Hong Kong protests: Flights resume amid new security measures

Hong Kong airport has resumed operations after a night of chaos which saw protesters clash with riot police.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled on Tuesday after protesters flooded the terminal buildings.

Early on Wednesday flights appeared to be running as scheduled, though some still remained delayed or cancelled.

After days of disruptions, the Airport Authority said it had obtained a temporary injunction banning protesters from entering certain areas.

It said in a statement that people would be “restrained from attending or participating in any demonstration or protest… in the airport other than in the area designated by the Airport Authority”.

Additional security measures have been put in place restricting access to the terminal – with only staff and passengers with valid boarding passes allowed in.

Hong Kong is in its tenth week of anti-government protests.

What happened at the airport on Tuesday?

The airport, one of the world’s busiest, has been the site of daily protests since last Friday but they had been mostly peaceful.

On Tuesday, protesters blocked travellers from accessing flights, using luggage trolleys to build barriers, and staging a mass sit-down.

Some protesters held signs apologising to passengers for the inconvenience caused by their demonstrations.

However, things escalated when one man was set upon by protesters reportedly because they thought he was an undercover police officer.

Police, wearing riot gear and brandishing truncheons, later arrived at the airport and clashed with protesters.

In one video, a policeman is seen frantically drawing his gun on protesters after being attacked with his own truncheon for manhandling a woman.

Hong Kong police said the officer’s life was “under great danger” and insisted he only drew his gun “out of emergency and necessity” and “exercised great restraint”.

Media captionA police officer draws his gun and aims at protesters in the airport building

Protesters had boxed him into a corner after prying the baton from his hands during a violent skirmish. After collapsing to the ground, the policeman was eventually dragged to safety by his fellow officers.

At least two other men, also suspected of being police officers, were also confronted by protesters. One was held for several hours and his hands zip-tied. Paramedics were initially blocked from evacuating the man, even as he appeared to lose consciousness.

The actions came after Hong Kong police admitted on Monday that disguised officers were being planted among anti-government protesters.

The editor of Chinese state media outlet the Global Times later said one of the men attacked was a reporter from the outlet.

https://twitter.com/HuXijin_GT/status/1161312219553882113?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1161312219553882113&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.com%2Fnews%2Fworld-asia-china-49340584

The BBC’s Asia-Pacific editor Michael Bristow says Chinese censors are allowing a video of the reporter’s ordeal to be shared in mainland China, where news of the Hong Kong demonstrations is strictly controlled.

On Wednesday, police likened the treatment of the men to “torture” and said they had arrested five men.

Overnight, protest groups issued online apologies for the violence, saying they were “scared” and appealed for help.

Some also handed out apology leaflets and chocolate to people arriving at the airport’s train station.

Separately, the Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific airline has fired two pilots for protesting after China demanded that they suspend personnel involved in the demonstrations.

At the scene: “Fight for freedom”

By Pody Lui, BBC Chinese service, Hong Kong

“Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” could be heard clearly in the arrival hall on Tuesday. Protesters were handing out posters to arriving tourists about what had happened in the past two months in Hong Kong, particularly an incident that happened on Sunday in a police dispersal action.

A female protester was shot in the eye by police with a bean bag projectile.

Occasionally, there were “mini-parliaments”, where hundreds of protesters gathered and discussed what was next and how to encounter some possible scenarios in a peaceful manner. Everybody got their say as long as they raised their hand.

Tourists undoubtedly were affected as they were not able to get into the security check area. Some cried, some chose to sleep through it. But some protesters offered to help them, including looking for accommodation, offering free food and drinks, and certainly apologising to them.

What has the government said?

The Hong Kong government has condemned the violence at the airport, saying it would take action against those found responsible.

In a statement on Wednesday, it called the “violent acts… outrageous” and said that they had “overstepped the bottom line of a civilised society”.

It added that the police would take “relentless enforcement action to bring the persons involved to justice”.

China’s Hong Kong affairs office condemned on Wednesday what it called “near-terrorist acts” at the airport.

Anti-government protests started in June in response to a proposed extradition bill, which has now been suspended, but have evolved into a more demanding pro-democracy movement.

They are being fuelled by fears that the freedoms Hong Kong enjoys as a special administrative region of China are being eroded.

References:
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-49340584

Brexit: No chance of US trade deal if Irish accord hit – Pelosi

A US-UK trade deal will not get through Congress if Brexit undermines the Good Friday Agreement, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives has said.

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, whose party controls the House, said the UK’s exit from the EU could not be allowed to endanger the Irish peace deal.

Her comments came after the US national security adviser said the UK would be “first in line” for a trade deal.

John Bolton spoke after meeting Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London.

The reimposition of frontier controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if the UK leaves the EU without mutual agreement on 31 October – a so-called “hard Brexit” – is seen as a threat to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland.

“Whatever form it takes, Brexit cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement, including the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland,” Ms Pelosi said in a statement on Wednesday.

‘Tough old haggle’

Mr Bolton said on Tuesday that the Trump administration supported a no-deal Brexit, and added Washington would propose an accelerated series of trade deals in the event of one.

He said these could be done on a “sector-by-sector” basis, with an agreement on manufacturing made first. A trade deal for financial services and agriculture would not be the first to be agreed, he added.

Asked whether his proposed plan would follow World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, Mr Bolton said “our trade negotiators seem to think it is”.

He said there would be enthusiastic bipartisan support in Congress for speedy ratification at each stage.

Mr Johnson said there were “all sorts” of opportunities for UK business in the US, particularly service companies, but the negotiations will be a “tough old haggle”.

However, critics warn that the UK will have to give in to some US demands in return for any trade agreement.

Woman walks past chicken in a US shop
Image captionThe EU currently bans chlorine-washed chicken products on welfare grounds

Former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who served under a Labour government, described Mr Bolton as “dangerously bellicose”.

He suggested the UK would have to agree to some US demands, for example allowing imports of US chlorine-washed chicken.

“This is a highly transactional administration… you don’t get something for nothing,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Lewis Lukens, a former deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in London and former acting US ambassador, said Mr Bolton was aligned to President Trump’s “America first agenda” and would be making “strong demands” on the UK to back the US position on issues like China, Iran and Chinese tech giant Huawei.

Mr Johnson is expected to have his first face-to-face meeting as prime minister with Mr Trump later this month at the G7 summit in France.

References:
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49348062

Argentina’s Macri unveils economic ‘relief’ measures after poll shock

Argentine President Mauricio Macri has announced a series of “relief” measures, days after a defeat at the polls triggered economic turmoil.

In a televised speech, he announced income tax cuts and increases in welfare subsidies. Petrol prices will be frozen for 90 days, he added.

Mr Macri said the measures would help 17 million workers.

The move comes after opposition centre-left candidate Alberto Fernández won presidential primaries at the weekend.

The result dealt a severe blow to Mr Macri’s chances of re-election. On Monday, the Argentine peso and stock markets plunged over concerns that Mr Fernández could take Argentina back to populist economic policies.

The peso fell again on Wednesday following President Macri’s attempts to shore up support.

Mr Macri was elected in 2015 pledging to boost Argentina’s ailing economy with liberal economic reforms.

But a recovery has yet to materialise and more than a third of the population is living in poverty. Tough austerity measures have pushed up prices for public services and dented Mr Macri’s popularity.

Argentina is currently in recession and posted 22% inflation for the first half of the year, one of the highest rates globally.

What did President Macri say?

“The measures I take and that I am going to share with you now are because I listened to you. I heard what you wanted to tell me on Sunday,” he said during his eight-minute nationwide broadcast.

“These are measures that will bring relief to 17 million workers and their families.”

A supermarket employee changes products' price tags due to inflation, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 14 August 2019
Image captionArgentina’s high inflation rate is hitting prices in the shops

President Macri said tax cuts would see workers in the private sector receiving an extra 2,000 pesos (£28; $33) a month until the end of the year and public sector workers an extra 5,000 pesos. He said the minimum wage would also rise.

Mr Macri said he took responsibility for the election result and recognised that many voters were “tired and angry”. He said he was willing to talk to the opposition, adding that it was “clear that political uncertainty has caused a lot of damage”.

“I understand your anger, your tiredness. I just ask you not to doubt the work we did together because there is so much, and there is too much at stake,” he said.

How did the latest crisis unfold?

The primary election, in which presidential candidates from all parties take part, was won by Mr Fernández by a wide margin. The coalition backing Mr Fernández took 47.7% of the vote while the bloc supporting Mr Macri had 32.1%.

Mr Fernández is now seen as the frontrunner for October’s presidential election. His running mate is former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who presided over an administration remembered for a high degree of protectionism and heavy state intervention in the economy.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Alberto
Image captionAlberto Fernández’s running mate is former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

In trading on Monday, the peso initially plunged 30% against the dollar to a record low before rallying to about 15%.

Some of the country’s most traded stocks also lost about half of their value in one day.

At end of trading on Monday, Argentina’s main Merval index closed down 31% as some of the country’s largest companies saw their market values plummet.

On Wednesday, after Mr Macri’s broadcast, the peso fell again, trading at 60.77 to the dollar – a further 4% down from Tuesday’s close.

References:
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49350203

Boy dies after he and mother are pushed on train tracks in Germany

Woman rolled to safety but boy, eight, was struck by high-speed train, say police in Frankfurt

An eight-year-old boy has died after he and his mother were deliberately pushed on to train tracks at Frankfurt’s main railway station, German police have said.

The boy was hit by a high-speed ICE train and killed instantly. His mother was able to roll into a safe gap between two platforms and escaped injury.

The suspect was chased through the station by passengers who tackled him to the ground. Police later confirmed a 40-year-old man had been arrested.

The incident happened at about 10am on Monday on platform seven of the station, which is one of Germany’s busiest. The boy’s mother was being treated for shock, according to a police spokeswoman.

“Passengers witnessed the disaster, and ran after the fleeing man. It was possible to arrest him while he was still in the station,” the spokeswoman said. She added that the man had intended to push a third person on to the track, “but she was able to defend herself”.

Police said the suspect is believed to be from Eritrea. He was being held in police custody on Monday but his possible motive remained unclear. The alleged perpetrator and the victims are not believed to have known each other.

Six platforms remained closed for several hours.

The incident follows the death of a 34-year-old woman nine days ago, who was pushed in front of a regional train in Voerde in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia in what is also believed to have been an unprovoked attack.

The 28-year-old suspect, who was of Kosovo Serb origin and identified only as Jackson B, according to German police protocol, was known to police. He is being held in custody and is not thought to have known the victim.

Witnesses told police a man had approached the woman from behind without speaking and pushed her on to the track. The suspect has so far refused to answer questions.

Passengers waiting for trains in Germany are being advised to scan the platform for distressed or troubled faces and to stand at least two metres away from the platform edge.

Unlike in the UK, there are no ticket barriers at German train stations, so anyone can get on to a platform whether or not they have a ticket.

References:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/29/boy-8-dies-mother-pushed-on-train-tracks-germany-frankfurt

China’s first ‘cyber-dissident’ jailed for 12 years

Huang Qi, who ran a website reporting on sensitive topics, is accused of leaking state secrets

 

China’s first “cyber-dissident”, whose website reported on sensitive topics including human rights, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for leaking state secrets.

Huang Qi ran a website called 64 Tianwang – named after the bloody 4 June1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protesters.

His sentence is one of the harshest meted out to a dissident since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, according to court records.

Huang was guilty of “leaking national state secrets and providing state secrets to foreign entities”, the statement by the Mianyang intermediate people’s court said, adding that he would be deprived of political rights for four years.

Advocates say Wang is one of the prominent and well connected rights activists in monitoring human rights China today. His detention will make that work harder.

“It sends a strong signal to others documenting abuses, who are already under threat. If they shut down and silence the human rights monitors, it will make it harder to know about the rights abuses going on inside China,” said Frances Eve, deputy director of research at Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

Huang’s website, which reported on local corruption, human rights violations and other topics rarely seen in ordinary Chinese media, is blocked on the mainland.

The website was awarded a Reporters Without Borders prize in November 2016. A few weeks later, Huang was detained in his home town of Chengdu, according to Amnesty International.

Huang’s work has repeatedly drawn the ire of Chinese authorities. In 2009 he was sentenced to three years in prison after campaigning for parents of children killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which left nearly 87,000 people dead or missing and authorities facing huge public anger over shoddy building construction.

Five years later Huang and at least three citizen journalists who contribute to 64 Tianwang were detained by police after the site reported on a woman who had set herself on fire in Tiananmen Square.

Eve said Huang’s sentencing is effectively a death sentence, given his deteriorating health.

“His is an outrageously long sentence for a citizen journalist documenting human rights abuses,” she said. “It seems designed to kill him in detention, totally out of proportion with what they were charging him with”.

Huang Qi’s mother, Pu Wenqing, 85, who has been advocating for her son, has been kept under police surveillance. Pu, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer and is in poor health, said on Monday she was blocked from leaving her home or having visitors. Her phone line is often blocked.

“I don’t get the news. People can’t get in and I can’t get out,” she said. She had not yet received the news of her son’s sentencing.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

References:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/29/china-first-cyber-dissident-huang-qi-jailed-12-years

Boko Haram fighters kill dozens at funeral in Nigeria

Local official says extremists’ attack on mourners has left more than 60 people dead

More than 60 mourners leaving a funeral in north-east Nigeria have been killed by the militant group Boko Haram, according to Nigerian officials and other sources in the area.

Ten years after the group’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was murdered in police custody after a crackdown on his followers, Boko Haram’s factions are continuing to wage a bloody insurgency against the Nigerian security forces and civilians, defying government attempts to destroy the group.

In the latest attack, a number of men were walking back to their village after the funeral prayers for a relative when armed men turned up on motorcycles and opened fire, said the head of the Borno Hunters Association, Bunu Bukar. The village is to the north of Maiduguri, Borno’s state capital, in the area of Nganzai.

“Our men recovered 23 dead bodies from the scene of the attack,” Bukar said. At least 11 injured people were later taken to hospital in Maiduguri.

One of the injured was Maina Abdullahi, a 29-year-old father of two. He was at home cutting the grass when he saw people running, shouting that Boko Haram insurgents had attacked and killed people from their village. He immediately tried to get his wife and children out, but as they fled they saw dead bodies. Fearing that militants were nearby, Abdullahi told his wife to go on while he fled in a different direction.

“I ran into the fight between our people and the Boko Harams who shot at everything they came across,” he said. “I was shot at the left side of my shoulder but I continued to crawl until I found help.”

Masta Ajimi was on his way to the market when he heard that his father, uncle and two of his cousins had been killed in the attack. In shock, he immediately joined the vigilantes and chased after the militants, shooting at them, but the militants with their superior weapons overpowered and killed many of the villagers.

“I was shot on my right arm and I jumped off the vehicle, rolled over and pulled a dead body over me, as a shield,” he said. “Luckily, they [Boko Haram] began to chase and shot at those running to escape and their attention became diverted. I lost a lot of blood and passed out until [when I woke up] I found myself in the hospital.”

The attack had its roots in an incident several weeks before. The chairman of the local council, Muhammad Bulama, said it was a “reprisal mission” for unsuccessfully attack by Boko Haram on another village.Profile

With the help of local vigilantes, the villagers resisted the attack, killed 11 insurgents and recovered 10 AK-47 rifles, he said.

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, who was re-elected this year, has repeatedly vowed to “decimate” Boko Haram. However, the number of attacks have increased in recent months, leaving millions of displaced people dependent on aid that is rarely sufficient.

Less than two weeks ago, several humanitarian workers were abducted when armed men attacked their convoy near Damasak, close to the border with Niger.

One, an employee of Action Against Hunger, a major international NGO, pleaded for her release in a video shared with the prominent Nigerian journalist Ahmad Salkida.

“We are Nigerians; we are also working for Nigeria. I beg that the Nigerian government should please do something to see that we are released,” said the woman, who said her name was Grace.

She named previous kidnap victims, and mentioned Leah Sharibu, the only girl not released after the Dapchi kidnapping early last year, a Christian who refused to renounce her faith. Nigerian authorities have said they were negotiating for her release, but Grace said Sharibu had been killed.

“This has occurred before in the organisation Red Cross, where some ladies were caught – Hauwa [Mohammed Liman] and Saifura [Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa],” she said, sitting on the ground with other, male abductees against a backdrop of United Nations high commissioner for refugees-branded tarpaulins.

“They also asked to be released but because Nigeria did not do anything about it they were killed. I’m begging on behalf of all of us here that please Nigeria should not allow such [a thing] to happen to us. It also happened again with Leah [Sharibu] and Alice [Loksha] because Nigeria could not do anything about them, they were not released, they were killed.”

It is not clear, however, that the faction that abducted Sharibu is the same group that carried out these latest abductions, and several Nigeria watchers said Sharibu’s death was not confirmed.

References:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/29/dozens-feared-killed-by-suspected-boko-haram-fighters-in-nigeria

Alexei Navalny discharged from hospital against wishes of doctor

Russian opposition politician may have been poisoned, says doctor who visited him on Sunday

The Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been discharged from hospital and returned to prison against the wishes of his doctor, who said his symptoms may indicate poisoning.

Navalny was taken to hospital on Sunday morning from the Moscow prison where he was serving a 30-day sentence after being arrested last week for calling people to attend an anti-government protest.

Late on Monday evening, Navalny posted a blog entry saying he was back in jail and feeling much better. He said he had never had similar symptoms and also criticised the strange behaviour of the hospital staff. He said he wanted to see CCTV footage of his cell to see if people came in and put any substances on his bed during exercise breaks.

“If during this time some people came into the cell, then the poisoning theory begins to gather strength. If not, then the theory of an medical mystery becomes more likely,” he wrote.

There is no sign that Navalny’s life is in immediate danger, but the news about his health has caused alarm in a country where the opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was shot dead outside the Kremlin in 2015. Anastasia Vasilieva, one of Navalny’s doctors, said discharging him on Monday back to prison could be dangerous for Navalny’s health.

She and a colleague visited Navalny in hospital on Sunday, and was able to examine him through a door, after first being denied all access. She said his symptoms included facial swelling, itching and a rash.Profile

Vasilieva is an ophthalmologist, who treated Navalny after he was doused with green dye by pro-Kremlin activists in 2017 in an attack that left him temporarily blind in one eye. She said it was clear Navalny was not suffering from an allergy but from “the result of harmful effects of undefined chemical substances”.

“We cannot exclude toxic damage to the skin by chemicals induced by a ‘third person’,” she wrote. She called on the hospital administration to immediately allow proper medical care for Navalny.

Late on Sunday night, a doctor at the hospital, Eldar Kazakhmedov, told the Russian news agency Interfax he believed Navalny was suffering an allergic reaction, though he could not say to what. “At the current time, Navalny’s condition is improving, and all his key indicators are stable. He feels a lot better than when he was admitted,” said Kazakhmedov.

Police detained at least 10 of Navalny’s supporters who had gathered outside the hospital late on Sunday evening, according to a correspondent for Russia’s TV Rain, who was also briefly arrested while live on air.

Vasilieva responded on Monday morning that the hospital’s behaviour was unhelpful and suspicious. “The patient himself and his relatives are not told the diagnosis, they find it out from Interfax. Nobody knows the reason for what happened and his own doctors are kicked out. They’re lying to us. The patient says his eye hurts and they say: ‘He doesn’t need an ophthalmologist. Let it hurt.’”

Later, she was allowed to examine him, but said she strongly disagreed with the hospital’s decision to discharge him back to prison.

“Alexei’s doctor has told us that he has been discharged, even though the results of his analysis are not ready. Alexei is being taken back to jail,” wrote his press secretary Kira Yarmysh on Twitter.

The protest Navalny was jailed for supporting went ahead on Saturday, and prompted the most forceful police response to protests in the country for years, with more than 1,300 people detained by officers.

People were protesting against the refusal of electoral authorities to register independent candidates for the Moscow city council elections in September.

Most of those detained were released without charge, but more than 150 spent Saturday night in police stations and may face court this week. An independent monitoring group said at least 25 people had been injured by police.

Several other opposition politicians remain in jail, held on the charge of “obstructing the work of the electoral commission”, and police have carried out late-night searches of their homes in recent days. One, Ilya Yashin, was due in court on Monday morning.

Opposition candidates say they have been barred from the election on the invented pretext that some of the signatures collected to support their candidacies were faked.

On Saturday morning the Moscow mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, warned people they could face arrest if they tried to protest, and riot police had clearly been given orders to move forcefully against the demonstrators. Large areas of the city centre were cordoned off and police used rough tactics and batons to detain protesters despite their action remaining peaceful.

Natalia Zviagina from Amnesty International said the violent response to the protest was a “new low” for Russian authorities and called on police to release all of those detained. “No one should be imprisoned for merely exercising their rights to expression and peaceful assembly,” she said.

Opposition leaders have said they will call another protest for 3 August in an attempt to keep up the pressure on authorities.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who on Saturday descended in a miniature submarine to inspect the wreck of a second world war submarine, has not commented on the protests or the arrests. State TV has also largely ignored the unrest, but millions of Russians watched live streams of Saturday’s events on YouTube.

References:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/29/russian-opposition-leader-alexei-navalny-may-have-been-poisoned-says-doctor

Romania is shaken by girl’s killing after police ignored calls for help

PM contemplates calling referendum on criminal penalties after apparent murder of teenage hitchhiker

Romania’s prime minister is considering calling a referendum on harsher penalties for crimes such as murder, rape and paedophilia. The announcement by Viorica Dăncilă on Saturday followed the sacking of the country’s chief of police after officers failed to respond to several emergency calls from a kidnapped 15-year-old girl who is believed to have subsequently been murdered.

Despite the teenager telephoning police three times to report that she had been abducted, authorities waited 19 hours before attempting to rescue her – a delay that many Romanians believe cost the teenager’s life.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the suspect’s house in the town of Caracal to protest on Friday.

In response to widespread national outrage, the interior minister, Nicolae Moga fired the country’s most senior police officer, Ioan Buda. “I called for the sacking of the police chief … because drastic measures are required,” said Moga.

On Saturday Dăncilă demanded an inquiry into the police response and called for punishment for all those responsible, and another two senior officers were abruptly sacked.

The girl, who is identified only as Alexandra, was abducted on Wednesday as she tried to hitchhike home to the town of Dobrosloveni in the south of the country.

On Thursday morning, she rang the emergency number, 112, three times and offered police what information she had about the place in which she was being held by the driver who picked her up. Buda told journalists she had shouted down the phone “he’s coming, he’s coming” before the call was cut off.

Relatives of Alexandra alleged that officers failed to take the alert seriously and reacted too late. A Facebook post by a man identified as the victim’s uncle said: “My niece Alexandra may have been killed while police and prosecutors ‘guarded’ the criminal. A few heads have fallen but not enough!”

Three buildings were searched by officers before they finally pinpointed the property where she had been held, more than 12 hours after her calls.

Police then sought a search warrant – which is not required in emergencies – and then waited until dawn to enter the house, 19 hours after Alexandra’s last call. They found “human remains”, which are being analysed, and jewellery the girl wore, police said.

On Saturday morning, the authorities arrested a 66-year-old mechanic, named as Gheorghe Dincă, and placed him in custody on suspicion of juvenile trafficking and rape.

Later, Dincă’s court-appointed lawyer, Alexandru Bogdan, told reporters that his client had told prosecutors that he did know the girl but that he was not guilty.

There is “evidence to be determined by expertise, like what kind of bones they are,” the lawyer said. “It is premature to discuss about guilt based on these clues.”

The lawyer also added that the victim’s calls appeared to have been made from Dincă’s phone, although his client had not explained this.

As the emerging details of the case continued to provoke alarm and anger, Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, issued a statement saying he was “deeply saddened by the tragedy” and “revolted by the fact that, due to some malfunctions, the responsible authorities have failed to save a teenage girl who has lost her life under dramatic conditions”.

The case has also prompted questions over the sudden disappearance of another local teenager who has been missing since April, apparently also after hitching a ride.

Forensic analysts were working to identify the human remains found at the property on Saturday night.

References:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/28/romania-shaken-by–killing-of-girl-ignored-by-police

‘No difference’: Hong Kong police likened to thugs after Yuen Long violence

Images circulate online comparing gang attacks to police baton charge as fresh protests begin on Sunday

Hong Kong police have come under criticism for charging protesters in a mass transit station in Yuen Long, where some were resting or preparing to leave after clashes with police on Saturday.

In scenes that protesters and critics said were reminiscent of an attack on commuters by suspected triad gangs last week, police fired tear gas and rushed into the station shortly before 10pm. The team, a special tactical unit, pepper sprayed and beat people with batons, causing panic. Some protesters attempted to fight back with fire extinguishers. Bloodied gauze and drops of blood could be seen on the station floor.

The criticism comes as the city prepared on Sunday for its third consecutive day of mass civil dissent, following Saturday’s rally in Yuen Long and an 11-hour-sit-in at the Hong Kong airport on Friday.

Hong Kong’s hospital authority said late on Saturday that 23 people had sought medical help, two in a serious condition. Police have arrested 11 people on suspicion of various charges including unlawful assembly, possession of an offensive weapon, and assault.

Images have begun circulating online of the elite tactical squad rushing into the station next to photos of a group of men in white who stormed the same station the previous Sunday. The suspected triads had chased commuters, some of whom were protesters returned from an anti-government demonstration that day, beating them with wooden and metal rods.

https://twitter.com/JeromeTaylor/status/1155136437282410503?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1155136437282410503&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fworld%2F2019%2Fjul%2F28%2Fhong-kong-police-likened-to-thugs-after-yuen-long-violence

“In action there was no difference,” said Simon Cheng, 34, a Yuen Long resident. “But psychologically it is worse because they are government approved and have deadly force,” he said.

In a press briefing in the early hours of Saturday, the police said protesters were throwing fire extinguishers from a bridge at officers below. “We entered the station and got the scene under control,” said senior superintendent Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan of the police’s public relations department.

Officers were also criticised for using tear gas in residential areas of Yuen Long, including near nursing homes. Liu said the police had fired near residents but no such homes were affected. “We also reminded elderly homes to shut their windows,” she said.

Hong Kong has been plunged into political crisis as citizens have taken to the streets every weekend for almost two months to demonstrate against their government.

Demonstrators prepared on Sunday to hold a rally in central Hong Kong to condemn the police, who critics say have used increasingly heavy-handed tactics on protesters. Organisers had originally planned to march from central Hong Kong to a western district, where police had fired tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters last weekend.

The police did not grant a permit for the march – the second time authorities have rejected a protest request – following a ban on the Saturday rally in Yuen Long. On Sunday, one of the organisers of the Yuen Long rally, Max Chung was arrested by police on suspicion of inciting an illegal assembly. Protesters fear authorities will adopt this line more in the future.

“It is very likely they are going to abolish the freedom of assembly. So we are asking people to come out because it may be the last time that we are going to have a peaceful and lawful protest in Hong Kong,” said one of the organisers of the rally.

“I’m sure that people are exhausted. It’s already been two months since the first protest … but I guess people are not going to give up or rest until we legitimately have freedom and democracy,” she said. “It will be a long way to go but everyone in Hong Kong will do what it takes.”

References:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/28/hong-kong-police-likened-to-thugs-after-yuen-long-violence

Sunbathing topless should be a pleasure we can all enjoy

Younger women are covering up on the beach for fear of harassment, suggests a recent report. That’s a sad state of affairs

According to a survey of 5,000 women by the French Institute for Public Opinion, the number who regularly sunbathe topless has fallen sharply over the past three years, from 29% to 19%. Digging into the figures, it emerges that the #MeToo movement has been an influence, with women between 18 and 25 citing harassment and ogling. No doubt the fear of unwanted photographs ending up on the internet also plays a part in persuading young women to keep their bikini tops on when they go to the beach.

It’s all a little bit sad. Since Brigitte Bardot became famed for it on Riviera beaches in the 1960s, topless sunbathing on the Côte d’Azur has occupied a rather romantic place in the Anglo-Saxon cultural mindset, tinged with nostalgia for the iconography of the sexual liberation movement. For me and other women growing up in a culture of British discomfort with all things bodily, these confident French women in Cannes or St Tropez seemed glamorous and worldly.

A teenage obsession with French cinema helped me to discover the work of François Ozon; in Swimming Pool, Ludivine Sagnier is famously topless or naked for more than half the film. At the time I treated such nudity with deference: it was culture, it bore no relation to the tabloid posing of glamour models. It was, I thought, cool.

But times have changed: the porn industry, rampant in the digital age, has seen female objectification ratcheted up to such a degree that removing your bikini top to avoid tan lines on a public beach has come to seem risky for more and more younger women.

I was in my early 20s when I first sunbathed topless. “There’s nothing like the feeling of sun on your tits,” a Polish friend said as she stripped off on a beach in Sardinia, unfazed by the company of guys we had only just met. I joined her. A lack of typically English hang-ups probably played a part in her confidence; the existence of breasts were a simple unremarkable fact to her. She wasn’t weighed down by cultural and sexist baggage.

In that she shares her attitude with members of the Swedish feminist organisation Bara Bröst, who asked, eminently reasonably, why women should be forced to cover up in public pools when men need not (they successfully campaigned to change the rules in Malmo in 2009). After all, the chair of the city’s sports and recreation committee wryly noted, “many men have larger breasts than women”. More recently, women in Munich demanded “topfreedom” – as the cultural and political movement is called – during the recent heatwave after they were asked to cover up. Their request has been granted: swimwear now must only “completely cover the primary reproductive organs”.

Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath
 ‘The place my friends and I sunbathe topless most frequently is the Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath, where on sunny days you’ll find the pondside meadow crowded with women of all ages and demographics.’ Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

Since that first experience in Sardinia in my early 20s, I have sunbathed topless in Barcelona and the Cyclades, southern Italy and even Cannes (it is true that it seemed to be mostly older women doing it on the French Riviera). Crucially, I have always been accompanied, often by my husband, so have felt more protected from harassment.

The place my friends and I indulge most frequently is the Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath, where on sunny days you’ll find the attractive pondside meadow crowded with women of all ages and demographics. I’ve often thought that, were I an impressionist artist, this is the scene that I would paint. A Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe for the 21st century, which, instead of showing one nude woman accompanied by two fully dressed men, as Édouard Manet’s painting does, would be crowded with cheerful, sun-seeking bare-breasted women, no men to be seen. In At the Pond, a wonderful new essay collection published by Daunt Books, women writers reflect on what this very special place means to them. Lou Stoppard writes: “If men could see this they would correctly call it paradise. Is this what they imagine women do when they hang out together: sit topless, hair dripping, smoking a cigarette, reading the newspaper, eating leftovers from a Tupperware, momentarily unbothered by stares or comments.”

“I suppose the appeal of the pond is having a moment’s peace, away from prying eyes,” Stoppard tells me. “Often, particularly in a big city like London, one feels looked at, or like a piece of public property – there to be regarded, judged or commented on.” Perhaps, in the #MeToo era, and judging by the evidence of that French survey, many more such spaces are needed. Naturists in Paris complained recently of “perverts hiding in bushes” and there is no shortage of men who regard women’s bodies as public property to be recorded for their own gratification. So I do not blame young women for covering up. I am in my 30s now, afforded a certain amount of invisibility. They are not.

When I first saw Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, it suggested a disquieting power dynamic. But the woman stares out at the viewer with a strong, confident gaze. She is unashamed, brazen, both looking and looked at. The power dynamics that today’s young women are negotiating seem no less ambiguous.

• Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is a Guardian columnist and author

References:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jul/29/sunbathing-topless-glamorous-bikini-young-women