Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up anti-government protest

Hong Kong police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march, saying previous marches have turned violent. (AFP)
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Updated 19 January 2020

Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up anti-government protest

  • Hong Kong police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march
  • The protests had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks

HONG KONG: Police fired tear gas on Sunday to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters who gathered in a central Hong Kong park, but later spilled onto the streets in violation of police orders.
Out in numbers before the demonstration began, police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march. Several units of police in riot gear were seen chasing protesters and several arrests were made.
A water cannon truck drove on central streets, flanked by an armored jeep, but was not used.
Organizers initially applied for a permit for a march, but police only agreed to a static rally in the park, saying previous marches have turned violent.
Once protesters spilled onto the streets, some of them, wearing all-black clothing, barricaded the roads with umbrellas and street furniture, dug up bricks from the pavement and smashed traffic lights.
The “Universal Siege Against Communism” demonstration was the latest in a relentless series of protests against the government since June, when Hong Kongers took to the streets to voice their anger over a now-withdrawn extradition bill.
The protests, which have since broadened to include demands for universal suffrage and an independent investigation into police handling of the demonstrations, had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks.
In an apparent new tactic, police have been showing up ahead of time in riot gear, with officers conducting “stop and search” operations near expected demonstrations.
“Everyone understands that there’s a risk of stop-and-search or mass arrests. I appreciate Hong Kong people still come out courageously, despite the risk,” said organizer Ventus Lau.
On Jan 1, a march of tens of thousands of people ended with police firing tear gas to disperse crowds.
The gathering in the park was initially relaxed, with many families with children listening to speeches by activists.
In one corner, a group of volunteers set up a stand where people could leave messages on red cards for the lunar new year to be sent to those who have been arrested. One read: “Hong Kongers won’t give up. The future belongs to the youth”.
Authorities in Hong Kong have arrested more than 7,000 people, many on charges of rioting that can carry jail terms of up to 10 years. It is unclear how many are still in custody.
Anger has grown over the months due to perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip over the city, which was handed over to China by Britain in 1997 in a deal that ensured it enjoyed liberties unavailable in the mainland.
Beijing denies meddling and blames the West for fomenting unrest.


Indonesia allocates $1 million to global coalition for COVID-19 vaccine

Updated 25 November 2020

Indonesia allocates $1 million to global coalition for COVID-19 vaccine

  • Indonesia has also been keeping with its commitment to the G20 Action Plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by lifting some of its export restrictions on PPE

JAKARTA: Indonesia on Tuesday committed $1 million to the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop vaccines for various diseases that could develop into pandemics.

Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi and CEPI officials made the announcement during a virtual signing of the bilateral contribution agreement earlier today. 

In her remarks, Marsudi said that recent news on the progress of vaccine development was very encouraging, but that a lot more remains to be done.

“Indonesia chooses to walk the talk and contribute within its capacity to vaccine multilateralism to protect its people and the world,” she said.

She added that the agreement enables Indonesia to make a concrete contribution to a vaccine for all, reiterating the nation’s position since the beginning of the pandemic — that all countries deserve fair, affordable and equitable access to a vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Without it, developing and less developed countries are at risk of being left behind,” Marsudi said.

Richard J. Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, said in his remarks that the coalition was “delighted to welcome Indonesia” to its ranks. 

“We can work together to support our shared goals to develop a safe, effective and globally accessible vaccine,” he said.

Hatchett added that since the CEPI had invested in nine of the world’s COVID-19 vaccine candidates, with eight of them entering clinical trials out of 48 globally, two of them had reported positive outcomes in the third phase of clinical trials.  

“But we must remember, it is not a vaccine that saves lives but vaccination. A vaccine must be administered to have any value at all,” Hatchett said, adding that the challenge ahead would be the manufacturing and delivery of those vaccines, which would require an unprecedented global effort.

During a recent press conference with the Ministry of Trade, Yose Rizal Damuri, Indonesia’s G20 scholar and a senior economist at the Jakarta-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies said that “the battleground has shifted to vaccines” now that Indonesia and other countries had loosened restrictions on personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical devices.

State-owned vaccine manufacturer Bio Farma has boosted its production capacity to produce up to 250 million doses next year of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese company Sinovac, whose vaccine is undergoing the third phase of its clinical trial in Bandung, and another vaccine being jointly developed by Abu Dhabi-based G42 Healthcare and China’s vaccine manufacturer Sinopharm.

In his remarks during a G20 trade ministers’ meeting on Sept. 22, Minister of Trade Agus Suparmanto said that easy access and affordability of medical supplies, especially a vaccine, was crucial to the group’s joint efforts to combat the pandemic.

“The G20 should seek to prevent irresponsible commercialization practices in pandemic times by supporting the flexibility to exercise intellectual property rights under international agreements,” the minister said.

Indonesia has also been keeping with its commitment to the G20 Action Plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by lifting some of its export restrictions on PPE and other goods related to measures in controlling disease, a trade ministry official said.

Indonesia has also started exporting these goods to fellow economic bloc members, Ministry of Trade’s Director-General for International Trade Negotiations Iman Pambagyo said, responding to a question from Arab News in a virtual press conference. 

“We have been gradually loosening restrictions and exporting goods to South Korea, while also maintaining a sufficient domestic supply,” Pambagyo said.

“We make adjustments on export restrictions from time to time as we prioritize our fellow citizens,” he added.

Suparmanto, for his part, reiterated Indonesia’s commitment to several G20 members’ short and long-term collective actions in the trade and investment sector to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, maintain an open market and take the necessary steps to facilitate trade.

“Indonesia has issued policies in line with the G20 Action Plan, such as removing a number of export and import barriers,” he said.