Hong Kong situation ‘extremely worrying’: EU’s Mogherini

Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, left, and EU’s Federica Mogherini attend the Informal Meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Helsinki. (Reuters)
Updated 30 August 2019

Hong Kong situation ‘extremely worrying’: EU’s Mogherini

  • EU foreign ministers meeting in Helsinki discussed the turmoil that has been gripping Hong Kong for the past three months

HELSINKI: The EU’s diplomatic chief on Friday voiced deep concern about developments in Hong Kong, where leading democracy activists were arrested as the city’s political crisis rages.

Federica Mogherini warned the Hong Kong authorities that the EU was watching closely after police swooped to detain a number of activists including a lawmaker.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Helsinki discussed the turmoil that has been gripping Hong Kong for the past three months, with increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters.

“The developments in Hong Kong over these last hours are extremely worrying,” Mogherini said afterward.

“We expect the authorities in Hong Kong to respect the freedom of assembly, expression and association as well as the right of people to demonstrate peacefully.”

The demonstrations, which began in protest of a planned law permitting extradition to mainland China, have by turns seen millions march, closed the airport and left city streets strewn with bricks and shrouded in tear gas.

“We will continue to pass messages publicly and privately and continue to work for the situation not to continue to go into the wrong direction but rather the opposite, to reverse to a more positive trend,” Mogherini said, noting that EU countries had significant business interests in the former British colony.

Arrested

Prominent democracy activists including a lawmaker were arrested on Friday in a protest crackdown — a move described by rights groups as a well-worn tactic deployed by China to suffocate dissent ahead of key political events.

The sweep comes after a major rally planned for Saturday was banned by police on security grounds, and then called off by the organizers.

The latest protest had been due to mark the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s rejection of a call for universal suffrage in the semi-autonomous city, sparking the 79-day Umbrella Movement in 2014.

Hong Kong has been locked in three months of political crisis, with increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters that have prompted an escalating intimidation campaign from China.

Two of the Umbrella Movement’s leaders, Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow — both still well-regarded among the city’s youth — appeared in court accused of “inciting others to take part in unauthorized assembly” among other charges, having been arrested in dawn swoops on Friday.

After receiving bail, they spoke outside the court and Wong vowed to “continue our fight,” railing against the “chilling effect” of the arrests on opponents of Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government.

Authorities are “trying to create white terror” to scare people away from participating in the social and democratic movement, he added — deploying a term used for China’s efforts to fragment and harass the protesters.


Pakistan couple arrested for allegedly murdering seven-year-old maid

Updated 7 min 7 sec ago

Pakistan couple arrested for allegedly murdering seven-year-old maid

  • Hassan Siddiqui and his wife employed Zohra Bibi at their home in a middle-class suburb of Rawalpindi
  • Some 8.5 million people — including many children — are employed as domestic workers in Pakistan

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: A Pakistan couple have been arrested for allegedly murdering their seven-year-old maid after she was blamed for letting a pet bird escape, police said, the latest case of violence against child domestic workers in the country.
Hassan Siddiqui and his wife employed Zohra Bibi at their home in a middle-class suburb of Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, to care for their son of a similar same age.
“The poor girl was subjected to torture by Siddiqui and his wife who accused her of freeing one of the four pet Macao parrots,” investigating officer Mukhtar Ahmad said on Thursday.
“Siddiqui kicked her in the lower abdomen which proved fatal.”
Some 8.5 million people — including many children — are employed as domestic workers in Pakistan, according to the International Labour Organization.
Theoretically it is illegal to employ anyone under the age of 15, but it remains common practice.
Zohra was taken to hospital by the couple on Sunday, but died the following day. The incident was reported to the police by staff at the hospital.
The young girl’s body was handed over to her parents, who live in Muzaffargarh, near the city of Multan, more than 500 kilometers away from where she was working.
Human rights minister Shireen Mazari confirmed the arrests in a tweet and said the ministry was in touch with police.
“Violence and physical torture against children will not be tolerated and all those involved in such incidents will be dealt with,” city police chief Muhammad Ahsan Younus added.
Domestic workers frequently face exploitation, violence and sexual abuse, with Pakistan’s patriarchal and rigid social-class structure leaving them without a voice.
Children are particularly vulnerable, and Bibi’s case is the latest in a growing number of incidents involving minors.
In December 2018, the rising number of abuse cases led the provincial legislature in Punjab to set regulations for the employment of domestic workers, which theoretically grants them rights such as sick leave and holidays.