Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong said on Tuesday he is stepping down as leader of his democracy group Demosisto, just hours after local media reported that Beijing had passed national security legislation for the Chinese-ruled city.
Wong has said he will be a “prime target” of Beijing’s national security law, which critics fear will crush freedoms in the former British colony.
I hereby declare withdrawing from Demosisto…
If my voice will not be heard soon, I hope that the international community will continue to speak up for Hong Kong and step up concrete efforts to defend our last bit of freedom. pic.twitter.com/BIGD5tgriF
“If my voice will not be heard soon, I hope that the international community will continue to speak up for Hong Kong and step up concrete efforts to defend out last bit of freedom,” Wong wrote in a tweet.
Donald Trump has bowed to overwhelming pressure and invoked a law that enables him to compel General Motors to mass produce breathing equipment for coronavirus sufferers.
For days the US president has resisted calls to use the Defense Production Act (DPA), claiming “we’re a country not based on nationalsing our business” and even drawing comparisons with the socialist government of Venezuela.
But Trump finally shifted position on Friday as he came under criticism from state governors, Democrats and doctors for playing down a nationwide shortage of ventilators, which enable a person with compromised lungs to keep breathing.
Covid-19 is a respiratory illness. Most who contract it recover but it can be fatal, particularly among older people and those with underlying health problems.
Trump announced he had signed a presidential memorandum directing his health secretary to use “any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize Federal contracts for ventilators”.
He added: “Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course.
“GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”
The decision followed 24 hours of confusion in which Trump initially expressed scepticism about the dire warnings of ventilator shortages, particularly in New York, where medical officials say the situation is desperate.
“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” he told the Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday night.
“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes they’ll have two ventilators, and now all of a sudden they’re saying: ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”
The comments provoked a backlash and on Friday morning Trump appeared to shift gear, lambasting GM for allegedly over-promising and over-charging. In tweets littered with capital letters and exclamation marks, he also urged Ford to churn out ventilators.
“As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out,” he wrote. “They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, ‘very quickly’. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar. Always a mess with Mary B.”
The “Mary B” reference was to GM’s chief executive. Mary Barra, as Trump renewed his grievance with her for closing and selling a factory in a state vital to his re-election campaign.
He added: “General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”
The comments came after a New York Times report that the White House had backed away from announcing a major ventilator deal with GM and Ventec Life Systems because the cost was too high.
Trump also tweeted he might “Invoke the ‘P’”, then clarified that he meant the DPA, which grants the president power to compel companies to expand industrial production of key materials or products for national security. Small-government conservatives had urged against such a move, suggesting the threat of the law would be leverage enough.
In a separate tweet, Trump said the federal government had bought a large quantity of ventilators from a number of companies, and that details would be announced later on Friday.
Critics say Trump ignored early warnings about the threat of the pandemic and had he acted sooner, mass production of ventilators would now be well under way.
Experts warn that the US is hundreds of thousands of machines short of what it need to treat a sharply rising number of coronavirus patients.
New York, Michigan, Louisiana and Washington state are current hot spots and the total of US cases has surpassed those confirmed in China and Italy. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, by Friday there were about 94,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the US and more than 1,400 deaths.
Hillary Clinton, a former New York senator and secretary of state, tweeted: “A month ago, Trump said: ‘It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.’ Yesterday, he said: ‘I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.’
“What will it take to get [him’] to listen to experts instead of his own hunches?”
Reporting for journalism is not an excuse for breaking laws, lawyers acting for the US government have said on the first day of a legal battle over whether the Wikileaks founder can be extradited from the UK.
The US case was opened on Monday at Woolwich crown court in south-east London by James Lewis QC, who said that by disseminating material in an unredacted form he knowingly put human rights activists, dissidents, journalists and their families at risk of serious harm in states operated by oppressive regimes.
“The defence seek to suggest that the risk to these individuals who, by having the individuals revealed as informants, is somehow overstated. I would remind the court that these were individuals who were passing on information on regimes such as Iran and organisations such as al-Qaida.”
Assange, 48, is wanted in the US to face 18 charges of attempted hacking and breaches of the Espionage Act. They relate to the publication a decade ago of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and files covering areas including US activities in Afghanistan and Iraq. He could face a 175-year prison sentence if found guilty
The Australian is accused of working with the former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified documents.
Assange’s case has drawn widespread support , including from the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, who said last week that he should not be extradited because of the potential impact on press freedom and concerns about “the real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment”.
His father, John Shipton, has said Assange would face what was effectively a “death sentence” if sent to the US.
The first week of the extradition trial is expected to focus on legal argument before the case is adjourned until 18 May.
Assange’s lawyers will open the defence case on Tuesday, which is expected to expand on claims that emerged last week that Donald Trump had offered Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in Wikileaks’ publication of US Democratic party emails that had an impact on the Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The defence will outline a number of “abuse of power” arguments and is expected to argue that Assange’s extradition should not take place on the the basis of a clause in the 2003 UK-US extradition treaty, which prohibits extraditions for political offences.
Hearings at the end of this week will focus on whether a number of witnesses can be allowed to give evidence anonymously.
Assange has been held on remand in Belmarsh prison since last September after serving a 50-week jail sentence for breaching bail conditions. Assange sought refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was accused of sexual offences.
However, Swedish prosecutors said last November they were discontinuing an investigation into a rape allegation, explaining that although the complainant’s evidence was deemed credible and reliable, witnesses’ memories had faded over the decade since the allegations were first made. Assange has always denied the allegations.
He was removed from the embassy last April and was arrested for failing to surrender to the court.
A new law protecting B.C. whistleblowers goes into effect Dec. 1.
The Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) outlines new protections for current and former B.C. government employees who come forward to report wrongdoing in their workplace.
Employees can now report concerns internally to a designated officer or to the B.C. ombudsperson, and will be protected from demotion, termination or reprisal. Whistleblowers can also raise their concerns anonymously if they wish.
“This legislation protects whistleblowers if they speak up and requires that any investigation into allegations of serious wrongdoing will be administratively fair,” said Attorney General David Eby. “It supports high standards of integrity and accountability in our public service, which British Columbians expect and deserve.”
The act also ensures those being investigated are treated fairly, and that ministries and the office of the ombudsperson are transparent in reporting the number of reports received each year and sharing the results of any investigations that have occurred.
“Having a legal framework that allows public employees to speak up about wrongdoing helps ensure accountability, transparency and integrity in government,” said ombudsperson Jay Chalke. “Whistle-blowing allegations involve serious matters. I am confident that with the expertise of the investigative staff and policies that are in place at my office, both disclosers and those who have allegations made against them, will be treated fairly.”
The new law will also give the ombudsperson the power to investigate if an employee believes they have suffered reprisals after reporting a concern to their employer.
The PIDA was passed last year, in response to an earlier 2017 report Misfire: The 2012 Ministry of Health Employment Terminations and Related Matters. That report made 41 recommendations as the result of an investigation into a 2012 wrongful firing of several Health Ministry employees. After the firing, politicians implied an RCMP prove was a possibility, though police never looked into the matter.
One of the wrongly fired employees was Roderick MacIsaac, who later killed himself. The province has since reached settlements with the employees or their families.