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Justice Minister Hurt; Elderly Worker Dies: Hong Kong Update

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(Bloomberg) — Chinese President Xi Jinping called an end to violence Hong Kong’s “most urgent task,” as a scuffle involving the city’s justice minister and the second protest-related death in a week heightened tensions in the paralyzed financial center.The rare comments by Xi during a visit to Brazil on Thursday came as the U.S. Senate moved to expedite passage of legislation that would support Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. Earlier, a 70-year-old government contract worker who was struck during a brick-hurling fight between protesters and their opponents died of his injuries.The protests, which have raged for more than five months, flared anew last week after the death of student who fell near a police operation to clear a demonstration. A campaign to disrupt traffic has led to the shooting of a protester and citywide school cancellations, while Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s government has denied reports of a plan to institute an unprecedented curfew in a bid to quell unrest.Key developments:Hong Kong justice minister hurt in LondonXi urges immediate end to violenceGovernment worker dies, 15-year-old still in hospitalSome trains services remain suspended U.S. Senate vows quick vote on Hong Kong legislationHong Kong’s government dismisses curfew speculationHere’s the latest (all times local):Hurt 15-year-old still in hospital (8:56 a.m.)A 15-year-old boy who suffered a head injury from what local media said may have been a tear gas canister was still in Tuen Mun Hospital, the Hospital Authority said. The agency said the boy’s family asked that details of his condition — which was originally listed as critical — not be disclosed.Six people, ages 17 to 62, had been admitted to various hospitals for treatment for protest-related injuries overnight and this morning as of 7:30 a.m. All are in stable condition. The man shot by police in Sai Wan Ho on Monday is now in stable condition in Eastern Hospital. A man set on fire during an argument with protesters on the same day was still in critical condition at Prince of Wales Hospital. Group blames government for death (7:32 a.m.) A group of anonymous protesters that has occasionally spoken for the leaderless movement expressed “deepest condolences” for the death of a 70-year-old government worker Thursday, but blamed the incident on “police brutality” and government intransigence. “The HKSAR Government must concede to the Five Demands, and return to the table of politics to solve conflicts by political means,” the so-called Citizens’ Press Conference said in a statement Friday. Meanwhile, another protester group at the Chinese University of Hong Kong offered to remove barricades from the Tolo Highway in exchange for a government pledge to follow through with plans for District Council elections on Nov. 24, according to Radio Television Hong Kong. Students had already reopened one lane in each direction, the South China Morning Post said.Some trains still suspended (5:55 a.m.)Service between Fo Tan and Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau on the East Rail Line are suspended due to vandalism, railway operator the MTR Corp. said Friday. Trains between Hung Hom and Fo Tan on the same line are running every five minutes. Stations at Mong Kok, Tseung Kwan O, Sai Wan Ho, Tuen Mun and Tung Chung also remain shut.Justice secretary ‘attacked’ (3:47 a.m.)Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng condemned what her office said was an attack by a “violent mob” that caused her “serious bodily harm” Thursday while she was on an official visit to London. Cheng fell and hurt her arm after being surrounded by a group of about 30 protesters, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported.“The secretary denounces all forms of violence and radicalism depriving others’ legitimate rights in the pretext of pursuing their political ideals, which would never be in the interest of Hong Kong and any civilized society,” Cheng’s office said in a statement.Agency ‘saddened’ by death (2:21 a.m.)Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department confirmed that one of its contract workers had died Thursday from a head injury, expressing “profound sadness” over his death. The elderly worker “was suspected to be hit in his head by hard objects hurled by rioters during his lunch break,” the agency said in a statement, adding that it would provide assistance to the victim’s family.The government vowed to “make every effort to investigate the case to bring offenders to justice.”U.S. Senate advances bill (12:41 a.m.)The U.S. Senate is preparing for quick passage of legislation that would support pro-democracy protesters by placing Hong Kong’s special trading status with the U.S. under annual review. The Senate will run the “hotline” on the bill, which is an expedited process to check for last-minute opposition to bringing legislation immediately to a vote, according to Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican.The Senate legislation is different than a version passed earlier by the House of Representatives. That means the two bills would have to be reconciled and passed by both chambers before going to President Donald Trump to be signed into law.Man dies from head injury (11:45 p.m. Thursday)A 70-year-old man who suffered a head injury Wednesday has died, Ming Pao reported, citing the hospital. The case will be investigated by the coroner. He was hit by what appeared to be a brick thrown by protesters, according to the government and police.Separately, a 15-year-old boy underwent brain surgery after sustaining a head injury from what may have been a tear gas canister, local news organization RTHK reported.Xi seeks end to violence (10:25 p.m. Thursday)Xi, currently on a visit to Brazil, said “continuing radical violent crimes in Hong Kong have seriously trampled on the rule of law and social order, seriously undermined Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and seriously challenged the bottom line of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,” state broadcaster China Central Television reported in a social media post.“Stopping the violence and restoring order is Hong Kong’s most urgent task at present,” Xi said, reiterating support for Lam. “We will continue to firmly support the chief executive to lead the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in accordance with the law, firmly support the Hong Kong Police in law enforcement, and firmly support the Hong Kong judiciary in punishing violent criminals.”Government dismisses curfew talk (7:55 p.m. Thursday)“Rumors” that authorities were planning to implement a curfew over the weekend are “totally unfounded,” Hong Kong’s government said in a statement, following rising speculation after Lam’s late-night meeting with top officials on Wednesday.\–With assistance from Erin Roman, Daniel Flatley, Iain Marlow and Colin Keatinge.To contact the reporters on this story: Fion Li in Hong Kong at fli59@bloomberg.net;Dandan Li in Beijing at dli395@bloomberg.net;Daniel Flatley in Washington at dflatley1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Jon HerskovitzFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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Indian Police Kill 4 Suspects in Custody for Gang Rape and Murder That Sparked National Protests

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(SHADNAGAR, India) — Police on Friday fatally shot four men being held on suspicion of raping and killing a woman in southern India after investigators took them to the crime scene, drawing both praise and condemnation in a case that has sparked protests across the country.

The burned body of the woman—a 27-year-old veterinarian—was found last week by a passer-by near the city of Hyderabad, India’s tech hub, after she went missing the previous night.

At around 3 a.m. Friday, police took the suspects, who had not been formally charged with any crime, to the sites where the rape and killing are believed to have taken place and the spot in an underpass where the woman’s body was burned about half a kilometer (a third of a mile) away, said V.C. Sajjanar, the local police commissioner.

The police brought the suspects to help them locate evidence, including the victim’s phone, Sajjanar said at a news conference.

“The suspects seized some weapons from policemen who had taken them there and started firing,” Sajjanar said.

“Even though our officers maintained restraint and asked them to surrender, but without listening to us they continued to fire and continued to attack us,” Sajjanar said, adding that police returned fire, killing the suspects.

The woman’s death is the latest gruesome case of sexual violence against women to rile India and comes despite efforts to strengthen the penalties for such crimes. Some advocates say those efforts have failed to deter predators.

Hours after the police shootings, the crime scene in Shadnagar, a town in the state of Telangana about an hour southwest of Hyderabad, had the appearance of a fairground.

About 300 people gathered to celebrate the suspects’ deaths.

Some hugged officers and lifted them into the air, chanting “Long live police,” while others showered them with flowers.

Indians had rallied on the streets of Hyderabad, New Delhi and Mumbai and called on social media for swift justice in a country where sentencing is notoriously delayed by backlogged courts.

After the veterinarian’s killing, Swati Maliwal, the head of the Delhi Commission for Women, started an indefinite hunger strike, demanding that the perpetrators be hanged within six months.

Maliwal said Friday that police “had no choice but to shoot.”

She said she is continuing her fast to demand swift hangings in other sexual violence cases because she thinks capital punishment will act as a deterrent.

“Hang the rapists!” shouted some of the hundreds of Maliwal’s mainly women supporters who gathered Friday at the site of her strike, the mausoleum of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.

The Congress party and other opposition groups raised the police killings in Parliament, and demanded a probe into the incident.

The National Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous body within India’s Parliament, said it was sending a fact-finding mission to the crime scene.

“This type of justice is counterfeit,” said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association.

“The killings are a ploy to shut down our demand of accountability from governments, judiciary and police, and dignity and justice for women. We demand a thorough investigation into this,” she said.

Maneka Gandhi, a lawmaker from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and a former Cabinet minister, accused police of taking the law into their own hands.

“They would’ve been hanged by court anyway. If you’re going to kill the accused before any due process of law has been followed, then what’s the point of having courts, law and police?” she said.

Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, echoed the sentiment in a statement, saying that “extrajudicial killings are not a solution to preventing rape.”

After the 2012 gang rape and killing of a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus, minimum sentences were raised in cases of sexual violence. The four men convicted in the case have appealed their sentences, which were death by hanging.

___

Schmall reported from New Delhi. Associated Press writers Mohammed Shafeeq in Hyderabad and Chonchui Ngashangva, Ashok Sharma and Sheikh Saaliq in New Delhi contributed to this report.





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Corbyn Says Johnson Misleading on Brexit Deal Impact: U.K. Votes

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(Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn go head-to-head in the final scheduled leadership debate ahead of the Dec. 12 general election. The Conservatives still enjoy a healthy lead in opinion polls but will be wary of any gaffe or misstep that could undermine Johnson’s bid for a parliamentary majority in the last days of campaigning.Ahead of the debate, the premier accused Corbyn of trying to “fiddle” the result of the second Brexit referendum the Labour leader wants by allowing European Union nationals to vote. Corbyn in turn said Johnson is misleading voters over the impact of the divorce agreement with Brussels.Meanwhile, Johnson is facing a backlash over his decision not to give an interview to the BBC’s Andrew Neil, who delivered a prime-time condemnation of the prime minister, calling it “a question of trust.”Must Read: Britain’s Brexit Election Is Now a Referendum on Jeremy CorbynFor more on the election visit ELEC.Key Developments:Corbyn accuses Johnson’s government of misleading voters on the impact of his Brexit dealJohnson-Corbyn BBC debate in Southampton at 8.30 p.m. Sky News announces result of YouGov’s snap poll on the winner at 9:30 p.m.BBC interviewer Andrew Neil attacked Johnson for refusing to be interviewed by him, accusing him of avoiding scrutinyBetting odds show a 71% chance of a Conservative majority, according to LadbrokesThe Tory lead is now below 10 points, according to the BritainElects poll trackerJohnson Denies Brexit Means N. Ireland Checks (12 p.m.)Boris Johnson dismissed as “complete nonsense” Labour’s statement that his Brexit deal would mean checks on goods passing between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, though he said he hadn’t read the government document Jeremy Corbyn’s party produced earlier (see 10:30 a.m.) to back up its position.Speaking to journalists at a campaign event in Kent, Johnson said voters should “believe exactly what I say” on Brexit, and repeated his assertion that there would be no checks on goods traveling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. — unless they were destined for the Republic of Ireland.But the Treasury document released by Corbyn matches what government ministers, including Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay, have previously conceded: That some checks will be necessary on goods traveling in both directions.At the event, Johnson attacked Corbyn’s decision not to pick a side in the second Brexit referendum the Labour leader has pledged to hold if he wins the election. He also repeated the line that the divorce deal with Brussels allows the country to leave the EU “as one whole U.K.” It’s a line his former Northern Irish allies, the Democratic Unionist Party, do not agree with.Corbyn Says He’s a ‘Marmite’ Choice for Voters (11 a.m.)Jeremy Corbyn acknowledged he’s a divisive figure among voters, a trait that’s borne out regularly in opinion polls. Following his speech in central London on Friday, he compared himself to Marmite — a spread made from yeast extract that’s long been sold in the U.K. under the slogan “love it or hate it.”Asked whether he’s turn-off for voters, Corbyn replied: “I think Marmite’s really good for you. Some people like it and some people don’t.”Must Read: Britain’s Brexit Election Is Now a Referendum on Jeremy CorbynCorbyn has the lowest leadership satisfaction rating for any opposition leader since 1977, according to a recent poll by Ipsos Mori. Even some of his allies have commented on the issue. “There have been some reservations about Jeremy on the doorstep, because every single leader of every single political party is not to everyone’s taste,” Labour’s education spokeswoman Angela Rayner told Sky News last month.Labour: Document Shows Threat to N. Ireland (10:30 a.m.)The document presented by Jeremy Corbyn is a Treasury assessment of the economic and political impacts of the Northern Ireland protocol — the part of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal covering how goods moving across the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain are checked and taxed.According to the document, customs declarations and physical checks will be “highly disruptive” to the Northern Irish economy. The Treasury also says that 98% of Northern Irish exporters to Great Britain are small-to-medium sized enterprises, who are “likely to struggle to bear” the cost of these changes.In terms of imports to Northern Ireland, high street goods are likely to increase in price. Johnson’s deal will constitute “tariff equivalents of 30% on purchases in Northern Ireland,” according to the document.The document also appears to cast further doubt on Johnson’s repeated assertions that his withdrawal agreement takes the U.K. “whole and entire” from the EU. It’s not a new dispute — the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which propped up the Tories in government, declined to back the Brexit deal because they said it treats the province differently to the rest of the U.K.The deal “has the potential to separate Northern Ireland in practice from whole swathes of the U.K.’s internal market,” the document reads.Corbyn Says Johnson Hiding Truth on Brexit Deal (10 a.m.)Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn unveiled what he called a confidential government document he said proves that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hiding the truth about the impact of his Brexit deal on the U.K.In a speech in London, Corbyn said the 15-page document “drives a coach and horses” through Johnson’s claim that there will be no border in the Irish Sea after Brexit and that it was a “great deal” for Northern Ireland. It shows, he said, that the government has admitted there will be customs declarations and security checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain.“Johnson’s deal will be disastrous for businesses and jobs across the whole U.K.,” Corbyn said. “And the government’s confidential report confirms this.”Gove Defends Johnson Swerving Neil Interview (9 a.m.)Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove denied that Boris Johnson is avoiding accountability by being the only major party leader not to do a televised interview with BBC journalist Andrew Neil. “The prime minister has done more than 100 interviews during the campaign so far,” Gove told BBC Radio. “It’s an unprecedented amount of scrutiny that the PM has allowed to happen.”Neil himself challenged Johnson to agree to an interview at the end of his grilling of Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage on Thursday. “We have an interview prepared — oven-ready, as Mr. Johnson likes to say,” he said.Click here for Neil’s monologue.“The theme running through our questions is trust, and why at so many times in his career in politics and journalism, critics and sometimes even those close to him have deemed him to be untrustworthy,” Neil said. “The prime minister of our nation will, at times, have to stand up to President Trump, President Putin, President Xi of China. It was surely not expecting too much that he spend half-an-hour standing up to me.”Labour campaign coordinator Andrew Gwynne sent a complaint to the BBC Thursday, accusing the public broadcaster of being “complicit in giving the Conservative Party an unfair electoral advantage.” He said Labour had arranged party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the understanding Johnson had agreed the same terms.Johnson has also declined an invitation to be questioned by ITV’s Julie Etchingham as part of her series of leader interviews. ITV said they will run a profile of Johnson featuring archival footage instead.Earlier:Britain’s Brexit Election Is Now a Referendum on Jeremy CorbynU.K. Election Primer: Britain’s Economic Future Held in BalanceThe Big Brexit Bet That Hasn’t Paid Off: Therese RaphaelTo contact the reporters on this story: Greg Ritchie in London at gritchie10@bloomberg.net;Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Mark WilliamsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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Pentagon Considers Sending Several Thousand More Troops to the Middle East to Counter Iran

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(WASHINGTON) — The Pentagon is considering sending several thousand additional troops to the Middle East to help deter Iranian aggression, amid reports of escalating violence in Iran and continued meddling by Tehran in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the region.

John Rood, defense undersecretary for policy, told senators Thursday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper “intends to make changes” to the number of troops deployed in the region. Other officials said options under consideration could send between 5,000 and 7,000 troops to the Middle East, but they all stressed that there have been no final decisions yet. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The troop deliberations follow several decisions since spring to beef up the U.S. presence in the Middle East because of a series of maritime attacks and bombings in Saudi Arabia that the U.S. and others have blamed on Iran.

President Donald Trump has approved those increases, even though he also routinely insists that he is pulling U.S. troops out of the Middle East and withdrawing from what he calls “endless wars” against extremists. In October, Trump told his supporters that despite the sacrificing of U.S. lives in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, the region is less safe and stable today. “The single greatest mistake our country made in its history,” he said, “was going into the quicksand of the Middle East.”

Asked about a possible troop increase, Trump told reporters Thursday: ”We’ll announce whether we will or not. Certainly there might be a threat. And if there is a threat, it will be met very strongly. But we will be announcing what we may be doing — may or may not be doing.”

Later Thursday, Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the president was open to sending more troops to the Middle East. “If the troops are needed to deter Iran, we have the capacity to move them into the region — although I don’t think that’s happening right now,” O’Brien said on Fox News Channel’s “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Military leaders have argued that the U.S. needs to increase its presence in the region in order to deter Iran from conducting more and broader attacks. Rood provided no details to back up why the additional troops are needed, but said the U.S. is concerned about recent intelligence indications suggesting an increased threat from Iran.

Rood was asked several times about reports that 14,000 more troops could be sent to the region. He repeatedly said Esper hasn’t made a decision yet, but didn’t specifically confirm or deny the number, so his answers appeared only to confuse senators. Shortly after the hearing, Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah sent out a statement flatly denying the 14,000 number, saying Esper told the Senate committee chairman Thursday morning that “we are not considering sending 14,000 additional troops” to the region.

The troop discussions came as the Trump administration on Thursday accused Iranian security forces of killing more than 1,000 people in crackdowns against recent protests that have swept the country.

The estimated death toll is significantly higher than previously estimates from human rights groups and others, and the administration did not present documentary evidence to back up the claim. But Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, told reporters the tally was based on a variety of reports coming out of Iran as well as intelligence analyses.

Speaking at the State Department, Hook said the U.S. had received and reviewed video of one specific incident of repression in the city of Mahshahr in which the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps had mowed down at least 100 protesters with machine-gun fire.

He said the video was one of tens of thousands of submissions the U.S. has gotten since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appealed last month for Iranians to submit evidence of atrocities by the authorities in putting down the protests. In it, he said IRGC forces can be seen opening fire on protesters blocking a road and then surrounding those who fled to nearby marshlands where they were sprayed with bullets.

“In this one incident alone the regime murdered as many as 100 Iranians and possibly more,” Hook told reporters at the State Department. He did not display the video but said the actions it depicted corresponded to accounts of a brutal nationwide crackdown on the demonstrations, which started in response to gasoline price increases and rationing.

“We have seen reports of many hundreds more killed in and around Tehran,” he said. “And, as the truth is trickling out of Iran, it appears the regime could have murdered over 1,000 Iranian citizens since the protests began.” The dead include 13- and 14-year-old children, he said.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said Iran had “killed hundreds and hundreds of people in a very short period of time” and called for international pressure to be applied. “They are killing protesters. They turned off their internet system. People aren’t hearing what’s going on,” he told reporters while hosting a lunch for the ambassadors of U.N. Security Council members.

Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran’s mission at the United Nations, again disputed any casualty figures from abroad as “purely speculative and highly inaccurate.” However, Iran’s government has so far refused to release any of its own.

“Mr. Hook has already said in public that he is very pleased with the suffering of ordinary Iranians, and that the U.S. has had arrangements in the past two years to maximize what occurred with the recent violence and damages in Iran,” Miryousefi told The Associated Press.

There was no known public video that supported Hooks’ allegation of a massacre in Mahshahr, although he said the State Department had gotten more than 32,000 responses to Pompeo’s appeal for videos and other evidence using the encrypted messaging app Telegram, which is popular in Iran.

Nor has there been any widely accepted claim matching Hook’s death toll of more than 1,000. Amnesty International believes at least 208 people have been killed and that the number could be higher. Iran has disputed that figure, but has refused to offer any nationwide statistics of the number of injuries, arrests or deaths from the unrest.

However, Hook’s numbers appear to match a figure put out late Wednesday by the Iranian exile group called the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which has paid Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani for speeches at its events in the past.

The MeK alleged late Wednesday that more than 1,000 people had been killed. It published a list of 320 people it said it had identified so far as having been killed but did not provide proof.

Iran has alleged MeK supporters and those backing exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, the son of the country’s late shah, of being behind the unrest alongside foreign powers. It has not offered evidence to support those allegations.

In addition to the deaths, Hook said more than 7,000 protesters had been detained, with many sent to two prisons. Hook said that Pompeo had notified Congress on Thursday that both prisons would be hit with U.S. sanctions for gross human rights abuses. It was not immediately clear when those designations would occur.

Hook’s comments come as the U.S. steps up its “maximum pressure campaign” on Iran that it began after withdrawing from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal last year. That campaign has been highlighted by the imposition of increasingly tough sanctions and an increase in rhetoric critical of Tehran and its leadership.

As part of the pressure campaign, Hook announced that the U.S. is offering a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to the whereabouts of a top IRGC commander now believed to be supporting rebels in Yemen. He said Abdul Reza Shahalai was responsible for numerous attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and had been behind a foiled plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a Washington restaurant.





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