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Records Show How Police Closed The City’s Subway During Pro-Democracy Protests



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A train carriage after it was vandalised at the University MTR station.

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s police force requested that the city shutter subway stations or halt train service on at least ten occasions that coincided with major pro-democracy protests, records obtained by BuzzFeed News show.

Clean, efficient and quick, the Mass Transit Railway, or the MTR has long been the pride of Hong Kong. But in recent months, subway signs have been scribbled over with spray paint and facilities have been smashed or burned on protest days as anger has increased toward the company.

A string of early closures in October sparked accusations that the MTR was being used to create a de facto citywide curfew without legally passing one. MTR employees previously told BuzzFeed News that they did not see technical reasons for the early shutdowns and believed that they were being used to curtail attendance at protests. Police have also used the stations as areas to detain protesters in recent months, and have fired pepper spray into several stations as the demonstrations escalated.

The MTR Corp. is a publicly-traded company that counts the Hong Kong government as its majority shareholder. Under its operating agreement with the government, the MTR corporation is required to make “adequate” accommodations for the Hong Kong Police Force as well as submit a report to the government any time there is a delay or emergency shutdown. (It’s also subject to fines for major delays to incentivize better service.)


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A family looks at a charred and shuttered exit to the Admiralty MTR station on October 6.

In early October, BuzzFeed News requested a copy of all reports submitted to the government for any emergency closures or delays between June, when the protests began, and the first day of October, which saw widespread protests that coincided with the National Day of China. The transportation department did not provide the complete reports but did provide a summary of all of the reports, which BuzzFeed News is publishing in full.

Hong Kong lawmakers have also questioned the station closures. In a November response, the secretary of transportation released a list of dates when the subway was closed, but did not specify that many of the closures came at the request of the police.

One of Hong Kong protesters’ five demands is an independent inquiry into police violence as the accusations have mounted over six months of demonstrations. On Wednesday, an international panel of experts that was advising the police on a probe quit, citing criticisms that the police had no real independent watchdog capability.

The subway first became a major flashpoint on July 21, when a mob of men dressed in white stormed an MTR station in the Northern Territories region of Hong Kong and beat passengers and protesters indiscriminately with rods. The MTR called the police for assistance and they closed the station. Some details about the incident were disclosed by the MTR.


Nicolas Asfouri / Getty Images

A gate to Mong Kok train station is closed on October 8.

But records show that police began requesting station closures way back in June. Mass protests in Hong Kong started on June 9 when about 1 million people marched in the streets against a planned extradition bill that has since been scrapped. The MTR reported no delays or closures to the government that day.

Three days later, as protesters tried to push through the Legislative Council building where the bill was being debated, chaos broke out. It was the first time the police used tear gas against protesters. Around 8:30 p.m., police requested the nearest MTR station to the government building to be shuttered. Early the next morning, before 6 a.m. police continued to request that the MTR keep the station shut after protests had subsided.

On June 16, an estimated 2 million residents marched through the streets, but the police made no requests for any station closures. On July 1 police once more made a request to shut down stations on Hong Kong Island — this time just after 7 a.m., hours before a peaceful march proceeded through the city. That night, however, protesters would storm the Legislative Council building and police would eventually fire tear gas after they dispersed.

Police additionally requested service changes in August and September. The records conclude on October 1, when the city was embroiled in protests over China’s National Day. A young man was shot by police that evening.

On October 5, following renewed protests for a ban on face masks, the city shut down the entire subway system for the first time in the MTR’s history.



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Court directs banks to provide Trump financial records to House Democrats


By Brendan Pierson and Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday handed President Donald Trump another defeat in his bid to keep his financial records secret, directing Deutsche Bank AG <DBKGn.DE> and Capital One Financial Corp <COF.N> to comply with subpoenas from congressional Democrats demanding the material.

A three-judge panel of the Manhattan-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 against Trump’s bid to block two House of Representatives committees from enforcing subpoenas issued in April to the two banks seeking the documents. Trump is expected to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 2nd Circuit rejected Trump’s arguments that Congress lacked a valid purpose for seeking his records and that disclosure of the material would compromise his and his family’s privacy and distract the Republican president from his duties.

The material sought by the committees include records of accounts, transactions and investments linked to Trump, his three oldest children, their immediate family members and several Trump Organization entities.

“The Committees’ interests in pursuing their constitutional legislative function is a far more significant public interest than whatever public interest inheres in avoiding the risk of a Chief Executive’s distraction arising from disclosure of documents reflecting his private financial transactions,” Judge Jon Newman wrote in the ruling.

Trump had sued the two banks in an effort to prevent the disclosure of his financial records. U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled in May that the subpoenas could be enforced, prompting Trump to appeal.

“We believe the subpoenas at issue are not invalid,” said Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump. “In light of the 2nd Circuit decision, we are evaluating our next options including seeking review at the Supreme Court of the United States.”

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 conservative majority includes two justices appointed by Trump.

In separate legal cases, Trump also has sought to block House Democrats from obtaining his tax and financial records from his long-time accounting firm.

The subpoenas involved in Tuesday’s ruling were issued months before House Democrats began an inquiry in September into whether there were grounds to impeach Trump over his request to Ukraine to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

A PRINCIPAL LENDER

Germany’s Deutsche Bank has long been a principal lender for Trump’s real estate business. A 2017 disclosure form showed that Trump had at least $130 million of liabilities to the bank.

The House Financial Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for records related to Trump, three of his children and the Trump Organization. Lawmakers have said the requests are part of a wider investigation into money laundering and foreign influence over U.S. politics.

The Financial Services Committee subpoenaed Virginia-based Capital One, seeking records related to the Trump Organization’s hotel business.

The two banks have said the records involved in the case do not include Trump’s tax returns.

Congressional investigators have already identified possible failures in Deutsche Bank’s money laundering controls in its dealings with Russian oligarchs, people familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

Trump, running for re-election in 2020, has fought hard to keep his financial and tax records private. He broke with tradition by not releasing his tax returns as a candidate in 2016 and as president.

Judge Debra Ann Livingston dissented from the ruling, saying Trump and his family raised “serious constitutional questions” about congressional authority to enforce “deeply troubling” subpoenas seeking “voluminous” financial records, and deserved a chance to object to disclosure of more sensitive materials.

Livingston said the entire case should be sent back to Ramos to review Congress’ motives and the need for disclosure, as well as privacy and separation of powers issues.

Newman was appointed by President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, while Livingston was appointed by President George W. Bush, a Republican. Newman was joined in the ruling by Judge Peter Hall, a Bush appointee.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment. Capital One did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court as soon as Dec. 13 will decide whether to hear Trump’s appeal of lower court rulings that directed Mazars LLP, his accounting firm, to provide local prosecutors in New York Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns from 2011 to 2018 as part of a criminal investigation.

Trump also is due to file by Thursday his appeal of a court ruling in Washington directing Mazars to turn over his financial records to the House Oversight Committee. The Supreme Court last week put the lower court ruling on hold to give Trump time to appeal.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York and Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham and Chizu Nomiyama)



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