US, Guatemala sign agreement to restrict asylum cases ZEKE MILLER and COLLEEN LONG•Trump President Donald Trump, joined by acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, right, shakes hands with Guatemalan Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Friday, July 26, 2019. Trump announced that Guatemala is signing an agreement to restrict asylum applications to the U.S. from Central America. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration signed an agreement with Guatemala Friday that will restrict asylum applications to the U.S. from Central America.The so-called „safe third country” agreement would require migrants, including Salvadorans and Hondurans, who cross into Guatemala on their way to the U.S. to apply for protections in Guatemala instead of at the U.S. border. It could potentially ease the crush of migrants overwhelming the U.S. immigration system, although many questions remain about how the agreement will be executed.President Donald Trump heralded the concession as a win as he struggles to live up to his campaign promises on immigration.”This is a very big day,” he said. „We have long been working with Guatemala and now we can do it the right way.”He claimed, „This landmark agreement will put the coyotes and smugglers out of business.”The announcement comes after a court in California blocked Trump’s most restrictive asylum effort to date, one that would effectively end protections at the southern border.The two countries had been negotiating such an agreement for months, and Trump threatened Wednesday to place tariffs or other consequences on Guatemala if it didn’t reach a deal.”We’ll either do tariffs or we’ll do something. We’re looking at something very severe with respect to Guatemala,” Trump had said.On Friday, Trump praised the Guatemalan government, saying now it has „a friend in the United States, instead of an enemy in the United States.”Trump added Friday that the agreement would protect „the rights of those with legitimate claims,” end „abuse” of the asylum system and curtail the crisis on the U.S. southern border.He said that as part of the agreement, the U.S. would increase access to the H-2A visa program for temporary agricultural workers from Guatemala.It’s not clear how the agreement will take effect. Guatemala’s Constitutional Court has granted three injunctions preventing its government from entering into a deal without approval of the country’s congress.Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said via social media that the agreement allows the country to avoid „drastic sanctions … many of them designed to strongly punish our economy, such as taxes on remittances that our brothers send daily, as well as the imposition of tariffs on our export goods and migratory restrictions.”Earlier Friday, Morales questioned the concept of a „safe third country.””Where does that term exist?” he asked reporters. „It does not exist, it is a colloquial term. No agreement exists that is called ‘safe third country.'”Human rights prosecutor Jordán Rodas said his team was studying the legality of the agreement and whether Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart had the authority to sign the compact.Guatemala’s government put out a six-paragraph, Spanish-language statement Friday on Twitter. It does not call the agreement „safe third country” but „Cooperation Agreement for the Assessment of Protection Requests.”The Guatemalan government said that in coming days its Labor Ministry „will start issuing work visas in the agriculture industry, which will allow Guatemalans to travel legally to the United States, to avoid being victims of criminal organizations, to work temporarily and then return to Guatemala, which will strengthen family unity.”The same conditions driving Salvadorans and Hondurans to flee their country — gang violence, poverty, joblessness, a prolonged drought that has severely hit crop yields — are also present in Guatemala. Guatemala also lacks resources to adequately house, educate or provide opportunity to potential asylum seekers, observers say.In Guatemala City, social and student organizations spoke out against the agreement in front of the Constitutional Court, on the grounds that the country is mired in poverty and unemployment and has no capacity to serve migrants. They called for a protest rally Saturday.Advocacy groups condemned the move Friday, with Amnesty International saying „any attempts to force families and individuals fleeing their home countries to seek safety in Guatemala are outrageous.””The Trump administration must abandon this cruel and illegal plan to shut doors to families and individuals trying to rebuild their lives in safety,” said Charanya Krishnaswami, the group’s advocacy director for the Americas.Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said Trump’s decision to sign the agreement was „cruel and immoral.” ”It is also illegal,” he added. „Simply put, Guatemala is not a safe country for refugees and asylum seekers, as the law requires.”Homeland Security officials said they expected the agreement to be ratified in Guatemala and would begin implementing it sometime in August. Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan said it was part of a long-standing effort with Guatemala to address migration and combat smuggling. He cautioned against calling the country unsafe for refugees.”It’s risky to label an entire country as unsafe. We often paint Central America with a very broad brush,” he said. „There are obviously places in Guatemala and in the U.S. that are dangerous, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a full and fair process. That’s what the statute is focused on. It doesn’t mean safety from all risks.”Guatemalans accounted for 34% of Border Patrol arrests on the Mexican border from October to June, more than any other nationality. Hondurans were second at 30%, followed by Mexicans at 18% and Salvadorans at 10%.Trump was asked if he expected to reach similar agreements with Honduras and El Salvador. He replied, „I do indeed.”_Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Luis Alonso and Jill Colvin in Washington, Elliot Spagat in San Diego, Peter Orsi in Mexico City and Sonny Figueroa in Guatemala City contributed to this report.
The New York Times reports that House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler has “gradually become convinced that his panel should proceed with impeachment hearings and do so as expeditiously as possible, though he has not stated so publicly,” citing “lawmakers and aides familiar with his thinking.”
Nadler should not be surprised that he’s encountering so much resistance to this idea from House speaker Nancy Pelosi. A great deal has been written about how impeaching Trump — in a move that would by entirely symbolic, insofar as the Republican-held Senate would never convict and remove him from office — could improve his odds of reelection. Less-discussed is the very good chance that it would cost Democrats control of the House.
Thirty-one Democrats from districts Trump carried in 2016 currently sit in the House. Moving forward with impeachment would force an incredibly difficult vote on all of those Democrats, including the 13 from districts Trump won by more than six percentage points. Democrats currently have 235 House seats. Republicans currently have 197 seats, with two vacancies in GOP-leaning districts in North Carolina. If the GOP keeps those two seats, it would need to flip 19 seats in 2020 to retake control of the lower chamber.
Pro-impeachment Democrats were thrilled that 95 House members voted for the recent impeachment resolution offered by Representative Al Green of Texas. But that vote revealed that purple-district Democrats have no appetite for impeachment. While it’s possible that the revelations in the Mueller report or the president’s other flaws have reduced Trump’s level of support in the 31 Democrat-held House districts he won, not a single one of the 31 Democrats in question voted for Green’s resolution, and not a single one has publicly supported impeachment so far. That suggests Trump is probably still pretty popular in their districts — or at least that they remain wary of rocking the boat.
If all 31 Democrats in Trump districts voted no and every other Democrat voted yes, impeachment would fail with just 205 votes, 13 short of the 218 needed. (For the sake of this math, assume that there are no vacancies or members voting “present” on such a consequential matter, and that every Republican votes no, as all indications are they would.) Democratic leaders could allow 18 members to vote “no” and pass impeachment by a single vote, but that would leave 13 of their colleagues voting to impeach Trump from districts he carried in 2016. Winning those seats would put Republicans at 212, just six short of what they need to flip the House. (Representative Justin Amash, who recently left the GOP and supports impeachment, intends to run for reelection as an independent. This math assumes that Amash is not defeated by a GOP challenger in 2020. His district scores R+6 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index, and Trump carried it by ten points in 2016.)
There’s another complication to this scenario: how the Democratic grassroots back home would react to the 18 Democrats who vote against impeachment. They might accept that their representatives’ votes reflected the will of their districts, or they might see the votes as an unacceptable betrayal and organize primary challenges or Election Day boycotts. House Democrats might insist that only a small portion of the base would be mad enough to punish a House member who opposed impeachment in 2020. But a lot of these purple-district Democrats won in 2018 by the skin of their teeth.
Ben McAdams won his 2018 race in Utah by 694 votes. Lucy McBath won by 3,264 votes in Georgia. Kendra Horn won perhaps the biggest upset of the cycle in Oklahoma by 3,338 votes. Xochitl Torres Small won by 3,722 votes in New Mexico, Andrew Kim by 3,973 votes in New Jersey, and Joe Cunningham by 3,982 in South Carolina. The last thing these vulnerable incumbents need is an impeachment vote that gives them the option of angering either their party’s base or the electorate as a whole.
A successful impeachment vote would probably end the careers of at least 13 House Democrats and create serious turnout headaches for at least 18 more. Maybe in Nadler’s mind, it would be worth it to America, no matter the political consequences. But Pelosi’s concerns — and those of the 137 Democrats who voted against Green’s resolution — are not difficult to understand.
Trump Altered Seal
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says it didn’t know that an altered presidential seal featuring a two-headed eagle clutching golf clubs would be displayed at a speech by President Donald Trump this week.
Spokesman Judd Deere says officials „never saw the seal” before it was projected on a screen behind Trump as he was introduced at Turning Point USA’s teen summit on Tuesday. The real seal has a bald eagle clutching arrows in one set of talons and an olive branch in the other.
A spokesman for Turning Point USA told The Washington Post, which first reported on the seal, it fired a video team member for mistakenly displaying the seal.
Deere referred additional questions to Turning Point USA. The conservative group did not immediately return an emailed request for comment Thursday.
No F-35 for You: Iran’s Air Force Might Be Dying
Two incidents in late August 2018 involving Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force F-5F Tiger II fighter jets underscored the ongoing crisis in Iran’s air force.
On Aug. 21, Iran unveiled what it described as a new, fourth-generation fighter jet. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani even sat in the plane’s cockpit and posed for photographs.
One problem. The aircraft in question was conspicuously an F-5F, one of the 17 Iran bought from the United States during the rule of the Shah. It was not domestically-built.
“Iran has probably upgraded the electronics systems, originally from the 1960s, and made other upgrades,” Iran analyst Nader Uskowi suggested. “But it is not clear why the president of the country should unveil a 40-year-old plane as a new fighter.”
War Is Boring contributor Sebastien Roblin pointed out that Iran is in fact developing a new plane called the Kowsar-88, another in a long line of modified reverse-engineered F-5s that Tehran will either use as a trainer or light-attack aircraft.
But that jet “wasn’t ready for display this August, so Tehran simply took an old, very well-known jet fighter and claimed it was a new one, in full view of domestic and international audiences that would know better,” Roblin wrote at The National Interest.
An American warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait, the US Navy and Taiwanese authorities said Thursday, triggering concern in Beijing.
The transit came as China, which views Taiwan as a renegade province, unveiled a defence white paper Wednesday stressing its willingness to use force to thwart any move towards the self-ruled island’s independence, and accusing the United States of undermining global stability.
It also followed an unprecedented joint Chinese-Russian air force exercise this week that triggered furious protests of airspace violations by key US regional allies South Korea and Japan.
According to the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, the USS Antietam, a guided-missile cruiser, conducted a routine transit through the narrow waterway separating the Chinese mainland and Taiwan during July 24-25.
The transit „demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”, the Fleet said in a statement.
„The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”
American warships periodically conduct navigation exercises in the waterway, sparking angry responses from China.
But Beijing’s reaction to the latest sail-by was relatively restrained, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying saying China had „expressed its concerns to the American side”.
„The Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive issue in Sino-American relations,” Hua said.
She said China urges the United States to respect the „One China” principle, and „treat Taiwanese issues with care and diligence so as not to undermine Sino-American relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”.
Beijing lodged a protest with Washington in May after a US destroyer and a supply ship sailed through the strait.
China views any ships passing through the strait as essentially a breach of its sovereignty — while the US and many other nations view the route as international waters open to all.
Last month, a Canadian frigate and a support vessel passed through Taiwan Strait in a recent string of such transits, as they came from a visit to Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay heading to Northeast Asia.
The ships were going to join „a multinational effort to counter North Korea’s evasion of UN Security Council sanctions by maritime smuggling”.
In April, Beijing said its navy had warned off a French warship that had entered the Taiwan Strait earlier that month and lodged an official complaint with Paris.
MOSCOW, July 26 (Reuters) – Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday warned British media operating in Russia that they should be ready to face the consequences after a British regulator fined Russia’s RT state-financed TV channel.
Moscow was responding after Ofcom, Britain’s media regulator, earlier on Friday fined RT 200,000 pounds ($248,740) for breaching broadcasting impartiality rules in its coverage of the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal, the policies of Ukraine and the conflict in Syria.
The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that it regarded Ofcom’s actions as „part of an anti-Russian campaign designed to restrict the activities of Russian media in Britain.”
„We are carefully following the situation and remind British media working in Russia that they should be ready to face the consequences of official London’s actions,” it said. (Reporting by Andrew Osborn and Andrey Ostroukh; writing by Anton Kolodyazhnyy Editing by Andrew Osborn)
Security, Middle East
President Donald Trump’s recent visit to North Korea provided Iran with a stark contrast between how the United States treats actual nuclear states compared to aspiring ones.
Point Break: Is Iran Ready to Retaliate Against America?
The United States and Iran remain locked in a tense standoff, punctuated by periodic escalations, that could easily transition into a full-blown conflict. Following the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran has been subjected to crushing sanctions that have contracted its economy and put pressure on its leadership. Rather than concede, Iran has responded with increasingly provocative moves—sabotaging several oil tankers, shooting down a U.S. drone, and openly violating the uranium enrichment and storage thresholds in the JCPOA. Many in Washington want the United States to launch military strikes on Iran because they believe the prospect of a war that it would lose would force Iran into submission. Military action is much more likely to backfire, however, since it would only legitimize Iran’s nuclear program and make a nuclear arsenal essential to defend itself from the United States.
Iran has clearly telegraphed that it would restart uranium enrichment unless America’s European allies—who want to remain in the JCPOA—defy U.S. sanctions and continue to import Iranian oil. Iran’s recent moves are a desperate effort to recapture some of the economic benefits of the deal in exchange for its continued compliance. So far, modest European efforts to that end have done little to ease Iran’s economic crisis. Iran’s recent seizure of a British oil tanker—retaliation for the Royal Navy’s seizure of an Iranian vessel—is likely to make the Europeans even less willing to risk angering the United States on Iran’s behalf
Iran has freed nine of 12 Indian crew from a Panama-flagged tanker seized on July 14, India’s foreign ministry said Friday.
Iran had accused the MT Riah ship of smuggling contraband fuel when it was detained, amid mounting tensions between the Iranian government and both Britain and the US over shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
The MT Riah crossed into Iranian waters around July 14 and stopped transmitting signals shortly afterwards, the TankerTrackers online oil shipment website reported at the time.
„Nine crew members have been released and they will be on their way to India soon,” said Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar.
„Our mission in Iran has requested the concerned Iranian authorities for the release of remaining crew members.”
The release left 21 other Indians in Iranian detention however, including three from the MT Riah and 18 from the British-flagged Stena Impero tanker which was also captured by Iranian forces on July 19.
The Stena Impero and its 23 crew have been impounded at the southern port of Bandar Abbas for allegedly breaking „international maritime rules”. The vessel is at the heart of the showdown between Iran and Britain.
Apart from the 18 Indians, there are three Russians, a Latvian and a Filipino on the ship.
India announced on Thursday that its diplomats in Iran had been given access to Stena Impero crew.
„All 18 Indian crew members on board are safe and doing fine. Will continue to push for their early release,” junior foreign minister V Muraleedharan said on Twitter.
Iran’s foreign ministry confirmed that Indian diplomats had met the crew in a statement reported by Iranian state television on Friday.
The ministry added that further meetings between crew of other nationalities from the Stena Impero with diplomats from their countries had been arranged and would happen soon.
Images from inside the ship released by Iran on Monday showed some Indian crew sat around a table, chatting and smiling. Two members could be seen cooking in the ship’s kitchen.
The tanker’s seizure has deepened a crisis triggered between Iran and Western countries in April when the United States said it would sanction countries buying oil from Iran.
Iran has hinted it is open to swapping the Stena Impero for an Iranian tanker, Grace 1, detained in Gibraltar on July 4 allegedly carrying Iranian oil to Syria in breach of international sanctions.
Turkey US Syria
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday his country is determined to destroy what he called a „terror corridor” in northern Syria — regardless of whether or not Turkey and the United States agree on the establishment of a so-called „safe zone” there.
U.S. and Turkish officials have been holding talks on creating a safe zone east of the Euphrates River to address Turkey’s security concerns stemming from the presence of Syrian Kurdish fighters in the region. Turkey views Kurdish fighters — who have battled the Islamic State group alongside U.S. forces — as terrorists, allied with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.
Ankara wants a zone along the border with Syria cleared of the Kurdish fighters and claims such a zone would be safe for Syrians and allow some of the country’s refugees to return.
Turkey has warned of a possible new offensive into Syria if an agreement on a safe zone is not reached, and has recently been sending reinforcements to its border area. Since 2016, Turkey has launched two cross-border offensives against IS and the Syrian Kurdish fighters.
In an apparent message to U.S.-allied Kurdish militiamen in Syria, Erdogan told party officials that „those who engage in bullying by putting their trust in foreign forces will tomorrow find themselves in the grave.”
Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the U.S. Central Command chief, had visited Syria’s Kurdish-held areas on Monday for the first time since he took his post in March. McKenzie met with the top Kurdish commander to discuss the safe zone.
Erdogan said a new Turkish incursion into Syria east of the Euphrates would cut off contact between Syria’s Kurdish fighters and Iraq, where Turkey has been carrying out airstrikes targeting alleged Kurdish rebel hideouts.
In Syria, the Foreign Ministry condemned what it called as destructive U.S. interference in the country. It said U.S. involvement in Syria aims to prolong and complicate the crisis. A statement from an unnamed ministry official said Syria rejects any agreements with Turkey that blatantly violate its sovereignty.
Meanwhile, Erdogan also confirmed that Turkey had caught or killed all of the suspects behind the assassination of a Turkish diplomat last week in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
Turkish media reported Thursday that the military, acting on Turkish intelligence, targeted two vehicles carrying the alleged masterminds of the July 17 attack that killed Osman Kose at a restaurant in Irbil. The reports said the planners of the attack and their bodyguards were killed on July 18 and July 24.
Iraq’s Kurdish officials said last weekend the lead suspect in the shooting was arrested. He was identified as a 27-year-old who hails from Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.
„We caught all of those who martyred our consulate’s employee,” Erdogan said. „If any of them were missing, they were rendered ineffective in their dens through successful operations.”
On Friday, Iraq’s Kurdish security council released a video of purported confessions of six detained in connection with the diplomat’s killing — three Kurds from Turkey and three from Iraq’s Kurdistan region. They included the main suspect who said in the televised confessions the assassination was planned at a base in northern Iraq of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, Turkey’s insurgent group, by a senior group leader.
The also video contained new footage of the assassination, the attackers’ getaway from the scene and the arrest operation.
Associated Press writer Salar Salim in Irbil, Iraq, contributed to this report.
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Ledy Perez fell to her haunches, a clenched hand covering her face as she wept, an arm clutching her small 6-year-old son, who glared defiantly at the Mexican National Guard soldier blocking them from crossing into the United States.
The plight of this mother and son who had traveled some 1,500 miles (2,410 km) from their home country of Guatemala to the border city of Ciudad Juarez, only to be stopped mere feet from the United States, was captured by Reuters photographer Jose Luis Gonzalez as twilight approached on Monday.
„The woman begged and pleaded with the National Guard to let them cross … she wanted to cross to give a better future” to her young son Anthony Diaz, Gonzalez said. The soldier, dressed in desert fatigues, an assault rifle slung over his shoulder, said he was only following orders, according to Gonzalez.
The soldier did not disclose his name.
One of several images Reuters published of the scene, the photo was picked up widely on social media. It has thrown into the spotlight the role Mexico’s militarized National Guard police force is playing in containing migration, mostly from Central America.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador created the National Guard to bring down record homicide rates, but almost a third of its members are now assigned to patrolling the border to placate President Donald Trump’s demands of stemming the flow of U.S.-bound migrants.
The soldier displayed no overt aggression during the nine-minute encounter with Perez and her son. Still, the power dynamics apparent in the image resonated with criticism of the treatment migrants are receiving during the clampdown by Mexico.
Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who retweeted the picture after it was posted by former Mexican ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan, wrote „what a pity, Mexico should never have accepted this.”
Lopez Obrador’s spokesman, Jesus Ramirez, said the image was an example of the National Guard doing its job of looking after public security. He said the soldier did not impede Perez from crossing, but advised her of the dangers of doing so.
„The Guard combats the crime of people trafficking and protects the human rights of the population and of the migrants crossing the country,” Ramirez said.
An official with the National Guard said the soldier „invited her to avoid putting herself at risk by crossing the river with a minor.”
In June, Lopez Obrador said the National Guard did not have orders to detain migrants crossing the U.S. border. He regularly emphasizes that the clampdown must not violate rights.
Migrant apprehensions on the U.S. southern border fell in June by roughly a third to about 100,000 people, according to U.S. data, after Mexico deployed to its borders some 21,000 National Guard troops, largely drawn from the ranks of the military.
Trump said on Wednesday that Mexico will „probably put up more” troops to its U.S. border. Mexico’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The National Guard troops in Ciudad Juarez, including the soldier in the photo, are equipped with ballistic helmets, body armor and rifles. They are identifiable by small armbands emblazoned with the letters GN, for the Spanish words for „National Guard.”
Gonzalez said he was making his daily round alongside the dry riverbed of the Rio Grande that separates his native Ciudad Juarez from El Paso, Texas, when the guards apprehended a handful of migrants, including the mother and son duo, on a dusty, dirt road overlooking the river.
That is where she made her tearful plea.
„Her face, that’s a small reflection of all migrants’ suffering,” said Gonzalez. „A lot of people judge migrants, ask why don’t they stay in their country, why do they come here or why are they crossing into the United States … Every migrant has a story.”
All of a sudden, seizing the opportunity when the battle-ready soldier glanced away, Perez lunged into the shrubs growing on the side of the river bank, pulling her son with her. They quickly ran across to the other side of the river and out of the guardsmen’s jurisdiction where U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents took them into custody.
„According to information from (U.S.) Border Patrol, the (Guatemalan) national crossed the border into the city of El Paso, Texas at 8:10 p.m. (on Monday) and was detained. The national and her son are in good condition and are being processed at the Border Patrol station in Lordsburg, New Mexico while her case moves forward,” said Tekandi Paniagua, the Guatemalan consul general in Del Rio, Texas.
„They have received medical attention and are being processed. Border Patrol will decide on their case and will inform us,” a Guatemalan foreign ministry representative said.
In response to a request for information, a spokesman said CBP did not have the resources needed to track the whereabouts of Perez and her son based on the details Reuters was able to provide.
Depending on the particulars of the case, the two would typically be processed at a Border Patrol station and then handed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or put into a program that returns some migrants to Mexico to await U.S. court hearings, said the spokesman, who asked not to be named.
(Reporting by David Alire; additional reporting by Kristina Cooke in San Francisco, Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City and Julio Cesar Chavez in El Paso; writing by Anthony Esposito; editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker)
Visitors were greeted at the airport by a sea of black-clad protesters chanting anti-government slogans
Thousands of Hong Kongers, including flight attendants, held a rally in the airport’s arrivals hall on Friday to „educate” visitors about the demonstrations currently gripping the international finance hub as it braces for another weekend of protests.
The cavernous hall is usually filled with excited friends and relatives waiting to greet loved ones as they make their way out of one of the world’s busiest airports.
But on Friday visitors were greeted by a sea of black-clad protesters chanting anti-government slogans, holding banners and handing out flyers — the information desk plastered in a tapestry of colourful sticky notes.
The rally is the latest bid to keep pressure on Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leaders after seven weeks of largely peaceful mass demonstrations followed by violent clashes, an unprecedented challenge to Beijing’s authority since the city’s 1997 handover.
The protests were triggered by a controversial bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, but they have evolved into a call for wider democratic reforms and a halt to sliding freedoms.
Organisers billed the airport rally as an opportunity to brief arrivals on the political unrest, particularly visitors from mainland China where the state-controlled news has portrayed the protests as a violent, foreign-funded plot to destabilise the motherland.
The demonstration was peaceful and good-humoured, and there were no reports of any disruption to flights.
– ‘Safety announcement’ –
One particularly creative group were using a television to display a satirical version of an airline safety announcement video that details the movement’s demands and warns of protests in the city.
„Kindly put on your masks and black t-shirts… when attending the assemblies,” the video said, in reference to the colour widely adopted by anti-government protesters.
Others held „Tourist Warning” signs detailing how police have fired tear gas at protesters and how pro-government thugs attacked demonstrators last Sunday, putting 45 in hospital.
Meryl Yeung, a 29-year-old flight attendant, had just got off a plane and joined the protest.
„It’s important to come to the airport and tell foreigners what’s happening in Hong Kong,” she told AFP, saying it was especially vital to make sure people in China are made aware of the protests.
„They have no idea at all, they only get information from one side, they think everyone… coming to a protest, to a rally, are all rioters, or promoting Hong Kong independence,” she said.
Yoko Tsang, 29, said the more she travelled around the world as a flight attendant, the more she has come to cherish Hong Kong’s freedoms, which she feels are increasingly under attack.
„No matter where we go, Hong Kong is always our home and our roots,” she said. „Whether it’s before or after work, we have to fight for time to show our support in rallies.”
Cathay Pacific’s Flight Attendants Union said it supported the rally and encouraged members to join, a stance that earned it a rebuke in China’s state media.
„We feel deep regret with the incapability of our (chief executive) Carrie Lam and her team that only play tricks to fool its people,” the union said in a message on Facebook, referring to the city’s unelected leader.- Bracing for weekend clashes -More than five hours after the protest began it was still going, a huge crowd of people chanting „Free Hong Kong!” at arrivals.Tourists had a variety of reactions to the display from baffled and bemused to supportive.”I feel like I’m back home now because in Chile we have similar issues with the police,” Margarita Duco, a 24-year-old traveller who was in Hong Kong on a layover told AFP.”The excessive use of violence when there are peaceful manifestations, it’s very common in my country so I can relate with what they are going through,” she added.Multiple Chinese mainland visitors approached by AFP declined to comment.Hong Kong is bracing itself for another weekend of rallies and possible clashes.Police have banned a planned Saturday protest against suspected triad gangs who beat up pro-democracy demonstrators in the rural town of Yuen Long near China’s border.But messaging channels and forums used by activists suggest people plan to rally there regardless.Another demonstration on Sunday will end close to China’s Liaison Office, which was pelted with eggs last weekend before police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters hurling projectiles.
Selena Gomez stuns Instagram after her 27th birthday as she does her best Fellini imitationHope Schreiber WriterSelena Gomez stuns Instagram after her 27th birthday as she does her best Fellini imitation Selena Gomez may have just celebrated her birthday, but it’s her Instagram followers that received a gift: a photo of the singer enjoying her trip to Italy.Gomez, who turned 27 on July 22nd, has spent the past week celebrating in Europe, starting in Rome and moving down to the Amalfi Coast, with her friends and grandmother Debbie Jean Gibson, and it appears that the vacation has been treating her well.Selena Gomez shared a photo of herself on an Italian vacation to Instagram, wearing a black and red dress and displaying her semicolon tattoo. (Photo: Instagram)The „Wolves” singer shared a snap of herself wearing a black-and-red floral dress while posing in a boat on Friday.“Me, Italy —trying desperately to look like a Fellini film,” Gomez wrote, a nod to the late Italian film director Federico Fellini.Also on display was Gomez’s symbolic semicolon wrist tattoo, which she got with 13 Reasons Why stars Tommy Dorfman and Alisha Boe. The art represents Project Semicolon, an organization that is „dedicated to the prevention of suicide.””Today was a magical day. Another day to be grateful to be alive. Alisha, Selena, and I went together to get ; tattoos,” Dorfman shared on Instagram two years ago. „The ; symbol stands for an end of one thought and a beginning of another…For us, it means a beginning of another chapter in life, in lieu of ending your life.”Gomez is allegedly in „a really good place,” a source told ET on Friday, and that she is working on new music, which promises to be „very personal.””She just celebrated her birthday in Italy and is really enjoying this time off before things ramp up again…the new music is going to be a different side of Selena and very personal,” the source told the outlet. „Selena has gone through a lot over the years and is ready to share it with the world.”
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