4 June: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the national anthem bill had been passed. Reuters later issued a correction to say that while voting had started, the bill had not yet been passed.Hong Kong’s legislature on Thursday began voting on a controversial bill criminalising ‘disrespect’ of China’s national anthem, amid concern over the mainland’s increasing influence on the semi-autonomous territory and a ban for the first time in three decades on its annual memorial for the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
The bill means anyone found guilty of disrespecting the anthem risks a hefty fine and as many as three years in jail.
UK’s Johnson offers visa relaxation to three million Hong Kong people
‘I saw a lot I will never forget’: Reporting from Tiananmen in 1989
Tiananmen: The bloody crackdown that remains taboo
The assembly was sitting as it emerged some 3,000 riot police – 2,000 of them on Hong Kong Island where government offices are located – would be deployed after the annual Tiananmen Square massacre was banned because of coronavirus concerns. Two water cannon were also stationed near the government complex and the Chinese liaison office, according to local media.
Vigil organisers have urged people to light candles in groups of no more than eight people to remain within the coronavirus rules on gatherings.
The bill was passed amid heightened tensions in Hong Kong after almost a year of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests and as China moved last month to impose new national security legislation on the territory, which is supposed to be guaranteed freedoms unknown on the mainland until at least 2047.
The candlelight vigil has traditionally drawn tens of thousands of people to the city’s Victoria Park.
“The Hong Kong vigil has been a beacon of light for those of us struggling in darkness to keep the history and memory (of Tiananmen) alive,” Rowena He, an associate professor in history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and author of ‘Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China’ told Al Jazeera. “It shows the world and the regime that there’s something that cannot be crushed with tanks and guns and jail, and that’s the human spirit.”
Calls online have urged people to light candles in specific places throughout the evening and then “where you are” at 8:00pm local time (12:00 GMT), followed by a minute of silence. Some have said they will go to Victoria Parks in smaller groups.
“Police will observe and enforce the law as the situation requires,” the South China Morning Post quoted an unnamed high-ranking officer as saying.
Some people gathered to light candles on Wednesday night, while others held aloft neon lights depicting the date of the crackdown in roman numerals.
Police have said a mass gathering on June 4 would pose a threat to public health at a time when the city has reported its first locally-transmitted coronavirus cases in weeks. Hong Kong has banned gatherings of more than eight people, a public health measure authorities insist has no political motivation.
Malissa Chan, a 26-year-old who works in the property sector, told Reuters she would go to the park anyway.
“When authorities want to suppress us, there are more reasons to speak up,” she said.
Social distancing measures allow for religious gatherings under certain conditions, so some people plan to commemorate the Tiananmen crackdown in churches and temples. Other residents are also expected to lay flowers along a waterfront promenade, while some artists plan to stage short street theatre plays.
Today we commemorate the protesters who fought for democracy in Tiananmen Square, scores of whom were violently repressed by the CCP. For the first time, Hong Kong’s June Fourth vigil has been banned by the government. Defiantly, we commit to remembrance as a form of resistance. https://t.co/bd7WVdjhdx
— Lausan 流傘 (@lausanhk) June 4, 2020
China has never provided a full accounting of the 1989 violence, but rights groups and witnesses say thousands of people died when the military cleared the square of pro-democracy protesters who had been camped out there for weeks.
The death toll given by officials days after the crackdown was about 300, most of them soldiers, with only 23 students confirmed killed.
The event has been all but erased from history in mainland China, with Hong Kong’s vigil the most significant commemoration of the massacre anywhere in the world.
The ban means it is the first time since 1990 that it has not taken place.
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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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