Hong Kong, Jun 15 (AP/UNB)— Pressure on Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam was mounting Saturday, with signs emerging that she may delay an unpopular extradition bill that has drawn hundreds of thousands of people into the streets in protest.
Reports said Lam was expected to make an announcement later Saturday. Government officials said they had not yet released plans for a news conference but indicated they might have news soon.
Another mass protest was expected Sunday, after clashes that turned violent on Wednesday, leaving about 80 people injured including 22 police officers.
The standoff between police and protesters in the former British colony is Hong Kong's most severe political crisis since the Communist Party-ruled mainland took control in 1997 with a promise not to interfere with the city's civil liberties and courts, and pressure on Beijing-appointed Lam is intense.
Hong Kong residents enjoy liberties denied to Chinese living in the mainland: June 4 brought one of the biggest vigils in recent years to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen protests in Beijing. Lam is caught between a public anxious to protect such cherished civil liberties and legal protections and her Communist Party bosses.
Opponents want her to withdraw the bill, which would allow Hong Kong suspects to be tried in mainland China. She has said she won't, and has the backing of leaders in Beijing. Many protesters are demanding she quit.
Protests died down late in the week, but around midnight Friday there were still dozens of youths singing and standing vigil near the city's government headquarters, where demonstrators had tussled with police who deployed tear gas, pepper spray, hoses and steel batons as thousands pushed through barricades.
Police said 11 were arrested. Lam declared that Wednesday's violence was "rioting," potentially raising severe legal penalties for those arrested for taking part. In past cases of unrest, authorities have waited months or years before rounding up protest leaders. In April, nine leaders of a 2014 pro-democracy protest movement known as the "Umbrella Revolution" were convicted on public nuisance and other charges.
Lam was facing calls from both outside and within her government to delay the extradition legislation that has spurred the protests.
Some members of the Executive Council, Hong Kong's cabinet, said she should perhaps rethink plans to rush the bills' passage. A group of former senior government officials issued a public letter urging her not to force a confrontation by pushing ahead with the unpopular bills.
"It can be said the government perhaps should consider other options," said Bernard Chan, a leading member of the Executive Council. He said a delay might be one possibility.
One of the legislature's pro-Beijing members, Michael Tien, said on Facebook that the bill was unneeded. "We're the laughing stock of the world," he said.
Many in Hong Kong fear the measures would undermine the former British colony's legal autonomy. As of Friday afternoon, more than 30,000 people had signed a petition protesting the use of force by police during the violent clashes on Wednesday.
More than 1,000 people joined a peaceful "mother's protest" Friday evening in a downtown garden.
Adding to tensions, the extradition bill has drawn criticism from U.S. and British lawmakers and human rights groups, prompting Beijing to lash back with warnings against "interference" in its internal affairs. China's foreign ministry said Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned Robert Forden, the U.S. Embassy's deputy chief of mission, on Friday.
Le urged the U.S. to treat Hong Kong "objectively and fairly," the ministry said in a statement. It added that "China will respond further to the U.S.'s actions."
It is unclear how the local leadership might defuse the crisis, given Beijing's strong support for the extradition bill and its distaste for dissent.
Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said that the Hong Kong leader very well might end up as a scapegoat, as a face-saving tactic: President Xi Jinping, China's strongest leader in decades, has demanded that Hong Kong follow Beijing's dictates, and many in Hong Kong fear their freedoms have been fading since he came to power in 2012.
He has warned the central government would not tolerate the city becoming a base for what the Communist Party considers a threat to its rule over the vast nation of 1.4 billion people.
"If the momentum continues to grow, then there is a high possibility that Xi Jinping might strike for a compromise and postpone the bill indefinitely," Willy Lam said. "There's a possibility Beijing might strike a compromise and the blame will be put on Carrie Lam."
Anson Chan, a former chief secretary for Hong Kong, said Lam still could keep her post if she backs down.
"What the people are attempting to tell is that we are very worried about the consequences of passing the extradition bill, because no one will feel safe, even in their own beds, after passage of this bill," Chan said in an interview.
"It places everybody's individual freedom and safety at risk," said Chan, who as chief secretary was the top local civil servant under former British Gov. Chris Patton.
Islamabad, June 14(AP/UNB) — Pakistan's anti-graft body has arrested the sister of former president Asif Ali Zardari in connection with a multi-million-dollar money laundering case following rejection of her bail by a court.
Faryal Talpur, also a politician, was taken into custody Thursday by the National Accountability Bureau in Islamabad.
The latest development came days after a court rejected bail requests from Zardari and Talpur, drawing condemnation from the opposition, which has accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of victimizing his opponents.
Talpur's arrest comes hours after Pakistan's Supreme Judicial Council began examining a government request for the removal of senior judge Qazi Faez Eisa for concealing assets abroad. That request came amid a nationwide protest by lawyers, who say Khan was victimizing the judge for criticizing the military in one of his recent verdicts.
Hong Kong, Jun 13 (AP/UNB) — Hong Kong's legislature suspended meetings Thursday following violent clashes between police and protesters who oppose a bill allowing suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial and that is seen as tightening Beijing's control over the territory.
The events in the former British colony mark possibly its biggest political crisis since being handed over to Chinese rule in 1997, and they pose a profound challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Nearly two years ago, Xi issued a stern address in the city stating that Beijing would not tolerate Hong Kong becoming a base for what the ruling Communist Party considers a foreign-inspired campaign to undermine its rule over the vast nation of 1.4 billion people.
Yet the mostly young throngs of well-organized protesters seemed little deterred by such threats, even as they took pains to remain anonymous by wearing masks, declining to give their full names to journalists and using cash rather than stored value cards to buy subway tickets.
The demonstrations follow the 30th anniversary of China's bloody suppression of the student-led pro-democracy protests centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Hong Kong held one of its biggest rallies in recent years to honor the hundreds or possibly thousands of demonstrators killed in the army assault and to demand a full investigation into the crackdown, in what was seen as a further sign of defiance against Beijing.
Xi's administration is also dealing with the trade war with the United States that has thrown its export-driven economic model into question, potentially threatening its relationship with China's urban middle class that has been predicated on accepting strict political controls in exchange for improving standards of living. As one of the world's most important financial centers, Hong Kong also stands to suffer from the continuing impasse, adding to frustrations among young people over stagnating salaries and skyrocketing housing prices.
Heavy rain Thursday morning kept fresh street protests from following those Wednesday the shut down government headquarters and the Legislative Council on the day it was to debate the extradition bill. More than 70 people were hurt.
Police kept a heavy presence around the government compound on Thursday while protesters sought to maintain pressure by blocking doors on subway trains and driving slowly on main thoroughfares. In their black garb, use of social media and amorphous organization demonstrators appeared reflected the tactics of leftwing activists in Europe and the United States referred to as the "Black Bloc," who have come to prominence at anti-globalization and anti-capitalist protests such as that surrounding the 2017 G20 meeting in Hamburg.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam declared Wednesday's violence "rioting," that was "intolerable in any civilized society that respects the rule of law." That designation could substantially increase the legal penalties for those arrested for taking part.
"Intense confrontation is surely not the solution to ease disputes and resolve controversies," Lam said according to an official news release.
Beijing has condemned the protests but so far not indicated whether it was planning harsher measures. In past instances of unrest the authorities have waited months or years before rounding up protest leaders.
Veraval, Jun 13 (AP/UNB) — Authorities evacuated nearly 300,000 people from India's western coastline ahead of a very severe cyclone that's expected to make landfall on Thursday as the year's second major storm.
The India Meteorological Department says Cyclone Vayu, named after the Hindi word for wind, could possibly just scrape by the western state of Gujarat instead of hitting it head on in the afternoon before returning to the Arabian Sea.
In Veraval, a hub of India's fishing industry where Vayu was expected to make landfall, heavy wind and rain battered the beaches. Fishing boats were splintered by huge waves crashing onto shore. Local police were making a last minute effort to convince hut dwellers to leave their homes.
Gale winds up to 180 kilometers (112 miles) per hour and rough sea conditions could last up to 12 hours in the cyclone's wake as it moves west toward Pakistan.
Pakistan's meteorological department issued an alert on Thursday, warning fishermen to stay inland this week as the cyclone could cause rough sea conditions.
The cyclone was not likely to directly impact the southern port city of Karachi, but the department said in a statement that the weather system could cause dust storms and rains in various parts of the southern Sindh province.
It said a heatwave was likely to hit Karachi on Thursday and Friday because the cyclone could stifle sea breeze, with temperatures rising to 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit).
The meteorological department also asked authorities to remain alert through Saturday, although the Cyclone Vayu was far away from the country's coastal areas.
Ramstein Jun 13 (AP/UNB) — The Islamic State group in Afghanistan is a "very worrisome" threat to the United States, and U.S. counterterrorism efforts have yet to shrink its extremist ambitions, a senior American general said Wednesday.
Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie said IS would be hard pressed, however, to carry out an attack on the U.S. homeland because it is under strong military pressure.
"ISIS in Afghanistan certainly has aspirations to attack the United States," McKenzie said. "It is our clear judgment that as long as we maintain pressure on them it will be hard for them to do that."
McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command with responsibility for managing American military operations across the greater Middle East, spoke in Germany with reporters returning home with him from an eight-day trip that took him to Qatar, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. He also spent two days aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in the North Arabian Sea.
He stopped at Germany's Ramstein air base to refuel his airplane before flying to his headquarters in Florida.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press cited U.S. and Afghan security officials In reporting that the Islamic State group in Afghanistan is expanding its footprint, recruiting new fighters and plotting attacks on the United States and other Western countries.
McKenzie, a veteran of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, said he believes IS in Afghanistan has not expanded its capabilities but remains a big problem.
"They are very worrisome to us" in their strongholds in eastern Afghanistan, he said, adding that combat operations have failed to reduce the group's fighting ranks. Others have said they are thought to number in the thousands.
The Islamic State affiliate appeared in Afghanistan shortly after the group's core fighters swept across Syria and Iraq in the summer of 2014, carving out a self-styled Islamic empire in both countries. The Afghanistan affiliate refers to itself as the Khorasan Province, a name applied to parts of Afghanistan, Iran and central Asia in the Middle Ages.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan are combatting the Islamic State group separately from their mission of advising and assisting Afghan defense forces in their battle against the Taliban.
The Taliban and IS are sharply divided over ideology and tactics, with the Taliban largely confining their attacks to government targets and Afghan and international security forces. The Taliban and IS have fought each other on a number of occasions, and the Taliban are still the larger and more imposing force.