After a stretch of relative peace in Hong Kong, a standoff between protesters and riot police became violent again on Saturday.
Police fired tear gas after pro-democracy demonstrators blocked roads with barricades made of bamboo sticks and hurled bricks, in the district of Kwun Tong.
In a statement, police said protesters paralyzed traffic and affected emergency services in the area near a police station.
Protesters tore down and dismantled “smart lamp posts” out of a fear that they contain high-tech cameras and facial recognition software used for surveillance by authorities in China.
Some used an electric saw, attempting to slice through the bottom of the lamppost, while others tied a rope around it to successfully bring it crashing to the ground, the Associated Press reported.
The government in Hong Kong insists that the lampposts only collect data on weather, air quality and traffic, according to the AP.
There are plans to install about 400 of these smart lampposts over a three-year period, according to a government report.
The latest skirmish marked the 12th straight weekend of demonstrations in Hong Kong and ended nearly two weeks of relative calm, according to the AP.
Just a day before, thousands of Hong Kongers held hands and formed human chains, in a peaceful bid to gain support from the international community, NPR’s Anthony Kuhn reported.
On Saturday, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam expressed a desire to open a dialogue on Facebook.
“I don’t expect that dialogue will be able to easily untangle this knot, stop the demonstrations or provide a solution to the problem,” Lam wrote. “But continuing to fight is not a way out.”
“After more than two months, everyone is tired. Can we sit down and talk about it?” she wrote.
Just a few hours later, protests in Kwun Tong turned violent, according to the New York Times.
The protests in Hong Kong originally began in June over a bill that would have allowed some extraditions of Hong Kong residents to mainland China. The bill sparked a backlash among those who saw it as a violation of the “one country, two systems” agreement that was formed in 1997 when Hong Kong was returned to China from the British.
The bill has since been shelved but it’s not formally dead. Hong Kong’s government indefinitely suspended the legislation in June but hasn’t withdrawn it entirely from the legislative process.
The demands from the movement have since expanded and now include calls to investigate excessive police violence during the demonstrations and a more transparent and open government.
Also on Saturday, Simon Cheng, a worker from the British Consulate in Hong Kong, was released after being detained in mainland China.
Cheng disappeared on a business trip in mainland China two weeks ago amid the rising tensions between Beijing and London.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Cheng’s detention had anything to do with Britain’s support of the pro-democracy protests, NPR’s Scott Neuman reported.
China’s Hubei sees rise in new coronavirus cases as infections slow in other provinces
Volunteers in protective suits disinfect a residential compound in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Hubei province, China February 22, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS
BEIJING (Reuters) – China reported a rise in new coronavirus cases in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, on Tuesday while the rest of the country saw a fourth-straight day of declines.
Hubei had 499 new confirmed cases on Feb. 24, the National Health Commission said, up from 398 a day earlier and driven mainly by new infections in the provincial capital of Wuhan.
Mainland China in total had 508 new confirmed cases, up from 409 on Feb. 23, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 77,658.
Excluding the latest cases in Hubei, the rest of China had just nine new infections on Feb. 24, the lowest number of cases since Jan. 20 when the national health authority began publishing nationwide data on the coronavirus infections.
The overall death toll in mainland China had reached 2,663 as of the end of Monday, up by 71 from the previous day.
Hubei reported 68 new deaths, while in Wuhan, 56 people died.
Reporting by Ryan Woo, Yilei Sun and Lusha Zhang; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Stephen Coates
Cardiff woman wins £400k in DWP race discrimination row
The Department for Work and Pensions has been ordered to pay out nearly £400,000 after a Cardiff woman won her claim for race and age discrimination.
Anne Giwa-Amu told the BBC the department was “promoting a culture of racism”.
The judge in her tribunal case said she had been a victim of deliberate and intended harassment by DWP staff.
The department said racism is unacceptable and it takes the judgment “very seriously”.
Warning: This report includes racist and offensive language
Anne Giwa-Amu, 59, who is mixed Nigerian and Welsh, joined the DWP branch in Caerphilly as a full-time administrative officer in 2017, after trying without success to start a small business.
She was the only non-white recruit and only trainee over the age of 50 in her cohort, according to documents from Cardiff Magistrates’ Court seen by BBC News.
Judge Howden-Evans said DWP staff had deliberately created a “hostile environment” for Ms Giwa-Amu and has ordered the department to pay out more than £386,000 in compensation.
This includes £42,800 for injury to feelings, which is awarded in the “most serious” cases where there has been a lengthy campaign of harassment.
“It comes as a relief after what has been a harrowing experience for three years,” Ms Giwa-Amu told the BBC.
“I’ve had to experience real financial hardship and the perpetrators were promoted despite how they had treated me.”
A DWP official had violated her dignity by using racist language such as “Paki-lover” in her presence, the court found.
Another had further humiliated and discriminated against Ms Giwa-Amu by loudly laughing and telling her cohort he had “touched her bum”.
Officials had also repeatedly accused Ms Giwa-Amu of stealing ice-cream, sprayed body-spray on themselves while next to her, and breached her confidence after she reported feeling “bullied”.
Ms Giwa-Amu went on sick leave in March 2017 and was unlawfully dismissed in October that year for being unable to return to work, the court found.
She had been living off £55 a week and later had no money for food after her final pay cheque was withheld.
Ms Giwa-Amu told the BBC she has since been living with “immense stress and anxiety”.
“Management at the DWP are paying lip service to the equality legislation,” she said. “By protecting offenders, they are promoting a culture of racism.”
The DWP has been ordered to contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission for diversity awareness training and its permanent secretary, Peter Schofield, must directly review her case.
Ms Giwa-Amu’s solicitor, Lawrence Davies from Equal Justice, said DWP staff had “set out to destroy the confidence and wellbeing of a black employee with their appalling conduct”.
“None of the white DWP staff have been disciplined and some have been promoted,” he said.
“Given that the DWP serves a high level of ethnic minority claimants, the presence of prejudice in the state benefits system is of grave concern.”
In a statement, the DWP said: “Racism is totally unacceptable and action will be taken against any staff found to be expressing such views.
“We take the judgment and the circumstances of this case very seriously.”
Newspaper headlines: Harvey Weinstein ‘locked up at last’
Open letter to Bheki Cele, Rica victim
The minister of police is in the odd position of upholding the same spying system that targeted him.
Dear Minister Cele, this is awkward.
As minister of police, today – (25 February 2020) you are in the Constitutional Court seeking to block a major reform to the state’s spying powers – the case of amaBhungane v the spies, which will determine the constitutionality of South Africa’s main surveillance law, Rica (Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act).
You know the back story. The state’s spying powers are meant to be tightly regulated and only used to combat the most serious crimes, and threats to national security – but these spying powers have been turned to all kinds of corrupt purposes: to spy on journalists, whistleblowers, political operatives, government watchdogs and others.
Getting proof was always the problem. That changed a few years ago when evidence came to light that government spies had secretly listened in on the private calls and messages of a journalist named Sam Sole.
They used the law called Rica, but Sole was not suspected of any of the grand crimes that such spying powers are meant to be reserved for; the only danger he posed was to a few individuals who wanted to keep their corrupt dealings off the front pages.
So in 2019, a judge in the high court heard all this evidence and decided that there was a problem with Rica. The judge agreed with amaBhungane and advocacy groups that a law that would enable such abuse must be at odds with the constitutional rights to privacy, freedom of expression (and of the media), and an open and just democracy.
And that’s why, in September 2019, the high court of Gauteng struck down key parts of Rica as being unconstitutional, ordering a swath of reforms to boost transparency and oversight over these spying powers, and to limit how they can be used in the future.
Today, the Constitutional Court must decide whether Rica is unconstitutional and whether the reforms ordered by the high court are justified.
I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the minister of police is one of the parties to oppose this. (Along with your counterpart, State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo.)
But what is unusual, minister, is that you are one of the highest profile targets of exactly the kind of spying abuses that this court must now consider.
I’m sure you remember; you were police commissioner at the time. Your phone number was slipped into an illicit crime intelligence bugging operation that also targeted two Sunday Times journalists. Today, your lawyers will argue to the court that Rica protects against surveillance abuses because a judge must give permission before someone’s phone can be bugged.
But as you know, this did not protect you from being spied on by your own officers: They simply told the Rica judge that the phone numbers belonged to suspected criminals – yours, I believe, was assigned to a Thabani Mdlalose of Lamontville – and the judge unwittingly authorised the bugging.
So that brings us to the substance, such as it is, of your appeal. Unlike the submissions by the state security minister – whose bloody-minded appeal seeks to contest every point and detail of the high court judgment – you have focused on blocking just one of the reforms contained in the high court order: surveillance notification.
The high court struck down Rica’s “notification ban”, which prohibits people who have been targeted for surveillance from ever learning of it, even long after any investigation has lapsed. This system of secrecy has enabled a culture of surveillance abuses in our security agencies – officials know they can abuse their spying powers with little risk of being caught, except by chance.
The high court’s ruling would require authorities to notify those they have spied on within 90 days, unless a judge can be persuaded to postpone such notification to protect an ongoing investigation.
Your lawyers have, of course, argued that surveillance notification would spell ruin for the police – ignoring, of course, that such notification would only happen after the fact and can be postponed if it would tip off a criminal who is still under investigation.
Your appeal papers say “the very purpose of the RICA [combating crime] can only be achieved if there is a total ban on notification”.
I’m sorry you feel that way. If Rica had required notification back when your officers spied on you, it might have allowed you to act sooner to protect yourself and make good on your promise of cleaning up criminal elements in the crime intelligence division. Instead, it took a series of factional leaks and media reports to bring that case to light.
At the Zondo Commission, and in the president’s inquiry into the intelligence services, we have seen how unchecked surveillance powers have been a crucial tool for corrupt officials and their private associates. This may be of particular interest to you because, among documented abuses of our spying system, the second most common target for corrupt cops (after journalists), seem to be other cops.
Your lawyers have argued that the surveillance reforms in our Rica case would somehow make South Africa less safe. But how safe should we feel now, in a system where even the top cop can be spied on, and the only protection is luck, leaks and a single judge who is left to guess whether she’s being duped again.
Minister, let’s look again at those safeguards. By all means, put your chest out and stomach in – but keep your mind open. DM
Murray Hunter is amaBhungane’s acting advocacy coordinator. AmaBhungane’s challenge of Rica is under its advocacy mandate, which aims to secure the information rights (access to information, and freedom of expression and the media) which are the lifeblood of investigative journalism. Download our court papers here.
The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, an independent non-profit, produced this story. Like it? Be an amaB Supporter to help us do more. Sign up for our newsletter and WhatsApp alerts to get more.
Harvey Weinstein guilty of sexual assaults
Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of sexual assault, capping a stunning downfall for the former Hollywood mogul and a victory for the #MeToo movement against harassment.
Weinstein, 67, was convicted in New York City of third-degree rape and first-degree criminal sexual act.
But he was cleared of the most serious count of predatory sexual assault. He faces up to 25 years in prison.
He still faces charges in Los Angeles of assaulting two women in 2013.
At least 80 women had accused him of sexual misconduct stretching back decades, including actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek.
The allegations were at the centre of the #MeToo movement that inspired women to go public with misconduct allegations against powerful men.
The movie executive once enjoyed phenomenal success with Oscar winners such Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, The King’s Speech and Shakespeare in Love.
What happened in the New York court?
The jury of seven men and five women reached their verdict on Monday morning, the fifth day of deliberations.
Weinstein – who denied all charges – was convicted of sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping Jessica Mann, a former aspiring actress, in 2013. The judge ordered him sent to jail immediately.
But the jury acquitted him on two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carried a potential life sentence, and first-degree rape of Mann.
In the minutes after the verdict, Weinstein showed no emotion as he talked to his lead lawyer Donna Rotunno. He will be sentenced on 11 March.
The third-degree rape charge in New York is defined as engaging in sexual intercourse with a person who is incapable of consent, or under age 17, or who has not given consent for a reason other than the inability to consent.
Prosecutors portrayed Weinstein as a serial predator who used his position of power in Hollywood to manipulate and attack women.
The defence team said sex between the movie executive and the accusers was consensual, and that the accusers used the relations to advance their careers. The allegations amounted to “regret renamed as rape”, the defence said. Two of the accusers kept in contact with Weinstein and had sex with him after the alleged attacks, they pointed out.
How did we get here?
- Allegations against Weinstein began to emerge in October 2017, when the New York Times first reported incidents dating back decades
- Weinstein issued an apology acknowledging he had “caused a lot of pain”, but disputed the allegations
- As dozens more accusations emerged, Weinstein was sacked by the board of his company and all but banished from Hollywood
- A criminal investigation was launched in New York in late 2017, but Weinstein was not charged until May 2018, when he turned himself in to police.
What were the allegations in this case?
Ms Haleyi, who had worked on one of Weinstein’s television productions, said she was assaulted by the producer after he invited her to his Lower Manhattan home.
She testified that he backed her into a bedroom, held her down on the bed and forced himself on her.
Ms Mann said that she found herself in an “extremely degrading” relationship with him that did not involve intercourse until he raped her in a New York City hotel room in 2013.
She said he was a “Jekyll and Hyde” figure who could be charming in public but showed his dark side when they were alone.
Another one of Weinstein’s accusers, Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, told jurors he raped her in her apartment one night in the mid-1990s.
Her allegation was too old to be charged as a separate crime, but prosecutors used it in an attempt to demonstrate that the accused was a repeat sexual offender.
Three other also women testified they were lured to apparent work meetings with Weinstein, then sexually assaulted.
What’s the reaction?
“The fight is not over,” Ms Rotunno told reporters outside the courthouse. “Harvey is unbelievably strong. He took it like a man and he knows we will continue to fight for him and he knows that this is not over.”
She said her client was disappointed, but “mentally tough”.
Actress Asia Argento, who was one of the first to speak out about Weinstein, said in an Instagram post: “Harvey Weinstein is now a convicted rapist. Two survivors cry and celebrate.”
Actress Rose McGowan, another early accuser, said the conviction was “a huge step forward in our collective healing”.
Mira Sorvino, who has accused Weinstein of misconduct, said: “The beginning of #justice. More to come, my sisters.”
In a joint letter, actresses Ashley Judd, Lucia Evans and Rosanna Arquette and 19 other Weinstein accusers called it “disappointing that today’s outcome does not deliver the true, full justice that so many women deserve,” but expressed gratitude towards all the women who came forward to speak out against him.
What happens next?
- Weinstein’s lawyer said the defence will be appealing the conviction “immediately”
- He still faces charges of rape and sexual assault in Los Angeles, and there are other cases under review, according to the county district attorney
- Civil complaints against Weinstein continue to be fought
- In December 2019, lawyers said they reached a tentative $25m (£19m) deal with some accusers
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