Police fire tear gas as large crowds defy Hong Kong mask ban

Police fire tear gas as large crowds defy Hong Kong mask ban

Hong Kong: Hong Kong was rocked by fresh violence Sunday as tens of thousands hit the streets to defy a ban on face masks, sparking clashes with police, street fights and vandalism across the strife-torn city.

Large crowds marched through torrential rain in peaceful but unsanctioned rallies on both sides of Victoria Harbour, condemning the government for deploying emergency powers to ban face masks at public gatherings.

But violence erupted as police dispersed crowds with tear gas, and then battled hardcore protesters in multiple locations plunging the finance hub into chaos once more.

"Two girls were hit by the car and one girl was trapped between the car and a shop," a witness, who gave his surname as Wong, told AFP, adding the crowd managed to push the car off the wounded woman.

An AFP photographer saw volunteer medics treating both the driver and the injured women before paramedics and police arrived. Protesters smashed up the taxi.

Earlier, a crowd ransacked nearby government offices, while multiple Chinese banks and subway stations were vandalised across the city.

Activists have staged three straight days of flashmob rallies and sprees of vandalism after Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam outlawed face coverings by protesters, invoking colonial-era emergency powers not used for half a century.


Paris climate activists kick off global protests

Paris climate activists kick off global protests

Paris: Hundreds of climate activists barricaded themselves into a Paris shopping centre for hours ahead of a planned series of protests around the world by the Extinction Rebellion movement.

Campaigners faced off against police and some inconvenienced shoppers as they occupied part of the Italie 2 mall in southeast Paris all day on Saturday, staying put into the early hours of Sunday.

They unfurled banners with slogans like "Burn capitalism not petrol" above restaurants and the window displays of fashion boutiques.

The protest comes ahead of planned disruption to 60 cities around the world from Monday in a fortnight of civil disobedience, from Extinction Rebellion (XR), which is warning of an environmental "apocalypse".

As the centre tried to close up on Saturday evening, security forces ordered the protesters to leave the area, activists told AFP. "I am with XR to say stop this crazy system before it destroys everything," one young woman told AFP, giving only her first name Lucie.

The demonstrators said they eventually chose to leave at around 4am (0200 GMT).

Other campaign groups also joined in with the Paris shopping centre demonstration, including some members of the "yellow vest" anti-government protest group.

Non-violent protests are chiefly planned by XR from Monday in Europe, North America, Australia, but events are also set to take place in India, Buenos Aires, Cape Town and Wellington.

Another protest was held in Berlin on Saturday, with campaigners setting up camp near the parliament building.

"To governments of the world: we declared a climate and ecological emergency. You did not do enough. To everybody else: rebel," XR said on its website ahead of its International Rebellion wave of activism.


Facebook encryption to make child porn rampant: FBI head Christopher Wray

Facebook encryption to make child porn rampant: FBI head Christopher Wray

Washington: If Facebook continues with its data encryption project, it will only help child pornographers flourish on the social networking platform without any control, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray has said.

In a speech at the US Justice Department on Friday, Wray said: "When it comes to protecting children, we're at a real inflection point and we risk falling off the cliff".

He said images and video of child pornography traded between abusers on Facebook could be lost if the platform encrypted communications, reports CNN.

"Facebook would transform from the main provider of child exploitation tips to a dream come true for predators and child pornographers: a platform that allows them to find and connect with kids and like-minded criminals with little fear of consequences," Wray told the audience.

Facebook plans to integrate chats among WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram with end-to-end encryption by 2020.

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) has also warned Facebook over its planned integration of chat services, asking the social media giant to provide it with an "urgent briefing" on the proposals. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, however, has repeatedly said that end-to-end encryption in messaging is the key.

US Attorney General William Barr and top officials from the UK and Australia on Friday shot a letter to Facebook to abandon its encryption project.

"Companies cannot operate with impunity where lives and the safety of our children is at stake, and if Zuckerberg really has a credible plan to protect Facebook's more than two billion users it's time he let us know what it is," the letter said.

Risks to public safety from Facebook's proposals are exacerbated in the context of a single platform that would combine inaccessible messaging services with open profiles, providing unique routes for prospective offenders to identify and groom our children," the letter added.

A Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying that the company "strongly oppose government attempts to build backdoors because they would undermine the privacy and security of people everywhere".

Meanwhile, Facebook received support from over 50 civil liberties groups who urged the company not to end encryption.

"We encourage you to resist calls to create so-called 'backdoors' or 'exceptional access' to the content of users' messages, which will fundamentally weaken encryption and the privacy and security of all users," the groups wrote in an open letter to Facebook.


India calls for increased cooperation between UN, FATF to deal with terror groups

India calls for increased cooperation between UN, FATF to deal with terror groups

United Nations: India has called for increased cooperation between the UN and organisations such as the Financial Action Task Force to deal with the nexus of terrorist groups and transnational organised criminal networks that helps raise funds for terror financing and recruiting and other illicit activities across borders.

Speaking at a General Assembly Third Committee that deals with social, humanitarian affairs and human rights issues, First Secretary in India's Permanent Mission to the UN Paulomi Tripathi said transnational organised crimes continue to undermine efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals, and threaten international peace and security.

"Terrorist organisations are increasingly drawing sustenance by using transnational organised criminal networks for illicit activities to raise funds. Crime syndicates are in cahoots with terrorists, providing them services such as counterfeiting, money laundering, arms dealing, drug trafficking and smuggling terrorists across borders," Tripathi said here on Thursday.

She said the activities of terror groups such as ISIL, Al Shabab and Boko Haram using extortion, human trafficking, extraction of natural resources, trade in cultural artefacts and illicit taxation in areas under their control, manifest the blurring of lines between crime and terror.

"There is also increasing evidence that narcotics are being used not just for terror financing but for luring youth to be recruited by the terrorists.

Revenue generated by illicit activities of terrorists and criminal groups are moved across borders and exchanged through open networks," she said at the committee's session on 'Crime Prevention & Criminal Justice, Countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes & International drug control'.

Tripathi underscored that such a situation calls for far more coherent and resolute response and "the UN needs to increase cooperation with other bodies such as Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which is playing a significant role in setting global standards for preventing and combating money laundering and terrorist financing."

"Its impact is not limited to rule of law and governance. Rather, its deleterious effect on domestic resource mobilisation through money laundering, corruption and other economic offences, impede development.

Symbiotic relationship between transnational organised crimes and terrorism adds complexity to this issue," she said. The Paris-based FATF is an intergovernmental organisation to develop policies to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.

Tripathi further said that the structure of organised crime groups is changing towards more loosely associated networks that are difficult to interdict.

"They are using an array of new and emerging technologies, including drones, virtual currencies, encrypted communications and artificial intelligence.

This requires increased sophistication and timely sharing of operational information among law enforcement agencies across jurisdictions and borders," she said.

Tripathi said that there is need for broader international cooperation based on criminal justice and health responses, given that today some 35 million people suffer from drug use disorders and 11 million inject drugs, of whom 1.4 million live with HIV and 5.6 million live with hepatitis C.

"A balanced approach is needed to address misuse of prescription drugs, while guaranteeing availability and access to such medicines," she said adding that India has recently initiated a National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction that focuses on preventive education, awareness generation, capacity building, counselling, treatment and rehabilitation to ensure drug demand reduction by 2023.

With traffickers increasingly using internet and social media, Tripathi said there is need for stronger partnerships with civil society and private sector and more resources for law enforcement to address this phenomenon.

On the issue of cybercrime, she said it differs significantly from traditional crimes in terms of its nature, scope, means, evidence and activities and so information exchange in real time or near-real time is essential for evidence collection to bring cybercriminals to justice.

"There is also a need for greater multilateral cooperation in the field of cybercrime especially for facilitating swift information exchange essential for preventing cybercrime and for furnishing digital evidence in cybercrime investigations," she said.


Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s plane develops technical fault, returns to New York

Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s plane develops technical fault, returns to New York

New York: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and his delegation returned to New York after the plane given to him by the Saudi Arabia government, developed a technical fault while it was heading back to Islamabad.

Khan had taken off from New York's Kennedy International Airport on Friday evening in a special jet placed at his disposal by the Saudi government, but it flew back in a couple of hours to have the problem fixed, reports The News International. Pakistan's Ambassador to UN, Maleeha Lodhi, who had earlier seen off Khan, rushed back to the airport.

The Prime Minister, who led the Pakistan delegation to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, waited at the airport for some time while technicians tried to fix the fault, but more work was needed which they would try to complete it by Saturday morning. Meanwhile, Ambassador Lodhi escorted the Prime Minister back to the Roosevelt Hotel where he was staying during his seven-day trip. Officials said if the plane was not fixed on Saturday morning, Khan would take a commercial flight back to Pakistan.

Voting begins in Afghanistan's presidential elections

Voting begins in Afghanistan's presidential elections

The polls come following a bloody two-month election campaign that was marred by repeated attacks across the war-torn country.

Kabul: Amid Taliban threats, voting began on Saturday to elect next president for Afghanistan. Almost 9.6 million people have registered to vote in the election, according to the Independent Election Commission.

The polls come following a bloody two-month election campaign that was marred by repeated attacks across the war-torn country.

Almost 445 polling centres out of 5,371 centres will be closed on the election day but the Ministry of Interior has assured that a safe environment will be provided to the voters, according to Tolo News.

Taliban has threatened voters to stay away from the election or face dire consequences. The road to the polls has been anything but certain, as a series of talks between the United States and the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha, threatened to derail the entire process, reports Al Jazeera.

The constant questioning of the polls continued until US President Donald Trump sent out a series of angry tweets declaring the talks dead after a Taliban-claimed bombing that resulted in deaths of at least 14 Afghan civilians and a US soldier.

Those tweets came just 20 days before the Afghan election. As candidates started to go from province to province and the airwaves filled up with campaign ads, the people's questions about the election went from "will there be an election" to "will you vote" and "for whom".

The Afghan voters have to decide among 16 candidates, including the incumbent President Ashraf Ghani. "I have a message for the Taliban: You should not prevent the people from their right.

If you are Afghans, allow the people of Afghanistan to vote so that a strong government is created and then you can attend to the peace negotiations with that government," Chief of Army Staff Gen. Bismillah Waziri said.

He added, "But it will not be possible if you want to hinder the process." The voting will end at 3 p.m. (local time), head of the commission, Hawa Alam Nuristani, said.

The New York Times reported that preliminary results of the elections are not expected to be announced until October 17 and final results until November 7.

"We cannot announce the final results at the end of the election day," Nuristani said, adding that at the end of the day, only the total number of voters will be announced.

"We are committed to providing a good environment for monitoring (the process on the election day)," head of the Election Commission's secretariat, Habib-Ur-Rahman, said.

He said that 144,146 national and international observers have been deployed for the election day.

Afghanistan's last presidential election, in 2014, was so stained by corruption, squabbling and fraud complaints that then-Secretary of State John Kerry stepped in to mediate a strained political marriage between the two top candidates, Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah -- the leading candidates in this vote, as well.

Last October, parliamentary elections descended into chaos amid shouting matches and cries of ballot-stuffing and political payoffs.

ICJ chided Pakistan for new ordinance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, says will 'lead to human rights violations'

ICJ chided Pakistan for new ordinance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, says will 'lead to human rights violations'

Geneva: International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has denounced promulgation of an ordinance by Pakistan government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which will extend certain powers of the armed forces and said that the implementation of the order will "lead to serious human rights violations and miscarriages of justice".

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Actions (In Aid of Civil Power) Ordinance, 2019, which was issued by the provincial Governor on August 5, gives sweeping powers to members of the armed forces, including the power to detain people without charge or trial on a number of vaguely defined grounds where it appears that such "internment" would be expedient for peace.

ICJ's Asia Director Frederick Rawski, in its statement dated September 27, said that Islamabad must reject the "dangerous, oppressive, and counterproductive strategy and instead strengthen its judicial process and law enforcement".

The new ordinance depicts Pakistan hypocrisy as the country is howling over India's action in Jammu and Kashmir. However, at the same time, hiding the facts of human rights violation they are committed in their country where minorities are subjugated.

The new order is almost a reproduction of two regulations promulgated by the president in 2011 for Fata and Pata through which legal cover was given to several detention centres set up during the military operations in different regions.

The ICJ also pointed out the same fact saying the regulations of 2011 were "extensively used as a legal cover for arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances".

"ICJ today denounced the promulgation of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Actions (In Aid of Civil Power) Ordinance, 2019, by the Governor of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on 5 August 2019.

The ICJ said that implementation of the Ordinance will lead to serious human rights violations and miscarriages of justice, contrary to the purported aims of the measures," the statement reads.

"The Ordinance is yet another example of Pakistan's resort to 'exceptional' measures that are grossly incompatible with human rights protections, ostensibly to combat terrorism and other serious crime," said Frederick Rawski, ICJ's Asia Director.

"Pakistan must reject this dangerous, oppressive, and counterproductive strategy and instead strengthen its judicial process and law enforcement in line with its domestic law and international human rights law obligations," he added.

The ICJ, an international human rights non-governmental organisation, also noted the ordinance provides that statements or depositions by members of the armed forces shall on their own be sufficient for convicting the detainees if they are tried for any offence.

The ordinance also provides wide immunity for armed forces for any action done, taken, ordered to be taken, or conferred, assumed or exercised by, before or after the promulgation of the Ordinance, it added In their review of Pakistan's implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture (CAT),

the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee against Torture in 2017 expressed concern about the Regulations, and recommended that Pakistan "review the Actions (in aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011 with a view to repealing it or bringing it into conformity with international standards."

PM Modi says behavioural change can help fight global warming, invites technology for coal gasification

PM Modi says behavioural change can help fight global warming, invites technology for coal gasification

New York: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said change in behaviour people can help meet the challenge of global warming and invited foreign technology for gasification of coal to reduce emissions from the natural resource.

The Prime Minister, who was speaking at an interaction session at Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York, said India has set a new target of producing 450 Gigawatt of renewable energy.

"Indian lifestyle is an example for the world. We believe that the earth is our mother and we have no right to exploit it. We only have the right to milk it, not exploit. India is associated with a thought where there is no place for greed. I believe that only people's behaviour can take us out of the challenge of global warming, more than the efforts of governments. We should move ahead by associating human behaviour with nature," he said.

He said India had earlier set a target to achieve 175 Gigawatt of renewable energy. "I am happy we are way ahead of the time. We have already achieved the work of 120 Gigawatt. While I was speaking in the UN yesterday, I have set a new target of 450 Gigawatt of renewable energy," he said when former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked about a question on renewable energy.

"We have taken several policy initiatives and also given incentives. Our efforts are to empower the possibilities. We have a challenge of nuclear energy. Since we are not a member of NSG, we did not have the supply of fuel as we required. If that is resolved then we can work as a model in the renewable energy sector," he added.

Modi called for a change in the coal mining process to mitigate its effect on the environment and also suggested coal gasification. He said India has the third-largest coal reserves and cannot ignore the resource.

"India has the third biggest coal reserves. Being a poor country, we cannot ignore this. But there is a solution which is to change the way of mining and to start underground mining so that the environment does not get affected," he said.

"The second solution is coal gasification. It provides clean energy. We invite the world to come with technology. The gas can then be used for mobility as well as a source of energy. We are focusing to make coal mining environment-friendly," the Prime Minister added.

Modi referred to the government's initiative of Jal Jeevan Mission for water renewal. "Water is another issue other than climate change. India has taken an initiative of Jal Jeevan Mission. We want to run a campaign focusing on rainwater harvesting, recycling, reuse etc. We also want to revive our rivers," he said.

The Prime Minister said the government has prohibited the use of single-use plastic and said a nation-wide campaign will be held on October 2. "We have prohibited the use of single-use plastic. We have run a movement to discourage the use of plastic. A nationwide campaign against single-use plastic will be held on Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary on October 2. We are working in various sectors at a time with an emphasis on climate and environment," he said.


Pakistan to observe 'Kashmir Solidarity Day' on September 27

Pakistan to observe 'Kashmir Solidarity Day' on September 27


Islamabad: The Pakistan government has announced that a 'Kashmir Solidarity Day' will be observed on Friday to show solidarity with the Kashmiris.

"Prime Minister Imran Khan has very kindly approved September 27, Friday, as Kashmir Solidarity Day for holding public rallies across Pakistan to express their feelings with the people of Kashmir," Dawn news quoted an Interior Minister notification as saying on Wednesday.

Khan is also scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on the same day. His speech will focus on Pakistan's perspective and position on the Jammu and Kashmir issue and on its current human rights and related dimensions.


India extends USD 150 million line of credit to CARICOM nations for climate conservation projects

India extends USD 150 million line of credit to CARICOM nations for climate conservation projects

New York: India on Wednesday (local time) extended a grant of USD 150 million as Line of Credit to the member states of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) for climate conservation projects.

Chairing the India-CARICOM Leaders' meeting here, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced a USD 14 million grant for community development projects to the Caribbean nations.

Leaders of 14 CARICOM countries participated in the meeting that took place on the sidelines of the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly here. Prime Minister of St Lucia and current Chairman of CARICOM, Allen Chastenet, co-chaired the meeting with the Indian Prime Minister.

The meeting deliberated on the strengthening the political and institutional dialogue processes, boosting economic cooperation, increasing trade and investment and fostering greater and more robust people-to-people relations between India and the CARICOM countries.

Modi also emphasised on partnering with CARICOM countries in capacity building, development assistance and cooperation in disaster management and resilience.

It was the first-ever meeting of the Indian Prime Minister with the CARICOM leaders in a regional format and where he highlighted the steadily intensifying and deepening relations between India and partner countries of the Caribbean, not only in the bilateral but also in the regional context.

Modi reiterated India's firm commitment to strengthen its political, economic and cultural engagement with CARICOM. He recalled the presence of more than a million-strong Indian diaspora as a vibrant and enduring link of friendship with the Caribbean.

He invited the CARICOM countries to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. The International Solar Alliance is a group of 121 solar resource-rich countries with headquarters in Gurugram, India.

The organisation aims to deploy over 1,000 gigawatts of solar energy and mobilise more than USD 1,000 billion into solar power by 2030, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Prime Minister also expressed his condolences on the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian in the region and the worst-hit island of Bahamas to which India has provided immediate financial assistance of USD one million.

He also announced the setting up of a Regional Center for Excellence in Information Technology in Georgetown, Guyana, and the Regional Vocational Training Center in Belize by upgrading the existing India-funded centers in these countries.

The Indian side also expressed support to specialised capacity building courses, training and deputation of Indian experts based on the needs and requirements of the CARICOM countries.

In addition, the meeting also focused on setting up of a Joint Task Force to expeditiously look into possible areas of cooperation and identify the way forward.

In his concluding remarks, the Prime Minister invited a Parliamentary delegation from CARICOM to visit India in the near future. Meanwhile, the CARICOM leaders, on their part, welcomed India's initiatives to strengthen engagement and cooperation between the two sides and reassured full support from their respective governments.

The meeting was attended by the Heads of Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Vice President of Suriname, and Foreign Ministers of Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Haiti and Guyana.