French yellow vests protest for 16th straight weekend

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Protesters take part in an anti-government demonstration called by the "Yellow Vest" movement in Paris, near the the Arc de Triomphe, on March 2, 2019. "Yellow Vest" protesters take to the streets for the 16th consecutive Saturday. (AFP)
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A protester uses his phone to take a selfie with Eric Drouet (L), one of the leading figures of the ‘Yellow Vest’ movement, on the sidelines of an anti-government demonstration held in Paris, near the the Arc de Triomphe, on March 2, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 02 March 2019

French yellow vests protest for 16th straight weekend

  • In Paris, protesters gathered Saturday at the Arc de Triomphe monument as a march was planned through the well-off western neighborhoods of the capital
  • French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday reiterated a call for calm

PARIS: French yellow vests were protesting for a 16th straight weekend in Paris and other cities to show they are still mobilized against the government's economic policies they see as favoring the rich.
In Paris, protesters gathered Saturday at the Arc de Triomphe monument as a march was planned through the well-off western neighborhoods of the capital.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday reiterated a call for calm, pointing at "unacceptable" outbreaks of violence since the movement began in November.
Organizers say they want to maintain pressure on the government as a two-month "grand debate" initiated by Macron to let ordinary French people express their views on the country's economic and democratic issues is ending this month.
Sophie Tissier, a coordinator of the Paris protest, told The Associated Press that "we keep protesting every Saturday because Macron doesn't respond at all to the yellow vests' demands. We want to rebuild our democracy and change today's political system."
"Macron is contemptuous and ... does not even try to understand that there are people that are living in great poverty and precariousness, and that there are so many inequalities," she added.
Other protests are taking place in France's major cities of Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Lille and others.
The movement was named after the fluorescent vests that French motorists must carry in their vehicles for emergencies.
The protests started in November to oppose fuel tax hikes, but have expanded into a broader public rejection of Macron's economic policies, which protesters say favor big businesses and the wealthy over ordinary workers.
Macron has since announced a package of measures worth about 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) to boost workers' and retirees' purchasing power and launched a national debate that is taking place through meetings across France and a dedicated website until mid-March.
Many yellow vests reject the debate which they consider as politically driven to serve the government's interests.


Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

Updated 17 November 2019

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

  • Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June
  • China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police Monday warned for the first time that they may use “live rounds” after pro-democracy protesters fired arrows and threw petrol bombs at officers at a beseiged university campus, as the crisis engulfing the city veered deeper into danger.
Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June, with many in the city of 7.5 million people venting fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.
China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent, and there have been concerns that Beijing could send in troops to put an end to the spiralling unrest.
Three protesters have been shot by armed police in the unrelenting months of protests. But all in scuffles as chaotic street clashes played out — and without such warnings being given.
A day of intense clashes, which saw a police officer struck in the leg by an arrow and protesters meet police tear gas with volleys of petrol bombs, intensified as night fell.
Clashes rolled across Kowloon, with the epicenter around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), where scores of defiant demonstrators set large fires to prevent police from conducting a threatened raid on the campus.
They hunkered down under umbrellas from occasional fire from water cannon and hurled molotov cocktails at an armored police vehicle, leaving it ablaze on a flyover near the campus.
Police declared the campus a “riot” scene — a rioting conviction carries up to 10 years in jail — and blocked exits as spokesman Louis Lau issued a stark warning in a Facebook live broadcast.
“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers,” he said.
“If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”
Police said they fired at a car late Sunday that had driven at a line of officers near the campus — but the vehicle reversed and escaped.
Protesters at the campus appeared resolute — a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature.
“I feel scared. There’s no way out, all I can do is fight to the end,” said one protester joining the barricade in front of the university building.
“We need a base to keep our gear and have some rest at night before another fight in the morning,” another called Kason, 23, told AFP.
On Sunday, activists parried attempts by police to break through into the PolyU campus, firing rocks from a homemade catapult from the university roof, while an AFP reporter saw a team of masked archers — several carrying sports bows — patrolling the campus.
Violence has worsened in recent days, with two men killed in separate incidents linked to the protests this month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping this week issued his most strident comments on the crisis, saying it threatened the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 handover from Britain.
Demonstrators last week engineered a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of blockades and vandalism, which forced the police to draft in prison officers as reinforcements, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and close schools and shopping malls.
The movement, characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability, has started to coagulate in fixed locations, showing the protesters’ ability to switch tactics.
The protests started against a now-shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality and calls for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
The financial hub has been nudged into a recession by the unrelenting turmoil.
A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue on Monday.
“Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.
The education bureau said schools will remain closed again on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, dozens of government supporters gathered to clear barricades near the university campus — a sign of the divisions slicing through the city.
Many residents are wearied by the sapping protests. Others support the Chinese-backed city government.
Some applauded a Saturday clean-up by Chinese troops from a garrison of the People’s Liberation Army in Kowloon.
The garrison is usually confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, although it can be deployed at the request of the city’s government to help with public order breakdown or natural disasters.
Hong Kong’s government, which presides over a city that enjoys greater freedoms than the mainland, said it did not ask the PLA for help on Saturday.
The choreographed troop movement “has only compounded the impression that Beijing has simply ignored” Hong Kong’s unique political system, said analyst Dixon Sing.