Two Killed As Indian Police Fire At Protesters

Protesters from northeast India residing in the capital city shout slogans against the government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 (CAB), during a protest in New Delhi on December 11, 2019. 
Money SHARMA / AFP

 

Two people were killed and several wounded Thursday when police in northeast India opened fire on a large crowd demonstrating against the country’s new citizenship bill.

Federal authorities deployed thousands of paramilitaries and blocked mobile internet access in the region, while local police who joined them in opposing protesters defying a curfew in Guwahati, in Assam state, opened fire both blank and live rounds.

India’s Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), passed by the upper house of parliament on Wednesday, allows for the fast-tracking of citizenship applications from religious minorities from three neighbouring countries, but not Muslims.

The two demonstrators killed were among a large group being treated for various wounds at Guwahati Medical College and Hospital, told AFP.

“A few of those people were brought in with bullet injuries. Two of those 21 people have died,” said Ramen Talukdar, a doctor at the hospital.

For Islamic groups, the opposition, rights groups and others in India, the new law is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims, something he denies.

But many in India’s far-flung northeast object because they fear the legislation, which prompted angry exchanges in parliament this week, will give citizenship to Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh.

Five thousand paramilitary troops were deployed in Guwahati, while many roads and highways were blocked to prevent the spread of protests.

Officials said 20 to 30 people have been hurt in the demonstrations in recent days, with vehicles torched and police firing tear gas and charging the crowds with wooded staffs.

Guwahati’s top police officer Deepak Kumar was removed from his post and replaced over the outbreak of violence, authorities said.

All train services to Tripura and Assam were suspended and some flights were cancelled. Several cricket and football matches scheduled to take place in Assam were also called off amid the curfew.

Without citing the unrest, Bangladesh home minister Asaduzzaman Khan postponed his Friday visit to northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya, his spokesman Sharif Mahmud Apu told AFP.

“He will visit Meghalaya at a later time,” Apu said, without giving a reason.

Modi sought to calm the situation in a series of tweets that many in the region could not read because mobile internet was mostly blocked.

“I appeal to the northeast, to Assam and every other state — every community there — to assure that their culture, traditions and language will keep getting the respect and support,” he said at a rally at eastern Jharkhand state.

‘Fear-mongering and bigotry’ 

“Assam is not a dustbin so that central government will keep on dumping whoever they want in Assam,” Assamese film actress Barsha Rani Bishaya said in Guwahati at a meeting of film and student bodies.

“People of Assam have woke up… this time and they will not accept the CAB.”

Several leaders from Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam have also resigned in opposition to the legislation.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen cancelled a trip to New Delhi hours before he was due to arrive Thursday, citing domestic engagements.

He had on Wednesday pushed back against the Indian government’s claims the legislation was meant to help those persecuted in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, telling local media his country did not oppress minorities.

It is not yet clear if the legislation, after being signed off by the president, would survive a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court.

The Indian Union Muslim League filed a petition in the top court, with the political party’s leader saying it was against the basic principles of the country’s constitution.

“The constitution says there will be no differentiation based on caste, religion or anything. Here, the citizenship is being given on the basis of religion,” P.K. Kunhalikutty told AFP.

“The CAB… won’t stand in front of the law.”

The petition states that they “do not have any grievances in granting citizenship to migrants but the petitioners grievances is directed against discrimination and unreasonable classification based on religion.”

Amnesty International said the law was “bigoted” and called for it to be immediately repealed.

“In a secular country like India, slamming the door on persecuted Muslims and other communities merely for their faith reeks of fear mongering and bigotry,” the global rights groups said in a statement Wednesday.

“They also run absolutely foul of India’s international obligations.”

Policewoman Arrested For Killing Protester

 

A policewoman in the Democratic Republic of Congo was arrested Tuesday after allegedly shooting a young protester dead at close range in the eastern city of Goma, police said.

The teenaged boy was killed as angry residents staged protests after police prevented them from pursuing thieves who were preying on northern neighbourhoods in the city, a local official added.

“I have just arrested the officer who shot the youth at pointblank range. It is a policewoman. We have placed her in the hands of the appropriate authorities,” police chief Jean-Baptiste Bukili told an AFP correspondent.

“A young man around 14 years old was killed,” added Gervais Katembo, the local official.

He said that residents had torched a police station to protest insecurity in northern Goma neighbourhoods.

“Bandits were active overnight towards Kisoko and stole things from the population. When people wanted to chase the bandits, police stopped them, which is what infuriated the inhabitants,” Katembo said.

Pictures posted on Twitter showed a youth lying on his back wearing a bloody T-shirt, and a policewoman who had been arrested by a man wearing an army uniform.

Youth minister Billy Kambale also used Twitter to condemn “repeated violence by police against demonstrators”.

“No situation justifies a law officer firing at a student. The judicial system must take up the case of an officer who fired pointblank at a student in Goma,” Kambale said.

Tension remained high in Goma around midday, with main streets in several districts barricaded and business activity brought to a halt.

AFP

13 Killed As Iraqi Forces Crack Down On Anti-Government Protesters

Iraqi demonstrators gesture as flames start consuming Iran’s consulate in the southern Iraqi Shiite holy city of Najaf on November 27, 2019, two months into the country’s most serious social crisis in decades. AFP

 

 

Iraqi security forces cracked down on anti-government protesters in the strife-torn south Thursday, leaving 13 people dead in a bloody escalation hours after the torching of an Iranian consulate.

Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, as commander in chief of the armed forces, dispatched military chiefs to several restive provinces to “restore order” there, the military said in a statement.

Iraq’s capital and its south have been torn by the worst street unrest since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, as a youth-dominated protest movement has vented their fury at their government and its backers in neighbouring Iran.

Late Wednesday protesters burnt down the Iranian consulate in the city of Najaf, yelling “Victory to Iraq!” and “Iran out!”, in an attack condemned by Tehran which voiced its “disgust”.

Iraq’s death toll in the street clashes since early October has risen above 360 with over 15,000 wounded according to an AFP tally, as authorities are not releasing updated or precise figures.

Protesters burning tyres and throwing rocks and petrol bombs have clashed with security forces unleashing tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and live rounds.

The latest clashes erupted on Thursday in the protest hotspot of Nasiriyah, where security forces cleared protesters off two main bridges they had been occupying for days.

At least 13 protesters were shot dead and 100 wounded with several in critical condition, medical and security sources said.

– Curfews declared –

Hours later, local authorities declared a curfew and military reinforcements were seen deployed around the edges of the city, searching all cars and people seeking to enter, AFP’s correspondent said.

The order echoed a similar one enforced overnight in the holy Shiite city of Najaf in response to protesters storming the Iranian consulate there.

Demonstrators across the country have blamed Iran, Iraq’s powerful eastern neighbour, for propping up the very government they seek to topple.

On Thursday morning, streets in Najaf were largely deserted due to the curfew, with public servants told to stay home.

Iran meanwhile demanded Iraq take decisive action against the protesters, with foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi condemning the attack.

“Iran has officially communicated its disgust to the Iraq ambassador in Tehran,” he said in comments carried by Iran’s state news agency IRNA.

– ‘Restore order’ –

In a dramatic scene late Wednesday, protesters lit tyres and other random items around the consulate in Najaf, sending tall flames and thick clouds of smoke into the sky, an AFP correspondent reported.

The protesters broke into the building itself, which had been apparently evacuated by its Iranian staff.

“Victory to Iraq!” and “Iran out!” they chanted.

Iran’s consulate in Iraq’s other holy city of Karbala was targeted earlier this month, and security forces defending the site shot four demonstrators dead at the time.

Iran and Iraq have close but complicated ties.

The two countries fought a devastating 1980-1988 war, but Iran now has significant sway among Iraqi political and military leaders.

Top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, Tehran’s point man on Iraq, has held several meetings in Baghdad and Najaf to convince political factions to close rank around the government of Abdel Mahdi.

Those meetings previously paved the way for a brief crackdown in Baghdad and the south.

The security response on Thursday appeared to be coordinated across provinces, with the military command saying “an emergency unit has been set up under the supervision of the governors” to “impose security and restore order”.

That included a unit in Dhi Qar province, where Nasiriyah is located.

AFP

Bichi Residents Protest Over Court’s Nullification Of New Kano Emirates

 

Hundreds of Bichi residents in Kano State took to the streets on Thursday to protest over a court ruling that nullified the new emirates.

Carrying placards, the protesters also met with Emir Aminu Ado Bayero who was returning from Daura and expressed their displeasure over the development.

They told the emir that despite the court ruling, they are still with him and regard him as their first-class emir.

Read Also: Court Nullifies Creation Of Four Additional Kano Emirates

The Kano State High Court presided over by Justice Usman Na’abba, had earlier ruled that the creation of the emirates was not done in accordance with due process.

Meanwhile, the Kano State Government in a statement said it will study the ruling but will continue to recognize the emirs as first class.

Iran Condemns US For Supporting Petrol-Hike ‘Rioters’

An Iranian man checks a scorched gas station that was set ablaze by protesters during a demonstration against a rise in gasoline prices in Eslamshahr, near the Iranian capital of Tehran, on November 17, 2019.

 

Iran has slammed a US show of support for “rioters,” after violent protests sparked by a decision to impose petrol price hikes and rationing in the sanctions-hit country.

Major roads have been blocked, banks torched and public buildings attacked in the nationwide unrest that has left at least two dead — a civilian and a policeman.

Footage of the violence showing masked young men on debris-strewn streets setting buildings ablaze has been aired on state television, which rarely shows any signs of dissent in the country.

Demonstrations broke out on Friday after it was announced that the price of petrol would be raised by 50 percent for the first 60 litres and 200 percent for any extra fuel after that each month.

The authorities in the Islamic republic say they have arrested more than 200 people and restricted internet access.

The situation on the streets was unclear on Monday morning, largely due to the internet outage that has stemmed the flow of videos shared on social media of protests or associated acts of violence.

Iran’s economy has been battered since May last year when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions.

‘Lethal force’

The United States on Sunday condemned Iran for using “lethal force” against demonstrators.

“The United States supports the Iranian people in their peaceful protests against the regime that is supposed to lead them,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

“We condemn the lethal force and severe communications restrictions used against demonstrators.”

Iran’s foreign ministry slammed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after he tweeted “the United States is with you” on Saturday in response to the demonstrations.

In a statement issued late Sunday, the ministry said it was reacting to Pompeo’s “expression of support… for a group of rioters in some cities of Iran and condemned such support and interventionist remarks”.

“The dignified people of Iran know well that such hypocritical remarks do not carry any honest sympathy,” ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying.

“The acts of a rioter and saboteur group supported by the likes of (Pompeo) have no congruity with the conduct of the wise Iranian people.”

The statement blasted Washington’s “ill-intent” over its decision to reimpose sanctions on Tehran after withdrawing from the nuclear deal.

“It’s curious that the sympathising is being done with the people who are under the pressure of America’s economic terrorism,” Mousavi said.

Welfare payments

Iran announced the surprise decision to impose petrol price hikes and rationing at midnight Thursday-Friday, saying the move was aimed at helping the needy with cash handouts.

The plan agreed by the High Council of Economic Coordination made up of the president, parliament speaker and judiciary chief comes at a sensitive time ahead of February parliamentary elections.

It won support on Sunday from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“I am not an expert and there are different opinions but I had said that if the heads of the three branches make a decision I will support it,” he said in a speech aired on state television.

Khamenei blamed “hooligans” for damaging property and said “all the centres of the world’s wickedness against us have cheered” the street protests.

President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday defended the controversial petrol price hike whose proceeds are to be used to make welfare payments to 60 million Iranians.

In remarks after a cabinet meeting, Rouhani also announced the first payments would be made to 20 million people on Monday evening.

“I order the Planning and Budget Organisation to start from tomorrow to pay people the sum needed to be paid to them,” he said, as quoted by his official website.

But he also warned that Iran could not allow “insecurity”.

“Protesting is the people’s right, but protesting is different from rioting. We should not allow insecurity in the society,” said Rouhani.

The intelligence ministry said at the weekend that it has identified those behind the unrest and that measures would be taken against them.

Forty people have already been arrested in the central city of Yazd, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Sunday.

Another 180 people were arrested in the past three days in the southern province of Khuzestan, state news agency IRNA said on Monday.

Fars news agency, which is close to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said was unclear when the internet restrictions would be lifted, citing an informed government source.

 

AFP

Protesters Storm DSS Headquarters Over Continued Detention Of Sowore, Bakare

 

A group of protesters have stormed the headquarters of the Department of State Services (DSS) over the continued detention of the convener of the #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, and Bakare.

This comes days after the DSS failed to comply with a Federal High Court’s order for their release, following a bail application.

The service had claimed that it was yet to receive the order as at Friday November 8.

The Public Relations Officer of the Service, Dr Peter Afunanya however, later confirmed that they had been served the bail order, but were yet to release the accused because nobody turned up to receive them.

But contrary to the claims of the DSS, counsel to Sowore, Mr Femi Falana, noted that they deliberately refused to release his clients despite lawyers waiting at the agency’s headquarters for up to four hours on Friday.

He, thereafter, stated that two lawyers from his law firm had been directed to contact the management of the DSS for the release of their clients by 10:00 am on Saturday (November 9).

They were, however, still not released to the lawyers.


RELATED

DSS Disperses Protesters Demanding Sowore’s Release

DSS Statement Concerning Sowore’s Release ‘Totally Misleading’, Says Falana

DSS Yet To Release Omoyele Sowore


A member of the legal team, Barrister Marshal Abubakar, who led a team of family members to the headquarters of the DSS to receive him, confirmed this to Channels Television.

Abubakar said after putting calls across through to some high ranking DSS officials, they were told to wait, as the persons who could authorise Sowore’s release were unavailable.

Frustrated with the process, after nearly a week of the court order, supporters have now stormed the DSS office over the continued detention.

Deji Adeyanju is among those who have arrived at the venue.

Roads Blocked In Lebanon As Protests Enter Third Week

Lebanese police officers scuffle with an anti-government protester who was trying to stop a police bus carrying detainees as security forces dismantle a roadblock in the centre of the Lebanese capital Beirut on October 31, 2019. PHOTO: PATRICK BAZ / AFP

 

Demonstrators kept up their roadblocks across Lebanon on Thursday, as their unprecedented protest movement demanding systemic political change entered its third week.  

Traffic came to a standstill on major highways, as protesters erected metal barricades.

They waved through security and medical personnel, in a scene that has become routine since a proposed tax on calls via messaging apps first drew protesters onto the streets on October 17.

“I don’t want to stand down,” said Tarek Madhoun, 38, who was blocking a road in central Beirut.

The protest movement has swelled into a popular drive to remove a political elite which has remained largely unchanged since a devastating civil war ended three decades ago.

Lebanese protesters carry mattresses used during anti-governmental demonstrations in the centre of the capital Beirut on October 30, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

 

Euphoric protesters experiencing a rare moment of national unity have pilloried politicians of all parties, calling for better public services, an end to rampant corruption and a complete overhaul of Lebanon’s sectarian-based politics.

Bowing to street pressure, Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted his government’s resignation on Tuesday.

The announcement led to an easing of the two-week-old lockdown, with some main roads briefly reopening.

Banks had been due to reopen on Friday but protesters stayed on the streets, keen to use one of the only forms of leverage they have to press their demands.

“They thought our demands ended when the government resigned,” said Ghadi, 21, from central Beirut.

“But we still have many more demands… including a technocratic and independent government, a new electoral law and a new parliament.”

Embattled President Michel Aoun is due to deliver a speech at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) marking the third anniversary of his election as head of state.

On Wednesday, Aoun promised a “clean government”, saying the protest movement “paved the way for big reforms”.

Forming a government in Lebanon can take months, with every sectarian and party leader seeking to protect their own communal interests.

AFP

Two Dead As Iraq Anti-Government Protests Resume

Iraqi protesters walk through Baghdad’s Al-Jumhuriya Bridge towards the Green Zone during anti-government demonstrations in the Iraqi capital on October 25, 2019. AFP

 

At least two demonstrators were killed in renewed anti-government rallies in the Iraqi capital on Friday, officials said, as security forces unleashed tear gas to push back thousands from Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone.

The protests were the second phase of a week-long movement in early October demanding an end to widespread corruption, unemployment and an overhaul of the political system.

Activists called Iraqis to go out on the streets again on Friday, which marks a year since Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi came to power. It is also a deadline set by the country’s top Shiite authority for him to enact desired reforms.

But the rallies began early, with hundreds gathering in the capital’s iconic Tahrir (Liberation) Square on Thursday evening.

On Friday, many crossed the bridge to mass near the Green Zone, which hosts government offices and foreign embassies, but security forces used a volley of tear gas to push them back.

“Two demonstrators died, with preliminary information indicating they were hit in the head or face by tear gas canisters,” said Ali Bayati, a member of the Iraqi Human Rights Commission.

He said nearly 100 more people were wounded.

There were no reports of live fire being used to disperse protesters.

 ‘We want dignity!’ 

“We’re not hungry — we want dignity!” a protester shouted in Baghdad on Friday morning, while another lashed out at “the so-called representatives of the people who have monopolised all the resources”.

One in five people lives in poverty in Iraq and youth unemployment sits around 25 percent, according to the World Bank.

The rates are staggering for OPEC’s second-biggest oil producer, which Transparency International ranks as the 12th most corrupt state in the world.

“I want my share of the oil!” another protester told AFP.

Rallies were also rocking the southern cities of Diwaniyah, Najaf and Nasiriyah, where demonstrators said they would remain in the streets “until the regime falls”.

Iraq’s highest Shiite authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has backed reforms, urged protesters Friday during his weekly sermon to use “restraint” to stop the demos descending into “chaos”.

But the real test will be the afternoon, when many are expecting supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr — an influential cleric who controls the largest parliamentary bloc — to hit the streets.

His supporters have breached the Green Zone in previous years. This week, he called on his supporters to protest and even instructed members of his own paramilitary force to be on “high alert.”

They could be seen in parts of Baghdad on Friday in a clear show of force.

 PM snipes at Sadr? 

The movement is unprecedented in recent Iraqi history both because of its spontaneity and independence, and because of the brutal violence with which a torrent of protests on October 1-6 was met.

At least 157 people were killed, according to a government probe published on Tuesday, which acknowledged that “excessive force” was used.

A vast majority of them were protesters in Baghdad, with 70 percent shot in the head or chest.

In response, Abdel Mahdi issued a laundry list of measures meant to ease public anger, including hiring drives and higher pensions for the families of protesters who died.

The beleaguered premier defended his reform agenda in a scheduled televised appearance early Friday, telling watchers it was their “right” to demonstrate as long as they did not “disturb public life”.

But he also said political figures demanding “reform” had themselves failed to enact it, in an apparent reference to Sadr’s “Alliance towards Reform” bloc.

Some have backed the government, including the powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force whose political branch is the second-largest parliamentary bloc.

And Iraq’s mostly-Kurdish north and Sunni west have stayed out of the protests.

Iraq has been ravaged by decades of conflict that finally calmed in 2017 with a declared victory over the Islamic State group.

Thus began a period of relative calm, with security forces lifting checkpoints and concrete blast walls and traffic choking city streets at hours once thought too dangerous.

Restrictions had even softened around the Green Zone but were reinstated as the October demonstrations picked up in Tahrir, which lies just across the Tigris River.

Authorities also imposed an internet blackout, which has been mostly lifted although social media remains blocked.

AFP

Climate Change Protesters Target BBC HQ

 

Extinction Rebellion climate protesters on Friday blocked the main entrances at the BBC’s London headquarters, with one journalist reporting that the building was on “lockdown”.

The group has carried out a wave of demonstrations in the British capital and around the world since Monday, primarily attempting to blockade city centre streets.

In the latest protest, around 50 activists set up camp in front of the main doors at the BBC’s Broadcasting House, in central London, prompting the reported shutdown.

BBC financial journalist Paul Lewis tweeted: “No one in no one out. Locked down.”

Videos of the action posted on social media showed several demonstrators had scaled an awning above the entrance and displayed the group’s flag — an hourglass symbol — on the building as staff looked on through windows from inside.

“We, the people, have decided to do your job and Tell the Truth from the BBC Broadcasting House about where we’re headed if we don’t change course,” Extinction Rebellion said in a statement on its Facebook page about the latest stunt.

“We hold you accountable for your criminal and corrupt complacency for totally marginalising the seriousness of the #PlanetaryEmergency.”

 

 

A BBC spokeswoman said the news company “already covers many climate change and environmental issues across its output”.

“We know how important these issues are to audiences and will continue to focus on them across both news and non-news programmes,” she said in a statement.

The demonstration is the latest in a week of long-planned protests by Extinction Rebellion in countries around the world to highlight what it claims is the inadequate response of governments to climate change.

The protests in Britain have seen more than 1,000 people arrested since Monday.

Thursday’s actions included an attempted “Hong Kong-style occupation” of the terminal building at London City Airport in the east of the capital, with hundreds blocking the main entrance.

One demonstrator, identified by the protest group as former Paralympic cyclist James Brown, climbed on top of a British Airways jet.

That prompted criticism from Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick who called the act “reckless, stupid and dangerous”.

UK Condemns Use Of Live Rounds In Hong Kong Protests

Britain’s Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State Dominic Raab delivers a speech in Manchester, north-west England on September 29, 2019.  Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Britain on Tuesday criticised police tactics against pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, warning that the use of live rounds could heighten long-running tensions.

“Whilst there is no excuse for violence, the use of live ammunition is disproportionate, and only risks inflaming the situation,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

Hong Kong, a former British colony which was handed back to China in 1997, has been gripped by a wave of protests over the last four months.

Increasingly violent confrontations between demonstrators and the police saw a young protester shot on Tuesday, just hours after China marked 70 years of Communist Party rule.

Raab said the shooting again showed the need for “constructive dialogue” between both sides.

“We need to see restraint and a de-escalation from both protesters and the Hong Kong authorities,” he added.

AFP

Police Shoot Hong Kong Protester As China Celebrates 70th Birthday

Police detain demonstrators in the Sha Tin district of Hong Kong on October 1, 2019, as violent demonstrations take place in the streets of the city on the National Day holiday to mark the 70th anniversary of communist China’s founding.  ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP

 

Hong Kong police shot a pro-democracy protester on Tuesday as the city was lashed by its worst unrest of the year, hours after China celebrated 70 years of Communist Party rule with a massive military parade.

It was the first such shooting in nearly four months of increasingly violent protests and threatened to strip the spotlight from China’s carefully choreographed birthday party, designed to underscore its status as a global superpower.

While President Xi Jinping took salutes from some 15,000 troops in the capital, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong threw eggs at his portrait, with tens of thousands of people defying police orders to disperse.

Running battles raged for hours across multiple locations, with some hardcore protesters hurling rocks and petrol bombs, while police responded for the most part with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.

In Tsuen Wan district, a police officer unloaded his weapon at close range into a young man after his unit was attacked by protesters armed with poles and umbrellas, videos filmed by student reporters showed.

Police said the officer feared for his life when he fired the weapon, hitting an 18-year-old man.

The wounded protester received first aid from officers before paramedics arrived and took him to hospital, police added.

Medical authorities said 31 people were admitted to hospital, two in a critical condition.

Hong Kong is seething with anger over Beijing’s rule and many of the fights on Sunday were especially fierce, even by the standards of this summer’s violence which has raged for 17 consecutive weeks.

In one clash several police and reporters were wounded by corrosive liquid thrown by protesters.

Burning barricades sent a pall of black smoke over the city, a regional hub for some of the world’s biggest banks.

 Military might 

Former colonial ruler Britain, who handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, decried the use of live ammunition as “disproportionate”. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that “it only risks inflaming the situation”.

The violence cast a shadow over the lavish parade in Beijing where tanks, new nuclear missiles and a supersonic drone were paraded as Xi and other top officials — including Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam — watched from a rostrum overlooking Tiananmen Square.

The event was meant to showcase China’s journey from a poor nation broken by war to the world’s second largest economy.

Xi, who wore the distinctive “Mao suit”, delivered a speech invoking the “Chinese dream” of national rejuvenation — his grand vision of restoring the country to perceived past glory.

“There is no force that can shake the foundation of this great nation,” Xi said from the Tiananmen rostrum where Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

Helicopters flew in a “70” formation as troops goosestepped across Tiananmen Square in what state media described as the country’s biggest military parade, featuring 580 pieces of armament and 160 aircraft.

The People’s Liberation Army brought out its newest hardware, including a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile with range enough to reach the entire United States and a launcher for a hypersonic glider.

Warplanes including the J-20 stealth fighter soared through the smog-choked skies, and state media said a high-altitude, high-speed reconnaissance drone made a public appearance for the first time.

“The party hopes that this occasion will add to its legitimacy and rally support at a time of internal and external challenges,” Adam Ni, China researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, told AFP.

But the unrest in Hong Kong also illustrated the challenges faced by China, which is also contending with US trade war negotiations.

Despite increasing levels of violence, there is still huge public support for a movement that presents the most serious threat to Beijing’s rule since the 1997 handover.

In his speech, Xi said China “must adhere” to the one country, two systems policy governing Hong Kong and “maintain the long-term prosperity and stability” of the city.

 Mao portrait 

The Beijing festivities continued with a pageant involving 100,000 civilians and 70 floats depicting China’s greatest achievements.

A giant portrait of Mao, followed by those of past leaders and Xi, streamed across the avenue as the president and other officials waved.

Replicas of a space rocket, a homegrown passenger plane and high-speed trains were followed by smiling ethnic minorities — imagery that glosses over accusations of human rights abuses in the frontier regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.

The Communist Party has repeatedly defied the odds to remain in power for seven decades.

Under Mao, tens of millions of people died during the disastrous Great Leap Forward, and the country was plunged into violent chaos during the decade-long Cultural Revolution.

After Mao’s death in 1976, the party launched the reform and opening-up policy under paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, starting decades of breakneck growth and development.

But the party retained a stranglehold on power, sending troops to end the biggest challenge to its rule in 1989 when pro-democracy protesters occupied Tiananmen Square.

AFP

Thousands Protest In Algiers Despite Tight Security

Algerian protesters take part in a demonstration against the country’s army chief in Algeria’s capital Algiers on September 20, 2019, as the police toughens its line ahead of December elections.
RYAD KRAMDI / AFP

 

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Algerian capital on Friday in defiance of a heavy security presence to demand the ouster of the country’s army chief.

Demonstrators gathered near the capital’s main post office square — the epicentre of Algeria’s protest movement that forced longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in April — this time calling for the removal of General Ahmed Gaid Salah.

“The people want the fall of Gaid Salah,” they chanted, referring to the de facto strongman in post-Bouteflika Algeria.

“Take us all to prison, the people will not stop.”

Friday’s demonstration marked Algeria’s 31st consecutive week of rallies, but protesters faced a heavy deployment of security forces in the city centre and along its main avenues.

The army chief on Wednesday ordered police to block protesters from outside Algiers entering the capital, in a bid to stem the flow of people attending anti-regime rallies.

The tougher line on demonstrations comes after interim president Abdelkader Bensalah on Sunday announced a December 12 date for a presidential election to fill the vacuum left by Bouteflika’s departure.

Gaid Salah has led the push for polls by the end of 2019, despite mass protests demanding political reforms and the removal of the former president’s loyalists — including Gaid Salah himself — before any vote.

 ‘Growing crackdown’ 

In the runup to the rally, police made several arrests near the square, AFP photographers said.

Police also stopped vehicles on main streets in the capital and an AFP journalist saw officers in plainclothes ask numerous people for identity papers, before some were led off to nearby vans.

A police helicopter hovered above, while security forces stopped cars headed towards the centre from Algiers’ southwest entrance.

Activists on social media reported traffic jams stretching “several kilometres” from the entrances of the capital.

Said Salhi, deputy head of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, condemned the heightened security measures as “illegal”.

Demonstrations have officially been banned in Algiers since 2001 but the prohibition had been ignored since rallies started on February 22 against the ailing Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth presidential term.

Presidential polls originally planned for July 4 were postponed due to a lack of viable candidates, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis as Bensalah’s 90-day mandate expired the same month.

The army’s high command has rejected any solution to the crisis other than presidential elections “in the shortest possible time”.

On Thursday, Amnesty International slammed the “growing crackdown that has seen dozens of protesters arrested over the past 10 days”.

Heba Morayef, the rights group’s Middle East and North Africa head, said the “resumption of sweeping arbitrary arrests… is a clear indication that the right to freedom of assembly and expression in Algeria is still very much under threat”.

That statement came the same day as former state TV journalist Fodil Boumala was reportedly arrested.

Boumala, a leading figure in the protests, was detained on accusations of “undermining national unity”, and a court on Thursday ordered his pre-trial detention, his lawyer Abdelghani Badi said on Facebook.

He was the third protest movement figure to be detained within a week, following Karim Tabbou late last week and Samir Benlarbi on Tuesday.

AFP