Hong Kong government accused of colluding with China to surveil and catch fugitives fleeing for Taiwan
But high in the sky above them, someone may have been aware of the danger they faced.
A non-stop sea crossing in an open motorboat of the sort the 12 were using would usually take about 14 hours, dangerous and exhausting, with a severe risk of capsizing. But soon after the 12 crossed the maritime border between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, their boat was stopped by a coast guard vessel.
They have been detained in China ever since, denounced as “separatists” by Beijing and charged with a number of offenses, including illegally crossing a border and smuggling, with the threat of potentially more serious national security charges hanging over them. Back in Hong Kong, their families have desperately lobbied for their return, saying the 12 have been denied access to lawyers and abused while in Chinese custody.
Police in Shenzhen, across the China border from Hong Kong, said the “public security authorities will protect the legitimate rights of the suspects in accordance with the law.”
Speaking Tuesday, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the fugitives had “chosen to flee, and in the course of fleeing, they entered another jurisdiction and have committed a crime of illegally entering another place.”
“They have to face the legal consequences in that jurisdiction,” Lam added. “It is as simple and straightforward as that.”
She refuted any suggestion that the Hong Kong government was aware of or involved in the case prior to the 12 being arrested.
But according to open-source flight data, first reported by Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, a Government Flying Services (GFS) aircraft was deployed to eastern Hong Kong, above Po Toi O, at about 4 a.m. on August 23, and stayed in the area for more than four hours.
The movement of the plane — as recorded by FlightAware, an aircraft tracking service — closely matches a timeline of the fugitives’ journey released by the Hong Kong government.
The GFS plane circled the Po Toi O area until 7:30 a.m., when it started flying southeast, the direction the speedboat took to open waters. The Chinese Coast Guard stopped the boat at 9 a.m., less than an hour after the aircraft began making its way back to base.
According to information provided by GFS, the aircraft involved — a Bombardier Challenger 605 — is equipped for search and rescue, airborne surveillance and aerial photography.
Publicly available flight data for the particular plane, B-LVB, shows the August 23 trip was out of the ordinary: it did not fly before 7:30 a.m. any other day between August 18 and October 7, nor did it make any other flights of over three hours during this period.
On Thursday, Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong shared a partial flight plan he said had been leaked by a whistleblower within the flying service. The purported log, which CNN has been unable to independently verify, shows an operation labelled “P-OPS,” which Wong said stood for “police operation,” was ongoing for the period tracked by FlightAware.
A spokeswoman for Hong Kong’s Security Bureau — which oversees police, immigration enforcement, and the flying service — said that “in accordance with the established practice, aircraft deployment and navigation details involved in flight missions will not be disclosed.”
“The Hong Kong Police have time and again reiterated that the 12 Hong Kong suspects were arrested by the Mainland authorities for the offense of crossing the boundary illegally,” she added. “The operation has nothing to do with the Hong Kong Police.”
The suggestion that the government or police may have been aware the 12 fugitives, one of whom was facing charges under the city’s national security law, planned to flee Hong Kong, and let them go — exposing them to greater penalties in China — has caused widespread outrage in the city.
“I’m shocked and appalled as the Hong Kong Government evidently colluded with Chinese authorities to put activists in greater danger, on matters clearly within its jurisdiction,” Wong said in a statement.
In a press release Thursday, a group representing the fugitives’ families accused the government of a “conspiracy” to hand over their loved ones to China, and called for their immediate release.
A small protest was held outside the flying service headquarters later Thursday, but it was soon broken up by police, who accused demonstrators of breaking coronavirus public gathering restrictions.
Hong Kong has its own judicial system, under the “one country, two systems” principle that was intended to safeguard the city’s limited autonomy until 2047, with legal and human rights protections not enjoyed on the mainland.
The law, which the government says is necessary to restore order, has caused several prominent activists to flee overseas.
CNN’s Rebecca Wright, Ivan Watson and Isaac Yee contributed reporting.
British-bred Royal Enfield speeding ahead in Asia
British-bred Royal Enfield is expanding aggressively as it aims to tap into the world’s biggest motorbike-buying market, in Asia.
One of the world’s oldest bike brands still in operation has been owned by India’s Eicher Group since 1994 and has seen strong sales in its local market.
It is now embarking on increasing sales across Asia, and recently announced plans to open a new factory in Thailand.
Asian customers appreciate the style and heritage of its bikes, Royal Enfield chief executive Vinod Dasari tells the BBC.
“We make a significantly better bike for not a significantly higher price,” he says.
“Plus we design and produce bikes for the world, not just India”.
The new Thailand plant is expected to be in operation within the next 12 months and will be the firm’s biggest factory outside of India.
It will serve as a hub to export to other countries in South East Asia including Vietnam, Malaysia and China.
Mr Dasari has ambitious plans, aiming to launch one new bike each quarter for the next three to five years.
“Asia Pacific is a very exciting and important market for us, and our buyers tend to be aspirational, looking for something better.”
Winners and losers
Asia has a strong tradition of motorbike riding. India is the world’s biggest market for motorbike sales, followed by Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Motorbikes are the easiest way to navigate the region’s often congested roads, particularly in its big cities.
Sales for Royal Enfield, which only makes motorbikes in the mid-segment market (250-750cc class), have grown 88% across the region in the last year.
However, not all motorbike brands have been successful in Asia.
US-based Harley-Davidson recently announced its withdrawal from India, in stark contrast to Royal Enfield’s expansion.
“Products of Harley-Davidson were considered oversized for India. The infrastructure, top speeds and traffic discipline is not very suited to cruising at high speeds safely,” says Vivek Vaidya, a transport expert at consultants Frost & Sullivan.
“They tried lower engine sizes but that wasn’t their forte. Trying to take on Royal Enfield in that segment was not so easy,” he adds.
Royal Enfield, in contrast, has products which more readily suit the region’s bike buyers, say some.
“People are buying Royal Enfield machines based upon their ease of use, their simple design and their classic vintage styling,” says Scott Lukaitis, a motor sports consultant.
“They provide the opportunity for new riders to enter the power sports community at a cost-conscious price point without the need to have a great deal of mechanical ability or knowledge to keep them running.”
Ask Mr Dasari and he emphasises Royal Enfield’s heritage as an attraction: “We are not just selling a product, we are selling an experience.”
Royal Enfield: A timeline
- 1893. Originally a bicycle manufacturer, Royal Enfield derives its name from making parts for the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield
- 1901. Produces its first motorised bikes in Britain
- 1914-18. In World War One, supplies motorbikes to British, Belgian, French, US and Russian armies
- 1932. Builds the legendary “Bullet” motorcycle, featuring the inclined “sloper” engine
- 1939-45. Produces military motorbikes as well as bicycles, generators and anti-aircraft guns in World War Two – most famously the “Flying Flea”, for use by parachutists and glider troops
- 1960s. The cultural heyday of classic motorbikes, but many brands struggle including Royal Enfield
- 1970. Ceases UK operations, its Indian subsidiary takes over production
- 1994. India’s Eicher Motors buys Enfield India, renaming it Royal Enfield Motors Limited
- 2020. UK is still a key market – its Interceptor 650 is the best-selling middleweight motorcycle
Next year marks Royal Enfield’s 120th anniversary since it built its first motorbike. Although with India still battling Covid-19 it has not announced any plans yet to celebrate this milestone.
As for the future of the Asian motorbike sector in a post-pandemic world, many see continued growth.
“The general consensus is fear of infection may shift people away from shared transport to individual mobility. Hence, the cheapest mode for rural areas is the motorcycle,” says Mr Vaidya.
Time change: Here’s how to stay positive as the nights draw in
But although the time change means people will get a little extra sleep on Sunday morning, there is a downside.
While Daylight Saving Time is designed to give people an hour more of daylight in the mornings, the reality is that as winter approaches and the nights draw in, many people who work indoors will find themselves starting work in the dark and finishing in the dark — with little opportunity to see sunlight.
With the coronavirus pandemic still raging across Europe and lockdown measures preventing people from socializing, this winter will feel particularly tough for some.
Get outdoors, even if just for a few minutes
There are huge benefits to getting outdoors in the daylight each day, even if only for a few minutes. During the working week many people feel as though they are chained to their desks, but a change of scenery, even briefly, can be a real mood booster.
Longer walks on the weekends can also help us feel reconnected to nature and are a great way to exercise.
Sarita Robinson, Deputy Head for the School of Psychology and Computer Science at the University of Central Lancashire, says that getting out into the great outdoors can be a great way to feel more positive.
“We know that green space and blue space are very soothing, so anywhere where the environment looks pretty is actually beneficial — so having a walk down to a local riverside, or if you can get to a beach,” she says.
Even if you live in a city or an urban environment, getting out and looking at your surroundings can still really help — especially if you go out with a “purpose” — for example looking at different bird species, or plant varieties.
“You can find nature in anything,” she adds.
And if you find you need a mood boost when back indoors, a SAD light therapy lamp, which is said to emit bright light similar to that of the sun, but without the potentially harmful UV rays, might help.
Improve your sleep
The changing of the clocks can impact the body’s circadian rhythm, which regulates sleep by taking cues from the environment, including sunlight and darkness. Not getting enough sleep can significantly affect mood, making it hard to concentrate or be productive.
There are things everyone can do to improve their chances of a good night’s sleep, such as avoiding stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and mobile phones before bed.
Catherine Seymour, Head of Research at British charity the Mental Health Foundation, says getting enough sleep is one of the most important things a person can do to be set for the day ahead — and she recommends people prioritize it.
In a 24 hour society, she says, people can delay going to bed at night either to scroll on their phones or catch up with everyday tasks. But it is more important to slow down and get a good night’s sleep.
“Getting that extra hour’s sleep is going to be much more valuable to helping you cope with everything this winter is going to throw at you than an extra hour tidying the house,” she says.
“We tend to sometimes think that shaving an hour off of sleep can be a really efficient way of squeezing more time out of the day but in the long run that catches up with us and can damage our mental health.”
And if you wake up feeling groggy in the mornings, a sleep lamp might help you to feel more refreshed. Similarly to light therapy lamps, sleep lamps work by mimicking sunlight. Instead of a loud, beeping alarm, a sleep lamp wakes people up as the light gets gradually brighter and brighter.
Mindfulness and meditation have been proven to help people relax and approach life’s challenges with a more positive mindset. Slowing down and focusing on your surroundings can really help some people to better control their worries and anxiety — which many people are experiencing more than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Meditation needn’t take long. Taking just five minutes out of your day to unwind and focus on your breathing could help you to reset.
Get your body moving, and look after it
Exercise not only keeps the body fit and healthy, but has been proven to improve sleep, mood, and outlook, too.
“Getting outside and exercising is a good way of keeping your mood up — and if you want to beat the blues exercising in nature is a great way to do that,” says Sarita Robinson.
Catherine Seymour adds that even as it gets darker, colder, and rainier outside, the benefits of wrapping up and going for a walk are strong.
“There’s the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing — and almost nobody feels worse after going for a walk than they did before,” she says.
“In research we’ve done into how people are coping throughout the pandemic, the top coping mechanism is going for a walk and spending time in nature. We know [walking] really helps people to feel as though they can cope with the uncertainty.”
As well as staying physically active it’s also important to eat healthily.
In times of stress and uncertainty it can feel really tempting to reach for junk food — and possibly booze, too — but it’s really important to have a healthy, balanced diet.
But that doesn’t mean being strict with yourself at all times. It’s important to be kind to yourself too, so have that bar of chocolate when you fancy it — just don’t forget to eat your five a day.
Sing, dance, and be silly
When you’re feeling down, the idea of having fun can seem impossible, but being silly and fooling around can help us feel less glum about the world.
Sarita Robinson says that music and a good dance help her to perk up.
“As it gets gloomy outside, another way to boost your mood with exercise is dancing while singing along to some energetic music — music is a really powerful mood lifter and if you’re feeling a bit down turning on the radio and rocking out to some power ballads is a great way to lift your mood. It’s one of the things I use to lift my spirits when I’m feeling a bit down,” she says.
Catherine Seymour agrees that finding time for simple pleasures is a really great way to give yourself a boost.
To let off steam, her children do a three-minute dance routine throughout the day that they call “go noodles,” she says — and since working from home, Seymour has been joining in.
“Getting up from your seat and just being silly is so good for your mental health and wellbeing. After three minutes I see my children sitting back down with a smile — it improves everybody’s mood and just makes you realize you don’t have to get stuck down a rabbit hole of problems and seriousness,” she says.
“A bit of being lighthearted is good — whether that be dancing around, watching comedy, or playing board games. Lightheartedness and silliness is a tonic.”
CNN’s Allen Kim and Banu Ibrahim contributed to this report.
Murkowski to back Barrett for Supreme Court, despite opposing GOP process
Sen. Lisa Murkowski will vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, despite her opposition to moving forward in an election year.
The Alaska Republican said Saturday she will split her votes on Barrett. She will vote against a procedural hurdle on Sunday to advance her nomination over a filibuster, due to her longstanding objection to confirming a justice so close to the Nov. 3 presidential election.
But based on the merits of Barrett’s credentials for the job, she’s a ‘yes.’
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