Peaceful Hong Kong weekend march marred by fire outside court; no Monday transport chaos despite calls for strikes | December 09, 2019 6:11 PMHONG KONG (REUTERS) - Hong Kong protesters lit a fire outside court buildings, threw petrol bombs and spray-painted graffiti

Peaceful Hong Kong weekend march marred by fire outside court; no Monday transport chaos despite calls for strikes

Peaceful Hong Kong weekend march marred by fire outside court; no Monday transport chaos despite calls for strikes

Peaceful Hong Kong weekend march marred by fire outside court; no Monday transport chaos despite calls for strikes

Peaceful Hong Kong weekend march marred by fire outside court; no Monday transport chaos despite calls for strikes

Peaceful Hong Kong weekend march marred by fire outside court; no Monday transport chaos despite calls for strikes

Peaceful Hong Kong weekend march marred by fire outside court; no Monday transport chaos despite calls for strikes
Peaceful Hong Kong weekend march marred by fire outside court; no Monday transport chaos despite calls for strikes
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HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Hong Kong protesters lit a fire outside court buildings, threw petrol bombs and spray-painted graffiti on government buildings, marring what was otherwise a"generally peaceful" march at the weekend, police said on Monday (Dec 9).

The comments came as protesters called for strikes across the city on Monday. Most railway and transport links ran smoothly during the morning rush hour and there were no reports of widespread disruptions.

Vast crowds of black-clad demonstrators had thronged the streets of the Asian financial hub on Sunday, in the largest anti-government rally since local elections last month and a resounding show of continued support for the pro-democracy movement.

While the march appeared to be largely peaceful - in marked contrast to some other mass demonstrations over the last six months, where protesters fought pitched battles with police - authorities said there was some damage after it ended.

"Although the event was generally peaceful, acts of breaching public peace happened afterwards," police said in a statement on Monday.

"Some rioters spray-painted the exterior walls of the High Court, threw petrol bombs and set fire outside the High Court and the Court of Final Appeal, damaging government properties and seriously challenging the spirit of the rule of law," police said, adding that shops and banks were vandalised in the Causeway Bay and Wan Chai areas of Hong Kong island.

Reuters reporters at the march on Sunday saw graffiti and protesters setting up barricades, but were not in the vicinity of the other incidents.

The Hong Kong Bar Association condemned what it called "acts of arson and vandalism" and said those responsible must be brought to justice.

Protesters estimated the turnout at 800,000, while police said it was 183,000.

Police said they arrested 42 people over the weekend for rioting, possessing weapons and other charges. Some 6,022 people have now been arrested in relation to the unrest since early June, police said.

'FED UP'

In an editorial, the official China Daily newspaper called on the Hong Kong government to uphold the rule of law.

"Many residents in Hong Kong are fed up with the violence and disruption that have plagued the city for months," said the newspaper, often used by Beijing to put out its message.

Hong Kong's new police commissioner had said he would take a "hard and soft approach" to the demonstrations, where acts of violence would be treated harshly but other issues more flexibly.

The chairman and president of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hong Kong were denied entry over the weekend to the neighbouring Chinese territory of Macau, without explanation.

Macau's security chief, Mr Wong Sio Chak, on Monday said security concerns were the only reason for barring entry into the city, broadcaster RTHK reported.

AmCham chairman Robert Grieves and president Tara Joseph had been travelling to Macau for an annual ball. The pair were told to sign a statement saying they "voluntarily agreed not to pursue entry to Macau".

Mr Wong declined to comment specifically on their cases and said it was speculation that their refusal was linked to Beijing's response to US legislation backing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, RTHK said.

US President Donald Trump last month signed into law the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, linking the former British colony's special treatment under US law to its autonomy from Beijing.

The unrest in the city of about 7.4 million people started in June as demonstrations against a now-withdrawn Bill allowing extradition to mainland China. It has since morphed into calls for greater democratic freedoms and sometimes violent protests.

Protesters have set out five demands, including universal suffrage and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

China has repeatedly blamed foreign powers, including the US, for stirring up the unrest.

Book containing vulgarities not on MOE's recommended list, chosen by school

Book containing vulgarities not on MOE's recommended list, chosen by school

SINGAPORE: A novel containing vulgarities was not part of the recommended text list from the Ministry of Education (MOE) but selected by a school for its "literary merit", the ministry said on Monday (Dec 9).

On Saturday, a Facebook group called Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family criticised the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which contains several swear words. 

It said the book uses "foul and blasphemous language" and claimed it "breaks Singapore's racial and religious harmony laws".

The post continued: “Do parents need to inspect every single (school's) material and sit inside every classroom to ensure our children are free from unacceptable immoral indoctrination and corruption?” 

The book, written by British author Mark Haddon, features a 15-year-old protagonist with Asperger's syndrome. 

It was selected by the school for its extended reading programme to complement its English Language lessons, said Mr Jeffrey Low, director of English Language and Literature at MOE.

“The school has chosen the book for its literary merit, and how the story teaches good values such as honesty, perseverance in the face of difficulties, love between parents and children, and appreciation of youths with special educational needs,” said Mr Low. 

He said teachers are careful when selecting texts to ensure they are included in lessons for good reason, noting that texts of literary value “often deal with complex human conditions and reflect the imperfections in societies”.

“The reading of this particular text has been closely guided by the teacher through class discussions, where the teacher sets out the context of the piece of writing, and engages students on drawing positive lessons from the book,” he added. 

AUTONOMY TO CHOOSE TEXTS

At the lower secondary levels, schools have the autonomy to select texts from MOE’s recommended text list or choose texts not on the list if they think those books “better suit the learning profile of their students”, said Mr Low.

MOE also provides a set of criteria for selecting texts outside of the recommended list.

"This set of criteria includes the literary value, appropriateness and accessibility of the text in terms of themes and language for the target age-group of the students, the values the text promotes, and careful consideration of any areas of concern, such as social and cultural sensitivities," Mr Low explained.

In 2015, the book made headlines after it was withdrawn from a Florida school's summer reading list following concerns from parents about swearing.

In response, Mr Haddon told The Guardian his book was “not just a novel that contains swearing but a novel about swearing”. He also noted that the main character Christopher is “completely unaware of the offence that swearing is intended to cause and therefore it simply washes over him”.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book and was named 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year. It also took home the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize that year.

Last year, MOE had clarified that a social studies textbook that was criticised for its description of people of "lower socio-economic status" was not on its list of approved textbooks. 

The guidebook, entitled Complete Guide to GCE O-Level Social Studies Volume 1 and published by MarketAsia Books, defined SES as a factor "that shapes a person's identity". 

Swedbank cuts management team in revamp after laundering probe

Swedbank cuts management team in revamp after laundering probe

REUTERS: Swedbank said on Monday its chief risk officer was leaving as the Swedish bank revamps its structure to regain customer trust after a money laundering scandal in its Baltic branches sent its shares down 40per cent in the past year.

Helo Meigas will leave the bank along with head of Baltic Banking Charlotte Elsnitz, the bank said in a statement on Monday. Gunilla Hallros and Jon Lidefelt will take over, respectively, in an interim capacity. The search for permanent replacements has already started, the bank said.

The departures are part of an organizational revamp aimed at boosting confidence in the Swedish lender and simplifying its structure, said chief executive Jens Henriksson.

"Today I introduce a new executive team to develop Swedbank and strengthen trust. Consequently, some executives leave the bank," he said. "I also initiate an assessment of the corporate culture in Swedbank".

The bank also said it would merge several business units, including its IT and digital banking divisions, while Swedbank Pay and payment infrastructure functions will be integrated within the Large Corporates & Institutions department.

It said responsibility for the ongoing internal and external investigations into ``historical shortcomings in anti-money laundering work'' would be moved to a new Special Task Force unit, reporting directly to Henriksson.

As a result of the merger of the bank’s product units, the head of Group Lending & Payments Leif Karlsson will leave the bank in early 2020, it added.

Swedbank said there would be 14 people in group management following the changes, down from 17 previously.

(Reporting by Colm Fulton; editing by Mike Harrison)

Supermarket upskirter who was pinned down by victim’s boyfriend gets jail

Supermarket upskirter who was pinned down by victim’s boyfriend gets jail

SINGAPORE: A man who took upskirt videos of a woman at the supermarket was caught in the act and pinned down on the floor by the victim’s boyfriend.

Law Boon Kaih, 28, was sentenced to five weeks’ jail on Monday (Dec 9) for one count of insulting a woman’s modesty and another of possessing obscene films. A third charge was taken into consideration.

The court heard that Law was at a supermarket in Jurong West on Aug 29 last year when he saw the 18-year-old victim, who was there with her boyfriend.

Law thought the teenager was attractive and wanted to take an upskirt video of her, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Yun Ling.

While the victim was selecting vegetables, Law stood close to her and squatted down to take clips of her.

The woman’s boyfriend noticed Law’s actions and found them suspicious.

When the couple left the vegetable section, Law followed them, and the boyfriend saw Law squatting down again while holding his phone.

Later, when Law was outside the supermarket checking the videos he had taken, the victim’s boyfriend asked Law to show him his phone.

Law refused at first, but eventually showed a clip to the boyfriend, fast-forwarding it to the end.

BOYFRIEND PINNED HIM TO THE FLOOR, GOT PASSER-BY TO CALL COPS

He then tried to run away, but the boyfriend pinned him to the floor and asked a passer-by to call the police.

Law, who was working as a management trainee at The Soup Spoon, had taken two clips of the victim capturing her inner thighs and upper body.

He later admitted that had tried taking upskirt videos of other women at least seven times before this.

During investigations, Law also admitted to downloading obscene videos from WeChat.

The prosecutor on Monday asked for at least six weeks’ jail to be imposed, saying there was nothing exceptional about this case to impose anything other than the usual short jail term.

Defence lawyer Wee Hong Shern asked for a fine instead, pointing to psychiatric reports that said his client was suffering from voyeuristic disorder.

LAW HAS VOYEURISTIC DISORDER, GIRLFRIEND CHEATED ON HIM

Law had been jilted by his girlfriend, who purportedly cheated on him with his best friend.

Mr Wee added that the offences were not premeditated, and said Law had been grocery shopping when he saw the victim and felt “compelled to offend” due to his mental condition.

The video clips did not capture the victim's private parts or underwear, said the lawyer.

In response, the prosecutor said the psychiatric reports were hearsay evidence and that Law had self-reported his condition to the psychiatrist, urging the court not to give any mitigating weight to them.

District Judge Adam Nakhoda said he did not agree with the defence that the sentence should differ from the usual ones imposed in upskirt cases.

"I would emphasise that there is no indication that has been established that his self-control was diminished, or that this is an impulse control disorder," said the judge, noting that Law had tried to escape when he was confronted.

He granted a deferment of the sentence to Dec 23, for Law to work out arrangements with his employer.

For insulting a woman’s modesty, he could have been jailed for up a year, fined, or both.

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