12 Oct

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


Russian defence ministry denounces foreign secretary’s accusation that its forces attacked aid convoy, as he calls for inquiry

Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons on Tuesday stating intentionally attacking a hospital does amount to a war crime when referring to the Syria conflict. In his first speech as foreign secretary, Johnson says he would like to see demonstrations outside the Russian embassy and asks where is the Stop The War coalition are at the moment?

Accusations by the UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson of a Russian attack on an aid convoy in Syria are “Russophobic hysteria”, the Russian defence ministry has said.

“There were no Russian planes in the area of the aid convoy to Aleppo. That is a fact,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

Johnson said on Tuesday there was evidence showing Russia was responsible for the attack.

Making his frontbench debut as foreign secretary in a Commons debate, Johnson said Russia should be investigated for war crimes in Aleppo and took the unusual step of calling for demonstrations by anti-war protesters outside the Russian embassy in London.

Johnson said “the mills of justice grind slowly, but they grind small” as he predicted those responsible for war crimes in Syria would eventually face charges before the international criminal court.

Johnson’s remarks underline the degree to which relations between Russia and the west have deteriorated to levels not seen since the end of the cold war.

Johnson appeared to reject calls for a no-fly zone over areas of Syria, saying: “We cannot commit to a no-fly zone unless we are prepared to confront and perhaps shoot down planes or helicopters that violate that zone. We need to think very carefully about the consequences.”

But, he added, he was sympathetic to those who made the call, and wanted to work through the options with Britain’s allies.

The Foreign Office is known to be preparing for a more assertive Syrian policy if Hillary Clinton becomes the US president in January, but senior UN figures have warned that eastern Aleppo is likely to have fallen to forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad by then if the bombardment continues at its present rate.

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Pro-democracy politicians make protest signs, cross fingers and subversive references to Beijing’s authoritarian rulers

Pro-democracy lawmaker Yau Wai-ching displays a banner before taking an altered version of the oath at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Yau Wai-ching displays a banner before taking an altered version of the oath at the legislative council in Hong Kong. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

A new generation of pro-democracy politicians thumbed its nose at China’s authoritarian leaders, with a succession of lawmakers openly defying Beijing during an action-packed swearing-in ceremony for Hong Kong’s parliament.

Nathan Law, a student protest leader who was among six young pro-democracy faces elected to the former colony’s 70-member legislative council last month, quoted Mahatma Gandhi as he publicly rejected Beijing’s authority.

“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body. But you will never imprison my mind,” said Law, 23, the leader of the Demosisto party.

He dismissed the swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday as a political tool being used by the regime to suppress Hong Kong’s people.

Minutes earlier Sixtus “Baggio” Leung, a 30-year-old pro-independence politician from another recently founded youth party called Youngspiration, made clear his dislike for the mainland by unfurling a blue banner that read: “Hong Kong is not China.”

Legco’s members were supposed to read a 77-word oath in order to officially begin their four-year terms in office.

That oath contains a pledge to uphold the laws put in place after the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997, as well as to “serve the Hong Kong special administrative region conscientiously, dutifully, in full accordance with the law, honestly and with integrity”.

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The proposed law would ban tent encampments from San Francisco’s sidewalks – a visceral reminder of the city’s gaping inequality

Thousands in San Francisco sleep in tents on the streets.

Thousands in San Francisco sleep in tents on the streets. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

A tent on a sidewalk is the only place thousands of San Franciscans have to call home. But if a few of the city’s tech billionaires and millionaires have their way, even that shelter could be taken away.

Sequoia Capital chairman Michael Moritz, tech angel investor Ron Conway, and hedge-fund investor William Oberndorf have donated $49,999 apiece to a divisive ballot measure intended to clear San Francisco’s streets of homeless encampments, according to campaign filings.

Zachary Bogue, a tech investor best known as husband to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, also pitched in $2,500.

Those sums may be chump change to the likes of Moritz (net worth $3.1bn), but they account for the majority of the approximately $270,000 campaign chest.

Proposition Q purports to address the most visible symptom of the city’s ongoing homelessness crisis, tent cities that crowd the sidewalks in certain neighborhoods. To the city’s housed residents, the encampments serve as a visceral reminder of the city’s gaping inequality – or as a nuisance that they wish would go away.

The proposed law would amend the city’s police code to ban tent encampments on city sidewalks. The city would be required to offer residents of an encampment 24-hours notice and a shelter bed or a bus ticket out of town, before being authorized to confiscate their tents and other belongings. The city would be required to store those belongings for up to 90 days.

“I strongly believe that it is not compassionate to allow human beings to live on our city streets,” wrote the measure’s author, supervisor Mark Farrell, in an op-ed. “Let’s help get the homeless into housing, not tents.”

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US politics >>

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