People found guilty under China’s new national security legislation for Hong Kong could face a life sentence, local media reported on Monday as the police confirmed at least 53 people were arrested during a largely peaceful protest in the territory against the planned law.
“I believe the punishment may not be three years or 10 years in jail,” Ip Kwok-him, a Hong Kong delegate to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which began reviewing a draft of the bill on Sunday, told Apple Daily.
“National security law(s) overseas often have life imprisonment as the maximum sentence. I do not see why the punishment under (Hong Kong’s) national security law cannot be as serious as that.”
Ip also suggested that the legislation, which targets subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign interference, could be applied retroactively.
Hong Kong has endured more than a year of protests, which started when the territory’s government attempted to pass a bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial. The rallies have since evolved into a broader call for democracy and become increasingly violent, marking the biggest challenge to Beijing’s power since the territory was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
The protests slowed this year as the coronavirus pandemic outlawed large gatherings, but people returned to the streets in May after Beijing announced its plan to impose the security law. Many expect the legislation to be enacted before July 1 when the anniversary of the handover is usually marked with a large rally.
The Chinese government has “unshakable determination to push ahead with enactment of the security bill and safeguard national sovereignty and interest,” state broadcaster CCTV reported at the weekend, citing a government spokesperson.
Police disperse protest
On Sunday, a crowd of several hundred people moved from Jordan to Mong Kok in the territory’s Kowloon district, staging what was intended as a “silent protest” against the planned law.
Scuffles broke out with chanting and slogans directed towards police and officers using pepper spray on parts of the crowd. Hong Kong Police said on Facebook that 53 people had been arrested and charged with unlawful assembly, and that some protesters had tried to blockade roads in the area.
We have just released our statement on National Security Law. In the statement, we explained why we oppose the enactment of NSL. Procedurally, it is inconsistent with Basic Law. Substantively, it encroaches on autonomy and undermines judicial independence https://t.co/hllPG0Nqfn pic.twitter.com/ylzBZ6sheW
— Progressive Lawyers Group 法政匯思 (@HongKongPLG) June 29, 2020
The national security law has raised concerns that Beijing is further eroding the extensive autonomy promised at the handover.
“The government wants to shut us up and to kick us out,” one protester, Roy Chan, 44, told Reuters. “We must stand up and strike down all those people who deprive Hong Kong people’s freedom.”
The Progressive Lawyers Group has also expressed its concerns about a law it says “will allow the Beijing authorities to arrest and lock up anyone in Hong Kong they consider ‘threatening’ national security.”
The legislation “disregards” due process and is “far more draconian than the extradition bill of 2019. The National Security Law will have a serious long term impact on Hong Kong’s autonomy and rule of law, and the way of life as we know it,” the group said in a statement on Facebook.
Hong Kong police have refused permission for this year’s July 1 march, citing a ban on large gatherings because of the coronavirus.
China has said the new security law will target only a small group of “troublemakers”; a position echoed by the administration in Hong Kong.
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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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