Hong Kong police vow to pursue HQ siege protesters

Updated 22 June 2019

Hong Kong police vow to pursue HQ siege protesters

  • Hong Kong has been rocked by the worst political unrest since its 1997 handover to China
  • Millions have marched this month to oppose a hugely unpopular proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to the Chinese mainland

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police on Saturday vowed to pursue the ringleaders of a 15-hour blockade of their headquarters which involved thousands of anti-government demonstrators as a push to oust the city’s pro-Beijing leader evolves.
The largely young protesters surrounded the headquarters throughout Friday and into the small hours of Saturday morning, the latest manifestation of angry demonstrations sweeping Hong Kong.
The international finance hub has been rocked by the worst political unrest since its 1997 handover to China.
Millions have marched this month to oppose a hugely unpopular proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to the Chinese mainland.
Officers also used tear gas and rubber bullets last week to clear protesters during another massive demonstration outside the city’s parliament, fanning widespread anger at the police.
The spark for the current wave of protests was an attempt by chief executive Carrie Lam to pass the Beijing-backed extradition law, which she has now postponed following the huge public backlash.
But the demonstrations have morphed into a wider movement against Lam’s administration and Beijing after years of sliding political freedoms.
Protest leaders plan to hold another huge rally on July 1 but student-led groups — communicating through encrypted messaging apps — have begun embracing spontaneous, fast-moving acts of civil disobedience.
“We need to flow like water,” one protester called Chris told AFP, espousing a famous philosophy from martial arts superstar and Hong Kong legend Bruce Lee.
It was unclear if demonstrators would rally in large numbers for a third weekend, with the streets quiet and popular protest sites nearly devoid of people on Saturday morning.
Eric, a 22-year-old office worker and protester, said he would wait to see what directions came through on social media in the coming days.
“There are many camps and each person has their own way of resistance,” he told AFP.
During Friday’s demonstrations outside police headquarters, large crowds of protesters blockaded entrances, taped over CCTV cameras and shouted at police.
Many chanted “release the righteous” and “shame on police thugs” — references to those detained during violence last week between demonstrators and the police.
Opposition groups have demanded an investigation into allegations of police brutality and the release of those detained during the clashes.
Officers remained inside their fortified building throughout Friday.
The protest was noisy but peaceful — with the exception of thrown eggs and demonstrators shining laser pens at the windows.
The crowds eventually dispersed in the early hours of Saturday some 15 hours after their demonstration began.
In a statement Saturday morning, police called the protest “illegal, irrational and unreasonable” saying it would “stringently follow up” on those behind the blockade.
Police have defended using tear gas and rubber bullets on June 12 as a necessary and proportionate response to meet violent protesters who were trying to break into the city’s parliament.
But rights group Amnesty International said Friday it had verified multiple instances of police violence that breached international laws while influential legal bodies in Hong Kong have backed an inquiry into police tactics.

Although Hong Kong was returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, it is still administered separately under an arrangement known as “one country, two systems.”
The city enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland but many residents have been alarmed in recent years by what they feel is a tighter grip by Beijing.
Hong Kong’s leaders are not elected and calls for universal suffrage have fallen on deaf ears.
In 2014, pro-democracy protesters seized key intersections for two months but failed to win any concessions from Beijing.
Since then, many of that movement’s leaders have been jailed while some Beijing critics have found themselves banned from politics or even disappearing into Chinese custody.
Opposition to the extradition bill managed to unite a wide cross section of Hong Kong.
Critics feared the law would ensnare both Hong Kongers and foreigners in mainland China’s opaque and politicized justice system, and also give Beijing a tool to target critics based in the semi-autonomous territory.


Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

Updated 11 December 2019

Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

  • The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims

NEW DELHI: Protests erupted across various parts of India on Tuesday, a day after the lower house of Parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which makes religion the basis for granting Indian citizenship to minorities from neighboring countries. 

The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims.

“After the CAB, we are going to bring in the National Register of Citizens (NRC),” Home Minister Amit Shah said after the passage of the bill. 

The fear among a large section of Indians is that by bringing in the CAB and the NRC — a process to identify illegal immigrants — the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to target Muslim minorities. 

They insist that the new bill protects all other communities except Muslims, who constitute around 14 percent of India’s total population.

The opposition Congress Party said that the bill was a move to “destroy the foundation” of India.

“The CAB is an attack on the Indian constitution. Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation,” party leader Rahul Gandhi posted in a tweet.

Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul’s sister and a prominent opposition leader, called the bill “India’s tryst with bigotry.”

However, BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma said: “The opposition is communalizing the bill. 

The CAB saves minorities who owe their origin to India from being prosecuted on grounds of religious status. The same is not the case with Muslims since they have not been prosecuted because of their religion.”

Eight northeastern states observed a day-long strike against the CAB. 

“Once the bill is implemented, the native tribal people will become permanent minorities in their own state,” Animesh Debbarma, a tribal leader who organized the strike in the state of Tripura said.

“The bill is against our fundamental rights and it is an attack on our constitution and secularism,” he told Arab News.

In Assam, some places saw violence with a vehicle belonging to the BJP state president vandalized.

In New Delhi, different civil society groups and individuals gathered close to the Indian Parliament and expressed their outrage at the “open and blatant attack” on what they called the “idea” of India.

“The CAB is not only against Muslim minorities but against all the minorities — be it Tamils or Nepali Gurkhas — and is a blatant attempt to polarize the society in the name of religion and turn India into a majoritarian Hindu state,” Nadeem Khan, head of United Against Hate, a campaign to connect people from different faiths, said.

Rallies and protests were also organized in Pune, Ahmadabad, Allahabad, Patna and Lucknow.

On Tuesday, more than 600 academics, activists, lawyers and writers called the bill “divisive, discriminatory, unconstitutional” in an open letter, and urged the government to withdraw the proposed law.

They said that the CAB, along with the NRC, “will bring untold suffering to people across the country. It will damage fundamentally and irreparably, the nature of the Indian republic.”

Delhi-based activist and a prominent human rights campaigner, Harsh Mander, said: “I feel the CAB is the most dangerous bill that has ever been brought by the Indian Parliament. We need a mass civil disobedience movement to oppose this legislation.”

Meanwhile, the international community is also watching the domestic debate on the CAB. 

Describing the initiative as a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction,”  a federal US commission on international religious freedom has sought US sanctions against Shah and other Indian leaders if the bill with the “religious criterion” is passed.

EU ambassador to India, Ugo Astuto, in a press conference in New Delhi on Monday said that he hopes: “The spirit of equality enshrined in the Indian constitution will be upheld by the Parliament.”