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U.S. Senate Readies Quick Vote on Trade Status: Hong Kong Update

Iain Marlow, Dominic Lau, Natalie Lung and Daniel Flatley

(Bloomberg) -- China’s President Xi Jinping said “continuing radical violent crimes” in Hong Kong have “seriously trampled on the rule of law” and that “stopping the violence and restoring order” is the city’s “most urgent task” at present.

Separately, the U.S. Senate moved to expedite passage of legislation that would support pro-Democracy protestors in Hong Kong by putting the city’s special trading status under U.S. law under annual review.

Earlier, a 70-year-old man who suffered a head injury in scuffles was reported to have died, according to Ming Pao.

Xi’s latest comments came after Hong Kong’s government dismissed speculation it would impose a weekend curfew. China’s state-owned Global Times newspaper had deleted a tweet that reported the city’s authorities were gearing up to announce widespread restrictions.

The initial tweet and ensuing deletion came after the government said all schools would be suspended through Sunday amid a fourth straight day of chaos. The city’s subway operator has partially suspended service and protesters continue to block roads, as residents wonder what could come next.

The financial hub has been paralyzed since Monday morning, when a demonstrator was shot during protests, igniting city-wide rallies and violent clashes. The situation has worsened in the days since, with most major universities canceling classes and companies telling employees to work from home.

The protests, which have been raging for five months in pursuit of greater democracy in the former British colony, first intensified Friday after a student died of injuries sustained near a protest. Chief Executive Carrie Lam held a late-night session with her advisers and government ministers last night, according to reports, and may be considering further measures. She has previously vowed not to give in to violent demonstrations.

Key developments:

U.S. Senate vows quick vote on Hong Kong legislationXi says “crimes” have “trampled” on rule of lawHong Kong’s government dismisses curfew speculationMTR Corp. announced some rail line closures on Thursday morningLam reportedly met with senior officials Wednesday nightSome roads remain blocked by protesters70-year-old man dies after scuffles; 15-year-old in critical conditionLocal stocks fell, with the benchmark Hang Seng index closing down 0.9%

Here’s the latest (all times local):

U.S. Senate Prepares to Vote on Trade Status Bill (12:41 a.m.)

The Senate is preparing for quick passage of legislation that would support pro-democracy protesters by placing Hong Kong’s special trading status with the U.S. under annual review.

The Senate will run the “hotline” on the bill, which is an expedited process to check for last-minute opposition to bringing legislation immediately to the floor for a vote, according to a statement Thursday from Republican Senator Marco Rubio.

The current Senate legislation is different than a version passed earlier by the House of Representatives. That means the two bills would have to be reconciled and passed by both chambers before going to President Donald Trump to be signed into law.

Man dies after suffering head injury (11:45 p.m.)

A 70-year-old man who suffered a head injury Wednesday has died, Ming Pao reported, citing the hospital. The case will be investigated by the coroner. He was hit by what appeared to be a brick thrown by protesters, according to the government and police.

Separately, a 15-year-old boy underwent brain surgery after sustaining a head injury from what may have been a tear gas canister, local news organization RTHK reported.

Xi says ‘crimes’ have ‘trampled’ on rule of law (10:25 p.m.)

China’s President Xi, currently on a visit to Brazil, said “continuing radical violent crimes in Hong Kong have seriously trampled on the rule of law and social order, seriously undermined Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and seriously challenged the bottom line of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle,” state-run broadcaster CCTV reported in a Weibo post. “Stopping the violence and restoring order is Hong Kong’s most urgent task at present.”

Xi reiterated China’s support for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Lam. “We will continue to firmly support the Chief Executive to lead the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in accordance with the law, firmly support the Hong Kong Police in law enforcement, and firmly support the Hong Kong Judiciary in punishing violent criminals.”

Government dismisses curfew rumors (7:55 p.m.)

“Rumors” that authorities were planning to implement a curfew over the weekend are “totally unfounded,” Hong Kong’s government said in a statement, following rising speculation after Lam’s late-night meeting with top officials on Wednesday.

No curfews at current stage, HK01 says (6:16 p.m.)

Hong Kong won’t impose curfews at the current stage or cancel District Council elections scheduled for Nov. 24, local news site HK01 reported, citing an unidentified person close to the government.

“No one can guarantee what will happen in the long run. If Hong Kong’s situation worsens to a civil war, then anything can happen. But at this moment, the government has no plans to impose curfews or cancel the District Council elections,” the report quoted the person as saying.

Global Times editor explains deletion (5 p.m.)

The editor-in-chief of the Global Times, Hu Xijin, said on Twitter that he checked how one of his reporters obtained information about the impending curfew, and decided to delete the tweet. “My conclusion is that the information is not sufficient to support this exclusive news,” said Hu, who is closely followed on Twitter for pronouncements that have accurately predicted Chinese government policies and sometimes move markets.

Global Times deletes curfew tweet (4:03 p.m.)

China’s state-owned Global Times newspaper deleted a tweet in which it had said Hong Kong’s government was expected to announce a curfew this weekend.

Global Times warns of curfew (3:30 p.m.)

The Global Times tweeted that Hong Kong’s government was expected to announce a curfew this weekend, citing unnamed sources.

Protesters gather in Central (1:45 p.m.)

A large group of demonstrators gathered in the Central financial district for the fourth-straight day, while other protesters amassed at a rally in Tai Koo, on the eastern side of Hong Kong Island.

Many people in Central were holding up their hands with five fingers outstretched, a way to signify support for the protesters’ five demands that include an independent inquiry and universal suffrage. They also blocked some traffic in the area.

Schools suspended again (11:50 a.m.)

Hong Kong’s Education Bureau said the suspension of all schools would continue Friday to Sunday, citing safety reasons. Schools were also suspended Thursday.

Cheung says meeting had no specific purpose (11:13 a.m.)

A gathering held by Lam late Wednesday with senior officials was a regular meeting and didn’t have a specific purpose, Radio Television Hong Kong reported, citing the city’s No. 2 official, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, as saying in response to a question from a lawmaker at the city’s legislature.

Local media has speculated that the government discussed new contingency measures during the meeting, amid the escalating violence.

Hong Kong boosts police force (10:45 a.m.)

Cheung said it has supplemented its police force with about 100 officers from the Hong Kong Correctional Services Department to serve as “special police” on a voluntary basis. The move will help relieve the burden on Hong Kong’s regular force, which has been dealing with mass protests and intense clashes with protesters for more than five months, Cheung said in a Legislative Council meeting.

U.S. agency slams Hong Kong authorities (10:30 a.m.)

The U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which reports to both Congress and the president on Chinese human rights issues, said it condemns the Hong Kong authorities for “excessive force” and that threats to delay upcoming local elections “will only enhance grievances.”

In a series of Twitter posts, the body said it’s also concerned about Beijing’s plan to exert more control over Hong Kong and suggested China may be allowing the growing turmoil in the city as part of a broader strategy.

“The escalating violence in #HongKong is extremely concerning and the premeditated attack on university campuses, where over 1k rounds of teargas were used, raises disturbing questions as to whether the #Chinese govt’s strategy is to create more chaos & new protests,” it said.

Protesters use bows and arrows (10 a.m.)

Protesters used bows to fire arrows at police officers early Thursday, prompting a volley of tear gas in reply, according to a police statement. Demonstrators fired arrows starting around 6:40 a.m. and also threw flower pots, the police said, adding that no officers were injured.

Dozens injured in clashes (9 a.m.)

Nineteen people were admitted to the hospital with injuries overnight and this morning as of 7:30 a.m., a Hospital Authority spokesman said. On Wednesday, the spokesman added, 67 people were admitted to the hospital as a result of clashes, with the youngest being a 10-month-old baby and the oldest aged 81. The Hospital Authority confirmed earlier reports that a 15-year-old and a 70-year-old remained in critical condition.

Tear gas fired (8:45 a.m.)

Police fired tear gas during the morning commute on Thursday at demonstrators gathered on the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in Kowloon, not far from the entrance to the cross-harbor tunnel that connects the peninsula to Hong Kong Island.

MTR suspends some service (8 a.m.)

The city’s subway operator MTR Corp. has suspended parts of some lines, including the East Rail Line, West Rail Line and the Tung Chung Line. It has also closed the Mong Kok, Sai Wan Ho and Tseung Kwan O stations, according to the company. The Airport Authority Hong Kong is also aware of attempts to disrupt the Airport Express on Nov. 14, and urged passengers to pay attention to traffic updates and check with their airlines.

Man seriously injured (2 a.m.)

An elderly man remained in critical condition after sustaining serious injuries when he was hit in the head by a hard object thrown by “masked riotors,” the local government said in a statement last night. Police received information around noon Wednesday that the 70-year-old man was allegedly hit by a brick in Sheung Shui, in Hong Kong’s New Territories, according to a police statement. No one has been arrested and police are seeking information from witnesses.

--With assistance from Erin Roman.

To contact the reporters on this story: Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.net;Dominic Lau in Hong Kong at dlau92@bloomberg.net;Natalie Lung in Hong Kong at flung6@bloomberg.net;Daniel Flatley in Washington at dflatley1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net, Chris Kay, Colin Keatinge

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