US bars Chinese officials for crackdown on Muslim minorities

People walk past a mosque in Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang. (AFP)
Updated 09 October 2019

US bars Chinese officials for crackdown on Muslim minorities

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration on Tuesday slapped travel bans on Chinese officials involved in a massive crackdown against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in its west.
The State Department said it would not issue visas to Chinese government and Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for or complicit in mass detentions and abuses in western Xinjiang province. It did not identify the targeted officials or say how many were affected by the ban, which can also be applied to their immediate family members.
In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged China to halt its “campaign of repression” in the region, release all those arbitrarily detained and stop trying to coerce members of Chinese Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China.
“The protection of human rights is of fundamental importance, and all countries must respect their human rights obligations and commitments,” Pompeo said. “The United States will continue to review its authorities to respond to these abuses.”
The announcement came a day after the Commerce Department blacklisted Chinese government agencies and a number of Chinese companies that develop facial recognition and other artificial intelligence technology the US says is being used to repress Muslim minorities. The blacklist effectively bars US firms from selling technology to the Chinese companies without government approval.
China is estimated to have detained up to 1 million Muslims in prison-like detention centers in the region. The detentions come on top of harsh travel restrictions and a massive surveillance network equipped with facial recognition technology. China has denied committing abuses in the centers and has described them as schools aimed at providing employable skills and combating extremism.


Hong Kong descends into chaos again as protesters defy ban

Updated 20 October 2019

Hong Kong descends into chaos again as protesters defy ban

  • Protesters tossed firebombs and took their anger out on shops with mainland Chinese ties as they skirmished late into the evening with riot police
  • Police had beefed up security measures ahead of the rally, for which they refused to give permission

HONG KONG: Hong Kong streets descended into chaotic scenes following an unauthorized pro-democracy rally Sunday as protesters set up roadblocks and torched businesses and police responded with tear gas and a water cannon.
Protesters tossed firebombs and took their anger out on shops with mainland Chinese ties as they skirmished late into the evening with riot police, who unleashed numerous tear gas rounds on short notice, angering residents and passers-by.
Police had beefed up security measures ahead of the rally, for which they refused to give permission, the latest chapter in the unrest that has disrupted life in the financial hub since early June.
Some 24 people were hurt and treated at hospitals, including six with serious injuries, the Hospital Authority said.
Police did not give an arrest figure. One person was seen being handcuffed and taken away to a police van.
As the rally march set off, protest leaders carried a black banner that read, “Five main demands, not one less,” as they pressed their calls for police accountability and political rights in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Supporters sang the protest movement’s anthem, waved colonial and US flags, and held up placards depicting the Chinese flag as a Nazi swastika.
Many protesters wore masks in defiance of a recently introduced ban on face coverings at public gatherings, and volunteers handed more out to the crowd.
Matthew Lee, a university student, said he was determined to keep protesting even after more than four months.
“I can see some people want to give up, but I don’t want to do this because Hong Kong is my home, we want to protect this place, protect Hong Kong,” he said. “You can’t give up because Hong Kong is your home.”
Some front-line protesters barricaded streets at multiple locations in Kowloon, where the city’s subway operator restricted passenger access.
They tore up stones from the sidewalk and scattered them on the road, commandeered plastic safety barriers and unscrewed metal railings to form makeshift roadblocks.
A water cannon truck and armored car led a column of dozens of police vans up and down Nathan Road, a major artery lined with shops, to spray a stinging blue-dyed liquid as police moved to clear the road of protesters and barricades.
At one point, the water cannon sprayed a handful of people standing outside a mosque. Local broadcaster RTHK reported that the people hit were guarding the mosque and few protesters were nearby. The Hong Kong police force said it was an “unintended impact” of its operation to disperse protesters and later sent a representative to meet the mosque’s imam.
As night fell, protesters returned to the streets, setting trash on fire at intersections.
Residents jeered at riot police, cursing at them and telling them to leave. The officers, in turn, warned people that they were part of an illegal assembly and told them to leave, and unleashed tear gas to disperse the crowds.
Along the way, protesters trashed discount grocery shops and a restaurant chain because of what they say is the pro-Beijing ownership of the companies. They also set fire to ATMs and branches of mainland Chinese banks, setting off sprinklers in at least two, as well as a shop selling products from Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi.
The police used a bomb disposal robot to blow up a cardboard box with protruding wires that they suspected was a bomb.
Organizers said ahead of the march that they wanted to use their right to protest as guaranteed by Hong Kong’s constitution despite the risk of arrest.
“We’re using peaceful, rational, nonviolent ways to voice our demands,” Figo Chan, vice convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, told reporters. “We’re not afraid of being arrested. What I’m most scared of is everyone giving up on our principles.”
The group has organized some of the movement’s biggest protest marches. One of its leaders, Jimmy Sham, was attacked on Wednesday by assailants wielding hammers.
On Saturday, Hong Kong police arrested a 22-year-old man on suspicion of stabbing a teenage activist who was distributing leaflets near a wall plastered with pro-democracy messages. A witness told RTHK that the assailant shouted afterward that Hong Kong is “a part of China” and other pro-Beijing messages.
The protest movement sprang out of opposition to a government proposal for an extradition bill that would have sent suspects to mainland China to stand trial, and then ballooned into broader demands for full democracy and an inquiry into alleged police brutality.