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China says tanks crossing border into Hong Kong are 'routine' troop rotation

China says tanks crossing border into Hong Kong are 'routine' troop rotationChina sent fresh troops to Hong Kong Thursday as part of a "routine" garrison rotation, as the financial hub braced for a new round of violent protests after police refused permission for a mass rally at the weekend. Hong Kong has been mired in over three months of political crisis, with police and protesters engaging in increasingly violent clashes, prompting Beijing to ramp up its rhetoric and a public relations campaign against the anti-government movement. Chinese state media on Thursday broadcast a video of armoured personnel carriers and trucks driving across the Hong Kong border, describing it as a routine rotation of the garrison stationed in the semi-autonomous city. "The Hong Kong Garrison of the Chinese People's Liberation Army on Thursday morning completed the 22nd rotation since it began garrisoning Hong Kong in 1997," Xinhua news agency reported. "Before coming… we learned about the situation of Hong Kong," PLA officer Lieutenant-Colonel Yang Zheng, said in a slick PR video. "We've strengthened our training… to make sure we can fulfill our defence duties." Chinese state media on Thursday broadcast a video of armoured personnel carriers and trucks driving across the border The rotation came less than 24 hours after police denied permission for a new mass rally planned for Saturday that was expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people to the streets – the 13th consecutive week of protests. Police have previously denied permission for rallies to take place, but the orders have largely been ignored. In a letter to the rally organisers, the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), police said they feared some participants would commit "violent and destructive acts". Protesters have so far carried out "arson and large scale road blockades" and "used petrol bombs, steel balls, bricks, long spears, metal poles, as well as various self-made weapons to destroy public property", the letter said of previous rallies. Last Sunday police deployed water cannon for the first time and one officer fire a live-round warning shot from his sidearm to fend off radical protesters after a sanctioned rally erupted into some of the worst violence of the past three months. This Saturday's rally was called to mark five years since Beijing rejected political reforms in Hong Kong, a decision which sparked 79 days of political protests that became known as the Umbrella Movement. CHRF leader Jimmy Sham – who said he escaped unhurt after being set upon by masked men with a baseball bat and knife earlier Thursday – said the group would appeal against the police decision. "You can see the police's course of action is intensifying, and you can see (Hong Kong leader) Carrie Lam has in fact no intention to let Hong Kong return to peace," he said. Anti-government demonstrators have been urged to gather in the city centre and march to the Liaison Office, the department that represents China's central government in Hong Kong, but both aspects, which need permission from authorities, have been banned. The last rally organised by the CHRF on August 18 brought hundreds of thousands of people to the city's main public space. Despite being banned by police from leaving the area, they later marched peacefully through the streets in one of the first recent protest gatherings to end without major incident. The protests were originally ignited by the city's Beijing-backed government trying to pass a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China, but they have evolved into a wider call for greater democracy and an investigation into allegations of police brutality. The mainly young protesters say freedoms within the semi-autonomous city, unique within China, are being eroded by Beijing. The unrest has shown no sign of abating, with protesters locked in a stalemate with the Hong Kong government, which has refused to give in to their demands. More than 850 people have been arrested since June. China has been accused of using intimidation, economic muscle and propaganda – including against Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific as well as the city's metro operator – to constrict support for the protests. Observers estimate the Hong Kong garrison numbers between 8,000 and 10,000 troops split between bases in southern China and a network of former British army barracks in Hong Kong. Trucks full of white-gloved PLA soldiers rolled into Hong Kong within hours of the 1997 handover, raising questions about their role. They stage frequent drills but have seldom since been seen outside their bases. Reuters witnesses on Thursday saw significantly more activity in and around the PLA’s Shek Kong military base in the rural New Territories than has been apparent in recent months. China has denounced the protests and accused the United States and Britain of interfering in its affairs in Hong Kong. It has sent clear warnings that forceful intervention is possible. Hundreds of People’s Armed Police this month conducted exercises at a sports stadium in Shenzhen that borders Hong Kong a day after the U.S. State Department said it was “deeply concerned” about their movements. The Chinese statement about rotating troops last year said the number of soldiers in Hong Kong "was maintained with no change". That was not in Thursday's announcement. Chinese defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang told a regular monthly news briefing that the timing of the troop rotation was similar to that of previous years to "meet the demands of defending Hong Kong". The garrison troops would fulfil their obligation of defending Hong Kong according to the law and would follow the orders of the Communist Party, he added. They had the confidence, determination and capability to "protect and defend Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability". He did not answer a question on whether troop levels in Hong Kong had risen as a result of the new troops arriving. Ren said that the People's Armed Police drills in Shenzhen were routine and that they conduct similar exercises every year. The Civil Human Rights Front, the organiser of previous mass protests in Hong Kong that they said attracted up to two million people, plans a rally from Hong Kong's Central business district to Beijing's main representative Liaison Office in the city on Saturday. The group's leader, Jimmy Sham, was attacked by two men armed with a knife and a baseball bat on Thursday, it said on its Facebook page. He was not hurt but a friend who stepped in to protect him suffered injuries to his left arm and was taken to hospital. Protesters targeted the Liaison Office, a potent symbol of Beijing's rule, in July, daubing anti-China slogans on its walls and signs. Police refused permission for the march on Thursday, but the group said it would appeal. The protest would mark five years since Beijing ruled out universal suffrage for Hong Kong and comes as Hong Kong faces its first recession in a decade, with all its pillars of growth under stress. Unrest escalated in mid-June over a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts. It has since evolved into calls for greater democracy under the "one country, two systems" formula under which Hong Kong has been run since 1997, guaranteeing freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland that include an independent judiciary. The protests have posed the biggest challenge for Communist Party rulers in Beijing since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012. Beijing is eager to quell the unrest before the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1, when Xi will oversee a large military parade in the Chinese capital. China also rotated troops in neighbouring Macau, a former Portuguese colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1999.



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Beijing 'preparing tanks at Hong Kong border', warns Trump as protesters clash with police at airport

Beijing 'preparing tanks at Hong Kong border', warns Trump as protesters clash with police at airportDonald Trump warned that China was moving troops to the Hong Kong border as protesters clashed with riot police at the city's international airport for a second time on Tuesday night. Scuffles broke out after protesters allegedly detained two men, accusing them of being undercover Chinese officials. One of the men was bound with cable ties and appeared semi-conscious as protesters displayed his belongings on the floor. Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, said the man was a reporter for the Communist Party mouthpiece newspaper. Trouble began as a number of regular police officers entered the airport without riot gear to assist paramedics after one of the men collapsed. Protesters drove the police out of the terminal building and shortly afterwards around 50 riot police arrived. Police used pepper spray and made five arrests as scenes briefly turned violent. In one flashpoint, protesters cornered a police officer and started beating him with his own baton. The officer had been trying to arrest a pro-democracy protester, but was beaten back by the crowd. As he was shoved to the floor, he drew his gun. The protesters immediately leapt back. Had he fired, the consequences for Hong Kong and its young army of activists could have been dire. But the officer held his nerve and colleagues came to his aid. Cameramen and photographers film a detained man, who protesters claimed was a police officer from mainland China Credit: Vincent Yu/AP About 30 protesters remained at the airport early on Wednesday while workers scrubbed it clean of blood and debris from overnight. Check-in counters reopened to queues of weary travellers who had waited overnight for their flights. Meanwhile, Chinese paramilitary police were assembling across the border in the city of Shenzhen for exercises. While China has yet to threaten sending in the army – as it did against pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989 – the Shenzhen exercises were a sign of its ability to crush the demonstrations, even at the cost to Hong Kong's reputation as a safe haven for business and international exchange. Images on the internet showed armored personnel carriers belonging to the People's Armed Police driving in a convoy on Monday towards the site of the exercises. Mr Trump said in a tweet: "Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!" He retweeted a video purporting to show army trucks queuing in Shenzhen, the Chinese city that borders Hong Kong.  Disturbing video taken in Shenzhen just across the boarder with HongKong. Something extraordinarily bad is about happen. ChinaHongKongProtestsDemocracySaveHongKongpic.twitter.com/Gad5R5HVZL— Alexandre Krauss (@AlexandreKrausz) August 12, 2019 The US president, who is embroiled in a major trade dispute with China, added: "Many are blaming me, and the United States, for the problems going on in Hong Kong. I can’t imagine why?" Ten weeks of increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters have roiled the Asian financial hub as thousands of residents chafe at a perceived erosion of freedoms and autonomy under Chinese rule. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Hong Kong to exercise restraint and investigate evidence of its forces firing tear gas at protesters in ways banned under international law. China later rejected what it called a "wrongful statement" by the UN, saying it amounted to interference in its domestic affairs. At a news conference in the government headquarters complex, which is fortified behind 6-foot (1.8-m) -high water-filled barricades, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said: "Take a minute to look at our city, our home." Protesters surround a man carrying a t-shirt baring the words "I love police" who protesters claimed was a police officer from mainland China Credit: AP Her voice cracked as she added: "Can we bear to push it into the abyss and see it smashed to pieces?" Ms Lam’s repeated refusals to make any concessions or show sympathy towards protesters, some of whom have been injured as police shoot tear gas and rubber bullets, has only upset them more and boosted public support for the activists plunging the city into its worst political crisis in decades. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, tweeted: "Concerning to see what's happening in Hong Kong and the worrying pictures of clashes between police & protesters at the airport. As I said to Carrie Lam during my call last week, we condemn the violence & encourage constructive dialogue to find a peaceful way forward." Chris Patten, the last governor under British colonial rule, said that Hong Kong was "close to the abyss," because Ms Lam refused to withdraw a controversial extradition bill. "I think there is a degree of frustration and anger at the government refusing to give any sensible ground at all, which probably provokes more violence," Mr Patten told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. He urged Boris Johnson to take a firmer line with Beijing, and to put pressure on visiting National Security Advisor John Bolton for US help. Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, said the UK should extend citizenship rights to Hong Kong citizens. The White House has also urged "all sides" to avoid violence in Hong Kong. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, on Monday praised protesters for standing up to the Chinese Communist Party, warning that the "world is watching" for any violent crackdown by authorities. Mr Trump earlier said he hoped no one would be killed. The crisis was a "very tricky situation," the president told reporters in New Jersey. "I hope it works out peacefully, nobody gets hurt, nobody gets killed," he said. Hong Kong protests | Read more China this week condemned some protesters for using dangerous tools to attack police, calling the clashes "sprouts of terrorism". They present President Xi Jinping with one of his biggest challenges since he came to power in 2012. Hong Kong legal experts say Beijing might be paving the way to use anti-terrorism laws to try to quell the demonstrations. The clashes at the airport followed an unprecedented airport shutdown on Monday. Again on Tuesday, thousands of black-clad protesters jammed the terminal, chanting, singing and waving banners. Floors and walls were covered with missives penned by activists and other artwork. Initially, the scene was peaceful as knots of protesters spoke to travellers, explaining their aims. "Sorry for the inconvenience, we are fighting for the future of our home," read one protest banner at the airport. "I think paralysing the airport will be effective in forcing Carrie Lam to respond to us … it can further pressure Hong Kong's economy," said Dorothy Cheng, 17. The weeks of protests began as opposition to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China, but have swelled into wider calls for democracy. Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the "one country, two systems" arrangement that enshrined some autonomy for Hong Kong since China took it back from Britain in 1997. They want Ms Lam to resign. She says she will stay. "My responsibility goes beyond this particular range of protest," Ms Lam said on Tuesday, adding that violence had pushed the territory into a state of "panic and chaos". As she spoke, the benchmark Hang Seng index hit a seven-month low. It shed more than 2%, dragging down markets across Asia. Ms Lam did not respond to questions at a press briefing to clarify if she had the power to withdraw the extradition bill and satisfy a key demand made by the protesters, or if she needed Beijing's approval. Airport authorities had earlier suspended check-in operations. Crowds of protesters continued to swell in the evening. "Terminal operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted as a result of the public assembly," the airport authority said. Some passengers challenged protesters over the delays as tempers began to fray, while the demonstrators, using a Chinese term of encouragement, chanted, "Hong Kong people – add oil!" Flag carrier Cathay Pacific said: "There is potential for further flight disruptions at short notice". The airline, whose British heritage makes it a symbol of Hong Kong's colonial past, is also in a political bind. China's civil aviation regulator demanded that the airline suspend staff who joined or backed the protests from flights in its airspace, pushing the carrier's shares past Monday's 10-year low. Other Chinese airlines have offered passengers wanting to avoid Hong Kong a free switch to nearby destinations, such as Guangzhou, Macau, Shenzhen or Zhuhai, with the disruption sending shares in Shenzhen Airport Co Ltd surging.



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North Korea's economy tanks as sanctions, drought bite: South Korea

North Korea's economy tanks as sanctions, drought bite: South KoreaNorth Korea’s economy shrank in 2018 for a second straight year, and by the most in 21 years, as it was battered by international sanctions aimed at stopping its nuclear programme and by drought, South Korea’s central bank said on Friday. North Korea’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 4.1% last year in real terms, the worst since 1997 and the second consecutive year of decline after a 3.5% fall in 2017, the South’s Bank of Korea estimated. North Korea does not disclose any statistics on its economy.



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Trump dismisses fears his tanks will damage Lincoln Memorial during Salute to America parade

Trump dismisses fears his tanks will damage Lincoln Memorial during Salute to America paradeDonald Trump has reportedly dismissed concerns that tanks and other military vehicles on display as part of his Independence Day parade could damage the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial. At least two M1A1 Abrams tanks and two Bradley armoured carriers will be moved to the heart of Washington for the US president's "Salute to America" .The National Park Service will reportedly divert nearly $ 2.5m to cover the cost of the event, which Mr Trump described as “the show of a lifetime”.But aides allegedly warned Mr Trump that driving tanks near the Lincoln memorial would “tear up the streets” on its grounds, which are not designed to hold the weight of a vehicle that exceeds 60 tons. Each M1A1 Abrams tank weighs 63 tons. "There were many long conversations with the boss about this," one former senior administration official told the Washington Post.Another defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that many top military officials were not aware that the president definitely wanted tanks involved in the parade until last week.The two M1A1 Abrams tanks were shipped to Washington from Fort Stewart in Georgia over the weekend, via freight train, along with other armoured vehicles.National Park Service officials also reportedly remain concerned about the damage the tanks could cause to the grounds of the memorial.It comes after the government spent $ 30.7m to refurbish the memorial under the Obama administration in 2017.On the day before the parade, Army Colonel Sunset Belinsky told CBS News that residents of the capital city "will see the vehicles move through their neighbourhoods, but should not panic".As well as tanks, Mr Trump's 4 July celebration will feature a military jet flyover, an extended fireworks show and speech by the president at the Lincoln Memorial.Ahead of the event, Mr Trump tweeted: “Our July 4th Salute to America at the Lincoln Memorial is looking to be really big. It will be the show of a lifetime!”The last time a US president gave a speech in Washington on 4 July was in 1951 when Harry Truman spoke on the Washington Monument to mark the 175th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.This year’s event will be open to the public free of charge, apart from a ticketed area for VIPs in front of the Lincoln Memorial.However, Donald Trump’s aides fear an embarrassingly small crowd may turn out to the event, according to a report.He has also been criticised over the probable cost of the event, which is expected to run into the millions.But he dismissed these complaints in a tweet on Wednesday, writing: “The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth. We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!”



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Tanks, flag burning and the Trump baby balloon: What we know about the July Fourth parade

Tanks, flag burning and the Trump baby balloon: What we know about the July Fourth paradePresident Donald Trump will take center stage at Fourth of July festivities in Washington D.C. on Thursday that will also feature Army tanks and military flyovers.



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OnPolitics: Trump's rolling out the tanks

OnPolitics: Trump's rolling out the tanksA military parade follows Trump's visit to North Korea and outrage flows from the border.



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Trump defends cost of having tanks and military planes at his July 4 celebration

Trump defends cost of having tanks and military planes at his July 4 celebrationOn the eve of his planned July 4 celebration in Washington, D.C., the president pushed back against criticism over the amount of money it is costing American taxpayers.



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Trump facing criticism for July Fourth celebration as tanks arrive on National Mall

Trump facing criticism for July Fourth celebration as tanks arrive on National MallArmored vehicles, bombers and military jets will be featured at the 'Salute to America' event in Washington, D.C.; Ellison Barber reports on the preparations and reaction.



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Trump Revamps July 4 With Speech, Fighter Jets, Military Tanks

Trump Revamps July 4 With Speech, Fighter Jets, Military Tanks(Bloomberg) — Fighter jets and military tanks will set the scene for an Independence Day speech by Donald Trump on the National Mall as the president puts himself at the center of a reimagined July 4 celebration.Trump will speak from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday evening in what’s billed as an apolitical event that comes as the 2020 presidential campaign is heating up. The “Salute to America,” as Trump calls it, will feature flyovers and an expanded fireworks show that will briefly ground commercial flights.“Our July 4th Salute to America at the Lincoln Memorial is looking to be really big. It will be the show of a lifetime!” Trump tweeted Wednesday.But the show won’t go entirely Trump’s way. Forecasts suggest scattered thunderstorms and some aides fear crowds won’t meet the president’s expectations. Meanwhile, protesters have a permit to display an inflatable version of the president that depicts him as a baby in a diaper with small hands. A similar blimp has greeted Trump on trips to London, but the Washington version won’t be allowed to leave the ground.Rebranded CelebrationGates open at 3 p.m. for his event — six hours before fireworks begin — with temperatures expected to reach the low 90s Fahrenheit.Trump is effectively rebranding a celebration that attracts thousands of families to watch the fireworks but almost never includes presidential speeches on the Mall. Critics say his revisions risk turning Washington’s July 4th into a de facto Trump rally that’s likely to draw counter-protests.Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents the District of Columbia in Congress, said Trump’s plans “look like a political event” and predicted a light turnout for his speech.“I think the president is in for another flop, and he’s going to have to explain a flop that he set up,” Norton said. “He’s still smarting from the thin crowds at his inauguration. All I can say is: You ain’t seen nothing yet.”The White House rejected the idea that the celebration would be political. Trump told reporters on Monday that the event will be “about this county and it’s a salute to America.” He said he hoped for a large turnout. Asked if he could give a speech to all Americans, Trump replied: “I think so, I think I’ve reached most Americans.” He went on to criticize Democrats on health care and taxation.Military ParadeTrump conceived the event after his plans for a military parade on Veteran’s Day were stymied by complaints from local officials about the cost. The president has been enamored of the idea of a Washington celebration with a military component since attending the 2017 Bastille Day parade in Paris, which included an aerial display, thousands of marching soldiers and hundreds of military vehicles.Trump’s remarks are expected to last roughly half an hour, an administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. His speech will celebrate America’s independence, the flag and the military, the official added.Trump will reserve space for special guests — the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee have received tickets, while the Department of Defense, with 5,000 tickets of its own, will send several top officials, including Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper.Federal law bars political fundraising in government buildings or rooms where officials perform their duties, but doesn’t restrict presidents from inviting deep-pocketed donors to the White House or official events.The day also includes a parade in the late morning and early afternoon, and a concert at the Capitol.The fireworks generally last about 15 minutes but this year will span 35 minutes after a donation by two pyrotechnic companies valued at $ 750,000. Because of the flyovers, the Federal Aviation Administration will suspend commercial air traffic at Reagan National Airport near Washington for the first time during a July 4th celebration. The FAA said flights would be affected again during the fireworks display.Abrams TanksThe Defense Department said Tuesday that it would provide a pair of M1A2 Abrams tanks and two M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles for the event. They’ll be delivered on flatbed trucks to avoid damaging streets. Organizers had yet to determine where they’d be placed.There will be several flyovers, including by the Navy’s Blue Angels flight team. The air show will also include Air Force One, a Marine One presidential helicopter, two F-35 fighter jets, two F-22 Raptor, two F/A-18 Hornets, a B2 bomber and four Apache helicopters.The event also is renewing a long-simmering feud with local officials in Washington. The city has said it’s still owed about $ 7 million from costs associated with Trump’s inauguration but the administration official said the District hasn’t asked for funds from upcoming federal budgets.Trump said Wednesday on Twitter that the cost of the event “will be very little compared to what it is worth,” while the administration official earlier declined to say how bill would be covered. Norton said Trump is “doubling up, tripling up on what he owes the District of Columbia.”Presidential RemarksWhile some of Trump’s predecessors have spoken on or around July 4th, they haven’t done it in quite the same way.Barack Obama delivered annual Independence Day remarks from the White House. Ronald Reagan gave a “Star Spangled Salute to America” speech at the Jefferson Memorial, near the Lincoln Memorial, in 1987, but did so on the morning of July 3.Richard Nixon recorded an address that played at the July 4th, 1970, celebrations, which were marked by protests over the Vietnam War. Harry S. Truman spoke at the Washington Monument on July 4, 1951, 175 years after the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence.Not all presidents’ attempts to celebrate July 4 have gone smoothly. In 1845, President James K. Polk hosted fireworks at the White House. With thousands of people gathered to watch, some of the rockets were accidentally fired into the crowd. At least one person was killed.(Updates with Trump tweet, weather and crowds starting in third paragraph.)\–With assistance from Margaret Talev, Bill Allison and Tony Capaccio.To contact the reporters on this story: Josh Wingrove in Washington at jwingrove4@bloomberg.net;Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Shepard at mshepard7@bloomberg.net, Joshua Gallu, Justin BlumFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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Tanks in Washington ahead of Trump's Fourth of July pageant

Tanks in Washington ahead of Trump's Fourth of July pageantBattle tanks were seen on a train in Washington on Tuesday ahead of a July Fourth celebration highlighting U.S. military might that Democrats say President Donald Trump may turn into a re-election campaign rally. Amid questions about the cost and tone of the event, White House officials said the Republican president will avoid politics and stick to patriotic themes in his speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Thursday. Reuters photographed M1 Abrams tanks and other armored vehicles atop flat rail cars in Washington on Tuesday morning, a sign of the military firepower that will be featured, differing significantly from past annual celebrations of the 1776 Declaration of Independence.



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