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Fight Over Hong Kong's Future Grows More Grim

Daniel Ten Kate

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The pictures out of Hong Kong over the past few days have been particularly worrisome: a protester shot by police at point-blank range, an older man set ablaze, a truck driver beaten by demonstrators.

While only one fatality has been linked to the protests since they began five months ago, that number could easily be higher. Police and protesters are locked in a fight over how much control Beijing has in one of Asia’s top financial hubs.

For the protesters, the use of force has always been a necessary evil. At the start of the unrest, the government ignored a peaceful street march by hundreds of thousands of people. It was only when demonstrators stormed the legislature that authorities shelved a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China.

The danger now is that all this plays into Beijing’s hands. A top Chinese official over the weekend suggested more stringent security laws were needed to stop the violence, raising concerns that Beijing could look to further subvert the city’s democratic freedoms — starting with a district council election later this month.

Either way, things look set to get worse before they get better.

Global Headlines

TV drama | Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives take their drive to impeach Donald Trump into a risky phase tomorrow with public hearings that the president is keen to turn into a made-for-TV personal battle, Billy House reports. Center stage will be three career diplomats who, in previous closed-door depositions, outlined attempts by Trump’s advisers to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation into 2020 election rival Joe Biden.

A Pentagon official told House impeachment investigators that she and other defense officials learned of Trump’s “concerns” about U.S. military aid to Ukraine a week after a hold was placed on the funding. How to watch the impeachment hearings: viewer’s guide.

Farage factor | Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party, is as famous as Boris Johnson and has been a disruptive force in U.K. politics as well as a thorn in the side of the Conservatives. He had threatened to compete in every seat in the Dec. 12 general elections, a move that would have harmed the Tories. His decision not to contest Conservative-held seats aids Johnson but Farage remains an unpredictable player in this most unpredictable of polls.Targeted killing | Israel assassinated a senior commander of the Islamic Jihad group in the Gaza Strip today, unleashing a barrage of Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli communities in retaliation, the most serious confrontation between the sides in months. The predawn missile strike killed Bahaa Abu al-Ata, a mastermind of hundreds of attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians who was planning another assault, according to the military.

 

Banking union | Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled support for her finance minister’s plan to break an impasse over European banking integration. The German initiative offers hope of progress in a seven-year effort to bridge differences between the fiscally conservative northern European countries against their neighbors in the south. But Italy has said German conditions are still unacceptable.

Who’s in charge? | Former Bolivian President Evo Morales has fled to Mexico after the backlash against his election win forced him to resign. He’s leaving behind a vacuum: It’s unclear who might take over - though opposition senator Jeanine Anez has surfaced as acting head of Congress and would be one option - and when or how elections may take place.

Read here how Bolivia’s first change in government in more than 13 years leaves bond investors wary.

What to Watch

Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile system will top the agenda at “critical” talks between Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington today that may shape the future of ties with the U.S., according to the Turkish president’s top aide. Bushfires have broken out in the Australian city of Sydney, fanned by strong winds and soaring temperatures, while more than 70 wildfires are burning across the state of New South Wales, devastating rural areas left dry by a two-year drought.  Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, 95, was admitted to an Atlanta hospital last night to undergo a surgery to relieve pressure on his brain caused by bleeding.

Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.And finally … Russian President Vladimir Putin has snubbed repeated requests from Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu to free a woman jailed for 7.5 years for carrying a small amount of hashish in a Moscow airport during a layover. The plight of Israeli army veteran Naama Issachar, 26, has become a cause célèbre in Israel. With the embattled Netanyahu struggling to keep power and avoid a corruption trial, “Putin wants to keep his options open,” one analyst said.

 

--With assistance from Rosalind Mathieson, Ruth Pollard, Ben Sills and Flavia Krause-Jackson.

To contact the author of this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Hong Kong at dtenkate@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Halpin at thalpin5@bloomberg.net, Karl Maier

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