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Indian policemen arrested over custody deaths of father and son

CHENNAI (REUTERS) – India has arrested five policemen over the deaths of a father and son in custody, a senior investigating official said on Thursday (July 2), following outrage that drew comparisons to the death of Mr George Floyd in the United States.

Last week the men, Mr J Jayaraj, 59, and Mr Bennicks Immanuel, 31, were allegedly subjected to a brutal thrashing that resulted in rectal bleeding and eventual death, according to a letter to government officials written by Mr Jayaraj’s wife J Selvarani.

“All important police personnel involved in the incident have been arrested,” Mr K Shankar, Inspector General of Police, Crime Branch Central Investigation Department in the southern state of Tamil Nadu told Reuters.

“The investigation continues,” Mr Shankar said, adding that a murder case has been filed on the arrested policemen, who include two sub-inspectors, two constables and the police station’s inspector.

Hundreds of thousands of tweets were sent out using the hashtag #JusticeforJayarajandBennix, that was among the top Twitter topics trending in India last Friday and among the top 30 trending globally, with many comparing the deaths to that of Mr George Floyd.

Mr Bennicks died on Monday after complaining of breathlessness and Mr Jayaraj died Tuesday, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, who oversees the police in the state, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Police in Sathankulam, a town located 50km south of the port city of Thoothukudi in southern Tamil Nadu state, said the duo were picked up for breaching coronavirus lockdown rules.

Nearly 15 cases of custodial violence and torture were reported daily on average, according to India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The NHRC said in its report that some custodial deaths were reported after considerable delay or not reported at all, adding violence in custody was so rampant “that it has become almost routine”.

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Hong Kong police stabbing suspect arrested at airport after 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.

Local television Cable TV, citing a police source, said police received an anonymous call at 11.43 pm, 12 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart, that the suspect was on his way to London. He bought a one-way ticket about two hours after the stabbing, the only purchase for that flight made on Wednesday, and arrived at the airport without luggage.

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He held an expired British National Overseas passport, a special status created under British law in 1987 that specifically relates to Hong Kong and provides a route to citizenship, the source told Cable TV.

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

Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying posted on Facebook on Wednesday that a bounty of HK$500,000 ($64,513) would be offered to anyone helping catch the fugitive and that confidentiality would be ensured.

The money would come via 803.hk, a website linked to Leung, which offers “crowdfunded” rewards for information leading to the prosecution of some anti-government protesters. The name of the site refers to an incident on Aug. 3, 2019, when a Chinese national flag was thrown into the sea during a protest.

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

The law 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.

Chinese state media on Thursday praised the passage of the law, saying it would bring “prosperity and stability.”

“We must face up to the fact that the existence of legal loopholes in safeguarding national security has already made Hong Kong society pay a heavy price,” a commentary in People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, read.

($1 = 7.7504 Hong Kong dollars)

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Breakingviews – Ping An untangles one knot in its leadership

HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) – One knot is better than two. Ping An founder Ma Mingzhe has given up his role as chief executive but will remain chairman of the $187 billion Chinese insurer. The split is welcome, but quirky governance endures with three other co-CEOs below him. Multiple bosses can be effective when responsibilities are clearly divided. Luckily, Ping An mostly appears to have ticked that box.

The tech-savvy group has mostly delivered for investors, earning a more than 20% total annualised return since it listed in Hong Kong in 2004, more than double that of the benchmark Hang Seng Index. But Ma has held tight control since establishing the company over three decades ago.

Splitting the top jobs will better prepare for any future leadership transition as conflicts of interest tend to arise when one person holds both. But Ping An’s remaining leadership structure is still pretty new – it only introduced the three co-CEO model in 2018. And one of the set, Lee Yuan Siong, has already left to lead rival AIA.

There is precedent. Safra Catz and Mark Hurd together oversaw software giant Oracle for five years until Hurd’s death in 2019, and the three co-CEO setup has mostly worked at South Korean conglomerate Samsung, which has been roiled more by corruption scandals than operational issues.

But there are also plenty of examples of where things turned sour, particularly on Wall Street. At Goldman Sachs, the joint leadership of co-chief executives Jon Corzine and Henry Paulson in the late 1990s devolved into an ugly power struggle. The model can go awry within divisional units, too. Paul Taubman and Colm Kelleher’s strained relationship as co-presidents of institutional securities became a source of internal conflict at Morgan Stanley a decade ago.

History suggests having multiple bosses works best when roles are clearly divided. At Ping An, Xie Yonglin runs the financial services unit, Jessica Tan is in charge of technology and innovation, while Yao Bo – named on Wednesday as Lee’s replacement – will largely be in charge of strategy and finance. The latter role will have some overlap, but for now Ping An has unravelled at least one potential leadership knot.

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Meghan Markle’s claim wedding gave £1bn tourism boost ‘doesn’t sound realistic’ – claim

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Newly-filed papers relating to her High Court privacy battle stated UK tourism experienced a windfall that “far outweighed” what taxpayer had to fork out for police and security required during the wedding. Meghan’s legal team said in submitted legal papers the estimated contribution of public funds “towards crowd security was far outweighed by the tourism ­ revenue of over one billion pounds sterling that was generated from the Royal wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex which went directly into the public purse”. 

Security at the Sussexes’ wedding cost an estimated £3.4million to taxpayers.

However, experts have argued the £1bn figure “doesn’t sound realistic at all” and said the Royal Wedding had a much lower impact on the British finances than claimed.

Brand expert Andy Barr at PR firm 10Yetis said: “£1billion total revenue for a royal wedding doesn’t sound realistic at all.

“It’s a huge sum and the stars would really have to align to get even half that. 

 “Even if you were to take into account the longer-term values from travel and tourism, it’s still a long way off.

“If I was forced to speculate, I would say a maximum of £250m.

“It certainly added value to Meghan’s own brand, however.” 

Similarly, consultants at Brand Finance estimated at the time of the wedding, which took place on May 19 2018, the nuptials would bring in some £300m through tourism alone.

The experts believed at the time the £1bn figure would be reached only if other sectors of the economy were factored in.

Retailers in London had expected a £60m sales boom from tourism spending in the days close to the wedding.

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Airbnb said people would rake in as much as £12m from renting out their properties. 

Similarly, the British Beer and Pub Association estimated a £10m sales boost.

As many as 50,000 US citizens lined up in Windsor and visited London in May 2018, Visit Britain added.

As stated by the papers filed by Meghan’s legal team, the public only covered for the creation of what was dubbed a ‘ring of steel’ around Windsor ahead of the wedding.   

The submitted papers read: “Any public costs incurred for the wedding were solely for security and crowd control to protect members of the public, as deemed necessary by Thames Valley Police and the Metropolitan Police.”

The nuptials itself were “rather personally financed by HRH The Prince of Wales”, the documents added.

The Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex may have cost nearly £32m, according to experts at Bridebook.co.uk, a wedding planning app.

Among the most expensive entries in the total budget drafted by these experts there are the venue, at £350,000, the catering for more than 4000 people costing approximately £286,000 and drinks, coming at £193,000. 

Music and flowery may also have cost eye-watering sums, the expert added, listing them respectively at £300,000 and £110,000.

Similarly, the 20 silver-plated fanfare trumpets stamped with the Royal Coat of Arms made at the same workshop used for the Cambridges’ nuptials and the London Olympics’ trumpets may have cost as much as £90,000.

The documents outlining the costs of security at the Sussexes’ wedding have been filed as part of the legal battle between Meghan and the Mail On Sunday and its publisher Associated Newspapers, sued by the Duchess of Sussex after it published extracts from a private letter she wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle Snr.   

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Asian stocks near 4-month highs on vaccine hopes, eyes on U.S. payrolls

SYDNEY/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Asian stocks hovered near four-month highs on Thursday on hopes of a vaccine for COVID-19 while copper prices jumped to a more than six-month peak on a better global outlook and supply fears in top producer Chile.

All eyes are on U.S. employment data, due later in the day, which are expected offer further cues into how the world’s largest economy is coping with a rise in coronavirus cases in several states.

In a sign the positive sentiment will extend elsewhere, E-minis for S&P500 rose 0.3% while futures for Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.8% and those for Germany’s DAX climbed 0.8%. London’s FTSE futures added 0.6%.

Risk sentiment was whetted by a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, which was found to be well tolerated in early-stage human trials.[.N]

A vaccine for COVID-19, which has killed more than half a million people globally and shut down the world economy, has been long anticipated.

“Based on a vaccine trial containing 45 people, including placebos, the V-shaped recovery gnomes, are once again, reaching for the sky,” said Jeffrey Halley, Senior Market Analyst, Asia Pacific at OANDA.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside of Japan rose 1.5% to near levels seen in early March.

All major Asian indexes were upbeat with Japan’s Nikkei rising 0.1%, China’s blue-chip index adding 1.7% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index climbed 1.8%.

U.S. employment figures will help indicate whether the world’s largest economy can sustain its fragile recovery as new COVID-19 cases accelerate in several southern states.

Economists polled by Reuters expect private employers to show 2.9 new million new jobs June, which would follow a surprise increase in May. Casting some doubt over that projection, however, was a smaller-than-expected increase in jobs seen in the ADP report on Wednesday.

“A better-than-expected outcome could go some way to settling the near-term debate that the U.S. labor market will heal relatively quickly and justify new highs in U.S. equities,” said Stephen Innes, strategist at AxiCorp.

Wall Street ended Wednesday higher after key economic indicators showed a rebound in Chinese manufacturing activity as it recovers from the pandemic while sharp declines in European factory activity eased.

Equity investors shrugged off concerns about Hong Kong where police arrested more than 300 people protesting sweeping new laws introduced by China to snuff out dissent.

Those developments have raised concerns about China’s already strained relations with its major western trading partners, particularly the United States.

In commodities, the most-traded August copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange touched 49,570 yuan ($7,016.28) a tonne, its highest since Dec. 30, 2019.

Manufacturing activity rebounded in the United States in June, while the factory sector in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, contracted at a slower pace and top copper consumer China posted better-than-expected manufacturing data.

Meanwhile in Chile, where the number of COVID-19 cases have been climbing, miner BHP said it would begin to slow production at its small Cerro Colorado copper mine in the country.

Elsewhere, oil prices climbed and gold eased while the dollar was steady as encouraging macro data prompted investors to take on more risk.[O/R][GOL/]

Brent crude climbed 17 cents to $42.20 a barrel. U.S. crude rose 14 cents to $39.96 a barrel. U.S. gold futures were 0.21% lower, at $1,776.20.

The safe haven greenback was unchanged against the Japanese yen at 107.45. The euro was a shade higher at $1.1267 while sterling was slightly firmer at $1.2497.

The risk sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollar were 0.2% and 0.4% stronger respectively.

That left the dollar index at 97.044.

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UK will ditch travel quarantine for 75 countries, Daily Telegraph says

LONDON (Reuters) – The British government will effectively ditch its air bridge plans and simply end the coronavirus quarantine rules for those arriving from 75 countries so that people can go on holiday, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The newspaper said the UK would shortly lift a ban on non-essential travel to nearly all EU destinations, the British territories including Bermuda and Gibraltar, and Turkey, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.

A spokesman for the transport ministry declined immediate comment.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has been grappling with how to open up international travel after it imposed a 2-week quarantine for arrivals, which has added to the woes of the shuttered tourism and travel industry.

Britain said on Friday that it would ditch a 14-day quarantine period for people arriving from countries such as France, Greece and Spain.

Simon Clarke, a junior housing, communities and local government minister, said the government was working on an announcement on travel.

“We will provide this announcement as soon as it is safe,” Clarke told Sky. “We will be talking further about this this week.”

“Clearly we want to get the tourism sector back on its feet as quickly as we can and I’m sure that we will be able to give good news in the near future,” he said.

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Don’t test us! China sends UK terrifying warning over Hong Kong promise

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The Chinese embassy in the UK told Britain to stay out of its affairs after Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to three million residents of the former British colony the right to settle in the country. China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming said: “It is clear that all Chinese compatriots residing in Hong Kong are Chinese nationals, whether or not they are holders of the British Dependent Territories Citizens passport or the British National (Overseas) passport.

“If the British side makes unilateral changes to the relevant practice, it will breach its own position and pledges as well as international law and basic norms governing international relations.

“We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures.

“The UK has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or right of ‘supervision’ over Hong Kong.

“We urge the British side to view objectively and fairly the national security legislation for Hong Kong, respect China’s position and concerns, (and) refrain from interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any way.”

The warning comes after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab admitted little could be done by Britain to “coercively force” China if it tried to block Hong Kongers from coming to the UK.

Up to three million residents of the former British colony have been offered the right to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship after Beijing imposed a controversial national security law.

The UK Government believes the new legislation breaches the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which aimed to smooth the transition when the territory was handed back to China in 1997.

Mr Raab said if Beijing tried to stop people with British National (Overseas) status from leaving Hong Kong, there would be little that could be done by the UK.

He told ITV’s Peston programme: “Ultimately if they follow through on something like that there would be little that we could do to coercively force them.

There is an issue around freedom and human rights in Hong Kong, and there is an issue around China keeping its word on an international obligation it made to the United Kingdom back in 1984.

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“I wouldn’t want to be naive about this: I think we need to be realistic. But I do think that China as a rising, leading member of the international community is sensitive to the reputational risk in all of this but clearly not sufficiently that it hasn’t proceeded anyway…

“There is diplomatic leverage, there are other ways that we can persuade China not to fully implement either the national security law or some of the reprisals you talk about.

“But ultimately we need to be honest that we wouldn’t be able to force China to allow BN(O)s to come to the UK.”

As of February, there were nearly 350,000 BN(O) passport holders, while the Government estimates there are around 2.9 million BN(O)s living in Hong Kong.

Asked how many people the Government anticipated would come to the UK from Hong Kong, he said: “It’s difficult to give a precise forecast but I think it is fair to assume that only a proportion of those that are offered the new status that we set out in the House of Commons today will take it up.

“I think the majority of people will probably hunker down in Hong Kong and others would move to other countries in the region.”

Downing Street said those with BN(O) status will be eligible to travel to the UK immediately ahead of the details of the scheme being finalised “in the coming weeks” and that they will not face salary thresholds.

The security law in Hong Kong – which came into effect on Tuesday night – makes activities deemed subversive or secessionist punishable by imprisonment, and is seen as targeting anti-government demonstrators.

Hong Kong police made their first arrests on Wednesday under the new law, including one person said to have displayed a sign with the Union flag which called for Hong Kong’s independence.Mr Xiaoming was summoned to the Foreign Office on Wednesday where permanent secretary Sir Simon McDonald said the imposition of the legislation breaches the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Meanwhile, Australia is considering offering visas to Hongkongers found to be in danger following the new law.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said safe haven arrangements were being looked at “very actively”, adding: “Are we prepared to step up and provide support?’ The answer is, ‘yes’.”

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Myanmar mine collapse: At least 33 killed and 200 buried after mine disaster in Hpakant

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CGTN tweeted: “A jade mine in Hpakant, #Myanmar, collapsed at around 6: 30 a.m. local time on Thursday. Witness said 33 people died, and 200 others are still buried.”

THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY. MORE TO FOLLOW. 

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US passes HK sanctions as nations condemn new law

The US House of Representatives has approved new Hong Kong-related sanctions, after Beijing imposed a security law that was condemned by countries around the world.

The measure, which was passed unanimously, penalises banks that do business with Chinese officials.

It will have to be approved by the Senate before going to President Trump.

Critics say China’s law ends freedoms that were guaranteed for 50 years when British rule ended in 1997.

“The law is a brutal, sweeping crackdown against the people of Hong Kong, intended to destroy the freedoms they were promised,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the passing of the law was a “clear and serious breach” of the 1985 Sino-British joint declaration.

Under this declaration, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, with certain freedoms guaranteed for at least 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement.

China said the security law was necessary to stop the type of protests seen in Hong Kong during much of 2019.

And despite condemnation in the West, more than 50 countries, led by Cuba, supported China at the UN this week.

What does the US law say?

The Hong Kong Autonomy Act imposes sanctions on banks that do business with Chinese officials who are involved in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Ms Pelosi said the law was an “urgently needed response to [China’s passing] of its so-called ‘national security’ law… which is purpose built to dismantle democratic freedoms in Hong Kong”.

Before the bill was signed, the US had already began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status – halting defence exports and restricting the territory’s access to high-technology products.

Last year, the US had also signed into law the Human Rights and Democracy Act, supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

What have other countries said?

The UK said it will offer up to three million Hong Kong residents the chance to settle there and ultimately apply for full British citizenship.

Australia is also “actively considering” offering safe haven to Hong Kong residents – with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying there were proposals that will “soon be considered by cabinet”.

Japan was among the other countries that spoke out against the law, calling it “regrettable”.

“It will undermine trust for the principle of ‘one country, two systems'” said Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.

European Council President Charles Michel said it “deplored” the law – adding that it had a “detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and rule of law”.

And Canada changed its travel advice to Hong Kong, saying the new law “increased the risk of arbitrary detention on national security grounds and possible extradition to mainland China”.

Yesterday, a senior Chinese official slammed foreign critics, saying Hong Kong’s affairs were “none of your business”.

Have all countries been critical?

No. At the United Nations this week, Cuba – on behalf of 53 countries – welcomed the law.

Speaking at the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, it said: “Non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign states is an essential principle enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

“We believe every country has the right to safeguard its national security through legislation, and commend relevant steps taken for this purpose.”

How has the new law been used so far?

Just hours after the law was passed, Hong Kong police made their first arrests.

Ten people were accused of violating the new law, including a man with a pro-independence flag. About 360 others were detained at a banned rally.

Under the new law, inciting hatred of China’s central government and Hong Kong’s regional government are offences.

Acts including damaging public transport facilities – which often happened during the 2019 protests – can be considered terrorism.

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American Airlines warns it is overstaffed by 8,000 flight attendants

BENGALURU (REUTERS) – American Airlines Group warned it is overstaffed by about 8,000 flight attendants and might reduce its workforce through early retirement and voluntary leave as the carrier looks to weather a hit to business from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company will reduce its international and transcontinental crew to the minimum required by the Federal Aviation Administration, plus one flight attendant, effective from Oct 1, 2020, Jill Surdek, American Airlines’ vice-president of flight service, said in a letter to employees on Wednesday (July 1).

US carriers have warned that furloughs could take place in October, when the government payroll aid for the airline industry expires, but said they were hoping to avoid them.

“While we hope our customers continue returning to the skies in the coming months, the reality is that this pandemic has changed our business for years to come,” Ms Surdek said.

The company said it would initiate early-out programmes to minimise the need for furloughs and would address the excess numbers in the coming weeks.

Last week, American Airlines said that avoiding furloughs will be difficult and it expects to have between 10 per cent and 20 per cent more workers than needed in July 2021.

Earlier in the day, rival JetBlue and pilots’ union Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), reached an agreement to avoid involuntary furlough until May 1, 2021.

Separately, American Airlines said on Wednesday it expects its summer 2021 long-haul international capacity to be down 25 per cent compared with 2019, as it sees significantly lesser business from its international market.

“The Covid-19 has forced us to re-evaluate our network,” chief revenue officer Vasu Raja said, adding that the company will have a significantly smaller international network in the year ahead.

The carrier had initiated a phased suspension of nearly all long-haul international flights in March, as the airline industry took a hit from reduced demand and travel restrictions due to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.

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