China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

This handout photograph taken and released by the Hong Kong Government on December 16, 2019 shows Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam during her annual duty visit, in Hong Kong Hall at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (File/AFP)
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Updated 16 December 2019

China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

  • The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday
  • The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections

BEIJING: China’s premier told beleaguered Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Monday that she had Beijing’s “unwavering support” after a huge rally earlier this month and her government’s thrashing at recent local elections.

The city has been upended by six months of massive pro-democracy protests that have seen violent battles between police and hardcore demonstrators, as well as regular transport disruption.

Protesters have called for the unpopular Lam to stand down as leader, but Li Keqiang said Beijing would give “unwavering support” to her government to maintain the “long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.”

“The central government fully recognizes the efforts you and the SAR (special administrative region) government have paid,” said Li, at a meeting with Lam in the Hong Kong Hall of the imposing Great Hall of People in Beijing.

He said Lam’s government had “tried its best to maintain social stability” amid “an unprecedentedly severe and complicated situation.”

But he also called for the Hong Kong government to “step up studies of the deep-seated conflicts and problems that hinder Hong Kong’s economic and social development” in order to restore calm to the city.

“Hong Kong is yet to get out of its plight. The SAR government must continue its hard work, stop violence and subdue chaos according to laws and restore order,” Li told Lam.

The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday.

At the meeting with Li, she said she was grateful for the premier’s “care for Hong Kong.”

The semi-autonomous city is ruled under the “one country, two systems” principle, which gives the territory rights unseen on mainland China — rights protesters say are steadily being eroded.

The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections.

A week ago, around 800,000 people marched peacefully through the city’s streets, urging the government to respond to their five demands — which include an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for those arrested, and fully free elections.

But public anger remains as Beijing and Lam show no sign of giving further concessions despite the election success.

This weekend the relative calm was broken by clashes between black-clad pro-democracy protesters and Hong Kong police in some of the city’s shopping malls.

And earlier this week an international panel of experts hired to advise Hong Kong on the police response to protests announced they were quitting, saying the watchdog was not fit for purpose “in a society that values freedoms and rights.”


Sanofi offers 100 million doses of hydroxychloroquine in coronavirus fight

Updated 27 min 23 sec ago

Sanofi offers 100 million doses of hydroxychloroquine in coronavirus fight

  • Proposals to put hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to use immediately for more patients have proven highly controversial

PARIS: French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi said Friday it would offer 100 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, to governments worldwide if studies show it can safely to be used to treat COVID-19 patients.
Both hydroxychloroquine, which Sanofi sells under the brand name Plaquenil, and the related compound chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, are being studied worldwide as potential weapons in the coronavirus fight.
But proposals to put them to use immediately for more patients have proven highly controversial, with many experts warning there is not yet enough evidence of their safety or effectiveness against COVID-19.
A French doctor in particular, Didier Raoult, has raised hopes by treating patients with a combination of hydroxychloroquine (HQC) and the antibiotic azithromycin, an initiative that many health officials refuse to endorse in the absence of more rigorous studies.
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron met Raoult and his team in Marseille to discuss their latest findings, though the president did not comment publicly on the meeting afterward.
Sanofi acknowledged that “interpretations of the available preliminary data on hydroxychloroquine in the management of COVID-19 differ widely.
“While hydroxychloroquine is generating a lot of hope for patients around the world, it should be remembered that there are no results from ongoing studies, and the results may be positive or negative.”
But chief executive Paul Hudson said in a statement, “If the trials prove positive, we hope our donation will play a critical role for patients.”
Other companies have also pledged to offer the drugs, with Switzerland’s Novartis proposing 130 million doses of chloroquine, and Israeli generic producer Teva promising 10 million doses of HQC for US hospitals.
Sanofi is also working on a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 94,000 people worldwide since cases were first reported in China last December.