Hong Kong Mask Law, Brexit Update

Grind for October 9th
“My doctor gave me six months to live, but when I couldn’t pay the bill he gave me six months more.”
– Walter Matthau

Deja Vu

The Headline

Protestors defy emergency measures in Hong Kong

The Grind

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the streets of Hong Kong Sunday, many of them violating a mask ban imposed by government leader Carrie Lam on Friday.

The mask ban, which carries a fine of $3,000 and a sentence of 12 months, was implemented through an emergency ordinance that allows the government to impose curfews, extend detentions, take control of transportation, and censor the Internet.

“I would expect to see such powers to be invoked soon if the mask ban does not stop the protest,” warns Steve Tsang, a China expert at the University of London. “There is now a sufficiently strongly motivated group among the protestors to fight whatever the government does to end the protests, so I see an escalation.”

The Details

Violent clashes between protestors and police on Friday forced the city to close its subway system through Saturday, with partial operations resuming Sunday.

In one incident, an off-duty cop shot a 14-year-old in the leg in “self-defense.”

At least two other teenagers were shot by police and one journalist was permanently blinded.

“We are troubled by the high levels of violence associated with some demonstrations…and also alarmed by the injuries to the police and protesters, including journalists and protestors shot by law enforcement officers,” said UN commissioner Michelle Bachelet, who has called for an independent inquiry into the situation.

If the emergency powers law fails to stop the protests, Hong Kong may be forced to ask China for help. China’s military has already gathered at Hong Kong’s northern border.

The Takeaway

The Chinese government is trying to be careful here, but they are losing patience. If Hong Kong asks for help, we can expect China to unleash its military against the protestors.

If massive death results, China will accept the criticism from the rest of the world rather than give up any measure of sovereignty.

Last Chance

The Headline

EU will make final decision on Brexit deal by the end of next week

The Grind

EU negotiators will decide by the end of the week whether a Brexit deal is possible for the United Kingdom, said French President Emmanual Macron.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who unveiled a withdrawal proposal last week, said the bloc should not be “lured” into thinking there will be a delay to the October 31st departure date.

Johnson’s efforts to pull the UK out of the bloc “come what may” were thwarted by the Supreme Court, which declared his decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks unlawful, and by lawmakers, who passed a bill to block a no-deal Brexit.

The Details

During weekend talks with EU leaders, Johnson told Macron that a deal can be achieved if the bloc matches the compromises already made by the UK.

“The President told [Johnson] that the negotiations should continue swiftly with Michel Barnier’s team in coming days, in order to evaluate at the end of the week whether a deal is possible that respects European Union principles,” said a French official.

Negotiators are scrambling to find a compromise ahead of a summit on October 17th. Under a law passed last month, Johnson must ask for a delay if no deal is reached by October 19th and if lawmakers oppose a no-deal Brexit.

The Irish backstop continues to be a sticking point, with EU negotiators demanding “fundamental changes” to Johnson’s proposal.

“The UK has made a big, important offer but it’s time for the Commission to show a willingness to compromise, too,” said one government official.

Johnson wants Northern Ireland to exit the EU’s customs union with the United Kingdom in 2021, but NIR would continue to follow EU legislation relating to agriculture and other products if its assembly approves.

Johnson also wants to use technology to “decentralize” customs border checks on goods traveling between the UK and EU (the technology hasn’t been tested).

“I say to our European friends: grasp the opportunity our new proposal provides,” said Johnson. “Join us at the negotiating table in a spirit of compromise and cooperation.”

Did you know… Pluto is smaller than Russia.