China opened its new national security office in Hong Kong on Wednesday, turning a hotel near a city-centre park that has been one of the most popular venues for pro-democracy protests, into its new headquarters.
The office, in the bustling shopping and commercial district of Causeway Bay, near Victoria Park, will oversee the Hong Kong government’s enforcement of the sweeping national security legislation that China imposed on the city last week.
The law empowers the office to take enforcement action beyond existing city laws in the most serious cases.
The legislation allows agents to take suspects across the border for trials in Communist Party-controlled courts and specifies special privileges for its agents, including that Hong Kong authorities cannot inspect their vehicles.
The newly appointed Chief of the Office, Zheng Yanxiong, Hong Kong leader, Carrie Lam and Luo Huining, the head of China’s Liaison Office in the city – Beijing’s top representative office – attended the opening ceremony at the former Metropark Hotel, which was popular with tourists for its harbour views.
Luo said the office was “the gatekeeper of national security’’ and people who loved China and Hong Kong welcomed it.
“Those with ulterior motives and who are anti-China and seek to destabilise Hong Kong have not only stigmatised the office but also smeared the legal system.
“They also smeared the rule of law in the Chinese mainland in an attempt to stir up unnecessary worries and fears among Hong Kong residents,’’ Luo said.
Security was tight around the hotel, with tall barriers raised and numerous police on duty nearby.
The law has pushed China’s freest city onto a more authoritarian path and drawn condemnation from some Western governments, lawyers and rights groups.
It punishes acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Police have arrested at least 10 people, including a 15-year-old, under it for suspected threats to China’s national security.
Critics fear it will crush coveted freedoms in the Chinese-ruled city, while supporters say it will bring stability after a year of sometimes violent protests that plunged the former British colony into its biggest crisis in decades.
Zheng said the office would enforce the law strictly “without infringing on the legitimate rights and interests of any individual or organisation’’.
A Communist Party cadre, prominent during a 2011 clampdown on land rights protesters in a south China village, 57-year-old Zheng most recently served as secretary-general of the Communist Party committee of Guangdong province, bordering Hong Kong.
Leaked footage during the 2011 dispute showed him berating villagers and calling foreign media “rotten”.
Zheng has never held a post outside Guangdong and has extensive experience in propaganda, having worked at the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily in its southern regional bureau for four years.
He was vice-minister in charge of propaganda for Guangdong from 2013 to 2018.
But in a reflection of the widespread unease over the legislation, major United States internet companies including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Zoom have announced they have suspended the processing of requests for user data from the Hong Kong authorities while they study it.
Chinese-owned social media platform, TikTok, which only operates outside China, said on Tuesday it would exit the Hong Kong market within days.
Its departure means Hong Kong users, like those in mainland China, will be cut off.
The United States has begun removing Hong Kong’s special status in United States law as Washington no longer deems the global financial hub sufficiently autonomous from mainland China.
United States President Donald Trump’s top advisers weighed proposals to undermine the Hong Kong currency’s peg to the United States dollar, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter, although the idea did not appear to gain traction.
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)
China’s manufacturing sector shows strong recovery – Survey
China’s manufacturing activity expanded in July at the fastest pace in almost a decade, according to a private survey released on Monday, though employment continued to drop in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
The Caixin/Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) came in at 52.8 for July, compared to 51.2 in June.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while one below shows contraction.
The survey indicates the quickest monthly expansion of manufacturing output and new orders since January 2011.
Meanwhile, new business from overseas fell at the slowest rate in six months.
The index beat analysts’ expectations and comes as China has largely contained the coronavirus crisis and most companies have resumed operations.
Nevertheless, employment dropped for the seventh consecutive month.
While some companies hired more workers to meet production needs, others laid off employees to cut costs, the survey showed.
“To increase employment, manufacturers will need more time and confidence,” said Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group.
Official manufacturing data released last week also indicated a recovery.
The official manufacturing PMI came in at 51.1 in July compared to 50.9 in June.
China’s economy grew by 3.2 per cent in the second quarter of the year, according to official data, after contracting 6.8 per cent in the first quarter due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
German state premier to support town affected by United States troop withdrawal
The premier of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate has pledged support to one of the regions affected by the withdrawal of United States troops from Germany.
“Whatever happens (at the military base) in Spangdahlem in the end – and we hope it will be very little – the state will of course support the local council and municipalities with the necessary measures,” Malu Dreyer said on Monday during talks with local officials.
The main aim was to maintain the United States military base in Spangdahlem and for the United States announcement to be reversed, the minister said.
“We are fighting for the site,” Dreyer added.
In the past week, the United States announced it would transfer F-16 fighter jets stationed in the town in the west of Germany to Italy, affecting around half of the 4,000 soldiers living at the air base.
The United States airforce said the base in Spangdahlem would continue to operate despite the troop withdrawal, though plans are not final yet.
Around 11,000 people live at the air base, including relatives.
United States President Donald Trump has announced the United States would withdraw about 12,000 troops stationed in Germany.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
Trump furious after Appeal Court overturns Boston bomber death penalty
United States President Donald Trump has flayed an appellate court ruling that overturned the death sentence given to the 2013 Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
In a tweet on Sunday, Trump said that hardly had anyone deserved the death penalty than Tsarnaev.
He said the government must push for the death penalty, adding that the country could not let the ruling stand.
“Rarely has anybody deserved the death penalty more than the Boston Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
“The court agreed that this was one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks since the 9/11 atrocities.
“Yet the appellate court tossed out the death sentence. So many lives lost and ruined.
“The Federal Government must again seek the death penalty in a do-over of that chapter of the original trial.
“Our country cannot let the appellate decision stand. Also, it is ridiculous that this process is taking so long!,” the tweet read.
Three people died and hundreds of others were injured after Tsarnaev, 27, and his older brother, Tamerlan, detonated homemade bombs along the marathon’s route on April 15, 2013.
Tsarnaev was handed the death penalty in 2015 but he appealed the ruling in 2019 on the ground that the juniors were biased.
In its ruling on July 31, the First United States Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with him, and ordered a retrial of the case.
It said the trial judge should have excluded jurors, who had already concluded that Tsarnaev was guilty.
Prosecutors are now left with two options: to comply with the appellate court ruling or challenge it at the Supreme Court.
Edited By: Silas Nwoha (NAN)