Sunday, December 18, 2005

More breaking news from WTO

[Update, Monday Dec. 19 -- Seems all but 11 of the South Korean protesters have been released, check this Yonhap story form more details.]

To bring you up to date on what has happened since yesterday, I'm reprinting targetWTO's newswire below. I also advise reading Guy Taylor's account of Saturday's protest for a fuller understanding of what happened, seems that most protestors were allowed to leave the sit-in at the convention center except for the Korea, this should have some interesting diplomatic consequences, kotaji also has more on this too.

Dec 19th, HK:
Some protesters have been released, but Korean activists are still being held.

1:10am: The first bus of 150 Korean women who are reportedly "released" has finally left the courthouse. Police say they’re taking them back to the camp they’ve been staying at. However, they would not let activists or anyone else talk to the women. There has been no contact at all between them and activists on the outside who are trying to keep up with them. One person tried to run up to the bus, as it was pulling away, with a cellphone. He was kept away by police. People are worried that the women might actually being taken to the airport to be deported. People are worried about what condition they are in.

Chan Yat Kwan, the head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, knocked on the door of the police station, demanding the release of the WTO protesters.

Solidarity activists hold candles outside the court and make noise. Some yell insults at police.

Read More

Dec 18th, HK:

11:30pm: WTO negotiators reached a limited trade agreement that calls for the European Union to end farm export subsidies by 2013.

10:44pm: Despite corporate news reports that 150 Korean women have been released, they might have only been transfered to another location. Activists and lawyers are working to find concrete news.

9:30pm: From a journalist working for Pacifica Radio who is stationed inside: "Don't believe anything that you hear about the conference being over. Especially don't believe anything that you hear about this on Reuters and the AP. They are just wrong about this. Venezuela still hasn't said anything; so let's hope Hugo Chavez holds true. And Cuba is also not agreeing with the proposed text on services."

7:30pm: Less developed countries (LDCs) have agreed to the current draft of GATS that includes a condition agreed to by the US and EU that by 2008 LDCs will receive a 97 percent duty free, quota free import status into the US and EU markets. However, trade commissioners do not have the authority to make such promises—let alone try to implement them. As far as the US is concerned, decisions governing trade must be approved at least by the US Congress—whom policy makers and skeptics alike perceive as being very unlikely to agree to such a condition.

LDCs and developing nations want the US and EU to end agricultural subsidies by 2010. The US and the EU say they will end half of them by 2010, and all of them by 2013.

In terms of tariff cuts, neither the president nor trade commissioner has the authority to make these tariff cuts. Requires approval of congress.

The ending plenary of the WTO conference is scheduled to begin at 8pm.

10:45pm: 40-50 people are gathering outside the Kwungtung courthouse. Many are Via Campesina folks. One woman announced that contrary to maintream news reports, no one really knows what is going on with the legal statuses of the prisoners. The demonstrators outside the courthouse holding the solidarity vigil are demanding from the police to meet with a lawyer regarding the following: the number of people who are still being held; the locations where people are being held; and the condition of the places.

Some activists fear that police hold special antipathy for the male Korean protesters and will retaliate on them.

10:13pm: Outside the Kwuntung jail nearly 20 people are banging on the police barricades and otherwise being rowdy and cheerful as they continue to demonstrate their support for the WTO protesters who are in detention. Some cops are setting up in the are with riot shields, and the police presence continues to grow.

10:00pm: Fifteen people--mostly Hong Kong activists--are gathered outside the Kwuntong jail in solidarity with those locked up, drumming with the hope that the activists who are inside will be able to hear them.
Via Campesina is outside the courthouse to hold a solidarity vigil as well.

7:30pm: Early this evening a crowd of 7,000 people marched down Hennessey Rd to Victoria Park. There was a strong contingent of migrant workers, and lots of locals.

At the following rally in the protest pen in Wan chai demonstrators sang Solidarity Forever in many different languages, simultaneously, and threw rose petals into the air. Speakers- including ones from HKPA- announced that they supported the Koreans for fighting and condemned the police violence.

However, at the conclusion of the march 200 Koreans and some of their local supporters sat down right outside a fence on the periphery of the legitimized protest zone. HKPA marshals have been telling people to go around them and are trying to block them off from others. Meanwhile, a crowd of 400 people have gathered, watching and hanging around.

6:30pm: All of our sources say that almost all of the people who were arrested early this morning are still waiting to be arraigned. According to a lawyer working with the Hong Kong People’s Alliance (HKPA), as of now the charges they are facing are still unclear and may involve jail time and/or deportation for foreigners. Many of the detainees are Korean and some are Southeast Asian, and police are not providing them with information in the languagues they speak. In addition, police are not allowing interpreters to see the prisoners.

Currently both the HKPA and lawyers have NO ACCESS to the people who are detained. Although there are lawyers at every police station, no one knows where the arrested are because police keep moving the detainees around. According to the HPKA lawyer the activists will be held at Kwungtong Court and the following police stations: Kwuntong, Kowloon, Sau Mau Ping, Cheung Kwun and Tau Kok. (The Thai and Japanese prisoners are rumored to be held at the Cheung Kwun O station.) Eleven buses loaded with prisoners from the protest are currently in transit.

One person who was arrested—a Hong Kong activist who works with the Social Movement Resource Center—talked to us at 5:30pm on his cellphone from a bus on which he and other arrestees are being held captive. The bus—in addition to 19 other buses—are parked in Kowloon. On this particular bus our contact is on there are 4 Hong Kong people and 22 Koreans. The initial occupation of the Wanchai intersection began last night at 8pm. Mass arrests at that same site began at 3:30am. The detainees who were on the bus with our contact had only finally, at 5:30, been given food.

The kinds of support for the detained that are needed at this time include: donations for legal services, publicity, and pressure on the police to allow translators to talk with the non-Cantonese and English speakers.

The HPKA has a tent center at Victoria Park that is supposedly coordinating legal support.

A demonstration of solidarity with those in jail will be held tonight outside the Kwuntong main police station. Although protesters are being held in many different places, ultimately all of them will be charged at Kwuntong Court. Since it is Sunday, it is possible that the detainees will have to wait until Monday morning before the arraignment process can begin for all of the protesters.

5:00pm: A rally is being held at the protest zone. All the Hong Kong activists have now been released with $1,000 HKD bails. At 7:00pm a march will leave from there heading for Kwuntong- where the incarcerated activists are being held. Activists will be running a relay hunder strike and camping outside of the detention facility, to demonstrate their solidarity with the Korean farmers and others who were arrested last night.

"Hong Kong people are sympathetic to the sufferings of the farmers,'' Tsang said during a press briefing in Wan Chai this afternoon. "But the protesters ignored the assigned route yesterday, causing traffic in Wan Chai to collapse and damage to public facilities. They even used barricades as weapons. We can't tolerate this."

12am: Police have surrounded and have given an ultimatum to arrest all 1000 protesters who are engaging in a peaceful street occupation/sit-in 1 block from the convention centre on Gloucester Rd and Fleming Rd following the release of tear gas canisters by the police.

3:30am:The police have started arresting the peaceful protestors since and the arrests will continue throughout the morning. The peaceful occupiers are asking for support from the activist community to proceed with an international appeal to have the protesters released immideately, have their human rights respected, as the actions of the police are undignified.

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