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Hong Kong leader condemns ‘violent’ storming of city legislature

Hong Kong’s leader on Tuesday condemned “the extreme use of violence” by protesters who stormed and vandalised the city’s legislature on the 22nd anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China. Police restored control early on Tuesday after street clashes with protesters at the end of a day of unrest. Demonstrators in their hundreds overran…

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Hong Kong leader condemns ‘violent’ storming of city legislature

Hong Kong’s leader on Tuesday condemned “the extreme use of violence” by protesters who stormed and vandalised the city’s legislature on the 22nd anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China.

Police restored control early on Tuesday after street clashes with protesters at the end of a day of unrest.

Demonstrators in their hundreds overran the Chinese territory’s legislature late on Monday, smashing walls, spray-painting graffiti, and taking over the chamber as the weeks-long crisis over a controversial extradition bill came to a head.

In a pre-dawn press conference, Lam, the city’s Beijing-appointed Chief Executive, described the scenes of vandalism as “heartbreaking and shocking”.

“This is something we should seriously condemn because nothing is more important than the rule of law in Hong Kong,” she said, with the city’s police chief Stephen Lo by her side.

Lo added: “Protesters’ violent acts have far exceeded the bottom line of peaceful expressions of demands.”

‘Mob violence’

China regarded the violent actions of some protesters in Hong Kong as an “undisguised challenge” to the “one country, two systems” formula under which the city is ruled, state television reported on Tuesday.

Earlier, the state-run newspaper dismissed the protests as “mob violence”.

“Chinese society is all too aware that a zero-tolerance policy is the only remedy for such destructive behaviour”, the Global Times daily wrote in an editorial.

“Otherwise, and without this policy, it would be similar to opening a Pandora’s Box, upending social disorder,” it warned.

The authorities earlier warned demonstrators to clear the building immediately, calling the occupation “illegal”.

Riot police apparently retreated as hundreds of demonstrators streamed into the building after a small group of mostly students wearing hard hats and masks used a metal trolley, poles and scaffolding to batter the compound’s reinforced glass doors until it gave way.

“We have marched, staged sit-ins… but the government has remained unmoved,” Joey, a 26-year-old protester, told AFP as she walked over shattered glass inside the building. 

“We have to show the government that we won’t just sit here and do nothing.”

The legislature was closed on Tuesday, as police inspected the damage inside the building, while workers waited outside to begin a clean-up.

The US voiced its support for the protesters, with President Donald Trump saying the demonstrators were “looking for democracy”.
“Unfortunately, some governments don’t want democracy”, he added, in an apparent swipe at Beijing.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed “unwavering” support for “Hong Kong and its freedoms” but urged restraint from protesters.

Peaceful march

Police estimated 190,000 people joined a peaceful march throughout the city on Monday, the third major march in as many weeks. Protest leaders told Al Jazeera about 550,000 people had taken part in the annual July 1 march, dwarfing previous rallies.

A protester in his early 20s, who gave his name as M, told Al Jazeera from inside the legislative chamber that many planned to remain in the building overnight and their storming of the building was “inevitable” as authorities had ignored previous peaceful protests. 

Protesters destroyed portraits of Hong Kong officials  [Philip Fong/AFP]

The increasingly hardline tactics have divided Hong Kongers, with some calling for the protesters to focus on finding common ground with government supporters.

Martin Lee, the founding chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, said that while he could not defend the protesters’ violent actions on Monday night, he could understand their frustrations.

“I don’t like these ugly scenes; nobody likes them and I will not defend them,” he told Al Jazeera. “But I want people to know what brought about such acts of violence.”

Protesters contemplated occupying the legislative building but fled when police surrounded them [Al Jazeera/Euan McKirdy] 

Danger point

Steve Tsang, the director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said the actions of protesters were “not helping their cause” and Hong Kong was “getting to a point of danger”. 

“If they keep on with the way they are doing it [protesting], then the risk of the Chinese government taking much more drastic action gets that much closer,” he told Al Jazeera.

“It is not in the interest of Hong Kong to force a situation where Beijing feels it has to take direct actions to intervene”. 

Tsang added while the majority in Hong Kong supported the removal of the extradition bill, the actions of protesters threatened to divide the territory’s pro-democracy movement.

Demonstrators spray-painted slogans throughout the legislature building [Euan McKirdy/Al Jazeera]

Weeks of protests

Protests first began last month over an extradition bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China for trial.

Chief Executive Lam suspended the controversial bill on June 18 after some of the largest and most violent demonstrations the city had seen in decades – with millions attending – but she stopped short of protesters’ demands to scrap it entirely. 

The city leader is now clinging to her job as protesters call for her resignation at a time of unprecedented backlash against the government, which poses the greatest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” framework that allows the territory freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including the freedom to protest and an independent judiciary.

Opponents of the extradition bill fear it is a threat to Hong Kong’s much-cherished rule of law and would allow Beijing to target opponents.

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Saudi Aramco says customers unaffected by Houthi attack on Jeddah

Monday’s attack knocked out a tank that contained 10 percent of all fuel stored a the Jeddah plant, Saudi Aramco official says.Oil giant Saudi Aramco says customers were unaffected by an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on a petroleum products distribution plant in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah. One of the facility’s tanks…

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Saudi Aramco says customers unaffected by Houthi attack on Jeddah

Monday’s attack knocked out a tank that contained 10 percent of all fuel stored a the Jeddah plant, Saudi Aramco official says.Oil giant Saudi Aramco says customers were unaffected by an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on a petroleum products distribution plant in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah.
One of the facility’s tanks was hit by a missile in early on Monday.
The attack knocked out 10 percent of all fuel that was stored at the plant, a Saudi Aramco official said on Tuesday, adding that the tank – one of 13 at the facility – is currently out of action.
The official described the site as a “critical facility” that distributes more than 120,000 barrels of products per day.
A fire caused by the attack was extinguished in about 40 minutes with no casualties, he said.
The attack was confirmed by a Saudi official who told the Saudi state news agency (SPA) it was a “terrorist attack with a projectile”.
The oil company’s production and export facilities are mostly in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province, more than 1,000km (621 miles) away from Jeddah, across the country.
Announcing the attack, a military spokesman for the Houthis warned that “operations will continue”.
Yahya Sarea said the attack was carried out with a Quds-2 type winged missile. He also posted a satellite image with the label: “North Jeddah bulk plant-Saudi Aramco”.
“The strike was very accurate, and ambulances and fire engines rushed to the target,” Sarea said.
That facility is just southeast of Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, an important site that handles incoming Muslim pilgrims en route to nearby Mecca.
Renewed violence
Yemen has been mired in conflict since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015 to restore the Yemeni government, which had been removed from power in the capital Sanaa by Houthi forces in late 2014.
Cross-border attacks by Houthi forces have escalated since late May when a truce prompted by the novel coronavirus pandemic expired. The Saudi-led coalition has responded with air raids on Houthi-held territory.
The Houthis control most of north Yemen and most large urban areas. They say they are fighting a corrupt system.
Sarea said the attack was carried out in response to the Saudi-led coalition’s actions in Yemen.
The claimed attack came just after a visit by outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to see Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The kingdom also just hosted the annual G20 summit, which concluded on Sunday.

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US appoints first Venezuela ambassador in a decade amid tensions

The two nations have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations began to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.The United States has its first ambassador for Venezuela in 10 years despite Washington having no diplomats at its Caracas embassy amid a breakdown in relations. James Story’s nomination as ambassador was confirmed on Wednesday by a…

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US appoints first Venezuela ambassador in a decade amid tensions

The two nations have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations began to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.The United States has its first ambassador for Venezuela in 10 years despite Washington having no diplomats at its Caracas embassy amid a breakdown in relations.
James Story’s nomination as ambassador was confirmed on Wednesday by a US Senate voice vote.
The South Carolina native takes the job that he will carry out from the capital of neighbouring Colombia as Venezuela endures an historic economic and political crisis.
The US and Venezuela have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations first started to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.
The two nations totally broke diplomatic ties last year, each withdrawing its diplomats shortly after Washington backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s leader.
Story, 50, will likely play a key role in helping guide US policy on Venezuela during the transition of President-elect Joe Biden.
Biden’s win has sparked debate among those who back President Donald Trump’s hardline approach of isolating his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro and others who say it is time for a new course.
The critics say heavy sanctions have failed to remove Maduro from power, opening Venezuela to US competitors such as China, Russia and Iran, while making life harder on millions of residents of the South American nation.
The US leads a coalition of dozens of nations that rejected Maduro following his election in 2018 to a second term in a vote Washington called fraudulent.
The US has since heavily sanctioned Maduro, his inner circle and the state-run oil firm, attempting to isolate them.
The Trump administration offered a $15m reward for Maduro’s arrest after a US court indicted him on drug charges.

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‘UAE, Israel can stamp out Islamophobia, anti-Semitism’

People to people contact, academic, civil society exchanges and cooperation will go a long way in change mindsets, Ban Ki-moon says. Countries like the UAE and Israel who have signed the Abraham Accords should stamp out anti-semitism and Islamophobia and devise curriculums to educate their youth on the significance of the peace deal, said former…

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‘UAE, Israel can stamp out Islamophobia, anti-Semitism’

People to people contact, academic, civil society exchanges and cooperation will go a long way in change mindsets, Ban Ki-moon says.

Countries like the UAE and Israel who have signed the Abraham Accords should stamp out anti-semitism and Islamophobia and devise curriculums to educate their youth on the significance of the peace deal, said former UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
He said that one of the major achievements of the deal – considered a huge political and diplomatic win – is that it opens up a “cooperative space not only for leaders but also for citizens of all the participating countries”
“The architects of this important agreement must ensure that the Accords is not an agreement just for their countries but for their people. Abraham Accords should serve as a launchpad for the sustainable peace and prosperity in the region,” Ban Ki-moon said while addressing a virtual conference on ‘The Abraham Accords: Advancing UAE-Israel, Regional, and Muslim-Jewish Cooperation’ organised by UK-based Emirates Society.
Stressing on the important role of education in building secure, peaceful, resilient and prosperous societies in both a short and long term, the Secretary General said it is his “sincere hope that the UAE and Israel and others redouble their sustained effort to educate their students and citizens – both young and old – about the significance of this important agreement and each other.”
“Devising curriculum and expanding global citizenship education as well as being aggressive about stamping out instances of anti-Semitism and islamophobia are important steps to take in this regard, he added.
He said people to people contact, academic, civil society exchanges and cooperation will go a long way in helping to change mindset and begin a dynamic new era of cooperation.
Palestinian cause
The UAE is the first GCC country and the third Arab nation to establish diplomatic relations with Israel by signing the US-brokered Abraham Accords on September 15. Bahrain and Sudan also followed suit and have signed peace deals with Israel.
The deal is considered a game changer for peace and stability in the region, as in exchange, Israel has agreed to temporarily halt annexations in the West Bank.
Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, said the UAE continues to consider the issue of a Palestinian state as the most important one but without impeding opportunities for dialogue and open communication.
She said Abraham Accords was born from a “desire to change the business as usual approach” that has mired the countries of Middle East in conflict for long.
Even as the UAE continues to work for its own national agenda, Al Hashimi said the country is “really looking to learn from each other and also to explain to one another who we are and what matters to us”.
“And it does matter to the Arab and the Muslim world that a Palestinian state in its rightful place … exists.”
Ban Ki-Moon said it would be difficult to forge lasting peace without addressing the Palestinian question as well as issues like the final status of Jerusalem and West Bank settlement.
“To truly advance the vision of peace throughout the Middle East, we should not forget that the Palestinians must be involved in determining a future that is based on security and prosperity for all people in the region. I hope that Abraham Accords can function as a springboard for invigorated action on ensuring a negotiated two-state solution aligned with the relevant UN security council resolutions.”
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Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.

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