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Hong Kong leader tells US not to ‘interfere’ after fresh protests

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Hong Kong’s embattled leader warned the United States on Tuesday not to “interfere” with her government’s response to the city’s pro-democracy movement, after fresh protests called on Washington to ramp up pressure on Beijing.

Millions of people have demonstrated over the last 14 weeks in the biggest challenge to China’s rule of the financial hub since its handover from Britain in 1997.

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Protesters took to the streets again on Sunday, marching to the American consulate to call on Congress to pass a bill expressing support for the pro-democracy movement.

The proposed law could undermine Hong Kong’s special US trade privileges by mandating regular checks on whether authorities were respecting the Basic Law that underpins the city’s semi-autonomous status.

But Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that any change to its economic relationship with Washington would threaten “mutual benefits”.

“It’s extremely inappropriate for any country to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs,” she told reporters.

“I hope that no more people in Hong Kong actively reach out to tell the United States to pass the act.”

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While some American politicians on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for the democratic goals of the protesters, President Donald Trump’s administration has maintained a more hands-off approach while it fights a trade war with China.

Trump has called for a peaceful resolution to the political crisis and urged Beijing to not escalate with a violent crackdown.

But he has also said it is up to China to handle the protests.

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Washington has rejected Beijing’s allegations that it is backing the demonstrators and China has provided little evidence to back its claims beyond supportive statements from some US politicians.

– ‘Crazy destruction’ –

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Hong Kong’s protests were lit by a plan to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland, seen by opponents as the latest move by China to chip away at the city’s unique freedoms.

AFP / Anthony WALLACE Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has warned Washington not to ‘interfere’ as the city battles a major political crisis

After Beijing and city leaders took a hard line, the movement snowballed into a broader campaign calling for greater democracy, police accountability and an amnesty for those arrested.

The protests show no signs of abating, and Lam has struck an uncompromising tone for much of the last three months.

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But last week, she made a surprise concession, announcing the full withdrawal of the extradition bill.

That was not enough to mollify pro-democracy activists, who denounced the move as too little and too late, and huge crowds thronged the streets again over the weekend.

In what has become a familiar pattern, Sunday’s main daytime rally to the US consulate passed off peacefully.

But as evening set in, riot police chased groups of hardcore protesters who blocked roads, vandalised nearby subway stations and set makeshift barricades on fire.

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Lam once again denounced demonstrators during her Tuesday press conference.

“The crazy destruction made at MTR stations shows that protesters have acted beyond expressing their views on the extradition law and other demands,” she said, using the name of the firm that runs the city’s underground rail service.

“The escalating and continuous violence cannot solve the problems we face in Hong Kong.”


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New Zealand suspends America’s Cup funding after fraud, spy claims

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New Zealand froze payments to America's Cup organizers Thursday as officials investigate fraud claims in the lead-up to next year's prestigious yachting regatta in Auckland.

Government officials said they had suspended payments to America's Cup Events Limited, the private company organizing the race, following allegations of spying and misuse of public money.

"We are not intending to make further payments to ACE. This will be revisited pending the outcome of the process," the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said in a statement.

The ministry has previously said it was investigating "structural and financial matters" surrounding the organization of the race but provided no further details.

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Trump supporters funded a private border wall that’s already at risk of falling down

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Tommy Fisher billed his new privately funded border wall as the future of deterrence, a quick-to-build steel fortress that spans 3 miles in one of the busiest Border Patrol sectors.

Unlike a generation of wall builders before him, he said he figured out how to build a structure directly on the banks of the Rio Grande, a risky but potentially game-changing step when it came to the nation’s border wall system.

Fisher has leveraged his self-described “Lamborghini” of walls to win more than $1.7 billion worth of federal contracts in Arizona.

But his showcase piece is showing signs of runoff erosion and, if it’s not fixed, could be in danger of falling into the Rio Grande, according to engineers and hydrologists who reviewed photos of the wall for ProPublica and The Texas Tribune. It never should have been built so close to the river, they say.

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2020 Election

How Lindsey Graham keeps lowering his standards for Trump

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As the coronavirus pandemic spread and death tolls increased across the United States over the last three months, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., repeatedly raised the number of deaths he would find acceptable in defense of President Donald Trump's botched response.
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