Hong Kong, June 17 (AP/UNB) — Protesters in Hong Kong left the streets, averting possible clashes Monday after haggling for hours with police by moving to areas near the city's government headquarters.
The demonstrators who stayed after a massive protest march the day before, demanding that Chief Executive Carrie Lam abandon a proposed extradition bill, were seen streaming Monday morning into a space outside Hong Kong's Legislative Council after police who had cleared it reopened the area. Their decision to move allowed police to reopen streets to traffic.
The activists have rejected an apology from Lam for her handling of the legislation, which has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony.
"We are very angry that Carrie Lam has not responded to the demands of all the protesters, but now is the time to talk about strategy, and talk about strategy is to how about how to make the whole struggle into a long-term struggle and not a day struggle, so if Carrie Lam does not respond to the five demands by the protesters, people will come back and the struggle will continue," said Lee Cheuk-yan, a former legislator and activist.
Shortly after daybreak, the police had asked for cooperation in clearing the road but said the protesters could stay on the sidewalks.
For a time, the protesters, many in masks and other gear to guard against possible use of tear gas, responded with chants, some kneeling in front of the officers.
Hundreds were lying or sitting on the roads until they agreed to move to the plaza outside the government building and a spacious nearby park.
Activists had called on Hong Kong residents to boycott classes and work, though it was unclear how many might heed that call.
Nearly 2 million of the city's 7 million people turned out on Sunday, according to estimates by protest organizers. Police said 338,000 were counted on the designated protest route in the "peak period" of the march. A week earlier as many as 1 million people demonstrated to voice their concern over Hong Kong's relations with mainland China in one of the toughest tests of the territory's special status since Beijing took control in a 1997 handover.
The scenes were similar to those seen nearly five years earlier, when protesters camped for weeks in the streets to protest rules that prevented the direct election of the city's chief executive, the top local official.
One of the activists arrested after those demonstrations, Joshua Wong, was released from prison Monday after serving half of a two-month jail sentence for contempt. He headed to join protesters gathered near Hong Kong's government headquarters soon afterward, and also called in a tweet for Lam to resign and for a halt to "all political persecutions."
After daybreak Monday, police announced that they want to clear the streets. Soon after, police lined up several officers deep and faced off against several hundred demonstrators on a street in central Hong Kong.
The night before, as protesters reached the march's end thousands gathered outside the city government headquarters and the office of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who on Saturday suspended her effort to force passage of the bill.
Hong Kong residents worry that allowing some suspects to be sent for trial in mainland China would be another of many steps chipping away at Hong Kong's freedoms and legal autonomy. One concern is that the law might be used to send criminal suspects to China to potentially face vague political charges, possible torture and unfair trials.
The protesters are demanding that Lam scrap the proposal for good and that she step down.
Protesters are also angered over the forceful tactics by police use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other forceful measures as demonstrators broke through barricades outside the city government's headquarters to quell unrest during demonstrations on Wednesday, and over Lam's decision to call the clashes a riot. That worsens the potential legal consequences for those involved.
In a statement issued late Sunday, Lam noted the demonstrations and said the government "understands that these views have been made out of love and care for Hong Kong."
"The chief executive apologizes to the people of Hong Kong for this and pledges to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public," it said.
Not enough, said the pro-democracy activists.
"This is a total insult to and fooling the people who took to the street!" the Civil Human Rights Front said in a statement.
Protesters have mainly focused their anger on Lam, who had little choice but to carry through dictates issued by Beijing, where President Xi Jinping has enforced increasingly authoritarian rule. But some were skeptical that having Lam step down would help.
"It doesn't really matter because the next one would be just as evil," said Kayley Fung, 27.
Many here believe Hong Kong's legal autonomy has been significantly diminished despite Beijing's insistence that it is still honoring its promise, dubbed "one country, two systems," that the territory can retain its own social, legal and political system for 50 years after the handover in 1997.
After Lam announced she was suspending the legislation to avoid more violence and allow additional debate, Chinese government officials issued multiple statements backing that decision. Lam, however, made clear she was not withdrawing it.
She has sidestepped questions over whether she should quit and also defended how the police dealt with last week's clashes with demonstrators.
Lam insists the extradition legislation is needed if Hong Kong is to uphold justice, meet its international obligations and not become a magnet for fugitives. The proposed bill would expand the scope of criminal suspect transfers to include Taiwan, Macau and mainland China.
So far, China has been excluded from Hong Kong's extradition agreements because of concerns over its judicial independence and human rights record.
Prosecutions of activists, detentions without trial of five Hong Kong book publishers and the illegal seizure in Hong Kong by mainland agents of at least one mainland businessman are among moves in recent years that have unnerved many in the city of 7 million.
North Macedonia, June 17 (AP/UNB) — Police in North Macedonia say they apprehended 50 Europe-bound migrants who allegedly entered the country from Greece.
A police statement said officers chasing a jeep Saturday on the main north-south highway in central North Macedonia found 10 people from Pakistan inside when the driver abandoned the vehicle. Police are still searching for the driver.
The statement says a routine inspection of a truck on Thursday led to the discovery of another 40 migrants, including 12 children, from Pakistan, Syria and Egypt.
Police say they were taken to a shelter and will be deported to Greece. The truck driver was arrested.
The European Union and individual countries closed off the main Western Balkan migration route to Europe but people smugglers still try to traverse it and alternative paths through the Balkans.
Sudan, June 17 (AP/UNB) — Sudan's former President Omar al-Bashir appeared in public for the first time since his ouster two months ago, as he was led to a prosecutor's office Sunday in a corruption investigation.
The deposed strongman has been held under arrest in the capital, Khartoum, since the military removed him from power in April amid mass protests against his 30-year rule. The military has since been locked in a tense standoff with the protest movement demanding civilian rule, even as it has promised reforms and held on-again, off-again talks with opposition leaders.
A judicial official with the prosecutor's office said al-Bashir was questioned over accusations that include money laundering and the possession of large amounts of foreign currency.
He said the probe partly related to millions of dollars' worth of cash in U.S. dollars, euros and Sudanese pounds that were found in al-Bashir's home a week after his ouster.
A spokesman with the military's media office confirmed that this is the first time the former president was taken out from his prison in Khartoum.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about ongoing investigations.
On Sunday, al-Bashir was led from prison to a Toyota Land Cruiser, wearing a traditional white robe and turban.
The official SUNA news agency quoted a police spokesman as saying al-Bashir's defense lawyers attended the questioning and he returned to prison afterward.
Al-Bashir has the right to appeal within a week, SUNA reported.
In May, al-Bashir was charged with involvement in killing protesters and incitement to kill protesters during the popular uprising that started in December, initially over price increases of basic goods and a failing economy, but which later turned into calls for his ouster. The military toppled him on April 11.
Al-Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court over charges of war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict in the 2000s, but the military has said it would not extradite him to The Hague. He was the only sitting head of state for whom an international arrest warrant has been issued.
Meanwhile, the deputy head of Sudan's ruling military council pushed back Sunday against demands from protest leaders concerning the composition of a transitional legislative body.
Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo said a legislative body formed with a majority from protest movement leaders, who seek civilian rule, is a problem because it is not formed by elections. He said that "our problem is a non-elected legislative body which would root out all of us."
This would suggest a reversal to previous deals between the military and protest leaders, which included a three-year transition period, a Cabinet appointed by the protester leaders, and a legislative body with a civilian majority.
Dagalo also said those responsible for the bloody break-up of the protesters' sit-in outside the military's headquarters in Khartoum on June 3 would be given the death sentence.
"We are working hard to take those who did this to the gallows," he said.
The ruling generals have said several military officers are in custody for alleged "deviation" from the action plan set by their leaders to clear a problematic area, known as Colombia, near the sit-in area.
Protest organizers say more than 100 people were killed and hundreds were wounded during the razing of the camp and the subsequent clampdown by the security forces. The military-backed authorities say 61 people died, including three members of the security forces.
Dagalo's comments on the legislative body came less than a week after an Ethiopian envoy to Sudan said that all previous deals between the generals and protest leaders, despite the break in talks earlier this month, have been restored.
Mohammed Yousef al-Mustafa, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association which has led the protests, told The Associated Press that they expected the military council to withdraw the deal on the legislative body.
"Dagalo's comments were serious indication that the council wouldn't stick to the previous deals despite the Ethiopian mediation," he said.
He said the agreement on the legislative body was the most important victory for the protesters. "The government will be paralyzed without a legislative body supporting its agenda," he said.
The Arab League chief, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, arrived in Khartoum on Sunday to meet with both sides.
Aboul Gheit told reporters that he had met with the head of the military council, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, to discuss ways to break the political impasse.
Mexico, June 17 (AP/UNB) — Mexican authorities increased immigration enforcement along well-traveled routes for migrants in southern Mexico over the weekend, checking identifications, pulling migrants off public transport and intercepting four trucks packed with nearly 800 migrants.
The National Migration Institute said 1,000 immigration agents had been deployed in the north and south of Mexico. The deployment comes as Mexico faces heightened pressure from the U.S. to reduce the surge of mostly Central American migrants through its territory. Mexico plans to position 6,000 National Guard troops by Tuesday to its southern border with Guatemala.
The Associated Press saw nearly 10 armed soldiers at a checkpoint near Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, in Chiapas state, wearing black armbands to indicate they are part of the National Guard. The soldiers stopped vehicles while immigration officials checked identification and removed passengers without documents. At another checkpoint just north of Comitán in Chiapas, more than a dozen apparent National Guardsmen drove around backroads in the rain and dark, looking for migrants and human smugglers.
In the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, the National Migration Institute said 791 people were taken Saturday to a migration facility and that drivers of the tractor-trailer trucks transporting them were arrested.
Migrants are routinely transported through Mexico in packed semis, sometimes in dangerous conditions without food or water or sufficient fresh air. Government video showed officials breaking the lock on the door of one cargo truck and helping migrants out.
The institute described the detentions and arrests in Veracruz as part of a strategy implemented by its new commissioner, Francisco Garduño. The former prisons director assumed the post Friday, taking over for a sociologist and academic.
Military police wearing National Guard armbands were also patrolling Sunday along the Suchiate River that separates Mexico from Guatemala. In prior days, migrants were seen being ferried across the river by raft without interference from immigration or other Mexican officials.
Outside Comitán on Sunday, some roadblocks and checkpoints were manned by multiple soldiers and police identifying as National Guard.
At one checkpoint, immigration agent José Ángel Ramírez welcomed the help of the National Guard.
"We don't have a way to stop so many and the traffickers pass everywhere," said Ramírez, who was accompanied by a dozen National Guard officers.
Nearby, five Hondurans found traveling without papers were sitting in a holding cell.
One of the Hondurans, a farmer named Armando who was traveling with a daughter and nephew, broke into tears while saying he'd be killed if returned to his country.
After several hours, the Hondurans were transported to a Mexican detention center for migrants.
The Mexican National Guard is a new security force created by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office Dec. 1. The security force is still taking shape and was originally established with the goal of stemming endemic violence. Last year saw the highest number of murders in at least 20 years in Mexico.
Mexican soldiers have long been authorized to search vehicles for drugs or weapons, explained one of the newly minted National Guard officers, who declined to give his name. Now, he said, they can detain drivers or others suspected of helping the undocumented move through Mexico.
Comitán locals say that trucks often bypass area checkpoints at night. "We don't know what they have inside," said immigration agent Julio Velasco. Mexican officials have set up additional roadblocks in recent days to cover more territory.
Luis Guillermo Lechuga, who sells vests near one of the checkpoints, was skeptical that the increased security presence will reduce the flow of migrants through Comitán and surrounding areas.
"Everything will be the same," said Lechuga, who expressed a mixture of sympathy and annoyance with the travelers. "Nobody leaves their country without problems."
Wellington, June 14 (Xinhua/UNB) -- The man accused of the Christchurch mosque attacks that killed 51 people pled not guilty to all the 92 charges in his third court appearance on Friday after New Zealand's deadliest terrorist attacks on March 15.
The suspect, Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared by video link at the High Court in Christchurch during Friday's hearing, attended by about 80 people.
His first court appearance in person was on March 16 and the accused will next appear for a case-review hearing in August before facing trial on May 4, 2020.
The gunman in an Auckland prison appeared expressionless during the hearing and smiled when his lawyer entered the not guilty pleas. During his first brief court appearance the day after the attacks, he smirked to the media many times.
He pled not guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge under the Terrorism Suppression Act.
According to the court, no mental health issues arose after the relevant assessment was conducted.