Hong Kongers fret over Beijing’s planned new security laws

Communist Party rulers in Beijing on Friday, May 22, 2020 unveiled details of the legislation that critics see as a turning point for the former British colony. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Hong Kongers fret over Beijing’s planned new security laws

  • Communist Party rulers in Beijing on Friday unveiled details of the legislation
  • ‘Whether or not Hong Kong is still Hong Kong, it depends on us, Hong Kong people’

HONG KONG: Newspaper vendor Man, 60, was speechless when she saw the headline that Beijing plans to impose national security laws on Hong Kong, and worried what the future holds for youth in the Chinese-ruled city.
Communist Party rulers in Beijing on Friday unveiled details of the legislation that critics see as a turning point for the former British colony, which enjoys many freedoms, including an independent legal system and right to protest, not allowed on the mainland.
“I was very upset when I held the newspaper with the headline that the national security law has arrived in Hong Kong,” said Man, who declined to give her full name due to the sensitivity of the issue.
“I feel upset for the young generation ... What can they do now, where can they go?” said Man, who has been selling newspapers in the bustling working-class district of Mong Kok for nearly five decades.
Lok, 42, a clerk at an investment company and mother of two children aged 16 and nine, shared her sense of despair about the outlook for Hong Kong’s younger generation.
“There’s no prospect for them anymore,” said Lok, adding she hopes her children can leave the city.
“I think Hong Kong is half-way dead. I didn’t expect Hong Kong would deteriorate that quickly.”
Lui, 22, who works in marketing, told Reuters he felt scared when he heard the news but said Hong Kong people need to be persistent and continue to fight against what many see as Beijing’s tightening grip over the city.
“Whether or not Hong Kong is still Hong Kong, it depends on us, Hong Kong people,” Lui said.
“We should not give up easily simply because of the legislation of the national security law. Being persistent is the Hong Kong spirit.”
Others hope the proposed laws can help bring calm to a city wracked by months of often violent anti-government protests that show signs of ramping up again as anger builds over Beijing’s move to assert its authority over the city.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says her government will “fully cooperate” with the Chinese parliament to safeguard national security, which she said would not affect rights, freedoms or judicial independence.
“We are not wealthy people and not financially sound. To earn a living is of the utmost importance so as to feed my family,” said Ben Ip, 45, a mechanic and owner of a vehicle paint shop in the city’s Tai Hang district.
“As an ordinary Hong Kong citizen, we want to have a stable life in a safe environment. The law may speed up some people to leave ... it can be a good thing in the longer run, leading to a calmer Hong Kong.”

Militant attack on Afghan prison frees hundreds

Afghan security personnel in front of a prison gate after an attack by Daesh that had freed hundreds in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, on Monday. (AP)
Updated 04 August 2020

Militant attack on Afghan prison frees hundreds

  • The attack, reportedly by Daesh, took place hours before end of cease-fire

KABUL: Militants affiliated with the Daesh group stormed a prison in eastern Afghanistan in a daylong siege that left at least 39 people dead, including the assailants, and freed nearly 400 of their fighters before security forces restored order, a government official said Monday.

The attack on the main prison in Jalalabad, in Nangarhar province, where several hundred Daesh fighters have been detained, began on Sunday afternoon with a car bomb detonated at the entrance to the jail.

The attack came hours before the end of a three-day ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban, who immediately denied any involvement in the assault. Several Western media outlets reported that the Daesh had claimed responsibility.

The Nangarhar governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, told Arab News that there was still gunfire on Monday morning, and that more than 20 civilians and personnel and three attackers have died in the fighting.

Two local security sources speaking on condition of anonymity said that nearly half of the prison’s 1,500 inmates managed to flee.

They said 20 assailants made their way into the prison and a number of explosions were heard from inside the jail.Residents said one group of attackers was firing on the jail from a nearby building and they reported heavy and sustained exchanges of small fire.

According to Khogyani, most of the escapees have been caught. He gave no further details about the attack.

The assault comes amid official claims that Daesh leaders have been arrested or killed in recent months, notably in Nangarhar, which used to be the group’s bastion.

“This is a major embarrassment for the government, which every now and then claims to have wiped out or paralyzed the Daesh. The government needs to answer why such a high security lapse has happened,” analyst Shafiq Haqpal said.

The Eid Al-Adha ceasefire between the Taliban and Afghan government forces was a part of efforts to begin long-awaited peace talks following a US-Taliban agreement signed in Qatar in late February.

In accordance with the deal, the Taliban is releasing 1,000 Afghan troops in exchange for 5,000 militants held by President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

The process is near completion, but Kabul is refusing to free 400 remaining Taliban inmates, saying they have been behind “heinous crimes.”

After Eid prayers on Sunday, Ghani announced he would summon a traditional grand assembly, Loya Jirga, to help him decide whether the rest of Taliban prisoners should be freed.

The assembly is scheduled to start on Aug. 7. Loya Jirga has deep roots in Afghan history and tradition and is usually summoned during times of crisis or emergency.

The Taliban have voiced their opposition to the convocation of the jirga. Their Qatar-based spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told TOLO News that Kabul’s decision would only complicate the peace process.

Afghan politicians are divided on the jirga announcement. Hamidullah Tokhi, a member of parliament from southern Zabul province, said: “The nation and parliament have deep doubts about Ghani’s goal for summoning the jirga to decide over the fate of 400 Taliban.

“All of the 4,500 Taliban already freed were involved in some sort of bloody attacks. Why did the government not ask for the jirga on the overall release of the Taliban?”

“Summoning the jirga now is a treason to this country and a clear blocking of the peace process,” he said.
Torek Farhadi, who served in the previous government as an adviser, said Ghani hopes that the victory of Democrats in the upcoming US elections, would sideline Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistan who struck the Qatar deal with the Taliban, allowing Kabul to be in charge of the peace process.
“We should have one Loya Jirga to discuss substantive matters on peace with the Taliban and the type of future regime,” Farhadi said, adding that the Taliban, too, should participate in the assembly. “This meeting would be like a half-baked national dialogue (if it is) conducted by only one side of the conflict.”