Clashes at Hong Kong airport; UN urges restraint over protests

1 / 2
Riot police is seen during a mass demonstration after a woman was shot in the eye, at the Hong Kong international airport, in Hong Kong. (Reuters)
2 / 2
Riot police use pepper spray to disperse anti-extradition bill protesters during a mass demonstration after a woman was shot in the eye, at the Hong Kong international airport, in Hong Kong China August 13, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 13 August 2019

Clashes at Hong Kong airport; UN urges restraint over protests

  • Evening clashes at airport between protesters and police
  • Airport suspends check-in as demonstrations grow

HONG KONG: Police and protesters clashed at Hong Kong’s international airport on Tuesday evening after flights were disrupted for a second day and the political crisis in the former British colony deepened.

In Washington, US President Donald Trump said the Chinese government was moving troops to the border with Hong Kong and he urged calm.

In a second day of unrest at the airport, thousands of black-clad protesters jammed the terminal, chanting, singing and waving banners.

Scuffles broke out after an injured person was taken out of the main terminal by medics after he was held by a group of protesters. Some activists claimed he was an undercover mainland Chinese police officer.

Several police vehicles were blocked by protesters and riot police moved in, pushing some protesters back and using pepper spray. A policeman pulled out a gun at one point.

Protesters also barricaded some passageways in the airport with luggage trolleys, metal barriers and other objects. At least two protesters were taken away by police.

 


Although the situation looked like it could erupt into serious violence, it calmed down after a few hours without a more forceful police intervention.

The action at the airport followed an unprecedented shutdown on Monday. Hong Kong’s Airport Authority said operations had been “seriously disrupted” on Tuesday and departing passengers had been unable to reach immigration counters.

The weeks of protests began as opposition to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China and have swelled into wider calls for democracy.

Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement that enshrined some autonomy for Hong Kong since China took it back from Britain in 1997.

Ten weeks of increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters have roiled the Asian financial hub.

Hong Kong’s stockmarket fell to a seven-month low on Tuesday. The United Nations human rights commissioner, Michele Bachelet, urged Hong Kong authorities to exercise restraint and investigate evidence of their forces firing tear gas at protesters in ways banned under international law.

China responded by saying her comments sent the wrong signal to “violent criminal offenders.” Chief Executive Carrie Lam made an appeal for calm and restraint. “Take a minute to look at our city, our home,” she said, her voice cracking, at a news conference in the newly-fortified government headquarters complex.

“Can we bear to push it into the abyss and see it smashed to pieces?” she said. As she spoke, the benchmark Hang Seng index hit a seven-month low, shedding more than 2% and dragging down markets across Asia.

Demonstrators want Lam to resign. She says she will stay. The events present Chinese President Xi Jinping with one of his biggest challenges since he came to power in 2012. Hong Kong legal experts say Beijing might be paving the way to use anti-terrorism laws to try to quell the demonstrations.

 

Angry passengers

“I think paralysing the airport will be effective in forcing Carrie Lam to respond to us...it can further pressure Hong Kong’s economy,” said Dorothy Cheng, a 17-year-old protester.

As evening fell, protesters at the airport surrounded a man who they suspected to be a Chinese policeman.

After an extended standoff when the man’s mainland Chinese identity card was taken and checked, medics and Hong Kong police entered the airport to take the man away, sparking the clashes.

Despite the trouble, some flights were still scheduled to take off early on Wednesday morning with some tourists still waiting in the departure hall and dining areas, according to Reuters journalists in the airport.

Some passengers challenged protesters over the delays as tempers began to fray. Flag carrier Cathay Pacific said flights might still be canceled at short notice.

The airline, whose British heritage makes it a symbol of Hong Kong’s colonial past, is also in a political bind.

China’s civil aviation regulator demanded that the airline suspend staff who joined or backed the protests from flights in its airspace, pushing the carrier’s shares past Monday’s 10-year low.

Other Chinese airlines have offered passengers wanting to avoid Hong Kong a free switch to nearby destinations, such as Guangzhou, Macau, Shenzhen or Zhuhai, with the disruption sending shares in Shenzhen Airport Co. Ltd. surging.


Indian govt slammed over poor ranking in global hunger index

Visitors try out food at 'Bengaluru Aaharotsava', a 3-day vegetarian food festival, in Bangalore on October 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2019

Indian govt slammed over poor ranking in global hunger index

  • This ranking reveals a colossal failure in Govt policy and blows the lid off the PM’s hollow ‘sabka vikas’ (development for all) claim,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi, who leads the opposition Congress party

NEW DELHI: India’s poor rating in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) has come in for sharp criticism, with the opposition calling it a “colossal failure of government policy.”
The GHI showed that India ranked 102 in the database of 117 nations and trailed its smaller South Asian neighbors Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In 2000, India ranked 83 out of 113 nations.
The index is designed to measure and track hunger at a global, regional, and national level. The report, which was released on Wednesday, was a joint effort between Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide and German organization Welt Hunger Hilfe.
“This ranking reveals a colossal failure in Govt policy and blows the lid off the PM’s hollow ‘sabka vikas’ (development for all) claim,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi, who leads the opposition Congress party.
Thomas Isaac, finance minister in the southern state of Kerala, said: “The slide started with PM (Narendra) Modi’s ascension. In 2014 India was ranked 55. In 2017 it slipped to 100 and now to the levels of Niger and Sierra Leone. The majority of the world’s hungry now resides in India.”
The GHI score is based on four indicators — undernourishment; child wasting (children below five who have a low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition); child stunting, (children under the age of five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition); and child mortality, the mortality rate of children under the age of five.
“India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8 percent, the highest for any country,” the report said. It added that, with a score of 30.3, India suffered from a level of hunger that was serious.

BACKGROUND

The Global Hunger Index showed that India ranked 102 in the database of 117 nations and trailed its smaller South Asian neighbors Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In 2000, India ranked 83 out of 113 nations.

International NGO Save the Children  said the government needed to focus on wasting and stunting. Other low- and middle-income countries in the world which are faring better have actually scored better than India in those two areas, it added.
“There are nearly 1.8 million children in the country who are wasting and for that we will need comprehensive interventions, including the provision of therapeutic foods for such children to be managed at a community level,” it told Arab News.
The NGO warned of serious social consequences, with wasting leading to impaired cognitive ability and poor learning outcomes. “Furthermore, for underweight and stunted girls, it invokes a vicious cycle whereby initial malnutrition with early child-bearing gets translated into poor reproductive health outcomes.”
Arab News contacted the Child and Family Welfare Ministry for comment but did not get a response.
Nepal ranks 73 in the index, Sri Lanka is placed at 66, Bangladesh is in 88th place, Myanmar is at the 69th spot and Pakistan ranks 94.
The GHI said these countries were also in the serious hunger category, but that their citizens fared better than India’s.