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Britain to become first G7 country with net zero emissions target

HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong surrounded the city’s legislature on Wednesday, forcing it to postpone a second round of debate on an extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial. The protesters, most of them young people dressed in black, erected barricades as they…

Britain to become first G7 country with net zero emissions target

HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong surrounded the city’s legislature on Wednesday, forcing it to postpone a second round of debate on an extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial.

The protesters, most of them young people dressed in black, erected barricades as they prepared to hunker down for an extended occupation of the area, in scenes reminiscent of pro-democracy “Occupy” protests that rocked the city in 2014.

Protesters rallied in and around Lung Wo Road, an important east-west artery near the offices of embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as hundreds of riot police warned them to stop advancing.

Some protesters erected barricades to block traffic in the heart of the Asian financial center, with many defying police calls to retreat, in scenes reminiscent of pro-democracy protests that rocked the city in late 2014.

The government advised staff to avoid driving to government buildings because roads were blocked.

Lam has defiantly vowed to press ahead with the controversial legislation despite deep concerns across the Asian financial hub that triggered on Sunday its biggest political demonstration since its handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Demonstrators from across a wide spectrum of Hong Kong society began joining the overnight protesters earlier on Wednesday as businesses across the city prepared to go on strike.

The bill, which has generated unusually broad opposition at home and abroad, is due for a second round of debate on Wednesday in Hong Kong’s 70-seat Legislative Council, although it was not immediately clear if that would go ahead as planned.

The legislature is controlled by a pro-Beijing majority.

Lam has sought to soothe public concerns and said her administration was creating additional amendments to the bill, including safeguarding human rights.

In a rare move, prominent business leaders warned that pushing through the extradition law could undermine investor confidence in Hong Kong and erode its competitive advantages.

Sunday’s protest, which organizers said saw more than a million people take to the streets, in addition to a snowballing backlash against the extradition bill could raise questions about Lam’s ability to govern effectively.

That protest rally plunged Hong Kong into political crisis, just as months of pro-democracy “Occupy” demonstrations did in 2014, heaping pressure on Lam’s administration and her official backers in Beijing.

A spokesman for bourse operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) said a cocktail reception on Wednesday evening to celebrate 19 years of being listed, at which Lam is guest of honor, would go ahead.

The protesters, mostly young people, wore makeshift protective gear such as masks and goggles as they dragged steel barriers on to roads, wreaking commuter havoc in the morning rush hour.

The demonstrators rallied just a stone’s throw from the heart of the financial center where glittering skyscrapers house the offices of some of the world’s biggest companies, including HSBC.

HSBC and Standard Chartered, in addition to the Big Four accounting firms, had all agreed to flexible work arrangements for staff on Wednesday, Hong Kong media reported.

Strikes and transport go-slows were also announced for Wednesday as businesses, students, bus drivers, social workers, teachers and other groups all vowed to protest in a last-ditch effort to block the bill.

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong called on the government not to pass the bill “hurriedly” and urged all Christians to pray for the former British colony. Lam, who warned against “radical action” at the latest protest, is a Catholic.

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China 22 years ago under a “one-country, two-systems” formula, with guarantees that its autonomy and freedoms, including an independent justice system, would be protected.

However, many accuse China of extensive meddling since then, including obstruction of democratic reforms, interference with local elections and of being behind the disappearance of five Hong Kong-based booksellers, starting in 2015, who specialized in works critical of Chinese leaders.

Beijing rejects those accusations and official Chinese media said this week “foreign forces” were trying to damage China by creating chaos over the extradition bill.

Human rights groups have repeatedly cited the alleged use of torture, arbitrary detentions, forced confessions and problems accessing lawyers in China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party, as reasons why the Hong Kong bill should not proceed.

China denies accusations that it tramples on human rights.

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17 Chinese, Ukrainian seamen kidnapped off Cameroon

LIBREVILLE: President Ali Bongo of Gabon on Friday made his first live appearance in public nearly 10 months after suffering a stroke, attending ceremonies in the capital Libreville.Bongo, whose every move has been scrutinized for signs of ill health, attended commemorations on the eve of the country’s anniversary of independence, an AFP correspondent at the…

17 Chinese, Ukrainian seamen kidnapped off Cameroon

LIBREVILLE: President Ali Bongo of Gabon on Friday made his first live appearance in public nearly 10 months after suffering a stroke, attending ceremonies in the capital Libreville.Bongo, whose every move has been scrutinized for signs of ill health, attended commemorations on the eve of the country’s anniversary of independence, an AFP correspondent at the scene reported.It was the first time he had been seen in public outside the presidential palace since falling ill last October, except for appearances that were filmed and edited by Gabonese government or state media.Smiling, the 60-year-old head of state exchanged a few words with security officers before laying a wreath at the tomb of Gabon’s first president, Leon Mba.Bongo walked with a stick and an aide helped him to climb several steps. The ceremony lasted half an hour, which was shorter than in previous years.Speculation about Bongo’s ability to rule the small oil-rich country surged after he suffered a stroke on October 24.He was flown to Morocco for treatment, returning in January. During his extended absence, the army quashed a brief attempted coup.In May, he dismissed his vice president and minister of forests after a scandal erupted over the smuggling of precious timber.Ten members of Gabon’s political opposition, civil society and trade union movement have filed a suit requesting Bongo be assessed to see whether he is medically fit to continue in office.A lower court dismissed the case in May, saying that only the two houses of parliament, or the Constitutional Court acting at the behest of the government, were empowered to determine whether the president was unfit.But the Court of Appeal on Monday said it would hear an appeal by the plaintiffs and set a date for it — August 26.Bongo is scheduled to make a televised speech on Friday evening and then on Saturday attend an annual military parade to mark the country’s independence from France in 1960.Opposition figures have urged the public to turn out in large numbers on Saturday to gain a closer look at his health.Bongo succeeded his father Omar Bongo, who became head of state in 1967 and died in June 2009, leaving a legacy of corruption allegations.

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Gabon’s Bongo in first live public appearance after stroke

ROME: Italy has evacuated a handful of medical cases from a Spanish migrant rescue ship off the coast of Lampedusa, as the boat remained in limbo on Friday despite a European deal to take in 134 people remaining onboard.Three migrants who suffered “medical complications which require specialized care” and an escort were brought to the…

Gabon’s Bongo in first live public appearance after stroke

ROME: Italy has evacuated a handful of medical cases from a Spanish migrant rescue ship off the coast of Lampedusa, as the boat remained in limbo on Friday despite a European deal to take in 134 people remaining onboard.Three migrants who suffered “medical complications which require specialized care” and an escort were brought to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa late on Thursday, Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms said on Twitter.This is the umpteenth standoff between a charity vessel rescuing migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean and Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, but this time set against the background of a political crisis in Rome.Thursday saw sparring between Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Salvini, who last week pulled his party’s support from the ruling coalition in the hope of toppling the 14-month-old government.Salvini’s anti-immigrant League party has been squabbling with coalition partner the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) over a host of issues.“France, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg have told me that they are ready to welcome the migrants,” Conte said in an open letter to Salvini, who has sought to bar all NGO rescue vessels from entering Italian waters.In a distinct change of tone since the coalition disintegrated last week, Conte slammed what he called Salvini’s “obsessive focus” on an immigration policy reduced to the phrase “closed ports.”Salvini has taken a hard-line against migrants rescued at sea being brought to Italy, which he says bears an unfair burden as the first port of call for refugees from several countries.Responding to Conte, Salvini wrote on Facebook: “It is clear that without (my) resolve, the European Union would never have lifted a finger, leaving Italy and the Italians on their own like (previous governments) did for years.”The UN refugee agency welcomed the news of a deal to distribute the migrants but regretted it took so long.“People cannot be left at sea for days on end. Predictable, regional and fair approach urgently needed so no rescued person is again left at sea for so long,” the UNHCR tweeted.After Salvini pulled the plug on his coalition with M5S last week, he had hoped for a no-confidence vote but his gambit failed.The fate of the migrants aboard the Open Arms vessel, operated by Spanish charity Proactiva, found itself at the center of Italy’s political crisis.Earlier this month, Salvini signed a decree banning the Open Arms from Italian waters, saying it was to protect public order.But Proactiva appealed to an administrative court which on Wednesday suspended the decree.Salvini then signed a new one blocking the ship, but in a demonstration of his diminished power, Italy’s defense minister blocked it on Thursday.Elisabetta Trenta, an M5S party member with the authority to sign off on Salvini’s decree, announced that she has decided not to do so after “listening to my conscience.”It is estimated Salvini enjoys up to 38 percent support among the electorate, thanks largely to his hard-line against immigrants.Spokeswoman Vanessa Mock said the European Commission welcomed the willingness of member states to help relocate the migrants.The Commission is ready to help “once a solution has been found for the disembarkation of the persons rescued at sea. The situation where persons are stranded at sea for days and weeks on end is untenable.”The mainly African migrants aboard Open Arms had been plucked from boats in the Mediterranean this month with weather conditions encouraging more departures from Libya.Both Italy and Malta have refused the boat permission to dock and disembark its passengers.Five migrants disembarked at Lampedusa on Thursday “for psychological reasons,” the NGO said.Another rescue ship, the Ocean Viking, operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF), is also looking for a port to dock with more than 350 migrants on board.

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Five dead as Pakistan, India exchange fire in Kashmir

LONDON: A man was taken to hospital after being stabbed Thursday outside Britain’s Home Office interior ministry in London.One man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of grievous bodily harm, the city’s Metropolitan Police said.The Home Office is responsible for tackling crime and the government has recently launched a campaign to deter people from…

Five dead as Pakistan, India exchange fire in Kashmir

LONDON: A man was taken to hospital after being stabbed Thursday outside Britain’s Home Office interior ministry in London.One man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of grievous bodily harm, the city’s Metropolitan Police said.The Home Office is responsible for tackling crime and the government has recently launched a campaign to deter people from carrying blades in a bid to combat a surge in knife crime.Police said they were called at 1:06 p.m. local time following a report of a man with a knife.“Officers attended to find one man with knife injuries,” the police said in a statement.“One man has been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and taken to a police station.“Enquiries are ongoing into the exact circumstances of the incident.”The police initially reported the injuries were life-threatening but later said his injuries were not life threatening.The London Ambulance Service said the casualty was treated at the scene and taken to hospital.“We dispatched an incident response officer, a medic in a response car, a motorcycle paramedic and an ambulance crew,” a spokeswoman said.“We treated a man at the scene and took him to a major trauma center.”Figures out last month revealed that knife crime in England and Wales over the previous 12 months had soared to a record high of more than 43,500 offenses.The figures were up eight percent year-on-year.New Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated his commitment to tackling the “scourge” of knife crime as he took questions from the public live on Facebook on Wednesday.

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