared their partner or anybody knowing about their status, and they didn’t want to be registered in the government health care system there so they came to Bangkok.”

Now Hongkongers can visit the clinic in Central, for sexual health services, STD screenings, HIV prevention and treatment strategies, and more. Importantly, confidentiality is assured.

HIV patients remain among the most unfairly demonised groups due to long-held, and mostly incorrect, misunderstandings about the virus. This, despite many medical advances including antiretroviral drugs that make patients highly unlikely to infect others.

While condoms remains the most popular barrier against HIV infection, Prep is also effective. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is 99% effective at stopping the transmission of HIV through sex without condoms. Deyn cites partner studies (in which one is HIV positive, the other HIV negative) having almost “zero chance” of cross infection on this drug regimen.

“The protection would be 99% so it’s even better than a condom. However, PrEP only prevents you from HIV, not other sexually transmitted diseases, so it is recommended you still use a condom.”

A landmark study published in The Lancet in 2019 that tracked about 1,000 male couples across Europe for eight years (HIV positive gay men and their HIV negative partners) and found, thanks to antiretroviral drugs, there was no chance the HIV positive individual could infect the other, even though many participants reported having unprotected sex during that period.

SOURCE: South China Morning Post

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