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Hong Kong braces for huge rally after leader climbdown

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Hong Kong is bracing for another mass rally Sunday as public anger seethes following unprecedented clashes between protesters and police over a controversial extradition law, despite a climbdown by the city’s embattled leader.

Organisers are hoping for another mammoth turnout as they vowed to keep pressure on chief executive Carrie Lam, who suspended work on the hugely divisive bill Saturday after days of mounting pressure, saying she had misjudged the public mood.

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Critics fear the Beijing-backed law will tangle people up in China’s notoriously opaque and politicised courts as well as hammer the city’s reputation as a safe business hub.

The international finance hub was rocked by the worst political violence since its 1997 handover to China on Wednesday as tens of thousands of protesters were dispersed by riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Lam stopped short of committing to permanently scrapping the proposal and the concession was swiftly rejected by protest leaders, who called on her to resign, permanently shelve the bill and apologise for police tactics.

On Sunday afternoon, protesters will march from a park on the main island to the city’s parliament — a repeat of a massive rally a week earlier in which organisers said more than a million people turned out.

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Lam’s decision to ignore that record-breaking turnout and press ahead with tabling the bill for debate in the legislature on Wednesday was the spark that lit the clashes which brought parts of the financial hub to a standstill.

The protest movement has morphed in recent days from one specifically aimed at scrapping the extradition bill, to a wider movement of anger at Lam and Beijing over years of sliding freedoms.

“The pro-democracy group will not stop at this point, they want to build on the momentum against Carrie Lam,” political analyst Willy Lam, told AFP. “They will keep the heat on and ride the momentum.”

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Police said they had no choice but to use force to meet hardcore violent protesters who had besieged their lines outside the city’s parliament on Wednesday.

But critics — including legal and rights groups — say officers used a small minority of violent protesters to launch a sweeping security crackdown against predominantly young, peaceful protesters and clear the streets.

Anger has also been fanned by Lam and senior officers calling those in the streets “rioters”.

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Protest leaders have called for police to drop charges against anyone arrested for rioting and other offences linked to Wednesday’s clashes.

Lam has argued that Hong Kong needs to end the lack of an extradition agreement with the mainland and says safeguards were in place to ensure dissidents or political cases would not be accepted.

Opposition to the bill united an unusually wide cross-section of Hong Kong from influential legal and business bodies, to religious leaders and western nations

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Japan emperor to proclaim enthronement in ritual-bound ceremony

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Japan's new Emperor Naruhito will formally proclaim his ascension to the throne next week in a ritual-bound ceremony, but the after-effects of deadly typhoon will cast a shadow over proceedings.

Naruhito officially assumed his duties as emperor on May 1, a day after his father became the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in 200 years.

But the transition will not be complete until his new role is officially proclaimed on Tuesday, in a series of events expected to be attended by foreign dignitaries from nearly 200 countries.

The event will come just over a week after Typhoon Hagibis slammed into Japan, killing nearly 80 people and leaving a trail of destruction.

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US imposes tariffs on EU goods, targeting Airbus, wine and whisky

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The United States imposed tariffs on a record $7.5-billion worth of European Union goods on Friday, despite threats of retaliation, with Airbus, French wine and Scottish whiskies among the high-profile targets.

The tariffs, which took effect just after midnight in Washington (0401 GMT), came after talks between European officials and US trade representatives failed to win a last-minute reprieve.

The WTO-endorsed onslaught from US President Donald Trump also comes as Washington is mired in a trade war with China and could risk destabilising the global economy further.

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Why key Senate Republicans should be terrified as Trump drags the party down

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Incumbent Republican senators in swing states and blue states find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, criticizing President Donald Trump can result in a burdensome GOP primary battle; on the other hand, being perceived as pro-Trump can be the kiss of death in places where Trump is unpopular. And according to a report by Eli Yokley for Morning Consult’s website, things aren’t getting any better for incumbent GOP senators who are considered vulnerable in the 2020 election.

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