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Hong Kong expects large pro-democracy rally as it marks 1 July 1997 handover

June 30, 2015

Reuters

Some seven months after Hong Kong police forcibly cleared pro-democracy street protesters from the streets, tens of thousands of people are expected to rally for free elections on Wednesday as the city marks the 18th anniversary of its return to China.

A morning flag-raising ceremony will be attended by China’s most senior official in Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaoming, who said this week the city should shift its focus from political reform and concentrate instead on economic development.

Thousands of police will be on standby for the annual march marking the 1997 handover from Britain to China, media said, as tensions remain high following clashes over the weekend between pro-democracy activists and supporters of the central government in Beijing.

“I think Hong Kong people’s determination to fight (for democracy) has not changed. We believe they will treasure this opportunity to express themselves and take part in the march,” Daisy Chan, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, which organizes the rally.

It comes nearly two weeks after Hong Kong’s legislature vetoed a Beijing-backed electoral reform proposal that had triggered sometimes violent protests in the city, presenting Beijing with its most serious challenge in years.

Police cleared away the last few pro-democracy tents near government headquarters last week.

Around half a million pro-democracy protesters joined the July 1 march last year, when police arrested more than 500 people who blocked a road in the financial district, in what was seen as a prelude to the massive 79-day Occupy movement of civil disobedience that kicked off in September.

The July 1 demonstration has been a fixture of the protest calendar. In 2003, half a million people demonstrated against proposed anti-subversion laws that were later scrapped.

Tung Chee-hwa, the city’s leader at the time, stepped down in March 2005, nearly two years before completing his second five-year term.

Hong Kong returned to China under a “one country, two systems” formula that granted the city wide-ranging freedoms denied in mainland China, including the right to large public protests that include a June 4 vigil to mark the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing.

China also held out the promise of universal suffrage. The electoral blueprint rejected by lawmakers would have allowed a direct vote for the city’s next chief executive in 2017, but only from among pre-screened, pro-Beijing candidates.

(Reporting by Viola Zhou, writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree andNick Macfie)

IMF Says Greece Defaults on Debt: “Uncharted Territory”

June 30, 2015

AFP

Pro-euro protesters demonstrate in front of the parliament building in Athens on June 30, 2015

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WASHINGTON (AFP) – Greece fell into default on its debt to the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday after missing a 1.5 billion euro ($1.7 billion) payment, the global lender said.
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“I confirm that the SDR 1.2 billion repayment due by Greece to the IMF today has not been received. We have informed our Executive Board that Greece is now in arrears and can only receive IMF financing once the arrears are cleared,” said Fund spokesman Gerry Rice.

Taiwan Youth to China: Respect Us; Treat Us Like a Country

June 30, 2015

By Michael Gold
Reuters, Taipei

Student leaders of Taiwan’s ‘Sunflower Movement’ Lin Fei-fan (R) and Chen Wei-ting talk to reporters at the Taipei District court in this March 25, 2015 file photo.REUTERS   PICHI CHUANG/FILES

Young Taiwan activists have tied themselves up in chains, blocked mountain roads, scaled fences and thrown red paint balloons in a wave of anti-China sentiment likely to turn the island’s politics on its head in January’s presidential election.

An energetic and fast-growing youth movement, united in suspicion of economic and cultural dependence on China, is expected to sweep in a president from a party which favors independence from China, something Communist Party rulers across the narrow Taiwan Strait will never allow.

“When my generation comes of age, Taiwan’s cross-strait attitude is going to be very different,” said student movement leader Huang Yen-ju. “We want China to treat us like a country.”

China views self-ruled Taiwan as a renegade province and has not ruled out the use of force to bring it under its control. But relations have improved in recent years.

President Ma Ying-jeou, of the pro-China Nationalist Party, has signed a series of trade and economic pacts with China, though there have been no political talks and suspicions persist on both sides, especially in proudly democratic Taiwan.

Ma leaves office in January under term-limit regulations and many youngsters are backing the candidate from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Tsai Ing-wen.

If Tsai wins, and more independence-minded parties gain control of parliament, as expected, tensions between China and Taiwan are bound to rise. Tsai is running about 10 percentage points ahead in opinion polls, but they can be inaccurate, particularly as her Nationalist Party rival has not been officially nominated and the elections are still months away.

Asked about the January election, a spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said recently: “We welcome any Taiwan party or person, as long as they oppose Taiwan independence.”

The trouble for China is that independence is exactly what Taiwan’s youth movement wants.

FAVORITE TACTIC

Activists in their teens and twenties have taken to the streets en masse in recent months, brandishing banners, shouting slogans, scuffling with police and attempting to force their way into government offices.

The scale and duration, while small compared to recent pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, reflect the same fears about Beijing’s “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule exactly 18 years ago and which Beijing has suggested as a model for Taiwan.

“Throwing paint is a favorite tactic – it sends a vivid message but isn’t hurting anyone,” said Chang Chao-lin, head of the youth delegation of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), the most staunchly pro-independence political party on the island.

Grievances range from the opening of Chinese flight paths over Taiwan airspace, to Taiwan’s attempted entrance into the Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and to planned changes to the national curriculum. These include labeling China “the mainland” and relegating significant events in recent Taiwan history to sideshows, some students say.

In the latest outburst, Yu Teng-jay threw balloons of red paint against the wall of Taiwan’s Ministry of Education last week.

“These curriculum changes are slanted toward a Chinese view of the world,” said Yu, 18.

Beijing has proclaimed youth outreach a critical plank of reconciliation, but China’s reputation among young Taiwanese appears to be in inexorable decline.

A main plank of Ma’s administration, a pact which would have opened much of Taiwan’s service sector to mainland investment, sparked a three-week occupation of parliament by young people last year.

VOTING BEHAVIOR

The protest, dubbed the Sunflower Movement, ignited a wave of demonstrations against the Nationalists and their amity towards China.

Chang of the TSU said youth was a new focus for the party, which uses social media to organize rallies, including one against a visiting Chinese official which led to scuffles and left one man with a dislocated arm.

This upheaval is spilling over to voting behavior, pollsters say.

In local elections last year, support for pro-independence parties among 20- to 29-year-olds saw a 10 percent rise over the previous election cycle, far outstripping a comparable boost among their elders, according to Academia Sinica, a government-sponsored think tank.

The data also showed the proportion of young people calling themselves “Taiwanese” versus “Chinese” was the highest among all age brackets.

Similarly, in a hypothetical face-off between Tsai and her presumptive opponent, Nationalist and unification advocate Hung Hsiu-chu, in next year’s elections, 20- and 30-somethings support Tsai by a greater than 20 percent margin, a poll by local broadcaster TVBS showed.

Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of the Chinese civil war with the Communists that has never formally ended, and the status of Taiwan has hung over several generations of Communist leaders without a lasting resolution.

“China clearly wants to take Taiwan, so why should we be more open toward them?” high school student Fang Xin-jie, 17, told Reuters. “It will only make us more dependent.”

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

Patients who call the NHS 111 service — may be denied an ambulance

June 30, 2015

Patients who call the NHS 111 service are being denied ambulances even if they are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, an exclusive Telegraph investigation reveals.

The 111 service was set up as a non-emergency alternative to 999 to relieve pressure on the health system, including A&E departments. Call centre staff are expected to dispatch ambulances if patients describe symptoms of a serious illness.

However, amid a shortage of paramedics, call handlers are being put under pressure not to send out ambulances at certain times.


The Telegraph spent seven months working undercover at South Central Ambulance Service

A catalogue of failings which raise serious concerns about patient safety can be revealed after a Telegraph reporter spent seven weeks working as a call handler on the 111 helpline, which has been plagued by problems since its launch.

The computer system used by staff to assess callers can refuse to send an ambulance even if a patient has symptoms of a heart attack. Our reporter working at the telephone service in Oxfordshire was unable to send a crew to a man suffering from chest pains, because he could not be sure about the cause of his symptoms.

The computer’s decision was upheld by a medic at the centre and the man was told to contact a GP instead.


Undercover footage paints a damning picture of the Ambulance Service

Call handlers were told that when ambulances are “stacked” due to a backlog of requests, emergency crews should not be dispatched without the specific approval of a clinician unless the patient was having a stroke or heart attack. On one occasion when ambulances were “stacked” a senior staff member warned: “People are having heart attacks, they’re not breathing, they’re not getting ambulances.”

The reporter’s mentor was recorded on video admitting: “As horrible as it sounds, one way or another everyone in this room has killed someone indirectly because of what we’ve done…”

Last night, the South Central Ambulance Service, which covers Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire, announced an independent investigation following the Telegraph’s report, and admitted that a shortage of trained paramedics was a national problem facing the health service.

The seven-week Telegraph investigation found that NHS staff are:

• Altering answers given by patients to avoid having to send ambulances

• Changing computer data to make it appear that they are meeting ambulance response times

• Complaining that ambulances are being dispatched to attend to broken fingers – leading to a shortage of emergency vehicles for serious incidents.

Over the last year, health officials have raised concerns about the efficiency of the NHS 111 service and suggested that the helpline adds extra strain to hospitals.

http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/cardgenerator/v1/cards/230.html?1435697060092

Following these concerns, a Telegraph reporter started working for the South Central Ambulance Service, at its call centre in Bicester.

During four weeks of training, senior staff members revealed how some colleagues had failed to correctly respond to serious illnesses, including heart attacks and aneurysms.

“Scheduling had cocked up because they had nine 12-hour shifts on the run and then they cocked up on a call,” said Dave Watts, who was training new recruits.

During the seven-week period the reporter worked at the 111 service, colleagues told how there were sometimes not enough ambulances for patients. “We haven’t got any ambulance crews,” said the reporter’s coach.

However, some staff members advised the reporter to “err on the side of caution”. “It may not be a particularly management orientated view, but I would rather we get an ambulance out to somebody that doesn’t need it than not get an ambulance out to somebody that does need it,” said Mr Watts.

During the reporter’s training, the pressure to meet targets also became clear when Mr Watts, a senior staff member, warned that they should lock their computers to stop colleagues from using their login to change ambulance response times.

“In one case for the crew to have gone the distance they did in the time they said they did, their average speed would have needed to have been 110mph. I’ve not yet found an ambulance that does 110mph”.

Mr Watts said the individual he “caught” changing the data no longer worked for South Central.

http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/cardgenerator/v1/cards/229.html?1435697060093

One of the other team leaders suggested that one of the reasons for the shortage of ambulances, was that there was not enough paramedics.

The Department of Health requires that the ambulance service reaches 75 percent of category A – life threatening calls – within eight minutes.

Dr Ossie Rawstorne, a national medical adviser to NHS 111, said that Pathways computer system had been developed by doctors, nurses and paramedics and could be overridden by a clinician.

South Central Ambulance Service said on Tuesday night that it had launched an internal investigation.

James Underhay, the Director of Strategy, Business Development, Communications and Engagement, said the organisation took the allegations “very seriously” and would be reviewing the issues raised.

In a statement, Mr Underhay defended the computer system used by SCAS. He said that it was “a safe and nationally prescribed call taking and clinical assessment system…which assist us in ensuring that patients in a life threatening or serious condition are treated as a priority”.

He said that NHS 111 staff receive a “comprehensive programme of training” and that experienced clinicians support call handlers in decision making when necessary.

Mr Underhay acknowledged that shortage of paramedics in SCAS and said it was a “national issue for ambulance services”. A spokesman for SCAS said that they had a minimum of 60 ambulances.

Philippines, Malaysia delay signing Asian banking deal with China

June 30, 2015
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BEIJING: Seven countries postponed signing an accord to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) when the signing ceremony was held in Beijing on Monday.Fifty-seven founding member countries of theAIIB, which will soon be established under the initiative of China, attended the ceremony in the Great Hall of the People. However, delegates of seven countries, including the Philippines, did not sign the accord to establish the new international financial institute.The Philippines has been clashing with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea, and bilateral relations have worsened as China has unilaterally moved ahead with its reclamation work in the area.

Sources said this led to the Philippines postponing its signing.

According to the sources, the Philippine authorities in charge of the issue displayed no intention of leaving the AIIB scheme. The Philippine side said the country will continue considering whether it will ultimately join the AIIB.

This is because an escalation in the friction with China could harm the Philippine economy.

Denmark, Kuwait, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa and Thailand also did not sign the accord.

An official of China’s Finance Ministry said, “Some countries that have not finished the procedure can sign the accord by the end of this year.”

The ceremony was attended by delegates of all the 57 countries. Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei told the delegates: “This is an important step toward the establishment of the AIIB. I express my gratitude for your cooperation.”

After each of the countries finishes domestic procedures for approval, the AIIB will likely start operations this year.

The AIIB aims to provide funds necessary to improve infrastructure in Asia, mainly to countries close to China. Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the establishment of the AIIB in October 2013.

 

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Read more at:http://english.astroawani.com/business-news/malaysia-delays-signing-asian-banking-deal-64254?cp

Report warns of Islamist ‘time bomb’ in French prisons

June 30, 2015

AFP

© Matthieu Alexandre | Fresnes priosn, near Paris, where a trial scheme launched in October 2014 saw inmates with radical Islmaist beliefs held apart from other inmates

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2015-06-30

A French government policy of grouping together and isolating radical Islamist inmates in prisons is “potentially dangerous” and risks creating a “time bomb”, the country’s independent prisons authority has warned.

In a report published Tuesday, Adeline Hazan, France’s controller general for prisons, said the policy could lead to those with less extreme views becoming influenced by some of the more radical prisoners they are confined with.

“The grouping facilitates proselytism. There is a risk of exacerbation and a snowball effect,” she said in the report. “We risk creating time bombs.”

France has been separating radical Islamist inmates from the rest of the prison population at certain detention facilities since October last year, when a pilot scheme was launched at Fresnes Prison just south of Paris.

Under the trial scheme, 22 prisoners identified as having radical Islamist beliefs were held together in a separate part of the prison, where it was hoped they would be unable to influence and potentially radicalise other prisoners.

Plans were made to extend the scheme to four other prisons in January in the wake of terror attacks in Paris, after it merged that two of the perpetrators, Amedy Coulibaly and Chérif Kouachi, had been inmates together in Fleury-Mérogis Prison, near Paris.

“It’s like with radioactive waste,” a French magistrate told Reuters at the time. “You either disperse it or you contain it in an ultra-secure site. There is always a risk of radioactivity, but this could allow for better risk management. ”

‘Widely disparate levels of radicalisation’

But far from stopping the spread of radicalisation, the new scheme could be promoting it, said Hazan, whose report was based on months of interviews with inmates, guards and prison wardens at Fresnes as well as lawyers, judges and members of the intelligence services.

Part of the problem, Hazan found, was that some of the “radicalised” inmates being held together had significantly more extreme beliefs than others.

“The consolidation of radicalised inmates poses risks that do not seem to have been taken into account, including the cohabitation of prisoners exhibiting widely disparate levels of radicalisation,” said Hazan’s report.

She also said that prison authorities at Fresnes had not observed any “calming effect” on the rest of the prison population since the measure was introduced.

Meanwhile, those who had been separated “for the most part expressed their fear of being labelled in the long term as Islamist radicals and of not being able to rid themselves of the influence of their fellow inmates,” Hazan said in her report.

In a radio interview earlier this year, Prime Minister Manuel Valls estimated that around 1,400 of a total of 66,000 inmates in French prisons are thought to have extremist tendencies.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

China’s PLA Navy sends new surveillance planes on submarine hunt

June 30, 2015

The military deploys advanced Gaoxin aircraft to its North Sea Fleet to flex its maritime surveillance muscle in disputed waters

By Minnie Chan
South China Morning Post

The Gaoxin-6 anti-submarine aircraft. Photo: SCMP Pictures

The navy has deployed several new advanced surveillance aircraft to its North Sea Fleet to hunt down submarines in the East and South China seas.

The new “Gaoxin-6″ maritime anti-submarine warfare planes are modified versions of the Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation’s Y-8 and Y-9 medium transport aircraft and were added to the People’s Liberation Army’s North Sea Fleet late last year, Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said yesterday.

The military launched the Gaoxin-6 in November, 2011, and designed it to play a role similar to the United States’ P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft.

“But there is still a certain gap between China’s Gaoxin-6 and the American P-3C, especially in terms of its flight and reconnaissance ranges,” Li said.

The North Sea Fleet is responsible for operations in the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan and parts of the East China Sea, as well as the Bohai Sea near Beijing. Its aviation division, dubbed the “Sea Falcons”, is so far the navy’s only multi-tasking force capable of air, sea and space missions, according to the latest edition of Oriental Outlook, a weekly magazine affiliated with state-run Xinhua.

In addition to these missions, the Sea Falcons have started patrols over the South China Sea.

“The Gaoxin-6 specialises in reconnaissance and searching for submarines,” Li said.

“Both Japan and South Korea have the world’s most advanced submarines in the waters of the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea. That’s why the navy decided to deploy Gaoxin aircraft to the North Sea Fleet first.”

The North Sea Fleet’s multifunctional aviation division has at least five other types of advanced aircraft involved in early-warning air defence, command and control, tactical data communications and remote target designation, according to the Oriental Outlook report.

“The Chinese military has developed 10 types of Gaoxin aircraft in the past decade, with four designed for the navy,” Hong Kong-based military observer Leung Kwok-leung said.

The Gaoxin-equipped Sea Falcons were regularly sent on missions close to disputed waters in the South and East China seas where foreign warships had been sighted, the report said

Chinese and foreign aircraft over the region often came to within 20 to 30 metres of each other, with aerial encounters regularly lasting more than an hour, it said.

“The PLA Navy wants to show its muscle to the US and Japanese navies, which have tried to intervene in China’s territorial disputes with other Asian countries,” Leung said.

Li said production of the Gaoxin aircraft would be ramped up and units would be earmarked for the East Sea and South Sea fleets to defend China’s territorial sovereignty.

People’s Daily slams Hong Kong democracy demands as ‘impossible, ridiculous’ ahead of July 1 march

June 30, 2015

Hong Kong ‘does not have the power to determine its political system on its own’, says Communist Party mouthpiece

By Tony Cheung
South China Morning Post

A statue of the 'goddess of democracy' is seen at the protest site as students occupy Central district during last year's July 1 anti-government rally. Photo: EPA

The Communist Party’s mouthpiece has dismissed the key demands of pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong as “impossible and ridiculous”, a day before a planned July 1 democracy march in the city.

The article headlined “How should Hong Kong move on after political reform” was published in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily today, which touched upon the political fallout after a Beijing-decreed electoral reform package failed to pass in Hong Kong’s legislature.

The article’s writer was identified as Wang Ping, a reporter of the Daily.

The failed reform package, which was based on a framework decided last August by China’s top legislative body, would have allowed Hong Kong for the first time to elect its leader by “one man, one vote” in 2017 – albeit through a nomination process that pan-democrats slammed as favouring candidates anointed by Beijing.

“While the recent political reform has ended in Hong Kong, the controversies have not, and the opposition has been making demands such as ‘restarting the political reform [exercise], abolishing the national legislature’s 831 [August 31, 2014] decision, and amending the Basic Law’, which they know are impossible to be satisfied.”

Those demands were made by various pan-democrat lawmakers, and were adopted as the theme of the July 1 march in Hong Kong organised by the Civil Human Rights Front.

The People’s Daily article also dismissed those calls as “ridiculous” and emphasised that Hong Kong “does not have the power to determine its political system on its own”.

“It is a special administrative region in China … and the central government has the decisive power on Hong Kong political reform,” the article read. “It is a blessing, not a curse, for Hong Kong to choose a chief executive who cooperates with the central government.”

All 27 pan-democrat lawmakers, along with a lawmaker representing the medical sector, voted down the reform proposal on June 18, saying that it would deprive voters of a “genuine choice” as it followed Beijing’s August 31 decision that the city must only choose from two or three hopefuls endorsed by the 1,200-strong nominating committee’s majority.

The People’s Daily article also blamed the lack of national security legislation in Hong Kong for “pro-independence activists’ unbridled attitude”.

The July 1 march, organised yearly by the Civil Human Rights Front, will start from Victoria Park at 3pm and end with a rally along Tim Mei Avenue. The main theme of this year’s march is “to build a democratic Hong Kong and regain the future”.

July 1 marks the day in 1997 when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule after 156 years under the British colonial government, an occasion known as the handover.

Around 3,000 police officers will be assigned to keep an eye on the expected 100,000 people turning out for the march.

Hong Kong Clashes Reveal Anti-Beijing Anger as City Nears Anniversary of Reunification

June 30, 2015

Joanna Plucinska / Hong Kong

A localist protester, left, scuffles with a pro-China demonstrator during an anti-China protest at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong on June 28, 2015

Street scuffles between pro-and anti-Beijing factions broke out in Hong Kong Sunday night local time — and one of the city’s most prominent pro-democracy figures was set upon in the street in an apparently unrelated attack. The violence underscores raw tensions in China’s most open metropolis, just three days ahead of the 18th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty.

Trouble began when so-called “localist” groups — many members of which argue for Hong Kong’s independence from China — staged a rally in the densely crowded Mong Kok district of central Kowloon to protest the presence of mainland Chinese street musicians. The performance of Mandarin-language songs in a Cantonese-speaking, working-class area like Mong Kok is regarded by many localists as culturally and politically provocative.

Violent clashes broke out when pro-China groups showed up to counter the localists, with rival groups chasing each other through streets crowded with shoppers and tourists, forcing retail outlets to pull down their shutters. Police say five protesters, four men and one woman, were arrested. No injury figures have been released, but police used pepper spray to subdue protesters and local media published photos of at least one bloodied pro-China protester being led from the scene.

Simon Sin, one of the leaders of Hong Kong Localism Power, accuses police of not doing enough to protect localist demonstrators. “The police protected the people who were attacking us. They didn’t protect us. We got hurt yesterday,” Sin tells TIME.

The South China Morning Post reported that police were seen helping “apparent participants” in the street clashes to leave the area, angering localist groups and bearing uncomfortable echoes of last fall’s Umbrella Revolution, when student protesters occupying the Mong Kok streets accused police of not protecting them from thugs who tried to break up the demonstrations. Seven police officers who beat up a protester last November have also still not been brought to trial, despite the fact that the attack was filmed by a local TV news crew.

The disturbances come ahead of a large protest march scheduled for July 1. The annual march — staged to coincide with the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty — covers an array of causes from LGBT rights to better conditions for migrant workers, but always has a strong pro-democratic focus. Sunday’s street battles also come after the recent failure of the Hong Kong government’s electoral proposals, which were designed to lay out a framework for the election of the city’s next leader in 2017 but ended up underscoring the vast political gulf between democratic and pro-Chinese camps.

In what appeared to be a separate incident, democracy activist and student leader Joshua Wong— named one of TIME’s most influential teens in 2014 — was attacked after leaving a cinema in Kowloon with his girlfriend.

Student leader Joshua Wong shows his injuries after receiving treatment at Kwong Wah Hospital. A man attacked him in Tai Kok Tsui shortly after midnight. Photo: Reuters

A man “grabbed my neck, and punched my left eye. My glasses flew off,” Wong, who was not involved in the localist protests, posted on his Facebook page, alongside a picture of his injuries.

He told TIME that the attack showed “that there are serious safety concerns in the future” for activists like himself and said that he needed “to care more about my personal security.”

“People feel dissatisfied with the central Chinese government with the failure to deliver universal suffrage. What we see is the escalating conflicts between localist groups and the Chinese presence in Hong Kong,” Maya Wang, a China researcher in the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, tells TIME. “I think that kind of animosity between localist groups and the pro-Beijing groups stems from deeper discontent [felt by] Hong Kong people [in] their relationship with the central Chinese government.”

http://time.com/3939432/hong-kong-china-democracy-street-protests-occupy-umbrella-revolution/

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Egypt’s Sisi promises tougher legal system at prosecutor’s funeral

June 30, 2015

Reuters

Sisi attended the funeral of Barakat, who oversaw the prosecution of thousands of activists and opposition leaders [AP]

Sisi attended the funeral of Barakat, who oversaw the prosecution of thousands of activists and opposition leaders [AP]

CAIRO |

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday attended the funeral of Egypt’s top public prosecutor killed by a car bomb on the previous day, and said he would within days reveal legal reforms that would allow a tougher line against militants.

Public prosecutor Hisham Barakat was the most senior Egyptian official to be killed in years, and Monday’s attack has cast doubt on Egypt’s ability to contain an Islamist insurgency that is picking increasingly high-profile targets.

Earlier this month, a suicide bomber blew himself up near the ancient Egyptian Karnak Temple in the southern city of Luxor, a major attraction in Egypt where tourism is vital to itseconomy.

Egypt’s Karnak Temple, Luxor

Sisi led the procession at Barakat’s military funeral held at a mosque on the outskirts of Cairo. At a ceremony attended by senior government and religious officials and members of Barakat’s family, Sisi said the militant threat in Egypt demanded urgent legal reforms.

“The hand of justice is tied by laws… We will not wait for that”, he said in comments broadcast on state television.

“We will not sit for five or 10 years putting on trial the people who kill us.”

The funeral fell on the second anniversary of the start of mass protests that preceded Islamist president Mohamed Mursi’s overthrow in July 2013 by the army, then under Sisi’s leadership.

Militant attacks focused mainly in the North Sinai region that have killed hundreds of soldiers and police have increased since Mursi’s toppling.

MASS DEATH SENTENCES

In his address at the funeral, Sisi did not give details of his plans for legal reforms but said they would be unveiled “within days”.

“A death sentence will be issued, a death sentence will be implemented. A life sentence will be issued, a life sentence will be implemented,” he said.

Since the army toppled Mursi and banned the Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian courts have handed down preliminary death sentences to hundreds of alleged Brotherhood supporters. Mursi also faces the death penalty.

The government also expanded the jurisdiction of military courts to try civilians accused of acts of terrorism, part of a crackdown that first targeted Islamists but has expanded to include liberal activists.

Western governments have criticized the mass death sentences but are unlikely to take strong measures against Egypt, seen as a vital partner for security in a region beset by turmoil.

Judicial sources told Reuters any amendments could also restrict the number of appeals to one from two and give judges final say on which witnesses could testify.

Some of Egypt’s judges have drawn accusations of blatant bias in trials against Islamists, but the judiciary says it is independent of the government and military.

(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy and Ahmed Hassan; Editing by Yara Bayoumy andRaissa Kasolowsky)

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has announced he is renaming Rabaa Square after the recently assassinated Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat.

At least 800 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed by the military in the square after the army seized power in 2013.

Sisi also said he would push for new laws as part of a crackdown that would deliver “swift justice” against armed groups, following the prosecutor general’s killing on Monday.

Speaking at the funeral of Barakat, who oversaw the prosecution of thousands of activists and opposition leaders, Sisi said on Tuesday that “the hands of justice are chained” in the face of “terrorism”.

“We will not wait. Within days, criminal laws that can help face new developments such as terrorism should be presented,” he said.

“We face terrorism and we need the right laws and courts to deal with it and to try the killers.”

In a thinly veiled reference to jailed leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sisi blamed the violence on those “issuing orders from behind bars,” and warned, “If there is a death sentence, it will be carried out.”

Report: Egypt increasingly cracking down on its youth

Sisi’s comments raise the prospect of an even tougher campaign against the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, and other opponents, after a two-year-old crackdown that has already seen courts issuing mass death sentences against the opposition, including ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

Human rights groups already say judges are ignoring due process and accuse police of greater abuses.

On Tuesday, an Amnesty International report said that Egypt has swung from “mass protest to mass incarceration”.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Abdullah Al Arian, an assistant professor at Georgetown University, said that Sisi’s decision would only lead to a “a far worse, and far more violent” confrontation with the opposition.

“This is not any responsible state should ever behave once it is subjected to these kinds of attacks,” he said, calling on Sisi to reach a “political settlement” with the opposition.

Breach in security

The high-profile assassination of Barakat, in an upscale Cairo neighbourhood, is a major embarrassment to Sisi, who vowed to bring stability to the country when he came to power, following the overthrow of Morsi in 2013.

The July 3 ousting came after mass protests against Morsi that began two years ago on Tuesday.

The Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist group and accused of fueling an insurgency by armed groups who have stepped up a campaign of violence.

The Brotherhood denies the claim, accusing the government of trying to justify its crackdown on the group.

On Monday, the Brotherhood condemned the killing of Barakat as “unacceptable,” adding that Sisi’s government is “fully responsible” for the violence in the country.

Morsi and several other top Brotherhood leaders have been sentenced to death but they still can appeal the sentences.

At Barakat’s funeral, Sisi led a procession of hundreds of state officials and military personnel who walked in unison as wreaths were laid.

Pro-government media hailed Barakat as a “hero” and “martyr.”

Meanwhile, violence continued even as Egypt buried Barakat.

In the northern Sinai city of Sheikh Zuweyid, a mortar shell fired at an army position fell on a private residence, killing two children and wounding three others, family members said.

In the city of Beni Suef, along the Nile River south of Cairo, security officials said gunmen opened fire on a police car, killing a sergeant and wounding four others.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies


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