One dead, dozens injured in fuel tax protests around France

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Demonstrators receive tear gas on November 17, 2018 in Quimper, western France, during a nationwide popular initiated day of protest called “yellow vest” (Gilets Jaunes in French) movement to protest against high fuel prices. (AFP)
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People run through tear gas on November 17, 2018 in Quimper, western France, during a nationwide popular initiated day of protest called “yellow vest” (Gilets Jaunes in French) movement to protest against high fuel prices. (AFP)
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A demonstrator walks past policemen on November 17, 2018 in Quimper, western France, during a nationwide popular initiated day of protest called “yellow vest” (Gilets Jaunes in French) movement to protest against high fuel prices. (AFP)
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People block Caen’s circular road on November 17, 2018 in Caen, Normandy, during a nationwide popular initiated day of protest called “yellow vest” (Gilets Jaunes in French) movement to protest against high fuel prices which has mushroomed into a widespread protest against stagnant spending power under French President. (AFP)
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A policeman evacuates a demonstrator on November 17, 2018 in Quimper, western France, during a nationwide popular initiated day of protest called “yellow vest” (Gilets Jaunes in French) movement to protest against high fuel prices. (AFP)
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A man holds a road sign on November 17, 2018 in Quimper, western France, during a nationwide popular initiated day of protest called “yellow vest” (Gilets Jaunes in French) movement to protest against high fuel prices. (AFP)
Updated 17 November 2018
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One dead, dozens injured in fuel tax protests around France

PARIS: One protester was killed and 106 others were injured at roadblocks set up around France on Saturday as citizens angry at rising fuel taxes rose up in a grassroots movement and posed a new challenge to President Emmanuel Macron.
Police officers lobbed tear gas canisters at demonstrators on the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris as groups tried to make their way to the presidential Elysee Palace. Later, hundreds of protesters entered the bottom of the street dotted with luxury shops where the palace is located — and where Macron lives.
They were seen on BFMTV talking with riot police when the officers suddenly raised their shields and pushed the group back.
French Interior Ministry officials estimated that about 244,000 protesters were involved in several thousand protests around the country, many of them spontaneous.
The protester who died, a 63-year-old woman, was killed when a driver caught in the blockade accelerated in a panic at Pont-de-Beauvoisin, near Chambery, according to Louis Laugier, the prefect, or top state official, in the eastern Savoie region. According to various French media reports, protesters reportedly knocked on her car as she tried to take her daughter to a hospital. An investigation was opened.
Five people were seriously injured, while the others had more minor injuries, the Interior Ministry said in an early evening statement, raising an earlier count. It said 52 people were detained and 38 held for questioning.
Protesters, wearing yellow safety vests and dubbing themselves the “yellow jackets,” pledged to target tollbooths, roundabouts and the bypass that ring Paris. The fluorescent yellow vests donned by the protesters must be kept in the vehicles of all French drivers in case of car troubles.
The ministry said security forces used tear gas in several places besides the Champs-Elysees to unblock major routes, including firing about 30 canisters at the entrance to the Mont Blanc tunnel.
The nationwide protest was unusual due to its grassroots origins. It arose from within the citizenry, backed neither by unions nor politicians, although some took part in a clear bid for supporters.
The amateur nature of the protests, often spontaneous and therefore illegal, made it tricky for police, who had orders to use dialogue over force but to stop protesters from completely blocking major routes or endangering lives or property.
The situation on the Champs-Elysees, for instance, was confusing, with the protest producing a party atmosphere at some points and angry confrontations at others.
Police fired tear gas when a group moved into a street near the presidential palace. Hundreds of protesters took over the Place de la Concorde at the bottom of the avenue, shouting “Macron resign” as police looked on. By evening, 1,200 protesters remained in the Place “protected by police,” the Interior Ministry said.
The rise in fuel taxes, notably for diesel fuel, spoke to those French who feel the president has asked ordinary citizens to make the largest efforts in his bid to transform France.
The taxes are part of Macron’s strategy to wean France off fossil fuels. Many drivers see them as emblematic of a presidency they view as disconnected from day-to-day economic difficulties and serving the rich.
The yellow jacket protests drew supporters angry about other issues, too, including diminishing buying power.
Macron’s popularity has plunged, hovering around 30 percent.
Robert Tichit, 67, a retiree, referred to the president as “King Macron.”
“We’ve had enough of it. There are too many taxes in this country,” he said.


Surveillance clips show Chinese billionaire with accuser

JD.com founder Richard Liu attends a Reuters interview in Hong Kong, China June 9, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 min 17 sec ago
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Surveillance clips show Chinese billionaire with accuser

  • The son of peasants, Liu built a Beijing electronics shop into JD.com, China’s biggest online direct retailer, selling everything from clothes to toys to fresh vegetables
  • Jingyao Liu is a Chinese citizen studying at the university on a student visa and was a volunteer in the doctorate program while Richard Liu was there

MINNEAPOLIS: An attorney for JD.com founder Richard Liu said Monday that surveillance video showing the Chinese businessman in an elevator and walking arm-in-arm with a woman who has accused him of rape provides a different account of what happened that night.
Two edited videos of Liu and his accuser were posted Monday to a Chinese social media site. One video shows the pair leaving a group dinner in Minneapolis on Aug. 30, with the woman getting up to leave after Liu gets up, then following him out the door. The other video shows the woman holding onto Liu’s arm as they walk to her apartment, where she says he raped her as she begged him to stop.
Liu, founder of the Beijing-based e-commerce site JD.com, was arrested Aug. 31 in Minneapolis on suspicion of felony rape, but prosecutors announced in December that he would face no criminal charges because the case had “profound evidentiary problems” and it was unlikely they could prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The woman, Jingyao Liu, a Chinese college student at the University of Minnesota, sued the businessman and his company last week. She alleged she was groped in Richard Liu’s limousine and raped in her apartment after a dinner at Origami, a Japanese restaurant in Minneapolis, in which she felt pressured to drink as Liu and other executives toasted her. At one point, Richard Liu said she would dishonor him if she did not join in, the lawsuit says.
Richard Liu and Jingyao Liu are not related.
It’s not clear who posted the videos, which were posted on Weibo under an account for Mingzhou Events. The clips are short and the content is edited, but Richard Liu’s attorneys in China confirmed their authenticity. The videos do not contain audio, and they do not show what happened in his limousine or in the woman’s apartment.
Jill Brisbois, Richard Liu’s attorney in Minnesota, said in a statement to The Associated Press that the clips “further dispel the misinformation and false claims that have been widely circulated and clearly support the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office decision not to file charges against our client.”
Brisbois said the videos speak for themselves and show events as they are happening. While the woman has alleged she was impaired and coerced to drink, she appears to be walking without assistance and linking her arm with the businessman.
The law firm of Florin Roebig, which is representing the woman, said the clips that have been posted online, as well as the full surveillance videos, are consistent with what the woman alleged in her lawsuit and with what she told law enforcement. The lawsuit says the woman went to her apartment building with Liu to be polite and respectful, and believed he was simply walking her to the door.
The clip in Jingyao Liu’s apartment complex shows Richard Liu and the woman walking through multiple lobbies and taking multiple elevators. Initially, Richard Liu’s female assistant is with them and the woman leads the way. At one point, the assistant does not get on an elevator with Richard Liu and the woman, and when they exit the elevator, she has her hand through his arm and he has his hands in his pockets.
She leads him up a short stairway, then through another set of doors and continues to link her hand through his arm. As they get off another elevator, she leads him down a hallway to an apartment. She opens the door and goes in, and Richard Liu follows.
The other clip features surveillance video from the end of the dinner at Origami. It shows Jingyao Liu seated at a table with other men, and Richard Liu is a few seats away, appearing to have an animated conversation with others at the table. One man at the dinner party is slumped over and appears to be passed out. The woman is seen talking to the man next to her, and when Liu gets up to leave, she gets up and appears to follow him. They walk out next to each other. Video from outside the restaurant shows her leaving with Richard Liu and his assistant.
Richard Liu walks ahead and it appears the woman and Liu’s assistant have a brief conversation, then she follows Liu.
Text messages previously reviewed by The Associated Press and portions of the woman’s interviews with police show the woman alleges Liu pulled her into a limousine and made advances and groped her despite her protests. The lawsuit says Liu forcibly raped her at her apartment, again over her protests and resistance. She texted a friend: “I begged him don’t. But he didn’t listen.”
The alleged attack happened while Richard Liu was in Minneapolis for a weeklong residency as part of the University of Minnesota’s doctor of business administration China program. The four-year program in the university’s management school is geared toward high-level executives in China and is a partnership with Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management.
Jingyao Liu is a Chinese citizen studying at the university on a student visa and was a volunteer in the doctorate program while Richard Liu was there. The Associated Press does not generally name alleged victims of sexual assault without their consent, but the Florin Roebig law firm has said she agreed to be named. She was 21 at the time of the alleged attack.
Richard Liu, known in Chinese as Liu Qiangdong, is a prominent member of the Chinese tech elite, with a fortune of $7.5 billion. He is part of a generation of entrepreneurs who have created China’s Internet, e-commerce, mobile phone and other technology industries since the late 1990s. The son of peasants, Liu built a Beijing electronics shop into JD.com, China’s biggest online direct retailer, selling everything from clothes to toys to fresh vegetables.