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Furious China vows to ‘fight back’ after Congress backs HK democracy

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China on Thursday accused the United States of seeking to “destroy” Hong Kong and threatened retaliation after Congress passed new legislation supporting the pro-democracy movement that has thrown the city into nearly six months of turmoil.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act “indulges violent criminals” that China blames for the worsening unrest and aims to “muddle or even destroy Hong Kong”.

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The legislation — which now awaits President Donald Trump’s signature into law — backs universal suffrage, freedom from arbitrary arrest, and sanctions against those who contravene such principles.

It was passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday despite warnings from China, which angrily rejects criticism of its handling of Hong Kong.

AFP / John SAEKI

Hong Kong’s months of protest began with a now-shelved bill to allow extraditions to mainland China, which revived fears that Beijing was slicing into the city’s freedoms.

Millions of angry citizens have taken to the streets in giant marches, and protesters have repeatedly clashed with police in a movement that has widened to include calls for democracy and an inquiry into alleged police brutality.

Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leaders have rebuffed the demands.

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The resistance has focused in recent days on the campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, with fiery clashes that saw police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, who shot arrows and lobbed Molotov cocktails.

– Bring it on –

The university remained under siege Thursday, with dozens of holdouts in the movement’s signature black colours defying official calls to surrender.

AFP / NICOLAS ASFOURI Hundreds of protesters have fled the Polytechnic University campus out of fear or deteriorating conditions

Hundreds have fled the campus out of fear or deteriorating living conditions this week, most of them quickly arrested by police on rioting allegations.

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Exhausted protesters draped in gold and silver medical blankets continued to trickle out of Thursday.

But a 30-year-old masked protester who gave his name as “Mike” scoffed at surrendering, saying international and local pressure would cause authorities to make a humiliating “retreat”.

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“Please try! You’re welcome (to storm the campus),” he told AFP, in a message to police.

“It will be a fun game of hide-and-seek.”

“Police are making the wrong calculation here if they think we will surrender. We have plenty of resources, plenty of food and water. We can last a month.”

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In some areas, materials used for making Molotov cocktails were strewn about — accompanied by warnings against smoking — and graffiti was seen throughout the campus, including messages such as “You can kill a man, you can’t kill an idea.”

– ‘Naked interference’ –

The turmoil has already tipped Hong Kong’s economy into recession and the threat of a change in trade status brought fresh gloom.

AFP / ANTHONY WALLACE Dozens of people shinned down ropes from a footbridge in a bid to get away from the campus

Hong Kong’s benchmark stock index ended sharply lower, and other Asian markets also lost ground over fears that the rights legislation could derail the delicate effort to settle the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.

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Wang, Beijing’s top diplomat, condemned the bill as “naked interference in China’s internal affairs”, according to the foreign ministry, which said the comments were made during a meeting in Beijing with former US defense secretary William Cohen.

A foreign ministry spokesman also vowed that China would “take effective measures to resolutely fight back”, giving no details.

Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous Chinese region and US policy treats its economy as separate from the rest of China.

That has been a key factor in the city’s rise as an international financial hub, and left it exempt from the crippling tariffs imposed by Trump’s administration.

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The new US bill would require an annual review of that status, which could be revoked if the city’s unique freedoms are quashed.

Beijing has repeatedly said it may act if Hong Kong spirals out of control, and China’s state media said the US legislation would not change that calculus.

“Some may expect this to deter Beijing,” the government mouthpiece Global Times said. “Such thinking is naive.”

 


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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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