Climate change protesters halt London street blockade

Extinction Rebellion climate change activists lie on the floor as they perform a mass "die in" in the main hall of the Natural History Museum in London on April 22, 2019, on the eighth day of the environmental group's protest calling for political change to combat climate change. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2019

Climate change protesters halt London street blockade

  • Extinction Rebellion took over the heart of the UK capital in a bid to focus global attention on rising temperatures and sea levels
  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned that protests were starting to overstretch the police

LONDON: Some of London’s busiest streets re-opened Monday for the first time in a week as climate change protesters regrouped and plotted a new course after police made over 1,000 arrests.
The so-called Extinction Rebellion took over the heart of the UK capital in a bid to focus global attention on rising temperatures and sea levels caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
The grassroots group was established last year in Britain by academics and has used social media to become one of the fastest-growing environmental movements in the world.
But it abandoned four of the five main protests sites over the weekend in response to a more forceful police approach and an outcry from local businesses that claimed a heavy loss in sales.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan also warned Sunday that protests were starting to overstretch the police and limiting their ability to respond to daily crime.
“It simply isn’t right to put Londoners’ safety at risk like this,” Khan said.
Extinction Rebellion organizers retreated by Monday to Marble Arch — a monument on the edge of Hyde Park that allows limited protests to continue without disrupting traffic.
The site has been sanctioned by the police.
“After leaving four of five locations in good order, rebels will meet at Marble Arch on Monday to decide where they go next,” the group said in a statement.
It added that its seven-day campaign has helped it raise nearly £300,000 ($390,000, 345,000 euros) and gain 30,000 new members.
The police said they had made 1,065 arrests and charged 53 people since the first protests took over a bridge and renowned London intersections such as Piccadilly and Oxford Circus.
“We remain in frequent contact with the organizers to ensure that the serious disruption to Londoners is brought to a close as soon as possible and that only lawful and peaceful protests continue,” the police said in a statement.
The London campaign has no formal leaders and its immediate plan of action remains unclean.
Some of the organizers said Sunday they wanted formal talks with the London mayor and the UK government.
The group’s list of demands includes a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to a net level of zero by 2025 and a halt to biodiversity loss.
The group has previously said that it wants the UK government to “create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.”
But it said Monday that its strategy was still under discussion — and that it may yet decide to resume the street blockades.
“A proposal has been circulated for entering a ‘negotiations’ phase,” it said in a statement.
“Despite being presented otherwise in the media, this idea remains only a proposal,” it added.
“Where we go with Phase Two is up to us.”


Patten says China pursuing ‘Orwellian’ agenda in Hong Kong

Updated 52 min 54 sec ago

Patten says China pursuing ‘Orwellian’ agenda in Hong Kong

  • Chris Patten defended London’s announcement that it would grant residency and a path to citizenship for nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents
  • China shocked many of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people when it announced earlier this month that it will enact a national security law for the city

BEIJING: The last British governor of Hong Kong criticized the Chinese government on Friday over proposed national security legislation, calling it part of an “Orwellian” drive to eliminate opposition in violation of the agreement on handing the territory over to Beijing.
Chris Patten defended London’s announcement that it would grant residency and a path to citizenship for nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents if Beijing goes through with passage of the legislation.
The law is seen as potentially imposing severe restrictions on freedom of speech and opposition political activity in the former British colony that was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997. China has denounced the offer of citizenship as a violation of its sovereignty.
“If they’ve broken the (Sino-British) Joint Declaration, if they’ve thrown it overboard, how can they then use the joint declaration as though it stops us doing something that’s a sovereign right of ours?” said Patten, now chancellor of the University of Oxford, in an online talk with reporters.
The declaration is a bilateral treaty signed as part of the handover process. China has essentially declared it null and void, while Britain says Beijing is reneging on its commitments made in the document that was supposed to be remain in effect until 2047.
China shocked many of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people when it announced earlier this month that it will enact a national security law for the city, which was promised a high level of autonomy outside of foreign and defense affairs.
An earlier push to pass security legislation was shelved after massive Hong Kong street protests against it in 2003. However, Beijing appeared to lose patience after months of sometimes violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year that China said was an attempt to split the territory off from the rest of the country.
Patten said the security legislation is unnecessary because Hong Kong’s legal code already includes provisions to combat terrorism, financial crimes and other threats to security.
“What Beijing wants is something which deals with those rather worrying Orwellian crimes like sedition, whatever that may be,” Patten said.
China may also be seeking grounds to disqualify opposition candidates from running in September’s election for the local legislature by accusing them of being disloyal, he said.
Beijing has ignored promises that Hong Kong could democratize of its own accord after the handover, Patten said. The US should unite with other democratic countries to oppose underhanded tactics by Beijing, he said.
“It’s the Chinese Communist Party which attacks us, which hectors, which bullies, which tells companies which have roots in our countries, that unless they do what China wants, they won’t get any business in China,” Patten said. “That’s the way the Mafia behave, and the rest of the world shouldn’t put up with it, because if we do, liberal democracies are going to be screwed.”