China demands Britain stop ‘meddling’ in Hong Kong

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Friday her priority is to "stop the violence" rather than make political concessions. (AP)
Updated 11 August 2019

China demands Britain stop ‘meddling’ in Hong Kong

  • The pro-democracy protests have become the biggest threat to Beijing’s rule of the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city since its handover from the British in 1997
  • The British official had emphasized the need for a “fully independent investigation into recent events” in Hong Kong

BEIJING: China warned Britain to stop “meddling” in Hong Kong, after a top British official called the international financial hub’s leader to voice concern about protests that have rocked the city for two months.
The pro-democracy protests, which are partly fueled by widespread anger at an erosion of liberties in Hong Kong, have become the biggest threat to Beijing’s rule of the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city since its handover from the British in 1997.
On Friday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had a call with Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, where he emphasized the need for a “fully independent investigation into recent events,” according to Britain’s foreign ministry — prompting a furious response from Beijing.
“China solemnly demands that the British side immediately stop all actions that meddle in Hong Kong affairs and interfere in China’s internal affairs,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying Saturday.
Slamming Raab’s decision to call Carrie Lam as “wrong,” Hua urged Britain to stop “stirring up trouble” in Hong Kong in an online statement.
Beijing has increasingly pitched the anti-government protests in the semi-autonomous region as funded by the West, but has provided little evidence beyond supportive statements from some Western politicians.
Last week, the Chinese government slammed Washignton after reports emerged that some US diplomats based in Hong Kong had met with pro-democracy activists.
The Chinese foreign ministry urged the US to “immediately make a clean break with various anti-China rioters” and “stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs immediately.”
Tensions are high in the Asian financial hub after two months of protests and clashes triggered by opposition to a planned extradition law that quickly evolved into a wider movement for democratic reforms.
Last week, the city witnessed a rare general strike and the most widespread unrest in two months of demonstrations — with police firing 800 rounds of tear gas in a single day at a dozen locations.
A total of 420 people have been arrested since rallies began on June 9, according to Hong Kong police in early August.


World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 24 January 2020

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

“Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

“So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”