China has defended its decision to oust four pro-democracy lawmakers from Hong Kong as “the right medicine” for the city, blasting foreign governments for “meddling” in domestic issues that are none of its business.
“The plain fact is that it is exactly these politicians who have arbitrarily meddled with China’s internal affairs,” said the Chinese foreign ministry in a statement. “It is these politicians who have breached their international obligations.”
Pandemonium erupted in Hong Kong’s parliament this week as 15 pro-democracy lawmakers resigned in protest after government officials dismissed four of their colleagues on alleged national security grounds, yet another step in a broader crackdown from Beijing to quash dissent.
Many foreign governments have condemned China for dismissing the lawmakers.
The UK on Thursday declared China to be in formal breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a UN-registered treaty meant to preserve Hong Kong’s freedoms after the former British colony was returned to Beijing rule under the Communist Party.
Unseating four pro-democracy lawmakers, however, amounted to a “clear breach” of that agreement, said Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
“Beijing has eliminated nearly all of Hong Kong’s promised autonomy, as it neuters democratic processes and legal traditions that have been the bedrock of Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity,” said US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
“Once again, the [Chinese Communist Party’s] twisted vision of patriotism is a pretext to stifle freedom and the call for democracy.”
China has long sought to wrest control of Hong Kong, where protest movements over eroding freedoms have erupted every few years since Beijing resumed control of the territory from Britain in 1997.
Discontent peaked last year when millions of Hong Kong people took to the streets, disrupting the city with mass protests that often ended in violence with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
Demonstrations abated with the coronavirus pandemic, and after a sweeping national security law was imposed by Beijing this summer. The law criminalises acts authorities deem as secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion, punishable by up to life in prison.
The ousting of four pro-democracy lawmakers from Hong Kong’s legislature was “the right medicine” for the city, China said, telling foreign governments the issue was none of their business.
Fifteen politicians vowed to quit in anger after their colleagues were removed on national security grounds by the Beijing-appointed chief executive, boosting fears that the room for dissent in Hong Kong is shrinking.
Millions of Hong Kongers took to the streets last year in months of disruptive protests over ebbing freedoms. Demonstrations were stamped out by the pandemic and a swingeing new law that made certain opinions illegal overnight.
The expulsions this week were “the right medicine that will start a new chapter in ensuring smooth operation” of Hong Kong’s legislature, said China’s foreign ministry in Hong Kong in a statement dated Thursday.
“The decision is intended to guarantee normal operation of governing bodies… and better ensure Hong Kong is governed by Hong Kong people with a high degree of autonomy,” it said.
Britain — which handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 — summoned China’s ambassador in London on Thursday, accusing Beijing of breaking international treaty obligations that guaranteed the financial hub special status and a high degree of autonomy.
London has increasingly locked horns with China since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong this year.
The European Union urged the “immediate reinstatement” of the lawmakers, and Canada said their ousting had the effect of “eroding human rights in Hong Kong”.
China pushed back at the criticism, telling a “handful of foreign politicians to grasp the trend of the times, keep their hands off China’s internal affairs, stop meddling with Hong Kong affairs in any form, and avoid going further down the wrong path.”
London has already angered Beijing by offering Hong Kongers holding British National Overseas passports a route to UK citizenship by relaxing entry and residency requirements.
Hong Kong’s leader is chosen by pro-Beijing committees, but half of the legislature’s 70 seats are directly elected, offering the city’s 7.5 million residents a rare chance to have their voices heard at the ballot box.
The expulsions and resignations will leave just two legislators outside the pro-Beijing camp, both of them unaligned with either bloc.
(Reuters) – Georgia lawmakers are pressing for stronger jail oversight after a Reuters investigation identified hundreds of deaths in the state’s county jails and dangerous lapses in inmate medical care.
David Wilkerson, a Georgia state lawmaker who had been planning new jail legislation for the upcoming January session, said he intends to cite Reuters’ findings in his proposed reforms.
As part of an examination of deaths at more than 500 jails nationwide, Reuters found 272 inmate deaths among 13 large Georgia jails over more than a decade. At least half of the deaths were caused by a medical condition or illness, and a quarter by suicide.
The news organization exposed healthcare lapses at the jail in Savannah. Another report explored the 2017 death of Chinedu Efoagui, who died at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center after spending 512 days behind bars without ever being tried on the charges for which he was held.
To read the full investigation, Dying Inside, click https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-jails-deaths
Wilkerson, a Cobb County Democrat, said his proposal will focus on improving mental health care in jails, as well as the disclosure and investigation of in-custody deaths.
“It’s impossible for the jail to investigate themselves. At the end of the day you’re asking someone who did something wrong to look at themselves,” said Wilkerson. “The public trust is not there.”
Wilkerson had begun researching new legislation after the death of Kevil Wingo, a 36-year-old Atlantan who died in the Cobb County jail in 2019. He said he was further moved to propose reforms following the Reuters accounts of Efoagui’s death and others in Georgia jails.
Other state legislators say the spate of jail deaths, particularly involving inmates who had not been convicted of their charges, shows the need for enhanced oversight.
“It is a tragedy. It is malpractice on the part of the state of Georgia, and on the counties,” said Mary Margaret Oliver, a Georgia Democratic lawmaker and former magistrate court judge.
Oliver said substandard mental health care in jails must be tackled when lawmakers convene in January. “Jails are significantly the largest mental health facility in the state,” she said. “And we are not attending to the combination of mental illness, addiction, and significant physical health issues.”
The death of Efoagui, a 38-year-old Nigerian native, highlights such concerns. The software programmer was arrested after suffering a mental breakdown during a traffic stop. As his physical and mental health deteriorated behind bars, he begged for help, but died of a pulmonary embolism.
Many of Efoagui’s friends from Nigeria were unaware of the details of his death after he moved to the United States in 2012 to pursue the American dream. They expressed shock when they learned the full story in the Reuters account.
“Mental illness and the inability to post bond should not cost a life,” tweeted Ogechukwu Eze. “Any life.”
(Reporting by Linda So. Editing by Ronnie Greene)
Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.
Concerns over healthcare and retirement security will be top of mind for voters over 50 years old in the upcoming election, lawmakers said Tuesday.
“Every fiber of my being believes retirement security is the biggest issue over the next decade, maybe even longer,” Rep. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertThe Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by the Walton Family Foundation – Why Pelosi set a 48-hour deadline for a coronavirus relief deal The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by Goldman Sachs – Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by Facebook – Trump combative, Biden earnest during distanced TV duel MORE (R-Ariz.) said during AARP’s “America’s Most Reliable Voter” event, hosted by The Hill. “It’s more than just the retiree and their benefits, it’s also the cost of Medicare — being the primary driver of future debt — and how do we provide better healthcare and change the cost curve?”
Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick Casey Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by the Walton Family Foundation – Why Pelosi set a 48-hour deadline for a coronavirus relief deal The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by Goldman Sachs – Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters MORE (D-Pa.), the ranking member of the Senate special committee on aging, explained that voters over the age of 50 always play a key role in elections, but in this particular presidential race, they “may be the vote that decides the election.” He pointed out that older voters were some of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and that the virus has “amplified and greatly enhanced those concerns” regarding their health and financial future.
“We know that people across the board were losing health insurance before the pandemic [and] that number has gone a lot higher,” he said. “That affects people in this age category, as well, and there’s also some longer-term retirement financial security issues at play.”
Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowDems to focus on issues, not character, at Barrett hearings Lobbying world GOP super PAC announces million ad buy in Michigan Senate race MORE (D-Mich.) further emphasized how “very real” the threat of lack of accessibility to comprehensive healthcare can be to older voters.
“Healthcare generally is very critical, but when we talk about whether or not we are going to have a real federal plan that gets our arms around the COVID crisis that has rapid testing, that gets a vaccine safely as soon as possible — I think for older people there’s a greater sense of urgency,” she said at Tuesday’s event.
Stabenow, a ranking member on the Senate finance subcommittee on health care, expressed disappointment regarding Republican attempts to reduce access to healthcare via Affordable Care Act repeal and Medicare restraint, which could take away benefits like coverage of pre-existing conditions.
“I don’t know why it’s a partisan divide, healthcare. To me, healthcare is personal, not political,”