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Expat families flee Hong Kong after double whammy of virus, protests

first_imgTopics : Though there are no statistics on the number considering permanent moves, there is growing anecdotal evidence of a shift in sentiment among expats. Relocation companies are seeing a spike in inquiries about overseas moves with growing predictions that the political stalemate will lead to more instability.Grim OutlookAs the city combats the virus outbreak, the political situation “could well worsen in the days and weeks ahead,” risk consultancy Steve Vickers and Associates said in a report released Feb. 11.There were at least 62 confirmed cases of the virus in Hong Kong as of Feb. 19, fewer than in Japan or Singapore, and two deaths. That’s enough to create widespread fear. Many employees are working from home and many restaurants are struggling. Panic buying has emptied supermarkets, with bare shelves where toilet paper and hand sanitizer used to be.Links International Relocation Ltd. had a 45% increase in inquiries about moves in the second week of February compared with a year earlier, said Patrick O’Donnell, the company’s Hong Kong-based managing director. The government’s announcement on Feb. 13 that schools would remain closed until mid-March — at least — will likely prompt more families to relocate, he said.Typically the peak season for overseas moves is in June, yet springtime already is starting to look busy, said Timothy Tao, Hong Kong-based director of business development with relocation company Asian Tigers Group. Inquiries have jumped in the past month, he said.Robert Chipman, Asian Tigers Group Hong Kong CEO, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television Wednesday that while there’s strong demand for moves from Hong Kong, there is almost no interest in relocations to the city. He’s been in his position for almost 20 years.“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.Permanent Damage?Hong Kong is at risk of an exodus that could threaten the city’s global status, the heads of the local British and French chambers of commerce warned in a Feb. 12 letter.“If the specific needs of international schools cannot be rapidly addressed, this will very likely trigger decisions of families [not just expatriates] to leave Hong Kong in the coming weeks,” wrote Rebecca Silli and Peter Burnett, chairs of the French and British chambers, respectively. “This would also have dramatic consequences on the international schools’ financial position, even to the point of putting at risk the continued operation of some.”Still, many businesses and families are staying put, saying they’re confident Hong Kong will remain a hub for multinationals. Among the optimists is two-decade resident Donna NguyenPhuoc, a partner with Sparq Capital, which works with family offices to co-invest in such industries as technology.“A lot of people who are planning to move haven’t been in Hong Kong enough to see how resilient Hong Kong is,” she said. “If you have been here long enough, you realize Hong Kong will push through this as it has before.”Other families are going elsewhere at least temporarily, as they wait to see what happens next.Insurance industry executive Ruth Lu, who has children ages 7 and 11, has rented a house with a pool on the Thai island of Koh Samui while schools are closed. “We don’t even need to wear masks,” she said.A native of China’s Jiangsu Province who has lived in Hong Kong for more than 20 years, Lu has no immediate plans to move but the unrest has soured her on the city. “It’s not the old Hong Kong like when I first arrived,” she said.Several bankers interviewed by Bloomberg, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to comment, said they had moved abroad with their families at least until the outbreak subsided and have postponed making longer-term plans.About three-fourths of the families with children at Chinese International School, a popular private school with more than 1,530 students, have provided information on their whereabouts, and about 20% of those reporting are outside Hong Kong, according to the head of the school, Sean Lynch. That’s understandable, he said, because the closure announcement came during Chinese New Year, when many families already were away from home.Waiting, WatchingSome families aren’t counting on schools reopening next month. Betty Lai, born in Hong Kong, raised in Canada and married to a Briton, has gone to the U.K. and enrolled her two young children in schools in Suffolk, England. Her husband, a recruiter, can work from London so the family plans on living there for now.“We may end up staying for good if the situation in Hong Kong hasn’t settled by summer,” she said.Departures that become permanent could hurt the city’s competitiveness, according to Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. “Once talent is lost from Hong Kong, it will be very hard to get it back,” she said. The debate about leaving Hong Kong — which began for many expats during the unrest last summer and fall — has taken on a greater urgency with the spread of the virus, which has claimed more than 1,800 lives globally, and caused many companies in the financial hub to require employees to work from home. Critics accuse Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s government of mishandling the latest crisis compared with Singapore, which has kept schools open.An exodus by expats like Jacob could further damage an economy already reeling from the unrest and the virus, with visitor numbers plunging and unemployment rising.Hong Kong residents who come from elsewhere play outsized roles in finance, law and other service industries that make the city a global business capital. About 690,000 foreigners and non-Hong Kong Chinese live in the Special Administrative Region, accounting for about 9.5% of the population, according to the 2016 census. Half were from the Philippines and Indonesia, the main sources of domestic helpers; the former colony also had about 35,000 Britons and 14,800 Americans.The city’s population at the end of 2019 fell 0.1% from the midyear count, the first decline in almost two decades, according to government data released Tuesday. There was a net outflow of Hong Kong residents — excluding one-way permit holders from Mainland China — of 29,200 in 2019, compared with a net inflow of 23,000 in the 12-month period ending in the middle of 2019.center_img After a decade and a half in Hong Kong, New Zealand native Ian Jacob is calling it quits. The owner of a construction-materials company, Jacob and his wife were worried last year about the political unrest, especially after the temporary suspension of schools. “We watched as the situation got worse and worse,” he said.With classes suspended again amid the coronavirus outbreak, the prospect of more home schooling for their 10-year-old daughter pushed them to take refuge in Auckland, New Zealand. Jacob said they’ll be moving back there for good once the school year ends in Hong Kong.“It’s just becoming an unstable environment to raise a child in,” he said.last_img read more


October 19, 2020 0

‘Millennial lifestyle’: BCA says ride-hailing apps dragging down auto loan demand

first_imgImproved public transportation, especially in Jakarta, also played a role in the declining demand for vehicles, Jahja said, as people think they no longer need to own vehicles to get around.Despite the decline, he said, the company still booked a 1.4 percent year-on-year (yoy) growth in loan disbursement for four-wheeled vehicles, as the bank’s subsidiary, BCA Finance, had become a market leader for car loans in the country.Read also: BCA lowers loan growth target to 5%-7% over virus, market concernsThe drop in vehicle loan disbursement was mainly influenced by a sharp decline in two-wheeler vehicle loans, which plummeted by 34.5 percent yoy to Rp 2.19 trillion in 2019. Aside from the rise of ride-hailing apps, Jahja also attributed the nosedive to last year’s slumping purchasing power as well as fierce competition in motorcycle financing.“Our fiercest competitor are finance companies owned by motorcycle manufacturers, and we admit that we haven’t become a top-of-mind name in the segment,” he said.Across all segments, BCA booked 9.5 percent growth in outstanding loans to Rp 603.74 trillion in 2019, supported by double-digit growth from the corporate segment and the commercial and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) segment. That compares with 6.08 percent growth in the overall commercial banking industry last year.Topics : Bank Central Asia (BCA), Indonesia’s largest private lender by market value, is blaming the bank’s contraction in automotive loans last year on the rise of ride-hailing apps and the “millennial lifestyle”.President director Jahja Setiaatmadja said on Thursday that the rising use of smartphone apps to book a car or motorcycle ride had seen the bank’s automotive loan disbursement contract by 1.1 percent to Rp 47.63 trillion (US$3.47 billion) in 2019.“The presence of online ride-hailing apps has made it more convenient for everyone to travel. This has also changed many people’s, especially millennials’, lifestyle in big cities, as they think they don’t really need to have their own vehicles anymore,” he explained during a press briefing in Jakarta.last_img read more


October 19, 2020 0

PREMIUMBanks taking cautious approach amid fears of rising bad debts

first_imgLOG INDon’t have an account? Register here Banks are taking a more cautious approach in providing new loans amid fears that the worse-than-expected economic conditions will cause an increase in bad debts.State-owned lender Bank Tabungan Negara (BTN), for example, is reducing its loans for high-rise commercial buildings this year as a result of a rising non-performing loan (NPL) ratio in the sector.The bank’s president director, Pahala Mansury, said the cautious step was taken because of the rising trend in NPLs in the commercial building sector, such as apartments. According to him, NPLs in the commercial buildings sector significantly increased to 18 percent of the total loans disbursed in the sector, amounting to Rp 21.66 trillion (US$1.6 billion) caused by sluggish apartment salesAs a result, BTN’s gross NPL ratio skyrocketed from 2.8 percent in 2018 to 4.78 percent last year, nearing the unhealthy… Indonesia banking bad-debt BTN bank-mandiri PermataBank BCA coronavirus Linkedin Facebook Log in with your social account Google Topics : Forgot Password ?last_img read more


October 19, 2020 0

US airport screeners, health workers plagued by fear and anger as coronavirus spreads

first_imgAs coronavirus cases exploded across the world, federal medical workers tasked with screening incoming passengers at USairports grew alarmed: Many were working without the most effective masks to protect them from getting sick themselves.Screeners with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked their supervisors this week to change official protocols and require stronger masks, according to an internal document reviewed by Reuters. On Friday evening, they learned their worst fears were realized: Two screeners, both working at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), had tested positive for the virus.“Sad news,” a senior quarantine official at the CDC wrote in an email Friday evening to colleagues about the two workers. The email, reviewed by Reuters and not previously reported, said the two screeners will be quarantined until March 17. “Let us keep our colleagues at LAX in our thoughts.” US doctors, nurses, emergency responders and government health workers say they are increasingly concerned at what they see as inadequate protections and preparation for workers in the trenches. Many complain of poor training and communication in the workplace as well as insufficient equipment and staffing.At the CDC, spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said the airport medical screeners receive the protective gear they need, depending on their roles.The CDC recommends that so-called “secondary” screeners, who meet with passengers who have traveled to certain countries, such as China, wear a surgical mask, gloves and eye protection, Nordlund said. Secondary screeners are advised to stand six feet away from passengers they observe and do not wear the sturdier N95 masks, also known as respirators, because they aren’t exposed to symptomatic travelers, she said.N95 masks are designed to protect screeners from the smaller pathogens such as coronavirus which can penetrate deeper into the lungs. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, surgical masks are not designed to block very small particles, such as those transmitted by coughs and sneezes, and do not provide complete protection because of the loose fit.Nordlund said that CDC’s guidance calls for screeners who meet with people exhibiting obvious signs of illness to wear N95 respirators and other protective gear.But people infected with the coronavirus do not necessarily exhibit obvious signs of illness.“Surgical masks won’t protect us from getting the virus – they just protect us from infecting someone else,” the CDC medical official involved in screening said. “We want to know why we can’t wear N-95 masks. It’s crazy.”“You might as well have a tissue over your face for all the good it will do,” the official added.The CDC spokeswoman, Nordlund, referred specific questions about the LAX screeners, including about what kind of facial protection they were wearing on the job, to the Department of Homeland Security, which she said employed the two workers as contractors on behalf of CDC.DHS could not be immediately reached for comment on the workers’ masks.In the meantime, dozens of health care screeners and other employees at LAX believed to have come into contact with the stricken screeners have been ordered to self-quarantine until March 17, the CDC medical official told Reuters.‘A little bit of an oversight’The US Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to the specific safety concerns raised by the nation’s health care workers. But a department spokeswoman said the administration is working with companies that manufacture the equipment, including N95 masks, “so we can rapidly arrange contracts to buy supplies to protect the American people.”Dr. Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary of Health and Human Services for Preparedness & Response, said at a Senate hearing on Thursday that historically the plan for protecting front-line health care workers has been to focus on routine influenza, which can be prevented by vaccines or treated with antivirals. Coronavirus is not influenza.Not preparing more respirators for an outbreak like coronavirus was a “little bit of an oversight and has significant implications for today,” Kadlec testified.He said the government just authorized the purchase of 500 million respirators, which it expects to receive in the next six to 12 months. “So that will ramp up,” he said. Earlier, officials had said they had 13 million on hand.The shortage of medical gear, including N95 masks, is endangering healthcare workers across the world, the WHO said on March 3, calling on governments to move quickly to boost supplies and stop speculation and hoarding.The CDC’s airport screeners are part of the healthcare workforce at risk. But a health expert involved in the US government response said the problem was more widespread. State and local first responders – firefighters, emergency medical services personnel and police – are expressing the same alarm.“We know the level of expertise and training the people we put on the front line need, but we’re not even close to having it,” said the expert, who was not authorized to speak on the record.Prepared on PaperOn Thursday, the union National Nurses United (NNU) released a nationwide survey of registered nurses finding that fewer than half of respondents said their employer has informed them of how to recognize and respond to possible coronavirus cases. Less than a fifth said their bosses have a policy to address employees with suspected or known exposure, and less than a third reported having enough protective gear on hand at work should cases surge, according to NNU.“They have all of this stuff written down but then we go and talk to our nurses in these facilities and absolutely none of it is being implemented,” said Jane Thomason, the lead industrial hygienist with the Health and Safety Division of the National Nurses United. “We’re seeing a majority of employers are not prepared.”NNU has petitioned the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to adopt an emergency temporary standard to require protections for health care workers in an infectious disease epidemic.‘Not sustainable’Around the globe, there are now nearly 102,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in 94 countries, with close to 3,500 deaths, most of them still in China, the WHO reports. But already the relatively small number of cases in the United States is testing the limits of the country’s preparations.In Washington state, with about 70 cases thus far, the rapid surge in suspected cases swamped the protections put in place at hospitals and health centers.One doctor at a major hospital system wrote in email to professional peers around the country that his staff is quickly burning through supplies of protective gear and struggling to properly fit workers with masks.“Not sustainable,” he said.The March 3 email, shared with Reuters by a recipient on condition that the doctor’s name and affiliation be withheld, said the heavy volume of cases scotched plans to furlough workers who had been potentially exposed to the virus.In one example, the doctor wrote that treating just two patients led to the potential exposure of 350 people. Instead of keeping the staffers at home, the physician said, they were allowing them to work and monitoring them for symptoms.“This has been a long four days,” he wrote. Topics : The news was not surprising to some CDC screeners.“It was bound to happen,” said a veteran CDC medical official involved with screening who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They are assuring us we are safe. If we were safe, screeners would not be getting sick.”The struggles within the CDC, an agency that advises the country’s health systems about how to protect people against the virus, underscore the difficulties confronting health workers across the nation and illustrate a challenge for the Trump administration, which has faced criticism over its response to the outbreak.Trump on Feb. 26 described the risk from coronavirus as “very low.” Cases, however, have now been reported in more than half of the 50 US states and 19 people have died.last_img read more


October 19, 2020 0

Kenya, Ethiopia join expanding list of African states with coronavirus

first_imgKenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Guinea and Mauritania all confirmed their first cases of the new coronavirus on Friday, giving the disease a foothold in 19 countries on the African continent.Africa had until now largely been spared the rapid spread of COVID-19, which has infected at least 135,000 people and killed around 5,000 worldwide.Most of Africa’s reported cases were foreigners or people who had travelled abroad. Rapid testing and quarantines have been put in place to limit transmission. Senegal confirmed 11 new cases on Friday, raising the total in that West African nation to 21. Its health ministry said 16 had been infected by the same man who had returned from Italy.Among those confirming first cases on Friday, Kenya is the richest economy in East Africa and a hub for global companies and the United Nations, while Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous nation, with 109 million people. Addis Ababa and Nairobi are regional transit hubs.In Nairobi, the Kenyan authorities banned all major public events and said they would restrict foreign travel. The mayor of Addis Ababa urged citizens to avoid close personal contact but Ethiopia’s health minister said there were no plans to cancel flights.Travellers fall sick Kenyan Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said the country’s first case, a 27-year-old Kenyan, was diagnosed on Thursday after travelling home via London on March 5.He said the government had traced most of the people she had been in contact with, including fellow passengers on her flight, and a government response team would monitor their temperatures for the next two weeks.The Ethiopian case was a 48-year old Japanese national who arrived in Ethiopia on March 4, the health ministry said.Guinea’s first case was an employee of the European Union delegation who had self-isolated after she felt ill upon returning from Europe, the EU delegation said.Sudan’s first confirmed coronavirus case was a man who died on Thursday in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, the Health Ministry said. He had visited the United Arab Emirates in the first week of March.Halting the spread Kenyan Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said the government had suspended all public gatherings, sporting events, open-air religious meetings and events “of a huge public nature”. Schools will remain open but inter-school events were suspended.Public transport operators must install hand sanitizers in their vehicles and clean them regularly, Kagwe said, while foreign travel would be restricted.Soon after the announcement, shoppers in one Nairobi supermarket were buying up cart loads of staples such as maize flour and water, as well as hand sanitizers and soap.Kenya Airways suspended flights to China last month and on Thursday added Rome and Geneva to the list of suspended destinations.Kenya, which relies heavily on Asian imports, has seen disruptions to its supply chain and a decline in tourism, an important source of hard currency and jobs.”We are going to be hit badly,” Tourism Minister Najib Balala told journalists.The Nairobi Securities Exchange halted trading in the afternoon after the main NSE 20 share index dropped by more than 5% following the news.Mauritius, an island nation off the coast of East Africa whose economy depends on tourism and financial services, has yet to report any COVID-19 cases but said it was offering liquidity to banks to support struggling firms hit by the impact of the virus and cutting banks’ cash reserve requirements. But concerns are growing about the continent’s ability to handle the disease.Cases have been reported in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia.Mauritania’s health ministry said late on Friday that its first coronavirus patient is a European man – nationality not specified – who had returned to Nouakchott on March 9 and had since been in quarantine.The numbers of cases in most of the countries are still in single figures.center_img Topics :last_img read more


October 19, 2020 0

COVID-19: Central Java governor thanks residents for forgoing ‘mudik’ this year

first_imgGanjar also reminded civil servants to shelter in place as the government had officially prohibited from mudik, including police and military personnel, as well as state-owned enterprise employees.“There will be sanction for violators.”People who have returned Central Java are required to self-quarantine for 14 days, supervised by their neighborhood unit (RT) head and physician in nearby community health centers (Puskesmas).Read also: COVID-19: ‘Mudik’ risks mass contagion across JavaTo discourage their relatives living in Greater Jakarta from returning home, residents of Wonogiri in Central Java also joined hands to send them staple food. Residents of Krapyak village in Wonogiri collected various staple food sand dried foods such as rice, emping (nut crackers) rengginang (rice crackers), cashews and dried salted fish for their relatives.“We do it so that they would put their plans to return home on hold. Many people leave our village to work in big cities,” said local resident Widi Prastowo, 56.The villagers acknowledged that their relatives in Greater Jakarta faced economic hurdles amid the COVID-19 outbreak. At the same time, they understand the dangers of people traveling from one province to another during the health crisis.“They could spread the disease if they return home. To help them, we send them staple foods to fulfill their daily needs,” Widi added.Residents distributed the first batch of 1.6 tons of rice directly to 148 Krapyak natives in Greater Jakarta on Wednesday and are now preparing the second batch.Central Java has reported 144 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Friday and 22 fatalities. (aly) Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo has expressed his appreciation to residents who have decided not to participate in this year’s Idul Fitri mudik (exodus) in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, as nearly 500,000 people have already returned to the province.“We thank those who chose to stay where they are. The government will fulfill your needs, especially staple needs,” Ganjar said on Thursday.He was referring to a number of social aid programs provided by the government for, among others, Greater Jakarta residents to persuade them to stay at home instead of returning to their respective hometowns. Ganjar said the aid would be distributed starting next week. “We must take care of them, so they will not be burdened by their sacrifice of not participating in mudik.”According to the Central Java provincial administration, a total of 489,700 Central Java residents have returned to their respective hometowns between March 23 and April 7.The highest arrival numbers were recorded on March 31, when 131,977 people returned to the province.However, the number of people returning to Central Java had been declining since April 1, as the government has been urging people not to mudik for the upcoming Idul Fitri holiday, which is expected to fall in late May.center_img Topics :last_img read more


October 19, 2020 0

German clubs buoyed by potential mid-May season restart

first_imgTopics : German football clubs are hoping a return to action is on the horizon, even if it means playing in closed stadiums, after the country’s health minister and regional leaders said matches could potentially resume from May 9.The Bundesliga has been suspended since mid-March due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus, which has infected more than 143,000 and killed over 4,500 in Germany.Regional leaders in Bavaria and North Rhine Westphalia said on Monday that any league resumption would be without fans and that there would be no action before May 9. “These are very positive signals for any resumption of the season,” said Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in a statement.”It is important that we carefully adhere to any legal and medical guidelines in order to minimize any health risk.”Borussia Dortmund also welcomed the news, saying politicians had been convinced by the league’s plans and that it was now up to clubs to stick to it.”This is a show of faith from politics if it means we can play again from May 9 onwards,” Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said.center_img “If the league did not have such a well thought-out plan then politicians would have taken a different decision. We now have an obligation to deliver.”German Health Minister Jens Spahn told Bild newspaper on Sunday that a resumption on May 9 would depend on the infection risk.”What is crucial is that the infection risk is minimized,” Spahn said. “That would be for millions of football fans from May 9 onwards a bit of normalcy even with empty stands.”The German Football League will meet on Thursday to discuss the latest developments and consider a possible start date. Bayern are top of the Bundesliga, four points clear of Dortmund, with nine games left in the campaign.The League has warned that many clubs in the first and second divisions faced an uncertain financial future and several would be in an “existence-threatening” situation if play did not resume by June.Some German shops opened for business again this week after a month of lockdown in an agreement with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states, all keen to start the long haul of pulling the economy out of recession.last_img read more


October 19, 2020 0

Coronavirus strain in Indonesia different from those of other countries, govt says

first_imgThe coronavirus strain that has swept across Indonesia is different from at least three other known SARS-CoV-2 strains affecting the rest of the world, the government has said.The conclusion was based on an analysis of data on three complete genome sequences of the coronavirus in the archipelago submitted by the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology to GISAID, Research and Technology Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said.GISAID, an initiative that promotes the sharing of genetic data on influenza viruses and the coronavirus, has been collecting data on the various strains of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 from a number of countries, he said. The research has so far found at least three different strains of the coronavirus, identified as types S, G and V.“Strains other than those three types are yet to be identified. The samples sent from Indonesia are among the unidentified ones,” Bambang said during a meeting with the House of Representatives on Tuesday.The new information contained in the complete genome sequences is expected to help scientists understand the mutations of the virus strains and aid the development of a vaccine, Bambang said.Eijkman on Monday submitted its first three complete genome sequences of the Indonesian strain to GISAID. This was the first submission from Indonesia, although the Health Ministry’s lab announced that it was also sequencing the virus early in the outbreak.The government has appointed the Eijkman Institute to spearhead the vaccine development program through a consortium that includes the Health Ministry’s Research and Development Agency (Balitbangkes), state-owned pharmaceutical company PT Bio Farma and several universities.Bambang, who also serves as the head of the National Research Agency (BRIN), said he couldn’t be certain as to when a vaccine would be available, but that he expected it to be produced early next year.“We will continue working with other stakeholders to expedite the development of a vaccine,” he said.Topics :last_img read more


October 19, 2020 0

Beijing may base security agencies in Hong Kong as part of new laws

first_imgTopics : A proposal to impose national security laws in Hong Kong could see mainland intelligence agencies set up bases in the global financial hub, raising fears of direct enforcement by Chinese authorities in the city and the prospect of fresh protests.The details were unveiled on Friday, a day after Beijing proposed the new controversial national security legislation that critics see as an historical turning point for China’s freest city.Hong Kong activists called on Friday for people to rise up against the proposal, aimed at tackling secession, subversion, terrorism, and foreign interference, that has sent jitters across the business and diplomatic communities. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index closed 5.6% down, the largest daily percentage drop since July 2015.Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government will “fully cooperate” with the Chinese parliament to complete the legislation, which she said will not affect rights, freedoms nor judicial independence.The proposed legislation could heighten tensions between Beijing and Washington, whose relationship is already frayed by trade disputes and reciprocal accusations over the pandemic.US President Donald Trump warned Washington would react “very strongly” if Beijing went ahead with the security law.”It is starting to look like a US-China summer of discontent in the making,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at AxiCorp.Innes said the new law could potentially reignite the pro-democracy demonstrations of 2019, the biggest crisis the former British colony has faced since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.Draft proposalIn his annual report to the Chinese parliament, Premier Li Keqiang said China will establish a “sound” legal system and enforcement mechanisms to ensure national security in Hong Kong and Macau, its other semi-autonomous city.The proposed legislation for Hong Kong requires the territory to quickly finish enacting national security regulations under its mini-constitution, the Basic law, according to a draft seen by Reuters.The document said the laws will safeguard the central government’s “overall jurisdiction” as well as Hong Kong’s “high autonomy”.”When needed, relevant national security organs of the Central People’s Government will set up agencies,” in Hong Kong to safeguard national security, the draft said.Foreign diplomats fear this could formalize and expand the presence of mainland security and intelligence services in Hong Kong. Currently they can take no enforcement action in the city.A previous attempt to adopt similar legislation in 2003 was met with a protest that drew around half a million people onto the streets and was eventually shelved.Pro-democracy activists and politicians have for years opposed the idea of national security laws, arguing they could erode the city’s high degree of autonomy, guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” handover agreement, which China says it is undermined by protesters.”It is essentially declaring directly that ‘one country two systems’ is null and a failure,” said Eric Cheung, principal lecturer at Hong Kong University’s department of law.Beijing said the legislation in fact strengthened that principle, was in Hong Kong’s interest and will support its development. Lam said Beijing’s intention was to tackle illegal activities that had damaged national security.‘The end of Hong Kong’Local pro-democracy lawmakers denounced the plans on Thursday night as “the end of Hong Kong”.”Beijing is attempting to silence Hong Kongers’ critical voices with force and fear,” pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong tweeted. “Deep down protesters know, we insist not because we are strong, but because we have no other choice.”Beijing’s move is expected to lead to the flight of capital and talent from Hong Kong, bankers and headhunters said.”In some cases where clients had a bit of inertia and hoped things that happened last year will just go away, they will now step on the gas to reduce their wealth concentration risk here,” said a senior banker at a European private bank.The US State Department warned a high-degree of autonomy and respect for human rights were key to preserving the territory’s special status in US law, which has helped it maintain its position as a world financial center.center_img Foreign diplomats fear establishing new Beijing agencies in the Chinese-ruled city could give mainland security and intelligence officers enforcement powers that could potentially put rights and freedoms at risk.Calls have emerged for flash mobs at night across the territory and democracy activists including Joshua Wong plan to meet the press to announce “street action” later on Friday.”This is a great moment to reboot the protest,” said university student Kay, 24, who participated in last year’s mass scale and often violent anti-government and anti-Beijing protests which this year entered a lull due to the coronavirus.The security law plan hit financial markets on Friday, due to concerns the semi-autonomous city’s status as a financial hub was at risk, with Hong Kong stocks selling off as China’s parliament sat to discuss the new law.last_img read more


October 19, 2020 0

Latin America named virus epicenter as Trump seeks US reopening

first_img“What’s perverse is that a lot of the people who are exposing themselves to the virus are doing it because they don’t have a choice.”As the toll mounted, grave-diggers at a cemetery outside Sao Paulo scrambled to keep up.”We’ve been working 12-hour days, burying them one after the other,” said one worker at Vila Formosa, wearing a white protective suit, mask and face shield.”It doesn’t stop.”‘We need more prayer’In Washington, President Trump, keen to find a way out of the crisis and facing an uphill re-election battle, ramped up pressure on state and local governments to ease lockdown measures.The pandemic has hammered the American economy and led to calls for an end to virus restrictions, despite the COVID-19 numbers still rising in the United States — the worst-hit country in the world with 1.6 million infections and 96,000 deaths.Trump demanded state governors classify churches, synagogues and mosques as “essential services” on the same level as food and drug stores, and immediately allow them to hold services despite curbs on public gatherings.”The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend,” said the president, who counts religious conservatives as a core of his electoral base.”If they don’t do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less,” added Trump, who has previously expressed support for street protests against lockdowns.It was not clear whether he had any authority to override the governors.There was pushback from the mayor of Los Angeles after the Trump administration warned that the continued lockdown in the city could be illegal.”We are not guided by politics in this — we are guided by science, we are guided by collaboration,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti.In the latest step to restart the economy, the Trump administration said Friday it would exempt from entry bans foreign professional athletes competing in the top leagues for several sports, including basketball, tennis and golf.”In today’s environment, Americans need their sports,” Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Homeland Security department, said in a statement announcing the order.”It’s time to reopen the economy and it’s time we get our professional athletes back to work.”‘Not possible to save them all’Experts have warned that until a vaccine or treatment is developed for the virus, lockdown measures will persist in some form to prevent new waves of infections, a factor that has put immense pressure on economies.The airline, travel and hospitality sectors have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and car rental giant Hertz became the latest high-profile victim, announcing Friday that it was filing for bankruptcy in the United States and Canada.It added that the bankruptcy filing excludes its main international operations, including Europe, where many nations are opening up their economies cautiously after slowing the spread of the virus.France decided that it was safe to hold a delayed second round of municipal elections on June 28, and the Czech Republic said the epidemic remains contained there, two weeks after shopping malls, cinemas and restaurant terraces reopened.Serbia said, meanwhile, that the Exit Festival in Novi Sad — one of Europe’s biggest music events —  could go ahead in August as planned, and in Italy Florence’s famous Duomo cathedral reopened to the public.But authorities are still keen to avoid opening up too fast, with a surge in Russia illustrating how quickly the deadly disease can spread.Russia has so far recorded 3,249 deaths — with a caseload of more 325,000 infections, second only to the United States.”The seriously ill are building up. Doctors try to save each one who lies there for two, three or more weeks,” said Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.”Unfortunately, it’s not possible to save them all.”Topics : The World Health Organization declared Latin America “a new epicenter” of the coronavirus pandemic as President Donald Trump ramped up pressure on state and local governments to speed up the reopening of the reeling American economy.Surges in infections across much of Central and South America have driven the global case count to nearly 5.2 million, with more than 337,000 deaths, even as hard-hit Europe and the United States cautiously move into a recovery phase.The death toll in Brazil has soared past 20,000, and with 310,000 reported cases, it has the third-biggest caseload in the world behind the United States and Russia. “In a sense, South America has become a new epicenter for the disease,” WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said on Friday.”We’ve seen many South American countries with increasing numbers of cases… but certainly the most affected is Brazil at this point.”Unlike in Europe and the United States, where the elderly were hardest-hit, a significant number of deaths in Brazil have been younger people, who are often driven by poverty to work despite the threat of infection.”Since Brazil has a younger population, it’s normal for the number of cases to be higher among under-60s,” said Mauro Sanchez, an epidemiologist at the University of Brasilia.last_img read more


October 19, 2020 0