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Hong Kong airport grinds to a halt as protests swell

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Hong Kong’s airport cancelled all flights on Monday, with authorities blaming demonstrators for the disruption of one of the world’s busiest terminals, a dramatic escalation of anti-government protests that have roiled the Asian financial hub.

At the same time, a Chinese official in Beijing warned signs of “terrorism” were emerging.

China’s People’s Armed Police also assembled in the neighbouring city of Shenzhen for exercises, the state-backed Global Times newspaper said.

Both moves lift the stakes sharply after a weekend of skirmishes between police and activists, in which both sides appeared to boost their resolve with new tactics.

Some of the 5,000 activists occupying the airport’s arrivals hall, for a fourth day, went to the departure area and caused disruptions, Hong Kong police told a news conference.

The Police, however, declined to say if they would move to clear the demonstrators.

Traffic to and from the airport was severely affected.

“Airport operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted … all flights have been cancelled,’’ the city’s airport authority said in a statement.

“All passengers are advised to leave the terminal buildings as soon as possible.’’

Roads to the airport were congested and car parks were full, the authority said.

The increasingly violent protests have plunged the Chinese-ruled territory into its most serious crisis in decades, presenting Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, with one of his biggest popular challenges since he came to power in 2012.

Monday’s cancellation came as China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said the city had reached a critical juncture and after police had made a show of demonstrating a powerful water cannon.

The protests began in opposition to a bill allowing extradition to the mainland but have widened to highlight other grievances, drawing broad support.

Over the weekend, as demonstrators threw up barricades across the city, police shot volleys of tear gas into crowded underground train stations for the first time and fired bean-bag rounds at close range.

Scores of protesters were arrested, sometimes after being beaten with batons and bloodied by police.

Police have arrested more than 600 people since the unrest began more than two months ago.

Tear gas was fired at the black-shirted crowds in districts on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, with one young female medic hospitalised after being shot in the right eye, triggering a protest by medical workers.

“Hong Kong’s protesters have been frequently using extremely dangerous tools to attack the police in recent days, constituting serious crimes with sprouts of terrorism emerging,’’ said Hong Kong and Macau Affairs office spokesman, Yang Guang.

“Hong Kong has come to a critical juncture.

“All those who care about Hong Kong’s future, must firmly come out and say no to all violent behaviour; say no to all violent people.’’

At the airport, thousands of activists have occupied the arrivals hall for days, wearing black.

The mostly young protesters have chanted slogans “No rioters, only tyranny!’’ and “Liberate Hong Kong!’’ while politely approaching travellers with flyers describing their demands and explaining the unrest.

The airport is the world’s busiest air cargo port and the 8th busiest by passenger traffic, says the Airports Council International (ACI), a global association.

Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement enshrining some autonomy for Hong Kong when China took it back from Britain in 1997.

They are demanding the resignation of the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, and an independent investigation into the handling of the protests.

Authorities have called the citywide demonstrations illegal and dangerous while highlighting their impact on the already-faltering economy and residents’ daily lives.

Beijing says criminals and agitators are stirring violence, encouraged by “interfering” foreign powers, including Britain.

China is also putting pressure on big companies, such as Cathay Pacific Airways, whose shares tumbled to close to a 10-year low on Monday, after it was told to suspend staff engaged in illegal protests.

Monday’s escalation came after police put the water cannon through its paces, showing it had enough strength to force dummy targets back at distances of 30 to 40 metres (33 to 44 yards), but drawing a rebuke from rights group Amnesty International.

“Water cannons are not a toy for the Hong Kong police to deploy as a sign of strength,’’ Man-Kei Tam, the group’s Hong Kong Director, said in a statement.

“These are powerful weapons that are inherently indiscriminate and have the potential of causing serious injury and even death.’’

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

Foreign

Sheffield United beat Palace for first win of Premier League return

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Sheffield United beat Palace for first win of Premier League return

League

Lundstram fired home the rebound of Luke Freeman’s saved shot in the 48th minute as United gave the Bramall Lane fans plenty to cheer about.

The Blades, who last played in the top division in 2007, have taken four points from the first two games of their return.

Palace, meanwhile, has yet to score after playing out a goalless draw with Everton last weekend.

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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White House says ‘no recession in sight’ despite market turmoil

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White House says ‘no recession in sight’ despite market turmoil

Recession

Washington, Aug. 18, 2019 White House officials pushed back on Sunday against concerns that economic growth may be faltering, saying they saw little risk of recession despite a volatile week on global bond markets, and insisting their trade war with China was doing no damage to the United States.

“There is no recession in sight,’’ White House Economic Adviser, Larry Kudlow, said on Fox News Sunday.

“Consumers are working. Their wages are rising.

“They are spending and they are saving…I think we are in pretty good shape.’’

U.S. stock markets tanked last week on recession fears with all three major U.S. indexes closing down about three per cent on Wednesday only to pair their losses by Friday due to expectations the European Central Bank might cut rates.

For a brief time last week, bond investors also demanded a higher interest rate on two-year Treasury bonds than for 10-year Treasury bonds, often construed as a sign of lost faith in near-term economic growth.

However, Trade Adviser Peter Navarro on Sunday likewise dismissed last week’s warning signs, saying “good” economic dynamics were encouraging investors to move money to the U.S.

“We have the strongest economy in the world and money is coming here for our stock market.

“It’s also coming here to chase yield in our bond markets,’’ Navarro told ABC’s This Week.

That sort “flight to safety” is typically driven by concerns of global economic trouble – in this case, the possibility that the Trump administration’s tariff battle with China may dampen business investment and growth worldwide.

The tariffs on Chinese goods, Navarro said, “are not hurting anybody here’’.

The U.S. economy does continue to grow and add jobs each month.

Retail sales in July jumped a stronger-than-expected 0.7 per cent, the government reported last week, and Kudlow said that number showed that the main prop of the U.S. economy is intact.

But manufacturing growth has slowed and lagging business investment has also become a drag.

Globally, flagging global trade appears to have pushed the German economy toward recession and dampened growth in China.

A slowdown would be bad news for President Donald Trump, who is building his 2020 bid for a second term around the economy’s performance.

He told voters at a rally last week they had “no choice” but to vote for him in order to preserve their jobs and investments.

Despite talking up the economy, the president and his advisers have repeatedly accused the U.S. Federal Reserve of undermining the administration’s economic policies.

On Sunday, Kudlow again pointed the finger at the central bank, describing rate hikes through 2017 and 2018 as “very severe monetary restraint”.

The Fed hiked rates seven times over those two years as part of a plan to restore normal monetary policy, following the emergency steps taken to battle the 2007-2009 global financial crisis and recession.

Even with those steps, the Fed’s target interest rate has remained well below historic norms and policymakers have started cutting rates in response to growing global risks.

Democratic presidential candidates on Sunday joined the many economic analysts, who have said the administration’s sometimes erratic policies are to blame for increased uncertainty, disappointing business investment and market volatility.

“I’m afraid that this president is driving the global economy and our economy into recession,’’ Democratic candidate, Beto O’Rourke, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Iran says U.S. move on north Syria safe zone is “provocative”

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Provocation

Dubai, Aug. 18, 2019 A U.S. agreement to set up a safe zone in northern Syria, a close ally of Iran, is “provocative and worrisome”, the Iranian Foreign Ministry was reported to have said by the semi-official Fars news agency.

The U.S. and Turkey last week agreed to set up a joint operations centre for a proposed zone along Syria’s northeast border.

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Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Foreign

Israeli military kills 3 Palestinians at Gaza border – reports

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Killing

The Israeli military said an attack helicopter and a tank fired at the “armed suspects adjacent to the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip’’.

Palestinian officials confirmed the casualties, according to the reports.

The incident came amid a recent escalation of tension between Israel and the Palestinians, despite Egypt-brokered effort to reach a cease-fire agreement between Israel and the Islamic Hamas Movement.

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Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Foreign

Romanian elite climber killed in Fagaras Mountains

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Mountains

The evacuation of the deceased climber in the area of Negoiu Peak was carried out by land and the body was transported to the Legal Medicine Service in Sibiu, as Adrian David, head of the Sibiu Mountain Rescue, was quoted as saying by official Agerpres news agency.

David believed that Zsolt died after a rock broke up with him, considering that the area in which he was, near the Negoiu Peak, is very unstable and rarely visited by climbers. He was alone on the mountain, in an area with no signal.

Zsolt’s disappearance had been reported on Saturday morning. Mountain rescue and gendarme teams, as well as a helicopter of the Interior Ministry, searched for him for several hours.

Zsolt, 45, was a highly seasoned climber, who led in 2013 the Romanian expedition to Pakistan’s 8,126m-high Nanga Parbat and summited in 2016 five Himalayan peaks.

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