Hong Kong faces 24th weekend of protest day after student’s death

Protesters use road signs as shields during an anti-government rally in Hong Kong early Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (AP)
Updated 09 November 2019

Hong Kong faces 24th weekend of protest day after student’s death

  • Protesters have called for a general strike on Monday and for people to block public transport
  • A rally originally planned for Saturday to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was postponed

HONG KONG: Hong Kong protesters are planning a 24th straight weekend of pro-democracy rallies, including inside shopping malls across the Chinese-ruled city on Sunday, some of which have started peacefully in recent weeks and descended into violent chaos.
Protesters have also called for a general strike on Monday and for people to block public transport, calls that have come to nothing in the past.
A rally originally planned for Saturday to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was postponed. A “support martyrs” assembly is expected in the evening, likely focusing on protesters’ demands for universal suffrage for the former British colony.
Police granted permission for the gathering at Tamar park, in front of central government offices, one of the rare approvals for a protest in recent weeks.
Candlelight vigils mourning a student who died after a high fall during a rally in the early hours of Monday quickly spiraled into street fires and clashes between protesters and police on Friday.
Police fired one round of live ammunition to warn what they called “a large group of rioters armed with offensive weapons” who threw bricks at officers trying to clear street barricades in the Kowloon area on Friday night, police said in a statement.
“The lives of the officers were under serious threat,” said the statement, which was released early on Saturday.
The death of the student at a hospital on Friday is likely to fuel anger with the police, who are under pressure over accusations of excessive force as the territory grapples with its worst political crisis in decades.
Chow Tsz-lok, 22, fell from the third to the second floor of a parking lot as protesters were being dispersed by police.
Students and young people have been at the forefront of the hundreds of thousands who have taken to the streets to seek greater democracy, among other demands, and rally against perceived Chinese meddling in the Asian financial hub.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula, allowing it colonial freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and the right to protest.
China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
Since June, protesters have thrown petrol bombs and vandalized banks, stores and metro stations. Police have fired rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and, in some cases, live ammunition.
Last weekend, anti-government protesters crowded a shopping mall in running clashes with police that saw a man slash people with a knife and bite off part of the ear of a politician.


UK advocacy group takes Tories to task on Islamophobia

Updated 01 October 2020

UK advocacy group takes Tories to task on Islamophobia

  • Hope not Hate: Dozens of party members have made anti-Muslim statements on social media
  • Poll: 47% of members consider Islam a ‘threat’; just 27% say it is compatible with life in Britain

LONDON: UK advocacy group Hope not Hate says it has identified dozens of members of the country’s ruling Conservative (Tory) Party who have used social media to make anti-Muslim statements.

It also cited “alarming” private polling, compiled for a report into allegations of Islamophobia in the party, that shows a large proportion of party members harbor disparaging views about Islam, including that the religion is “incompatible” with British culture.

“In recent years, Hope not Hate has tracked, highlighted and campaigned against the poison of hatred impacting individual political parties,” the report said.

“None have been immune. For several years, there have been well-documented incidents of Conservative Party MPs, councillors and locally elected representatives engaging in vile racism, particularly towards Muslims,” it added.

“Muslim members have reported a lack of action when they complained. Many have resigned from the party in protest.”

The report forms a broad submission by the group to an inquiry into discrimination in the party led by Prof. Swaran Singh of the University of Warwick, after an appeal for evidence.

Allegations of Islamophobia have been raised recently by senior Tory politicians, including former Chancellor Sajid Javid and former party Chair Baroness Warsi.

The inquiry itself has been criticized by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) for running the risk of ignoring “the systemic problems of Islamophobia in the party,” after Prime Minister Boris Johnson reneged on a pledge to focus on anti-Muslim prejudice, and instead opened the inquiry up to all instances of prejudice since 2015.

Hope not Hate said it had reported more than 20 Tory councillors to the inquiry for incidents of Islamophobia.

Meanwhile, in its poll of 1,200 Tory members carried out by YouGov, just 43 percent of respondents said they hold favorable views of Islam, with 47 percent saying they consider it “generally a threat” to British society.

Almost a quarter claimed it breeds “intolerance.” Just 27 percent believe Islam to be compatible with life in the UK.

In comparison, 75 percent of respondents said they have positive views of Sikhs in the UK, and 73 percent look favorably on Britain’s Hindu community.

Hope not Hate said it had identified 40 cases of Tory activists or politicians using social media to post offensive anti-Muslim content.

In one incident, a member posted offensive content about the 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre in New Zealand.

Hope not Hate said the member, who was made to complete an “online diversity course,” was subsequently allowed back into the party, and continued to post Islamophobic content online.

Another case saw a councillor suspended in 2018 for sharing an article that called Muslims living in France “parasites,” only to be re-admitted months later.

The group said quiet re-admittance was standard practice for members disciplined for instances of Islamophobia.

In one example, a female councillor was re-admitted after comparing an Asian man to a dog, saying: “He’s brown, he stinks, he can’t speak a word of English.”

The group highlighted that this contradicted the following statement made by Johnson in 2019: “What we do in the Tory party is, when anybody is guilty of any kind of prejudice or discrimination against another group, then they’re out first bounce.”

Hope not Hate’s Chief Executive Nick Lowles told The Times newspaper: “It’s been clear for a number of years that the Conservative Party has a deep problem with anti-Muslim prejudice. The evidence is clear; the only question is what the Conservatives decide to do with it.”

The report suggests a number of measures to deal with Islamophobia. They include setting up a new independent complaints and disciplinary process, a transparent suspension system, and compulsory training for MPs and others on Islamophobia. 

An MCB spokesperson told Arab News: “For years, we’ve been alarmed at how entrenched deeply Islamophobic views are in the Conservative Party. This polling, coupled with the MCB’s dossier of over 300 members engaging in Islamophobia, is further evidence of how institutional, systemic and embedded in the culture of the Conservative Party this is.” 

The spokesperson added: “If the Conservative Party was serious about eradicating the concerning levels of vitriolic hate from amongst its membership, it would immediately suspend all those highlighted in this report and hold a truly independent inquiry specifically into Islamophobia, instead of this review into its complaints procedure which will serve as nothing more than a rubberstamping exercise, further kicking the can into the long grass.

“Instead, all we’ve seen is a total dereliction of duty by successive prime ministers and party chairs to address Islamophobia within its ranks. The total absence of political leadership only serves to condone Islamophobic views and embolden racist sentiments.”

A Tory spokesman said: “We take any complaint very seriously. There is currently an independent investigation into our complaints processes. We will consider any recommendations to further strengthen our procedures.”

The UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, which recently launched an inquiry into allegations of systematic anti-Semitism in the UK’s main opposition Labour Party, said in May that before it decides whether to conduct its own formal inquiry into allegations of Tory Islamophobia, it will await the outcome of Singh’s investigation. Pre-emptive action would not be “proportionate,” the commission said.