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Ukraine Preparing More Troop Withdrawals

Hints of another exchange of prisoners, talk of a bilateral withdrawal of combat soldiers and heavy weaponry from the 450-kilometer frontline in Ukraine’s east, and rising signs that Moscow and Kyiv are close to a deal on a new Russian gas-transit contract — what’s happening?Five-and-a-half years after the start of Russia’s war in eastern Ukraine, “there is a sliver of hope that the fighting will stop,” the English-language Kyiv Post newspaper editorialized Friday. The editors fear, though, the peace will be built on discord.A day earlier, the top military commander of the Ukrainian forces deployed in the eastern region of the Donbas, Gen. Volodymyr Kravchenko, told U.N. envoys he’s currently laying down plans for a withdrawal from the frontline.“Such a task has been set by the Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine [Ruslan Khomchak], the Minister of Defense [Andriy Zahorodniuk] and the Head of State [President Volodymyr Zelenskiy],” the general said at the September 18 meeting. “We are ready for this for the sake of making the lives of our citizens better,” he said.FILE – Ukrainian servicemen are seen standing on top of tanks during a drill in Ukraine’s Zhytomyr region, Nov. 21, 2018.But he cautioned that separation of the skirmishing forces would depend on whether Moscow will order a reciprocal pullback of the forces it controls in Ukraine’s easternmost provinces, where Kyiv’s forces have been battling pro-Moscow separatists since 2014 in a conflict that’s claimed more than 13,000 lives.Since his surprise election earlier this year to the top job in Kyiv, Zelenskiy has been urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to join in a new round of peace talks involving U.S. President Donald Trump and other Western leaders. In a video statement released in July to coincide with a one-day EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv, the political novice and former television comic, who won a landslide election victory in April, appealed to Putin directly. “We need to talk? We do. Let’s do it,” he said, looking directly into the camera.Last month it was announced the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany would meet to discuss the Donbas conflict. Some seasoned diplomats remain skeptical of the outcome. In July, U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker cautioned against optimism in an interview with VOA’s Ukrainian Service.FILE – A Ukrainian soldier takes his position near the frontline with Russia-backed separatists, in Shyrokyne, eastern Ukraine, Nov. 28, 2018.“Unfortunately, we’ve really not heard much news from Russia. They are still saying that everything is Ukraine’s responsibility … that Ukraine needs to negotiate with the two so-called ‘separatist people’s republics’ that they created in Ukraine,” he said, referring to the Kremlin-back self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.Skeptics argue Putin isn’t serious about ending a conflict of his own making and has every reason to nurture it as a way to disrupt Ukraine, halt its embrace of the West and to continue to punish Ukraine for the popular 2014 Maidan uprising, which forced out of power his ally Viktor Yanukovych.Until recently Zelenskiy didn’t appear to be getting anywhere with Moscow, according to some analysts. “Despite his more moderate line on Russia compared to his predecessor, Vladimir Putin has given him no room for maneuver, issuing Russian passports to residents of the occupied territories, instituting an oil blockade, celebrating ‘statehood’ for the occupied territories and continuing with violations of the cease-fire,” commented Chatham House analysts Mathieu Boulègue and Leo Litra earlier this year.FILE – U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker speaks during a press-conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, July 27, 2019.But a prisoner swap earlier this month has prompted some optimism. Speaking in Kyiv at a conference Sunday, Volker welcomed the prisoner exchange, noting there were new dynamics in play between Kyiv and Moscow, although he urged caution, too.Russian officials say they’re ready to participate in a four-way summit in Paris to try to kickstart the long-stalled peace process, but they say they have strict preconditions for such a meeting. It would be the first major sit-down between Moscow and Kyiv since 2016 when Ukraine and Russia signed a framework agreement on the mutual withdrawal of troops in Donbas. The warring parties were meant to withdraw at least one kilometer back and to dismantle the emplacements for heavy weaponry.That agreement envisaged a period of stable cease-fire and earmarked three demilitarized zones in frontline areas in Luhansk Oblast, including around the towns of Zolote, Petrivske and Stanytsya Luhanska.FILE – A member of the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service signals for people to stop as they approach a checkpoint at the contact line between Russia-backed rebels and Ukrainian troops, in Mayorsk, eastern Ukraine, July 3, 2019.Speaking at a conference earlier this week, Zelenskiy said troop withdrawals were “a priority” for him, and he laid out a path for elections in “parts of the Donbas occupied by separatists,” in accordance with the 2016 Minsk deal. In June, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe reported that both sides had effected a complete and mutual pullout from Stanytsya Luhanska.Zelenskiy’s embrace of the idea of elections is alarming former officials who served in the administration of his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, who was highly skeptical of elections, fearing voting in the Russian-controlled Donbas could easily be manipulated by Moscow.Russian officials say they have preconditions for the scheduled summit — including the troop withdrawals outlined in the Minsk deal and pre-agreed wording on the Donbas’ “special status” within Ukraine.For Zelenskiy, the risks are high. Miscalculation could wreck his presidency before it has got going. Some of his domestic critics say he’s entering a trap and that Moscow has no reason to be serious about talks. Ukrainian withdrawal amounts to a military retreat and a surrender of Ukraine’s vital interests, they say.FILE – Relatives hold portraits of Ukrainian soldiers killed by Russian artillery near the village of Ilovaysk in eastern Ukraine, during a protests in front of the Russian Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug.28, 2019.Ukrainian officials say they have no choice but to try to get a resolution to the conflict in the Donbas, noting there is “Ukraine fatigue” in western Europe. In an interview with Germany’s Die Welt newspaper, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said the sanctions the West imposed on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea and other incursions are getting increasingly inconvenient for the West.He said time may be running out, and Ukraine needs to strike a deal. “Even if Western sanctions are not ideal, and it’s getting more and more difficult for our Western partners to maintain them, they still damage the Russian economy,” he said. “And this forces Russia to make steps in the right direction.”Pristayko said Zelenskiy “wants to achieve true progress within six months,” but added, “I don’t know what the Kremlin’s aspirations are. We will not surrender the territory of Ukraine and have notified the Russians about our red lines. For example, we oppose Russia’s attempts to strengthen its positions on parts of the Ukrainian territory,” he said. “We want to return our citizens back.” 


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Harry and Meghan Make 1st Official Tour as Family in Africa

Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, along with their infant son, Archie, are making their first official tour as a family, starting Monday in a troubled South Africa whose president says women and children are “under siege” by shocking violence.South Africa is still shaken by the rape and murder of a university student, carried out in a post office that sparked protests by thousands of women tired of abuse and impunity in a country where more than 100 rapes are reported every day. This is “one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said Wednesday.Empowering women is one of the issues Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, will address on a 10-day, multi-country visit, along with wildlife protection, entrepreneurship, mental health and mine clearance, a topic given global attention by Harry’s late mother, Princess Diana, when she walked through an active mine field during an Africa visit years ago.Some in South Africa said they are happy to see the arrival of Meghan, who has been vocal about women’s rights and is likely to speak out again. One of her first events is a visit to a workshop that gives self-defense classes to young girls.“I think the Duchess of Sussex’ visit is perfectly timed. She’s coming to South Africa at an incredibly turbulent time,” said Lara Rosmarin, who leads a local tech incubator that will be part of the royal visit. “People are anxious, people are scared, people are worried … She’s coming at a time when she can instill some hope and some promise and perhaps highlight the struggles of women in South Africa.”The high-profile visit by the royal family is expected to contrast with the breathtaking series of stories in local media in recent weeks about the reported abuse of women and children – “even babies,” the president reminded Parliament this week.
 
The scope is now well known. More than 2,700 women were murdered last year and more than 1,000 children, the government says. One in five women over age 18 has faced physical violence from a partner.“The conviction rate for rape is a shameful 5%,” the leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane, said Wednesday. The state should oppose bail for suspects, deny parole to those found guilty and ensure that a life sentence means life in prison, South Africa’s president now says.Some women want more, saying South Africa should bring back the death penalty for rapists. Capital punishment was abolished in the country in 1995.Despite the recent unrest, the royal family likely will focus on the positive. Planned events in their first public stop, Cape Town, include a visit to a non-governmental group that trains surfers to provide young people with mental health services.“She is a very influential person and just for her to be here and to some way influence the girls on our program is a big part of why we’re excited to have her here,” said Courtney Barnes, a surfing coach with Waves For Change.Harry and Meghan also will visit the oldest mosque in South Africa and meet with Nobel Peace Prize winner and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. A “rare privilege and honor,” Tutu and his wife, Leah, said Thursday.The prince later will break away for visits to Botswana, Angola and Malawi with a special focus on wildlife protection.
In Angola, Harry will walk in the footsteps of his mother, whose walk across a mine field in 1997 helped to inspire an international ban on anti-personnel mines later that year. That field in Huambo is now a busy street, and Angola’s government, now years past a grinding civil war, hopes to be free of land mines by 2025.
 
“He will revisit the area his mother visited, and I think that will be a very poignant moment of coming full circle,” said Ralph Legg, country director for the mine-clearing organization The HALO Trust, adding that local people remember Diana fondly for taking notice of their plight. “It will be very striking once people compare those images from the two visits to see how far Angola has come.”Huambo province is one mine field away from being declared mine-free, Legg said, adding that Angola could achieve its goal of being mine-free by 2025 with enough support from the international community.
 
While Harry is traveling, Meghan will remain in South Africa with events including a Johannesburg visit to a charity that helps to raise awareness of sexual violence in schools.The royal family’s Africa visit ends on Oct. 2.


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Protests Could Undermine Hong Kong’s Ability to Compete with Singapore

Hong Kong and Singapore have always been rivals of a sort. Government stability and transparent legal systems have attracted thousands of multinationals to both since the 1960s, giving each the title of Asian financial center.Antigovernment protests since June suddenly threaten the prowess of Hong Kong. The millions of people massing in the streets, shutting down the airport and setting fires in public places are eroding the sense of stability that multinationals want when they pick a base in Asia.Singapore is standing by now to take any Hong Kong refugees.Pro-democracy protesters react as police fire water cannons outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Sept. 15, 2019.Hong Kong would start giving ground to Singapore, people close to one or both places think, if the protests show signs of going on long term and especially if they drive changes in the law or keep snarling the airport. That would mean an exodus of multinationals to Singapore or at least corporate decisions to add Singapore staff rather than Hong Kong staff during Asia expansions.“It really depends how long this continues,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at the market research firm IHS Markit. “If it becomes protracted and the disruptions are ongoing, then I think it does erode confidence in the financial center. Definitely it could undermine Hong Kong’s ability to compete with Singapore.”The rise of two dragonsHong Kong was described in the 1960s as one of Asia’s four economic dragons, a reference to fast industrialization and economic growth.Under British rule through 1997, the territory attracted multinationals with rules that made business easy and transparent for outsiders. It had been described as a financial center as early as 1950. The World Bank ranked Hong Kong No. 4 this year in its worldwide ease-of-doing-business survey.Hong Kong remains one of the world’s four largest international financial centers, though pressured by the rise of Chinese hub cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen, Biswas says in a Sept. 9 research note. Singapore is on the list too, along with London and New York.A woman uses her smartphone to take pictures of a lantern display depicting Singapore’s iconic architecture and multiracial society during Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations at Jurong Lake Gardens in western Singapore, Sept. 9, 2019.Singapore averaged 8% GDP growth from the 1960s to the 1990s, putting it among the Asian dragons.About 3,000 multinationals from developed countries keep offices there. The fellow former British colony ranks No. 2 on the World Bank’s ease-of-doing-business chart and 13th on the World Justice Project’s scale for adherence to rule of law. The World Justice Project evaluation covers absence of corruption, presence of security and the transparency of government.An historic haven in AsiaA Sept. 12 survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore found that Hong Kong was “unlikely to attract those” who don’t have any presence there now.More than 80% of respondents said the protests had affected their decisions related to investing in Hong Kong. Among the companies eyeing a move from Hong Kong, the survey found, 91% called Singapore the backup location.Singapore has come through as a historic “haven” when crises pop up elsewhere in Asia, said Song Seng Wun, economist in the private banking unit of CIMB in Singapore.Despite higher costs than in much of Asia, he said, Singapore offers “strong” rule of law, he said. “Singapore has always been a neutral, safe haven place during times of uncertainties, especially around the region,” Song said.Protesters carrying umbrellas take part in march in Hong Kong, Sept. 15, 2019.No tipping point yetProtests to date have a “temporary” aura, Biswas said, compared to a scenario of lasting for “years.” He doesn’t expect companies to uproot just yet from Hong Kong in favor of Singapore, but those with offices in both places might now consider focusing more resources on the Singapore side.Protests began in Hong Kong June 9 in reaction to a proposed extradition bill that would let citizens get deported to China for political crimes and face harsh sentences. Protesters have added calls for democracy in Hong Kong despite rule by Communist China since 1997.Hong Kong people have a way of reacting vehemently to a cause at first and then quickly relenting, said Michael McGaughy, portfolio manager with Fusion Wealth Management in Hong Kong. He recalls how people covered their faces in masks during the deadly SARS outbreak of 2002 but suddenly stopped when the epidemic showed a decline in early 2003.Common law and the tax system that financial companies like about Hong Kong show no signs of changing, McGaughy said. Anyone tempted to leave because of the protests would “think twice,” he said. His company has not discussed pulling out.“My gut feel is that there’s going to be a lot of talk about it, but if the legal system stays the same then I’d be surprised if people leave,” McGaughy said.


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Kiribati Cuts Ties With Taiwan, Presaging Switch to China

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan on Friday, becoming the second country to do so this week and strengthening Beijing’s hand.Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that Kiribati had officially notified his government of the decision.Kiribati is expected to recognize China, which has pledged billions of dollars in aid to help lure it and six other countries into switching allegiance since 2016, when Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office.
 
Taiwan “deeply regrets and strongly condemns the Kiribati government’s decision, which disregards the multifaceted assistance and sincere friendship extended by Taiwan to Kiribati over the years,” Wu said at a news conference.Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang commended Kiribati’s switch, which comes four days after the Solomon Islands, once Taiwan’s largest ally in the South Pacific, severed ties in favor of China.’This fully testifies to the fact that the one-China principle meets the shared aspiration of the people and constitutes an irresistible trend of the times,” he said.China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan and wants the island to reunite with the mainland. The two split in 1949 during a civil war. Beijing resents Tsai for rejecting its precondition for dialogue that both belong to a single China. It has flown military aircraft near the island and pared back Taiwan-bound tourism to add pressure on her government.Taiwan has 15 allies left, compared to about 180 countries that recognize China.China has made the point that it can snatch as many diplomatic allies of Taiwan as it wishes,” said Fabrizio Bozzato, a Taiwan Strategy Research Association fellow who specializes in the Pacific.Taiwan looks to its allies, mostly small, poor countries, for international legitimacy and a voice in the United Nations. Taiwan left the United Nations in 1971 as the international body recognized China.A total loss of allies would cut all formal outside recognition of Taiwan’s government, formally called the Republic of China, and make it easier for Beijing to claim it, said Chao Chien-min, dean of social sciences at the Chinese Cultural University in Taipei.”Other countries will call you a non-state and then what happens?” he said.” Let’s say the People’s Liberation Army uses non-peaceful means for an activity in the Taiwan Strait. The United Nations can’t do anything. If other countries get involved, what legitimacy do they have to help Taiwan?”The Chinese pressure is scaring ordinary Taiwanese, he said.In the Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said in a statement Friday that his country had recognized China to ensure stability and avoid uncertainty over what might happen if Taiwanese decide to unite with China.Wu remained defiant, saying that Taiwan is not a province of the People’s Republic of China, the Communist government that took power in 1949.”China’s international pressure will only consolidate the Taiwanese people’s determination never to capitulate to the Chinese government,” he said.
 
Some analysts believe Taiwan has built legitimacy by strengthening an informal alliance with the United States, its chief arms supplier, and joining the World Trade Organization and the inter-governmental Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.”Taiwan is globally relevant economically, geopolitically and geo-strategically,” Bozzato said. “It is indisputable that the Republic of China would continue to be independent, effectively exerting civil and military jurisdiction over a territory and a population.”Wu said China had used investments in fisheries and other industries to build up a presence in Kiribati, penetrating political circles and extending its influence.”Kiribati President Taneti Mamau requested “massive financial assistance” from Taiwan to buy commercial aircraft, he said, a request inconsistent with Taiwan’s international aid law.China’s Geng said that “those used to dollar-diplomacy may not understand that certain principles cannot be bought with money, neither can trust.”
 
China and Taiwan competed for South Pacific allies before 2008, often using aid to motivate switches in recognition. The two sides observed an informal diplomatic truce from 2008 to 2016, during China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s term.


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Google Plans to Invest 3 Billion Euros in Europe

Google is planning to invest 3 billion euros to expand its data centers across Europe in the next two years.The tech giant’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, says it will bring the company’s total investments in the continent’s internet infrastructure to 15 billion euros since 2007.Pichai met with Finnish Prime Minister Antii Rinne on Friday in Helsinki and said that the investments “will generate economic activities to the region” and support 13,000 full-time jobs in the European Union every year.He said that Google is “taking another big step by making the biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history” – a 1,600-megawatt package of agreements that includes 18 new energy deals. Ten of these will be in Europe.


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Singapore Awaits Spillover of Companies Tired of Protest-Torn Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Singapore have always been rivals of a sort. Government stability and transparent legal systems have attracted thousands of multinationals to both since the 1960s, giving each the title of Asian financial center.Antigovernment protests since June suddenly threaten the prowess of Hong Kong. The millions of people massing in the streets, shutting down the airport and setting fires in public places are eroding the sense of stability that multinationals want when they pick a base in Asia.Singapore is standing by now to take any Hong Kong refugees.Pro-democracy protesters react as police fire water cannons outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Sept. 15, 2019.Hong Kong would start giving ground to Singapore, people close to one or both places think, if the protests show signs of going on long term and especially if they drive changes in the law or keep snarling the airport. That would mean an exodus of multinationals to Singapore or at least corporate decisions to add Singapore staff rather than Hong Kong staff during Asia expansions.“It really depends how long this continues,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at the market research firm IHS Markit. “If it becomes protracted and the disruptions are ongoing, then I think it does erode confidence in the financial center. Definitely it could undermine Hong Kong’s ability to compete with Singapore.”The rise of two dragonsHong Kong was described in the 1960s as one of Asia’s four economic dragons, a reference to fast industrialization and economic growth.Under British rule through 1997, the territory attracted multinationals with rules that made business easy and transparent for outsiders. It had been described as a financial center as early as 1950. The World Bank ranked Hong Kong No. 4 this year in its worldwide ease-of-doing-business survey.Hong Kong remains one of the world’s four largest international financial centers, though pressured by the rise of Chinese hub cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen, Biswas says in a Sept. 9 research note. Singapore is on the list too, along with London and New York.A woman uses her smartphone to take pictures of a lantern display depicting Singapore’s iconic architecture and multiracial society during Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations at Jurong Lake Gardens in western Singapore, Sept. 9, 2019.Singapore averaged 8% GDP growth from the 1960s to the 1990s, putting it among the Asian dragons.About 3,000 multinationals from developed countries keep offices there. The fellow former British colony ranks No. 2 on the World Bank’s ease-of-doing-business chart and 13th on the World Justice Project’s scale for adherence to rule of law. The World Justice Project evaluation covers absence of corruption, presence of security and the transparency of government.An historic haven in AsiaA Sept. 12 survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore found that Hong Kong was “unlikely to attract those” who don’t have any presence there now.More than 80% of respondents said the protests had affected their decisions related to investing in Hong Kong. Among the companies eyeing a move from Hong Kong, the survey found, 91% called Singapore the backup location.Singapore has come through as a historic “haven” when crises pop up elsewhere in Asia, said Song Seng Wun, economist in the private banking unit of CIMB in Singapore.Despite higher costs than in much of Asia, he said, Singapore offers “strong” rule of law, he said. “Singapore has always been a neutral, safe haven place during times of uncertainties, especially around the region,” Song said.Protesters carrying umbrellas take part in march in Hong Kong, Sept. 15, 2019.No tipping point yetProtests to date have a “temporary” aura, Biswas said, compared to a scenario of lasting for “years.” He doesn’t expect companies to uproot just yet from Hong Kong in favor of Singapore, but those with offices in both places might now consider focusing more resources on the Singapore side.Protests began in Hong Kong June 9 in reaction to a proposed extradition bill that would let citizens get deported to China for political crimes and face harsh sentences. Protesters have added calls for democracy in Hong Kong despite rule by Communist China since 1997.Hong Kong people have a way of reacting vehemently to a cause at first and then quickly relenting, said Michael McGaughy, portfolio manager with Fusion Wealth Management in Hong Kong. He recalls how people covered their faces in masks during the deadly SARS outbreak of 2002 but suddenly stopped when the epidemic showed a decline in early 2003.Common law and the tax system that financial companies like about Hong Kong show no signs of changing, McGaughy said. Anyone tempted to leave because of the protests would “think twice,” he said. His company has not discussed pulling out.“My gut feel is that there’s going to be a lot of talk about it, but if the legal system stays the same then I’d be surprised if people leave,” McGaughy said.


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Amnesty International: Hong Kong Police Using Excessive Force

Amnesty International on Friday accused Hong Kong police of using excessive force against pro-democracy protesters, in some cases amounting to torture, criticizing a “disturbing pattern of reckless and unlawful tactics.”In a report based on interviews with nearly two dozen activists, most of whom were hospitalized after their arrests, the global rights watchdog said the city’s police officers routinely went beyond the level of force allowed by local law and international standards.“In an apparent thirst for retaliation, Hong Kong’s security forces have engaged in a disturbing pattern of reckless and unlawful tactics against people during the protests,” Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director at Amnesty International, said. “This has included arbitrary arrests and retaliatory violence against arrested persons in custody, some of which has amounted to torture.”Policemen clash with demonstrators on a street during a protest in Hong Kong, Aug. 25, 2019.The rights group backed calls for an independent inquiry into police brutality, a key demand of protesters but one that has been rejected by government officials and police top brass.Hong Kong’s police force dismissed Amnesty’s findings and rejected allegations it had used excessive force.In a statement issued Friday, police said their officers “exercise a high level of restraint at all times in the use of force.”In response to specific allegations contained within the report, police said they “do not comment on individual cases” and said those alleging abuse should make a complaint with the police watchdog instead.Frequently violent demonstrations featuring hundreds of thousands of protesters have raged in Hong Kong for more than three months.Anti-government protesters have hurled rocks, bottles and petrol bombs as well as used slingshots in their battles with police who have responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.Videos of police baton charging and beating protesters have frequently gone viral online.‘Batons and fists’Amnesty interviewed 21 people who had been arrested, 18 of whom were later hospitalized for injuries.“Almost every arrested person interviewed described being beaten with batons and fists during the arrest, even when they were not resisting and often already restrained,” the report’s authors wrote.Most interviewees reported the violence stopped once in custody.But one detainee said he was assaulted for being uncooperative and another described seeing police shine a laser into the eye of a young detainee, a tactic protesters have employed against police.Two defense lawyers also claimed their clients were beaten.Multiple suspects described lengthy delays in receiving medical attention or access to defense lawyers.Hong Kong’s police denied those allegations, saying officers “respect the privacy, dignity and rights” of those arrested.Beyond extraditionHong Kong’s protests were sparked by a now-abandoned plan to allow extraditions to the authoritarian Chinese mainland.But after Beijing and local leaders took a hard line, the protests snowballed into a wider movement calling for police accountability and universal suffrage.Amnesty’s Bequelin said he believed the city’s police “is no longer in a position to investigate itself and remedy the widespread unlawful suppression of protesters” and called for an independent inquiry.
 


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Taipei: Kiribati Considers Switching Diplomatic Ties to China

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati is considering switching diplomatic relations to China from Taiwan, a senior Taiwan government official said on Friday, amid Chinese pressure on the remaining nations with ties to the self-ruled island.China claims Taiwan as its territory, and says the democratic island has no right to formal ties with any country.The official’s remarks to Reuters came days after the Solomon Islands cut ties with Taipei, which accused China of trying to influence its presidential and legislative elections in January with diplomatic pressure. 
 


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