Monday, November 20, 2017
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Hong Kong police cleared activists from one of the largest protest sites in the city on Wednesday and arrested Joshua Wong and Lester Shum, two of the student leaders at the heart of the pro-democracy movement that has shaken the Asian financial hub.

Scuffles broke out when riot police moved against hundreds of protesters on Nathan Road, in the gritty Mong Kok district, following clashes overnight, Reuters witnesses said.

“You can’t defeat the protesters’ hearts!” screamed Liu Yuk-lin, a 52-year-old protester in a hard hat holding a yellow umbrella, the symbol of the movement, as she stood before lines of police in helmets and goggles.

But there was no serious violence, and after about three hours the operation was complete and traffic was flowing through as area where demonstrators had camped out since late September to call for greater democracy in the former British colony.

Mong Kok has been a flashpoint for clashes between students and mobs intent on breaking up the protests, which have posed one of the biggest challenges to China’s Communist Party leaders since the crushing of student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing in 1989.

Crowds nearby cheered and clapped as the final protesters were removed from the site on Wednesday.

Earlier, court-appointed bailiffs had warned protesters to leave and around 80 workers in red caps and “I love Hong Kong” T-shirts began clearing metal and wooden barricades laid across Nathan Road, where hundreds of tents had been erected in a two-month civil disobedience campaign.

They had been met by hundreds of protesters brandishing yellow banners and chanting for “full democracy”.

“If you resist you face possible imprisonment. We warn you to immediately stop resisting,” said a policeman into a loud hailer before jeering activists.

Several protesters who resisted were hauled away, witnesses said. Hong Kong’s Cable TV said 4,000 police were involved.

A Reuters witness saw police take away Shum, and the Facebook page of the student group Scholarism announced that Wong had been arrested for contempt of court.

Although the protests have had no formal leadership structure, Wong and Shum were part of a group of students who many looked to as the movement’s de facto leaders.

We have plan B

The clearance of the Mong Kok site is a big breakthrough in the authorities’ efforts to end the most tenacious protest movement in Hong Kong’s recent history, although it could trigger retaliatory protests elsewhere as the activists regroup.

“It’s not the end,” said Helen Lau, a young activist with a leather yellow ribbon around her neck, who was shouting at police and demanding to re-enter the cleared area. “We still have plan B; either to occupy other places or to step up our actions.”

Protesters still occupy segments of roads, blocking traffic, in the city’s Admiralty district near government offices and Causeway Bay, a major shopping area.

It was not clear if or when police might try to clear the remaining protest sites.

Overnight, police had arrested 80 protesters in running clashes in Mong Kok following the clearance of part of a nearby street the previous day.

The crowded, working class district has been the scene of some of the most violent confrontations in the two-month long “Occupy Central” civil disobedience campaign.

The pro-democracy movement is showing signs of splintering, with radical voices calling for escalated action after nearly two months of stalemate in their campaign for full democracy.

In August, Beijing offered the people of Hong Kong, which reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, the chance to vote for their own leader in 2017, but said only two to three candidates could run after getting majority backing from a 1,200-person “nominating committee” stacked with Beijing loyalists.

 More than 100,000 people took to the streets at the peak of the protests, but numbers have dropped to a few hundred scattered in tents over three main sites.

 

 

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Cyprus and Egypt agreed on Tuesday to accelerate talks on the potential export of Cypriot gas to Egypt, once the resources come on line.

Cyprus discovered natural gas offshore in late 2011, while once gas-rich Egypt has turned into a net importer from an exporter in recent years.

“Egypt has a very huge (natural gas) infrastructure and can accommodate the production coming from the Cyprus economic waters,” Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Sherif Ismail told reporters in the Cypriot capital Nicosia.

“It will be very fruitful for both countries to work together to materialize this cooperation in terms of developing the resources in Cyprus and exporting it.”

In a joint statement, Ismail and his Cypriot counterpart Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said they had agreed to expedite discussions regarding natural gas exports to Egypt.

“In the next two months we will have a technical study regarding the options of these exports,” Lakkotrypis said, adding the best option for exports at present appeared to be via a pipeline.

The pipeline could be direct to Egypt, Ismail said. “We can accommodate whatever gas we receive in both local market consumption and also LNG exports.”

U.S. energy company Noble Energy with Israeli partners Delek and Avner hold an exploration concession to one Cypriot offshore field with proven reserves, while Italy’s ENI and France’s Total have concessions in other areas south of Cyprus.

The Cypriot gas fields are close to major finds reported by Israel in the past decade.

Turkey, with which Cyprus has been at loggerheads for decades, disputes the right of the island to explore for gas. Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek inspired coup, and exploration work has been mandated by the island’s internationally recognised government.

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 Egypt’s central bank is expected to keep interest rates on hold on Thursday as inflationary pressure continues to ease and policymakers seek to avoid stifling a nascent economic recovery in the most populous Arab nation.

The economy has been in turmoil since a popular uprising ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011, deterring tourists and foreign investors and straining the country’s finances.

To help bring down its swelling budget deficit, the government in July slashed fuel subsidies, raising energy costs for companies and consumers by up to 78 percent.

That pushed up prices and hit business activity in July. But the effect appears to have been short-lived, with the pace of economic activity picking up in the three months since and core inflation continuing to ease in October.

Four economists surveyed by Reuters forecast that the central bank would keep its overnight rates unchanged at 10.25 percent for lending and 9.25 percent for deposits at its policy-setting meeting on Thursday.

“The (central bank) will be wary of snuffing out the economic recovery,” Capital Economics said in a research note.

“Buoyed by a return to political stability and signs that the government is embarking on reforms, foreign investors are already returning to the country,” the note said.

A fifth economist surveyed by Reuters predicted that the central bank would raise both rates by 0.25 percent.

“One of the tactics the central bank will follow is to increase the interest rate to defend the Egyptian pound,” said Eman Negm, an economist at Prime Holding.

Egypt’s currency fluctuated on the black market last week due to a surge in commercial demand for dollars and concerns over Egypt’s plans to repay a $2.5 billion Qatari deposit.

The volatility followed an announcement earlier this month by the central bank governor that he would eliminate the black market within six to 12 months.

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0 243

 Egypt’s central bank is expected to keep interest rates on hold on Thursday as inflationary pressure continues to ease and policymakers seek to avoid stifling a nascent economic recovery in the most populous Arab nation.

The economy has been in turmoil since a popular uprising ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011, deterring tourists and foreign investors and straining the country’s finances.

To help bring down its swelling budget deficit, the government in July slashed fuel subsidies, raising energy costs for companies and consumers by up to 78 percent.

That pushed up prices and hit business activity in July. But the effect appears to have been short-lived, with the pace of economic activity picking up in the three months since and core inflation continuing to ease in October.

Four economists surveyed by Reuters forecast that the central bank would keep its overnight rates unchanged at 10.25 percent for lending and 9.25 percent for deposits at its policy-setting meeting on Thursday.

“The (central bank) will be wary of snuffing out the economic recovery,” Capital Economics said in a research note.

“Buoyed by a return to political stability and signs that the government is embarking on reforms, foreign investors are already returning to the country,” the note said.

A fifth economist surveyed by Reuters predicted that the central bank would raise both rates by 0.25 percent.

“One of the tactics the central bank will follow is to increase the interest rate to defend the Egyptian pound,” said Eman Negm, an economist at Prime Holding.

Egypt’s currency fluctuated on the black market last week due to a surge in commercial demand for dollars and concerns over Egypt’s plans to repay a $2.5 billion Qatari deposit.

The volatility followed an announcement earlier this month by the central bank governor that he would eliminate the black market within six to 12 months.

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