China’s plan to impose new national security laws on Hong Kong drew angry condemnation on Friday as activists in the city called for protests and President Donald Trump warned that the United States would react “very strongly” to the planned legislation.
Critics say the security law would destroy the “one country, two systems” framework that was agreed when China took back control of the self-governing Chinese territory in 1997 promising citizens rights and freedoms found nowhere else in the country.
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While it was unclear whether a proposed march to China’s Liaison Office would materialise, it was a reminder of the renewed risk of unrest in Hong Kong as protests begin to resume as the coronavirus recedes.
The legislation could also prove a turning point for the territory, intensifying geopolitical tensions between Beijing and Washington, whose relationship is already weakened by trade disputes and reciprocal accusations over the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is starting to look like a US-China summer of discontent in the making,” Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at AxiCorp told Reuters news agency.
Speaking on Friday in his annual report to the Chinese parliament, Premier Li Keqiang said China would establish a “sound” legal system and enforcement mechanisms to ensure national security in Hong Kong and Macau, its other semi-autonomous city.
Li again promised that China would “honour and implement” the “one country, two systems” framework, but Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown said many wonder whether that is really the case.
“We saw pictures of the Great Hall of the People during Li’s speech and I think that is a reminder of where the real power now rests in Hong Kong; not in Hong Kong’s legislature but in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing,” Brown said.
“It is essentially declaring directly that ‘one country, two systems’ is null and a failure,” Eric Cheung, principal lecturer at Hong Kong University’s department of law, told Reuters.
The Hong Kong government’s previous attempt to adopt national security legislation in 2003 was met with a protest that drew more than half a million people onto the streets and was eventually shelved.
‘Force and fear’
China’s latest move to impose the legislation comes after large-scale demonstrations in 2019 that became increasingly violent as the months wore on, creating the biggest crisis in the former British colony since the 1997 handover.
A draft of the legislation obtained by Reuters indicated that the proposed legislation requires the territory to quickly finish enacting national security regulations under its mini-constitution, the Basic law.
According to the legislation, China’s parliament empowers itself to set up the legal framework and implementation mechanism to prevent and punish subversion, terrorism, separatism and foreign interference, “or any acts that severely endanger national security.”
China’s parliamentary Vice Chairman Wang Chen is scheduled to give a speech explaining the new law later on Friday.
Hong Kong-based writer Antony Dapiran said the reference to endangering national security was significant.
“Framing Hong Kong’s democracy as a national security threat and invoking the spectre of “foreign forces” enables Beijing to justify their intervention as related to “foreign affairs” and “defence”, the only two areas (where) Beijing can technically interfere in Hong Kong,” Dapiran wrote on Twitter.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam at the opening session of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing which will discuss the imposition of a new national security law in the semi-autonomous city [Ng Han Guan/Pool via EPA]
Pro-democracy activists and politicians have long opposed the idea of national security laws, and on Thursday night denounced the plans as “the end of Hong Kong”.
“Beijing is attempting to silence Hong Kongers’ critical voices with force and fear,” pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong tweeted. “Deep down protesters know, we insist not because we are strong, but because we have no other choice.”
The introduction of Hong Kong security laws on the agenda of the Chinese parliament ahead of the annual session which began on Friday morning, drew a warning from US President Donald Trump that Washington would react “very strongly”.
The US State Department also warned China, saying a high-degree of autonomy and respect for human rights were key to preserving the territory’s special status in US law, which has helped it maintain its position as a global financial centre. The city’s stock market had plunged more than 3.5 percent by lunchtime on Friday.
The territory’s last colonial governor, Chris Patten, also weighed in, telling the BBC that the UK should tell China the legislation is “outrageous”.
— RTHK English News (@rthk_enews) May 22, 2020
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council urged Beijing on Friday not to lead Hong Kong into “bigger turmoil” with the move. China claims the self-ruled democratic island as its own, proposing “one country, two systems” as a blueprint for its reunification.
Before the plans for the law were announced, Hong Kong’s democracy movement was already under pressure with 15 people, including some of the territory’s most prominent politicians charged this week for organising and taking part in the protests.
Meanwhile, an Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) report into the police handling of the demonstrations absolved the organisation of blame saying force was necessary because of the “illegal action by protesters” and warning them not to use allegations of police brutality as a “political weapon”.
There have also been scuffles in the city’s Legislative Council between pro-Beijing and pro-democracy members ahead of a debate next week on a controversial bill related to China’s national anthem.
Speaking to Al Jazeera before plans for the national security legislation were announced on Thursday, Steve Tsang, director at the China Institute at SOAS in London, said the prospects for Hong Kong were increasingly bleak.
“It’s ‘one country, Xi system’,” he said. “It’s worse than ‘one country, one system’ under Jiang Zemin (China’s president at the time of the handover). It’s about Xi Jinping, not just the Chinese system as it was in 1997.”
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Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.
Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.
Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation
The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
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