India releases veteran Kashmiri politician Abdullah

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah (C), his wife Molly Abdullah (L) and his daughter Safia Abdullah pose for photographs in front of media representatives at his residence, after his release, in Srianagar on March 13, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 14 March 2020

India releases veteran Kashmiri politician Abdullah

  • Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister, and hundreds of others remain in detention, many outside the territory in other Indian states
  • The security lockdown and detentions have drawn international criticism including by the European Union and the United States

SRINAGAR, India: Indian authorities on Friday released an influential Kashmir lawmaker who had been held for seven months after New Delhi stripped the disputed region of its semi-autonomy and detained thousands of politicians and activists.
Farooq Abdullah, 82, had been confined to his residence in the main city of Srinagar since August 5 when the government split the Muslim majority state and put it under direct New Delhi rule.
An official order said the government was revoking Abdullah’s detention “with immediate effect,” without giving a reason.
Soon after, the parliamentarian and former state chief minister addressed supporters and thanked those “who fought for my freedom.”
Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and several other top Kashmiri politicians were among thousands taken into custody following the clampdown in Kashmir, also claimed by Pakistan, where an armed rebellion against Indian rule has raged for decades.
The Abdullahs and other politicians were detained under the stringent Public Safety Act, that has been condemned by rights groups because suspects can be held for up to two years without appearing in court.
A police report justifying the detention accused the veteran lawmaker of resorting to “dirty politics” and “instigating and provoking general masses” against the Indian government.
Omar Abdullah, also a former chief minister, and hundreds of others remain in detention, many outside the territory in other Indian states.
New Delhi locked down the region following the August move, bringing in tens of thousands of troops into the already heavily militarised territory.
Restricted Internet access was allowed in late January after a blackout lasting almost six months.
The security lockdown and detentions have drawn international criticism including by the European Union and the United States.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. They have fought two of their three wars over control of the territory.
Rebel groups have fought for decades for the Himalayan region’s independence or its merger with Pakistan.
The fighting has left tens of thousands dead since 1989, mostly civilians. India has more than 500,000 troops in Kashmir.
 


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.