Hong Kong Protests Show Little Sign of Flagging as Large Crowds Rally for Democracy

Hong Kong’s eleventh straight weekend of anti-government protests culminated in a large rally Sunday at the city’s Victoria Park.

Tens of thousands chanted “Free Hong Kong! Democracy Now!” and “Fight for freedom! Stand for Hong Kong!” as a heavy rain fell. Many protesters carried banners decrying alleged police brutality and what they claim is collusion between law enforcement and criminal gangs known as triads.

Others carried banners proclaiming “Hong Kong independence.”

Vanessa, a 42-year-old protester attending the rally with her banker husband, said “We are here to support the young people. I don’t fully agree with everything they do. I don’t one hundred percent agree with what the teenagers have done, but in the end I’ll support them because I know what they’re doing is for Hong Kong.”

Yesterday, thousands of teachers marched in support of a student strike called for Monday, and small groups of radical protesters engaged in a tense standoff with police in the densely populated Kowloon peninsula. A large pro-government rally was also held in the Admiralty district, the site of many previous clashes. But there were no major street battles or arrests, to the considerable relief of many in the restive enclave, where many residents have become grimly accustomed to barricaded streets, transport chaos, and palls of choking tear gas hanging over the narrow streets.

By the middle of Sunday afternoon, large numbers of protesters defied a police order and began marching from Victoria Park towards Admiralty, where the main government offices are located. The sheer number of marchers overwhelmed major roads and brought downtown districts to a virtual standstill.

Read more: How Protests Turned into a Battle for Hong Kong’s Soul

Hong Kong’s political crisis originally began as a protest against a now suspended bill that would have, for the first time, allowed the extradition of fugitives from the former British colony to mainland China. Detractors of the bill feared it would be used by Beijing to round up dissidents and critics of the communist regime.

However, the anti-extradition movement quickly snowballed into a rebellion against Chinese sovereignty itself. Many protesters are now calling for self-determination for the semi-autonomous territory, which was retroceded to China in 1997 but remains culturally, politically and linguistically distinct from the mainland.

Over the course of 11 tumultuous weeks, the territory’s legislature has been ransacked, emblems of the Chinese state defaced, and the airport—one of the world’s busiest—shut down.

“We want peace and we want …read more

Source:: Time – World

      

Dozens Dead or Hurt in Wedding Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan Capital

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide-bomb blast tripped through a wedding party on a busy Saturday night in Afghanistan’s capital and dozens of people were killed or wounded, a government official said. More than 1,000 people had been invited, one witness said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi told The Associated Press the attacker set off explosives among the wedding participants. Both the Taliban and a local affiliate of the Islamic State group carry out bloody attacks in the capital.

“Around 1,200 guests were invited to the wedding,” said Ahmad Omid, a survivor who said the gathering was for his father’s cousin. “I was with the groom in the other room when we heard the blast and then I couldn’t find anyone. Everyone was lying all around the hall.”

Outside a local hospital, families wailed. “There are so many dead and wounded victims,” Omid said.

The blast at the Dubai City wedding hall in western Kabul, a part of the city that many in the minority Shiite Hazara community call home, shattered a period of relative calm.

On Aug. 7, a Taliban car bomb aimed at Afghan security forces detonated on the same road in a busy west Kabul neighborhood, killing 14 people and wounding 145 — most of them women, children and other civilians.

Kabul’s huge, brightly lit wedding halls are centers of community life in a city weary of decades of war, with thousands of dollars spent on a single evening.

“Devastated by the news of a suicide attack inside a wedding hall in Kabul. A heinous crime against our people; how is it possible to train a human and ask him to go and blow himself (up) inside a wedding?!!” Sediq Seddiqi, spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said in a Twitter post.

The wedding halls also serve as meeting places, and in November at least 55 people were killed when a suicide bomber sneaked into a Kabul wedding hall where hundreds of Muslim religious scholars and clerics had gathered to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The Taliban denied involvement in an attack that bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State affiliate.

Saturday night’s explosion came a few days after the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, with Kabul residents visiting family and friends, and just before Afghanistan marks its 100th independence day on Monday.

The blast comes at a greatly uncertain time in Afghanistan as the United States and the …read more

Source:: Time – World

      

Kim Jong Un Expresses ‘Great Satisfaction’ Over Multiple North Korean Weapons Tests

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Saturday that leader Kim Jong Un supervised another test-firing of an unspecified new weapon, seen as an attempt to pressure Washington and Seoul over slow nuclear negotiations and their joint military exercises.

Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, said that following Friday’s launches, Kim expressed “great satisfaction” over his military’s “mysterious and amazing success rates” in recent testing activity and vowed to build up “invincible military capabilities no one dare provoke.” The report did not mention any specific comment about the United States or South Korea.

The launches were North Korea’s sixth round of tests since late July that revealed developments of a new rocket artillery system and two separate short-range mobile ballistic missile systems that experts say would expand its ability to strike targets throughout South Korea, including U.S. bases there.

KCNA did not describe what Friday’s weapons were or how they performed, but said that the tests were successful and strengthened the military’s confidence in the reliability of the system.

North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published photos that showed what appeared to be a missile soaring from a launcher installed on a vehicle and striking what appeared to be a coastal target. Kim is seen jubilantly raising his fist while celebrating with military officials.

“(Kim) said everyone should remember that it is the (ruling) party’s core plan and unwavering determination to build a powerful force strong enough to discourage any forces from daring to provoke us and to leave any opponent defenseless against our Juche weapons of absolute power even in situations of physical clashes,” KCNA said, referring to the North’s national ideology of self-reliance.

In a separate statement on Saturday, KCNA berated the ongoing U.S.-South Korea military drills as an invasion rehearsal that compels North Korea to constantly develop “powerful physical means and their deployment for an actual war.”

The United States has downsized its major military exercises with South Korea and halted dispatches of strategic assets such as long-range bombers and aircraft carriers to the region since the first summit between Kim and President Donald Trump last year. But North Korea says even the smaller drills violate agreements between the leaders.

South Korea’s military said earlier that two projectiles launched from the North’s eastern coast flew about 230 kilometers (143 miles) before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The U.S. and South Korean militaries were analyzing the launches but didn’t immediately say …read more

Source:: Time – World