Bangladesh opposition names Khaleda Zia’s son acting leader

Bangladesh security personnel stand guard at the entrance of the special court, which convicted opposition leader Khaleda Zia of corruption and sentenced her to five years in jail. (AFP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Bangladesh opposition names Khaleda Zia’s son acting leader

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s main opposition party named the exiled eldest son of Khaleda Zia as its acting head on Friday, a day after a court jailed its leader for corruption.
Zia, 72, spent the night in jail after she was sentenced to five years over the embezzlement of $252,000 meant for an orphanage, a charge she has dismissed as politically motivated.
Her son Tarique Rahman, who was also found guilty of involvement in but escaped prison because he lives in London, will be the party’s interim leader.
“He is the new acting chairman in accordance with the party’s constitution,” Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) secretary general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.
The conviction could prevent Zia from running in a general election slated for December, although she is expected to appeal.
She spent the night in what her party officials say is a disused jail in the old part of Dhaka.
“She is in isolation,” said Alamgir, adding that her conviction is “part of a government blueprint to establish one-party rule.”
Rahman, 53, fled to London in 2008 after he was detained by an army-backed government for more than 18 months.
In 2016, he was convicted in absentia and sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of money laundering.
Prosecutors have also sought his death sentence over a 2004 grenade attack at a rally of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in which more than 20 people were killed and she was injured.
The BNP plans to stage nationwide demonstrations late Friday afternoon in protest at the verdict.
Alamgir said opposition parties had been barred from holding protests and alleged curbs on media freedom by the government.
Violence erupted in major cities across Bangladesh as news of the guilty verdict spread on Thursday, with BNP supporters clashing with police and activists from the ruling party.
Police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators in the northeastern city of Sylhet. At least four people have been injured in the clashes.
Authorities have for days been on high alert for protests in tense Dhaka, where political demonstrations by BNP and its Islamist allies in 2014 and 2015 left nearly 200 people dead.
Around 3,500 opposition activists and officials were arrested in a sweep by security forces ahead of the verdict, according to the BNP.
Zia is a former ally turned arch-foe of Hasina. Her party boycotted 2014 polls in which Hasina was re-elected but is expected to contest the upcoming general election.


Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

Updated 21 July 2019
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Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

  • Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately
  • Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month

HONG KONG: Protesters in Hong Kong pressed on Sunday past the designated end point for a march in which tens of thousands repeated demands for direct elections in the Chinese territory and an independent investigation into police tactics used in previous demonstrations.

Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately. Others continued toward Central, a key business and retail district and the site of the 2014 Umbrella Movement sit-ins.

Large protests began last month in opposition to a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their rights would be compromised.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has declared the bill dead, but protesters are dissatisfied with her refusal to formally withdraw the bill. Some are also calling for her to resign amid growing concerns about the steady erosion of civil rights in city.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, and was promised certain democratic freedoms under the framework of 'one country, two systems.' Fueled by anger at Lam and an enduring distrust of the Communist Party-ruled central government in Beijing, the demonstrations have ballooned into calls for electoral reform and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

Walking in sweltering heat, protesters dressed in black kicked off Sunday’s march from a public park, carrying a large banner that read 'Independent Inquiry for Rule of Law.' 'Free Hong Kong! Democracy now!' the protesters chanted, forming a dense procession through Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district as they were joined by others who had been waiting in side streets.

“I think the government has never responded to our demands,” said Karen Yu, a 52-year-old Hong Kong resident who has attended four protests since last month. “No matter how much the government can do, at least it should come out and respond to us directly.”

Marchers ignored orders from police to finish off the procession on a road in Wan Chai, according to police and the Civil Human Rights Front, the march’s organizers. Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month.

Their main demands include universal suffrage — direct voting rights for all Hong Kong residents — as well as dropping charges against anti-extradition protesters, withdrawing the characterization of a clash between police and protesters as a 'riot' and dissolving the Legislative Council.                   

Protesters read the demands aloud in both English and Cantonese in videos released Saturday. “We did not want to embark on this path of resisting tyranny with our bare bodies,” they said, “but for too long, our government has lied and deceived, and refused to respond to the demands of the people.”

While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, some confrontations between police and protesters have turned violent. In Sha Tin district last Sunday, they beat each other with umbrellas and bats inside a luxury shopping center. Demonstrators broke into the Legislative Council building on July 1 by moving past barricades and shattering windows.

Meanwhile, police officers have used pepper spray, tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets to quell the crowds.On Friday, Hong Kong police discovered a stash of a powerful homemade explosive and arrested a man in a raid on a commercial building.

Materials voicing opposition to the extradition bill were found at the site, local media said, but a police spokesman said no concrete link had been established and the investigation was continuing.