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Hong Kong postpones second reading of extradition bill

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Hong Kong, June 12 Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on Wednesday postponed a session in which a second reading of a contentious extradition bill was to take place amid massive opposition on the streets outside.

“The President of the Legislative Council (Andrew Leung) has directed that the Council meeting of June 12, 2019 scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m. today be changed to a later time to be determined by him. Members will be notified of the time of the meeting later,” the council said in a statement, reported Xinhua news agency.

Hong Kong’s Parliament was cordoned off by the police among thousands of demonstrators who went onto the streets to protest against the contentious extradition bill, known as the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019, which as law would allow individuals to be sent to mainland China to stand trial.

On Tim Mei Avenue, police put up a flag that said “Disperse or we fire,” according to Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post. While it escalated tensions, no clashes have been reported in the area so far.

In contrast to the color white chosen for Sunday’s protests (when more than a million people poured onto the streets, although the police put the figure at 240,000), many protesters on Wednesday chose to wear black.

Some also wore masks to avoid being identified and to protect themselves from the pepper spray used by the police in isolated protests reported on Sunday.

“Take back extradition law!” was one of the slogans chanted by the protesters, most of them young.

“The government is against the will of people and continues to pass the law,” Democratic Party spokesperson Lam Cheuk-ting said on Wednesday.

The proposed law, which was first tabled in February and the bill of which will be put to a final vote on June 20, would allow Hong Kong to process case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements, including mainland China, Taiwan and Macau, and without direct legislative supervision.

In theory, local courts would handle cases individually and could use veto powers to block extraditions.

The government maintains that the bill is necessary to cover a legal vacuum.

The bill has also faced staunch opposition from journalists, foreign politicians, non-governmental organizations and companies over fears that residents in Hong Kong – which belongs to China but has its own laws and currency – accused of crimes will be sent to mainland China.

In this way, local activists and dissidents living in Hong Kong could also be sent to mainland China for trial.

The Communist regime, devoid of control mechanisms and without any real separation of powers, pledged in 1997 – when Hong Kong’s sovereignty was returned to China from the United Kingdom – to keep the system left by the British until 2047, although Beijing’s pressure on the archipelago has been increasing.

Business

Chinese ‘wet markets’ selling bats, dogs start reopening: Report

“The markets have gone back to operating in exactly the same way as they did before coronavirus,” a Mail on Sunday correspondent in Dongguan was quoted as saying.

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Wuhan of Hubei seafood Market

Beijing, April 1 : Despite concerns that “wet markets” selling live animals like cats, dogs and bats, among others, helped spread the novel coronavirus, these markets have started reopening in several regions in China, said a media report.

While bats are believed to be the primary source of the novel coronavirus, researchers believe that an intermediate host might have carried it to humans. Mail on Sunday correspondents reported seeing meat markets open back up for business in China, the Washington Examiner reported on Monday.

Markets in south-west China’s Guilin and southern China’s Dongguan are back in business where meats of domesticated animals like cats and dogs are sold, said the report.

Following report that the wet markets might have contributed to the spread of the coronavirus, the Chinese government earlier banned the sale of wild animals.

“The markets have gone back to operating in exactly the same way as they did before coronavirus,” a Mail on Sunday correspondent in Dongguan was quoted as saying.

“The only difference is that security guards try to stop anyone taking pictures which would never have happened before.

“Wet markets in China has long been drawing criticism for being unhygienic and cruel to animals. Restrictions across China started lifting as coronavirus cases in the country started levelling off.”

Some restrictions were lifted even from Wuhan where the outbreak originated. COVID-19, the diseases caused by novel coronavirus, has spread across the world, infecting over 880,000 people, while killing more than 44,000 people.

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UN climate talks in Glasgow postponed until 2021 due to COVID-19

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London, April 2 : Britain said on Wednesday that it will postpone until next year the UN climate talks (COP26) set to take place in Glasgow in November this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a government press release.

“Dates for a rescheduled conference in 2021, hosted in Glasgow by the UK in partnership with Italy, will be set out in due course following further discussion with parties,” it added, Xinhua reported.

The press release noted that the decision has been taken by representatives of the COP Bureau of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), with Britain and its Italian partners.

“In light of the ongoing, worldwide effects of COVID-19, holding an ambitious, inclusive COP26 in November 2020 is no longer possible,” stated the release.

“Rescheduling will ensure all parties can focus on the issues to be discussed at this vital conference and allow more time for the necessary preparations to take place.”

COP26 President-Designate and British Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma said: “We will continue working tirelessly with our partners to deliver the ambition needed to tackle the climate crisis and I look forward to agreeing a new date for the conference.”

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa was quoted as saying that COVID-19 is the most urgent threat facing humanity today, “but we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term.”

“We continue to support and to urge nations to significantly boost climate ambition in line with the Paris Agreement,” she said.

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Disaster

China hid coronavirus numbers, claims report quoting US officials

“The Chinese Communist Party”s cover-up and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic,” the Epoch Times wrote.

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Washington, April 2 : The skeletons are apparently tumbling out of the closet. A media report on Wednesday claimed that the Chinese government has deliberately underreported the total number of new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and deaths in the country.

Citing US intelligence officials, Bloomberg said that “China’s public reporting of COVID-19 infections and deaths is purposefully incomplete”.

The US intelligence community has submitted a classified report on this to the White House.

“Two of the officials said the report concludes that China’s numbers are fake,” the Bloomberg report added.

According to the data from Johns Hopkins University, China has reported 82,361 coronavirus cases and 3,305 deaths while the cases in the US has almost touched 2 lakh, with over 4,000 deaths.

The White House or any Chinese official were yet to comment on the report.

There have been murmurs in the world intelligence community of China not disclosing real coronavirus figures, which Beijing has always denied.

Earlier, a Chinese blogger based in New York, Jennifer Zeng, posted the official monthly data released on March 19, showing the number of cellphone users decreased from 1.600957 billion to 1.579927 billion in February 2020.

Similarly, the number of landline users reduced from 190.83 million to 189.99 million, a drop of 840,000 last month.

Compared with the data, which was released on December 18, 2019, for November 2019 data, both cellphone and landline users dropped dramatically.

Last year too, for the same month, the number of cell phones had increased by 24.37 million and the number of landline users had gone up by 6.641 million.

Zeng insinuated the drop could be due to the closing of accounts due to coronavirus-related deaths.

A US-based independent news media run by American Chinese, The Epoch Times, in a detailed report described how cellphones are an indispensable part of life in China due very high level of digitization in every sphere of life controlled by the government.

Activities in Hubei province, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus seem to contradict the reported death toll in China.

The seven funeral homes in the city of Wuhan were reported to be burning bodies 24 hours a day, seven days a week in late January. Hubei Province has used 40 mobile crematoria, each capable of burning five tons of medical waste and bodies a day since February 16.

“The Chinese Communist Party”s cover-up and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic,” the Epoch Times wrote.

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