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Hong Kong chaos: Protesters clash with police over strict new security law

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Hundreds of protesters and pro-democracy activists were arrested last night as they protested the stringent new bill. One of the arrests included a 15-year-old girl who was protesting the new restrictions and waving a flag.

Police officers were cladded with riot gear, shields and bearing guns as they pushed protesters back using water cannons, tear gas and pepper spray.

China released the details of the National Security Bill on Tuesday evening, weeks after the law was announced.

It happened on the eve of the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s transfer to China and it overturns assurances made to protect Hongkongers’ freedoms.

Pro-democracy demonstrators were initially outnumbered by riot police, who were stationed at each major intersection.

Thousands of protesters arrived later to support the pro-democracy protest, dodging the tear gas and pepper pellets fired int heir direction.

Police said ten protesters were detained particularly under the new security law.

The first was a man with a flag that read: “Hong Kong Independence”. A woman holding a sign with the Union Flag was also arrested.

Other demonstrators were arrested for “possessing items advocating independence”.

Around 370 people were detained on other charges, including unlawful assembly and bearing weapons.

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The new legislation is interpreted as China’s most resolute move to gain complete control over Hong Kong.

It bans any action considered to be against China’s national interests.

Even if violence is not used, anyone shouting slogans or holding signs advocating for independence is considered to be breaching the law.

Driving a bus full of pro-democracy demonstrators could be deemed to be breaking the law.

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Those who are found to be committing more sever crimes will be labelled “terrorists”, taken to the mainland and receive a life sentence in prison. Some trials will take place behind closed doors.

A new police force has also been authorised to work in the territory with immunity to local legislation.

It will be China, not Hong Kong, the one to decide how the law is interpreted.

Ahead of the demonstration, pro-democracy activist Tsang Kin-shing, of the League of Social Democrats, cautioned there was a “large chance of our being arrested”.

He said: “The charges will not be light, please judge for yourself.”

One man said: “I’m scared of going to jail but for justice I have to come out today, I have to stand up.”

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai said the bill meant Hong Kong was “dead”.

He added: “It’s worse than the worst scenario imagined. Hong Kong is totally subdued, totally under control.”

Mr Lai also backed the Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989 and he thinks Beijing will reprehend him.

“I cannot worry, because you never know what kind of measures they will take against me,” he said.

Amnesty International said the new legislation was a “far-reaching threat to Hong Kong’s freedoms”.

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World News

U.S., EU advocacy groups warn against Google's purchase of Fitbit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Twenty advocacy groups from the United States, Europe, Latin America and elsewhere signed a statement Wednesday urging regulators to be wary of Google’s $2.1 billion bid for fitness tracker company Fitbit Inc (FIT.N) because of privacy and competition concerns.

The 20 organizations – which include the U.S.-based Public Citizen, Access Now from Europe and the Brazilian Institute of Consumer Defense – argued that the deal would expand the already considerable clout in digital markets of Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google.

Acquiring Fitbit would give Google such intimate information about users as how many steps they take daily, the quality of their sleep and their heart rates.

“Past experience shows that regulators must be very wary of any promises made by merging parties about restricting the use of the acquisition target’s data. Regulators must assume that Google will in practice utilize the entirety of Fitbit’s currently independent unique, highly sensitive data set in combination with its own,” the groups said.

Australian and Canadian groups were among the signatories.

A Google spokeswoman said the tech wearables space was crowded.

“This deal is about devices, not data,” she said. “We believe the combination of Google’s and Fitbit’s hardware efforts will increase competition in the sector.”

Google announced the deal in November to take on competitors in the crowded market for fitness trackers and smart watches. Fitbit’s market share has been threatened by deep-pocketed companies like Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS).

Australia’s competition authority said this month that it may have concerns about the deal and would make a final decision in August.

EU antitrust regulators will decide by July 20 whether to clear the deal with or without concessions or open a longer investigation.

In Washington, Google is under antitrust investigation by the Justice Department, a congressional committee and dozens of states for allegedly using its massive market power to harm smaller competitors.

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World News

Retail shops in Malaysia move online to stay afloat

Even though it has had a negative impact on both public health and the economy, the Covid-19 outbreak was a game changer when it came to digital transformation. It forced retailers to migrate to online platforms in a bid to stay afloat.

Sports attire business owner Muhammad Qayyum Al Qadri saved his five-year-old company from permanent closure by setting up a website and retraining his staff while staying at home, with very limited resources at his disposal.

“We’re quite known in the sports scene, but we didn’t really have an online presence. That was my fault, but I didn’t think anything could possibly go wrong until the pandemic broke out. We had to temporarily shut down when the government enforced the MCO. That was when we became ‘paralysed,'” he said, referring to Malaysia’s movement control order, which was implemented on March 18.

“After discussing it with my team, I purchased a website domain, set up an Instagram account and announced it to our customers via a broadcast message on WhatsApp.

“Over three months into the MCO, we now have more than 2,000 followers on Instagram and our sales are more stable,” said the 39-year-old from Petaling Jaya.

During the MCO, Malaysians were banned from leaving their homes unless it was necessary. More than 209,000 retail stores, including 90 per cent of stalls and markets, had to shut down, resulting in zero sales.

On May 4, the movement curbs were relaxed, allowing most businesses to reopen. But by then, thousands of businesses had ceased operations permanently.

According to Retail Group Malaysia (RGM), sales fell by 28.8 per cent in the first two weeks of the MCO, compared with the same period last year.

The Malaysian retail industry is expected to suffer a decline in sales of 5.5 per cent or RM10.9 billion (S$3.6 billion) this year, instead of the 4.6 per cent growth projected last December, the RGM forecast.

Madam Adilah Khairudin, 37, owner of traditional Malay clothing shop Poya Boutique, said: “We’ve been operating via a physical store for more than 20 years, so when the MCO was announced, I panicked because 90 per cent of our sales came from there.

“We have an Instagram account, but it wasn’t really utilised until recently. With the few resources I have, I carefully curate the content to lure potential customers.

“I’m now a storyteller for my products – I need to be creative. And it works. I’m now getting customers from Kelantan, Penang and Terengganu. Before this, most of my customers were based in the Klang Valley. The pandemic made me realise that there is a bigger market for businesses online.”

But moving online comes with challenges, as all sellers – from home-based businesses to mall tenants – work out new ways to manage inventory and fulfil orders.

“There were a lot of hiccups during the first month (of the MCO). We basically made a lot of mistakes. But with every mistake we make, we get to learn more,” Mr Qayyum said.

To ensure a smooth operation, Madam Adilah also said she had to move some of her stock to her residence to ease the fulfilment process.

“Now, my days are spent replying to customers’ private messages online and also fulfilling their orders from home. I need to equip myself with the right knowledge. I also need to invest in photo shoots for my products and advertise on a relevant platform,” she said.

Despite the easing of MCO restrictions, mall visitor numbers have significantly decreased.

“I no longer feel comfortable going to shopping malls or any other public places, so I think retailers going online is the way forward,” said shopper Nur Aisyah Ismail, 28.

“I don’t think we will ever be able to go back to ‘normal’, so I really love seeing how many of them have started selling online. The only downside is, if you’re buying clothes, you won’t be able to feel the material, but I can live with that.”

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World News

Hong Kong police arrest suspect at airport after officer assaulted in security law protests

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police arrested a 24-year-old man at the city’s airport in the early hours of Thursday on suspicion of attacking and wounding an officer during protests against a new national security law Beijing imposed on the financial hub.

Hong Kong police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested more than 300 people on Wednesday as protesters took to the streets in defiance of the sweeping security legislation introduced by China to snuff out dissent.

On Wednesday, police posted pictures on Twitter of an officer with a bleeding arm saying he was stabbed by “rioters holding sharp objects”. The suspects fled while bystanders offered no help, police said.

A police spokesman told Reuters the arrested man was surnamed Wong but could not confirm if he was leaving Hong Kong or working at the airport.

Local newspaper Apple Daily, citing unnamed sources, said the suspect was onboard a Cathay Pacific flight to London due to depart just before midnight.

A witness said “around 10 minutes before take-off, three police vehicles drove towards No. 64 gate, outside the Cathay Pacific plane” and around 10 riot police ran up the bridge to the aircraft.

Cathay Pacific did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Police said on Wednesday they had made around 370 arrests for illegal assembly and other offences, with 10 involving violations of the new law.

The legislation punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. It will also see mainland security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and allows extradition to the mainland for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

China’s parliament adopted the law in response to protests last year triggered by fears that Beijing was stifling the city’s freedoms, guaranteed by a “one country, two systems” formula agreed when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Beijing denies the accusation.

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World News

Singapore stock watch: SIA, Suntec Reit, SPH Reit, UIC, AGV Group, Stamford Land

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) – The following companies saw new developments that may affect trading of their shares on Thursday (July 2):

Singapore Airlines (SIA): With international travel still largely on hold, the SIA group has stored four more aircraft in Australia, taking the number of planes parked in Australia to 22. SIA shares closed at $3.81 on Wednesday, up $0.08 or 2.1 per cent.

Suntec Real Estate Investment Trust (Suntec Reit): Suntec Reit has bumped up its stake in Harmony Investors Group, which indirectly holds Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre, for a total of $40 million. Units of the trust gained $0.02 or 1.4 per cent to finish Wednesday at $1.43 before the announcement.

SPH Reit: SPH Reit has proposed a distribution of 0.5 cent per unit for the third quarter of FY2020, which ended on May 31. Units of SPH Reit closed at 86 cents on Wednesday, down 1.5 cents or 1.7 per cent.

United Industrial Corporation (UIC): UIC chief executive officer and president Lim Hock San will retire on Sept 30 after 28 years in both roles, the property group said on Wednesday. Shares of UIC ended Wednesday at $2.19, down $0.01 or 0.5 per cent before the announcement.

AGV Group: AGV said in a regulatory filing late on Wednesday that it had received notices from the Commercial Affairs Department and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, asking for information and documents in relation to an alleged offence under the Securities and Futures Act. The counter closed up 0.2 cent or 3.9 per cent to 5.4 cents on Wednesday, before this announcement.

Stamford Land: The mainboard-listed company on Wednesday refuted a media report alleging that its Melbourne hotel was responsible for 29 Covid-19 cases. Shares of Stamford Land last traded at 34.5 cents on June 30.

Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust (A-Reit): The manager of A-Reit on Wednesday announced an agreement to buy a new logistics property in Sydney, Australia for A$23.5 million (S$21.1 million). Units of A-Reit ended Wednesday at $3.19, up $0.02 or 0.6 per cent, before this announcement.

Frasers Centrepoint Trust (FCT): Analysts are optimistic on FCT, believing that the suburban retail Reit’s acquisition of an additional 12.07 per cent in PGIM Real Estate Asia Retail Fund will bring it closer to acquiring the assets held under the fund. Units of FCT closed one cent or 0.4 per cent higher at $2.32 on Wednesday.

Cortina Holdings: The luxury watch retailer on Wednesday posted $20.4 million in its net earnings for the second half-year to March, 19 per cent higher than the $17.1 million a year ago. Cortina shares last traded at $1.18 on June 26.

Hatten Land: The property developer on Thursday said two of its subsidiaries will undergo restructuring in light of ongoing pressures exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Hatten Land shares ended at seven cents on Wednesday, down 0.2 cent or 2.8 per cent.

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World News

Twitter removes image tweet by Trump over NYT copyright complaint

(Reuters) – Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) has taken down an image tweeted by the U.S. President Donald Trump from its platform, after receiving a copyright complaint from the New York Times.

The original tweet by Trump issued on June 30, showed a meme that read “In reality they’re not after me they’re after you I’m just in the way” with Trump’s picture in the background.

The background picture was taken by a New York Times photographer, to accompany a feature article on then presidential candidate Trump in September 2015.

Twitter now displays the message “This image has been removed in response to a report from the copyright holder,” in place of the tweet.

The move by the social media site is the latest instance of content posted by Trump being flagged or removed, due to what Twitter says are copyright complaints, violation of its policy on threatening violence, among others.

Twitter removed the image after it received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint from the New York Times, which owns the rights to the photo, according to a notice posted on the Lumen Database.

The database collects and analyzes legal complaints and requests for removal of online materials.

Twitter began challenging Trump’s tweets in May and has repeatedly clashed with him since then. The president has threatened to change laws on social media after Twitter labeled one of his tweets about postal voting inaccurate and hid a tweet about looting, which Twitter said fomented violence.

A campaign tribute video to George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody, was also disabled by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on their platforms last month, due to copyright complaints.

Twitter and NYT did not respond when reached by Reuters for further comment.

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World News

US coronavirus cases rise by nearly 50,000 in biggest one-day spike of pandemic

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – New US Covid-19 cases rose by nearly 50,000 on Wednesday (July 1), according to a Reuters tally, marking the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic.

The record follows a warning by the government’s top infectious diseases expert that the number could soon double to 100,000 cases a day if Americans do not come together to take steps necessary to halt the virus’ resurgent spread, such as wearing masks when unable to practise social distancing.

In the first week of June, the United States added about 22,000 new coronavirus cases each day.

But as the month progressed, hot spots began to emerge across the Sun Belt.

In the last seven days of June, daily new infections almost doubled to 42,000 nationally.

Brazil is the only other country to report more than 50,000 new cases in one day.

The United States reported at least 49,286 cases on Tuesday.

More than half of new US cases each day come from Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, home to 30 per cent of the country’s population.

All four states plus 10 others saw new cases more than double in June.

The daily increase in new cases could reach 100,000 unless a nationwide push was made to tamp down the fast-spreading virus, Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a US Senate committee on Tuesday.

“We can’t just focus on those areas that are having the surge. It puts the entire country at risk,” Mr Fauci said.

The rise in cases is not just the result of more testing.

Hospitalisations are also skyrocketing.

Nationally, 7 per cent of coronavirus diagnostic tests came back positive last week, up from 5 per cent the prior week, according to a Reuters analysis.

Arizona’s positivity test rate was 24 per cent last week, Florida’s was 16 per cent. Nevada, South Carolina and Texas were all 15 per cent, according to the analysis.

Some of the recent increase traces back to Memorial Day holiday celebrations in late May. Health experts are worried about Independence Day celebrations this weekend, when Americans traditionally flock to beaches and campgrounds to watch fireworks displays.

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Economy

S.Korean shares track Wall St higher; SK Biopharmaceuticals jumps on debut

    * KOSPI rises, foreigners net sellers
    * Korean won strengthens versus U.S. dollar
    * South Korea benchmark bond yield falls

    SEOUL, July 2 (Reuters) - Round-up of South Korean financial
markets:
    
    ** South Korean shares rose on Thursday, tracking Wall
Street that rose on upbeat U.S. factory data and vaccine hopes.
The Korean won firmed, while the benchmark bond yield fell.
    
    ** The KOSPI         gained 16.44 points, or 0.77%, to
2,122.89 by 0213 GMT. 
    
    ** While U.S. manufacturing activity rebounded in June and
hit the highest in more than a year, a COVID-19 vaccine
developed by German biotech firm BioNTech          and U.S. firm
Pfizer         showed potential.                          
    
    ** Optimistic investor sentiment outweighed persisting
worries of a rise in COVID-19 infections and a slower recovery,
said Lee Young-gon, an analyst at Hana Financial Investment. 
    
    ** Among individual shares, SK Biopharmaceuticals Co Ltd
            jumped nearly 30% in a Seoul stock market debut, as
the initial public offering market gathers steam after the novel
coronavirus outbreak stalled potential listings.             
    
    ** Foreigners were net sellers of 134.2 billion won ($111.74
million) worth of shares on the main board. 
    
    ** The won was quoted 0.17% higher at 1,201.4 per dollar on
the onshore settlement platform           .
    
    ** In offshore trading, the won        was quoted flat at
1,201.0 per dollar, while in non-deliverable forward trading,
its one-month contract               was quoted at 1,200.8 per
dollar. 
    
    ** In money and debt markets, September futures on
three-year treasury bonds         rose 0.07 point to 112.08.
    
    ** The most liquid 3-year Korean treasury bond yield fell by
1.8 basis points to 0.831%, while the benchmark 10-year yield
fell by 2.8 basis points to 1.378%.

($1 = 1,200.9500 won)

 (Reporting by Jihoon Lee; editing by Uttaresh.V)
  

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World News

London horror: Teenage girl killed after car hits two teenagers in North London

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A 13-year-old girl was taken to a north London hospital where she died shortly before 11pm that night, while a second girl, aged 15, was shocked but not injured. The driver stopped at the scene, according to the Metropolitan Police. A 41-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and taken to a north London police station, where she was later charged.

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Kiszla: Nuggets headed on fool’s errand to Florida, where COVID-19 is going to kick NBA’s asterisk – The Denver Post

After seeing star center Nikola Jokic get the coronavirus overseas and their practice facility shut down by the pandemic, the Nuggets are now headed on a bigger fool’s errand. They’re bound for America’s new epicenter of COVID-19 for a quixotic championship chase inside a bubble, the NBA version of “It’s a Small (Basketball) World.”

Hey, what could possibly go wrong? Is this a really a smart idea?

“We’re not putting a gun to anybody’s head,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Wednesday.

During a video conference with reporters, I asked Malone: Does he think resuming this NBA season is worth it, considering obvious health risks, long weeks of isolation from loved ones and the weighty social issues too hot for America to ignore?

“Do I think it’s worth it? I’ll be honest, in the three months since the season was suspended, depending on the day, the week, the month, I probably would have a different answer. Part of me wants to get back and to see what we’re capable of doing as a team. With resumption of play, can we be a source of calm, in terms of having sports back? I think a lot people are chomping at the bit to see the NBA get back in action (with) all the great players that we have and to eventually crown a champion. To have a season just stop midway, unfinished, is kind of hard to imagine,” Malone said.

“But at the same time there are some many things going on, from a health standpoint as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world, as well as the social unrest and the fight for a stop to police brutality and racism across the board. I think it’s the right thing to do (to play). I think it’s going to be a challenge.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo, the presumptive MVP of this strange NBA year, doesn’t want to hear a championship during a virus-shortened season will not shine as brightly as rings won in seasons past.

“A lot of people say there’s gonna be a star next to this championship,” Antetokounmpo said. “I feel like, at the end of the day, this is gonna be the toughest championship you could ever win, because the circumstances are really, really tough right now.”

With all due respect, any knucklehead worrying if there should be an asterisk next the name of the 2020 NBA champion needs to find a better hobby.

An asterisk? The NBA should declare it a major victory if the league finishes playoffs that aren’t marred by a major coronavirus outbreak or, heaven forbid, a death of anyone associated with a team or among blue-collar staffers working inside the bubble.

“If we have a lot of cases, we’re going to stop,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in an interview with “Time” magazine. “You cannot run from this virus.”

But the league is going to try to stay one step ahead of COVID-19. This is a risk worth taking only because the alternative is for the NBA to take its ball and go home until the pandemic is defeated by effective therapies or a vaccine.

After spending last weekend in Florida on family business, I can tell you: While the humidity is everywhere, response to the virus varies widely from one block to the next, ranging from intense COVID-paranoia to devil-may-care indiscretion.

For example: Less than a mile from where a masked desk clerk sat behind a plexiglass window and cautiously asked hotel guests to check in on a credit-card machine positioned six feet away, there were three dozen guys laughing at social-distancing rules while hanging on a street corner during a balmy Friday night.

Maybe that’s to be expected in a state where beaches open and close on whims of government leadership so inconsistent regular peeps don’t know whom to trust or what to believe, even as coronavirus cases rise rapidly in Florida.

How secure can the Nuggets feel in the bubble?

“I guess I feel fairly confident, because I’m willing to go,” Malone said.

Well, good luck and safe travels, Mr. Malone.

“I appreciate that, Kiz,” he replied.

Prior to takeoff on a flight bound for Orlando next week, I suggest every member of the Nuggets traveling party wears a mask that not only covers both mouth and nose but eyes, as well.

Because it will require blind faith to believe this basketball mission has any real chance to succeed.

The Nuggets are 30-1 long shots to win the championship.

But I’m not certain the NBA has much better odds of finishing the playoffs and crowning a champion before COVID-19 kicks the league’s asterisk.

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