Hong Kong reopens after violent weekend of clashes and protests

Police on Monday expressed ‘severe condemnation’ after a mostly peaceful protest spiraled into violence in some of the Chinese territory’s key districts. (AFP)
Updated 16 September 2019

Hong Kong reopens after violent weekend of clashes and protests

  • Thousands of anti-government protesters engaged in cat-and-mouse tactics with police on Sunday
  • Police issued a statement expressing ‘severe condemnation’ after the peaceful protest spiraled into violence

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s businesses and underground rail stations re-opened as usual on Monday morning, after a chaotic Sunday that saw police fire water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who blocked roads and threw petrol bombs outside government headquarters.
Thousands of anti-government protesters, many clad in black masks, caps and shades to obscure their identity, had raced through the streets, engaged in cat-and-mouse tactics with police, setting street fires and blocking roads in the heart of the former British colony where many key business districts are located.
Authorities moved quickly to douse the fires and police fired volleys of tear gas to disperse them, including in the bustling shopping and tourist district of Causeway Bay.
Police issued a statement early on Monday expressing “severe condemnation” after what began as a mostly peaceful protest had spiraled into violence in some of the Chinese territory’s key business, shopping and tourist districts.
Around 20 “radical protesters” had attacked two police officers on Sunday evening, hurling petrol bombs, bricks, and threatening the safety of the officers, the statement said.
The demonstrations were the latest in over three months of sometimes violent protests, with protesters angered by what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in Hong Kong’s affairs despite promises by Beijing to grant the city wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms denied in mainland China.
The initial trigger for the protests was a contentious extradition bill, now withdrawn, that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial.
The protests have since broadened into other demands including universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into allegations of excessive force by the police.
At least 18 people were injured, three of them seriously, during Sunday’s violence, according to the Hospital Authority.
Nearly 1,400 people have been arrested since the protests started in June, but police gave no update on the number arrested over the weekend.
The protests have weighed on the city’s economy as it faces its first recession in a decade, with tourist arrivals plunging 40 percent in August amid some disruptions at the city’s international airport.
By Sunday evening, the running battles between anti-government protesters and police had spilled into street brawls between rival groups in the districts of Fortress Hill and North Point further east on Hong Kong island, where men in white T-shirts, believed to be pro-Beijing supporters, some wielding hammers, rods and knives, clashed with anti-government activists.
On a street close to North Point, home to a large pro-Beijing community, a Reuters witness saw one man in a white T-shirt sprawled on the ground with head wounds.
Hong Kong media reported that groups of pro-Beijing supporters had attacked journalists.
Police eventually intervened and sealed off some roads to try to restore order, and they were seen taking away several men and women from an office run by a pro-Beijing association.
Democratic lawmaker Ted Hui was arrested for allegedly obstructing the police, according to his Democratic Party’s Facebook page, as he tried to mediate on the streets in North Point.


EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

Updated 18 October 2019

EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

  • Under a proposal prepared by Finland, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU GNI, a measure of output
  • After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult

BRUSSELS: European Union leaders discussed a new budget plan on Friday that could allow the EU to spend up to 1.1 trillion euros ($1.2 trillion) in the 2021-2027 period, but deep divisions among governments may block a deal for months.
Under a proposal prepared by Finland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU gross national income (GNI), a measure of output.
That would allow the EU to spend 1 trillion to 1.1 trillion euros for seven years in its first budget after the departure of Britain, one of the top contributors to EU coffers.
After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult.
The Finnish document, seen by Reuters, is less ambitious than proposals put forward by the European Commission, the EU executive, which is seeking a budget worth 1.1% of GNI. The EU parliament called for an even bigger budget, 1.3% of GNI.
But the Finnish proposal moves beyond a 1% cap set by Germany, the largest EU economy. And it has displeased most of the 27 EU states, EU officials said, suggesting long negotiations before a compromise can be reached.
Talks on budgets are usually among the most divisive in an EU increasingly prone to quarrels. The member states are deeply split over economic policies, financial reforms and how to handle migrants.

DEEP SPLIT
The Finnish proposal, which cuts spending on farmers and poorer regions, has managed to unite the divided EU leaders in their criticism.
“The text has caused nearly unanimous dissatisfaction,” a diplomat involved in the talks said.
New, expensive policies, such as protecting its borders and increasing social security, have been enacted, but states are reluctant to pay more.
Germany and other Nordic supporters of a smaller budget argue that because of Brexit, they would pay more into the EU even with a 1% cap because they would need to compensate for the loss of Britain.
Eastern and southern states, who benefit from EU funds on poorer regions and agriculture, want a bigger budget and are not happy with Finland’s proposed cuts on these sectors.
Under the proposal, subsidies to poor regions would drop to less than 30% of the budget from 34% now. Aid to farmers would fall to slightly more than 30% from over 35% of the total.
To complicate matters, the new budget should also include rules that would suspend funding to member states with rule-of-law shortcomings, such as limits on media freedom or curbs on the independence of judges.
This is irking states like Poland and Hungary, which Brussels has accused of breaches in the rule of law after judiciary and media reforms adopted by their right-wing governments.
Friday’s meeting was not supposed to find a compromise, but divisions are so deep that many officials fear a deal may not be reached by a self-imposed December deadline. A later deal would delay the launch of spending programs.
The Finns remained confident, however, and insist their suggested spending range would eventually be backed by EU states. “The fact that almost everybody is against our text shows we have put forward a fair proposal,” one diplomat said.