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Protesters are using dangerous tools to attack the police and to commit serious crimes, warns China

Sea of black: Demonstrators gather inside the Hong Kong international airport to protest against the police action on Monday. AFPMANAN VATSYAYANA

China on Monday said the anti-government protests in Hong Kong, which shut down the city airport, had begun to show “sprouts of terrorism”.

The airport authority said it was working with airlines to resume flights from 6 a.m. on Tuesday, but the developments raise the stakes after a weekend of skirmishes during which both activists and police toughened their stances.

Some Hong Kong legal experts say official descriptions of some protesters’ actions as terrorism could lead to the use of extensive anti-terror laws and powers against them.

China’s People’s Armed Police also assembled in the neighbouring city of Shenzhen for exercises, the State-backed Global Times newspaper said.

More protests

People in the Asian financial hub responded by taking to the streets again, picketing a police station and returning in their hundreds to a metro station where police had hit activists with batons, to protest against the heavy-handed tactics.

The increasingly violent demonstrations have plunged the Chinese-ruled territory into its most serious crisis in decades, presenting Chinese leader Xi Jinping with one of his biggest popular challenges since he came to power in 2012.

“Hong Kong has come to a critical juncture,” said Hong Kong and Macau Affairs office spokesman Yang Guang in Beijing.

“Protesters have been frequently using extremely dangerous tools to attack the police in recent days, constituting serious crimes with sprouts of terrorism emerging.”

The protests began in opposition to a Bill allowing extradition to the mainland but have widened to highlight other grievances, winning broad support. The precise trigger for the airport’s closure was not clear, since protesters occupying the arrivals hall for four days have been peaceful.

“This is about our freedom,” said a 24-year-old wearing a mask, who gave his name only as Yu. “Why should we leave?”

Two systems

Hong Kong is the world’s busiest air cargo port and the 8th busiest by passenger traffic, says the Airports Council International (ACI), a global association. It has been filled with anti-government protesters for four days.

The mostly young black-clad protesters have chanted slogans such as “No rioters, only tyranny!” and “Liberate Hong Kong!” while approaching travellers with flyers describing their demands and explaining the unrest.

Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement enshrining some autonomy for Hong Kong when China took it back from Britain in 1997.

Police declined to say if they would move to clear the demonstrators.

People on welfare could be denied visa

The rule targets people who entered the U.S. legally.Getty Images/iStockphotoHailshadow

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration unveiled a rule that could deny green cards to immigrants who use public assistance such as Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers, in what is considered one of its most aggressive moves to restrict legal immigration.

Federal law already requires those seeking green cards and legal status to prove they will not be a burden to the U.S., or what’s called a “public charge,” but the new rules, made public on Monday, detail a broader range of programmes that could disqualify them.

The rule targets people who entered the U.S. legally and are seeking permanent status. It’s part of a push to move the U.S. to a system that focuses on immigrants’ skills instead of emphasising the reunification of families, as it has done.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers will now weigh public assistance along with other factors such as education, household income and health to determine whether to grant legal status.

Effective mid-October

The rules will take effect in mid-October. They don’t apply to U.S. citizens, even if the U.S. citizen is related to an immigrant who is subject to them.

The acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, said the rule change fits with the Republican President’s message. “We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient,” Mr. Cuccinelli said.

“That’s a core principle of the American Dream. It’s deeply embedded in our history, and particularly our history related to legal immigration.”

Immigrants make up a small percentage of those who get public benefits. In fact, many are ineligible for public benefits because of their immigration status.

But advocates worry the rules will scare immigrants into not asking for help.

On average, 5,44,000 people apply annually for green cards, with about 3,82,000 falling into categories that would be subject to this review, according to the government.

Public charge

Guidelines in use since 1999 referred to a public charge as someone primarily dependent on cash assistance, income maintenance or government support for long-term institutionalisation.

Under the new rules, the Department of Homeland Security has redefined a public charge as someone who is “more likely than not” to receive public benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month period. If someone has two benefits, that is counted as two months. And the definition has been broadened to include Medicaid, housing assistance and food assistance.

‘Both sides will consult their leadership on the next steps’

The latest round of talks between the Taliban and the U.S. on a deal to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has ended and now both sides will consult with their leadership on the next steps, a Taliban spokesman said on Monday.

The eighth round of talks in the Gulf Arab nation of Qatar concluded after midnight and was “long and useful,” Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

Last week, another Taliban spokesman had said that a deal was expected to follow this round as both sides seek an end to the nearly 18-year war, America’s longest conflict.

‘No base for militants’

An agreement if reached is expected to include Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan would not be a base for other extremist groups in the future. However, both the Islamic State group’s affiliate and al-Qaida remain active in the country. The Taliban stages near-daily attacks across Afghanistan, mainly targeting Afghan forces and government officials but also killing many civilians.

The deal also could include a ceasefire and stipulate that the Taliban would negotiate with Afghan representatives, though the insurgent group has so far refused to negotiate with Kabul representatives.

There was no immediate comment on Monday from U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who on Sunday tweeted that “I hope this is the last Id where... Afghanistan is at war.”

Mr. Khalilzad later added that “Many scholars believe that the deeper meaning of Eid al-Hadha is to sacrifice one’s ego. Leaders on all sides of the war in Afghanistan must take this to heart as we strive for peace.”

The Taliban control roughly half of Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion.

Sajith PremadasaK Gopinathan

A Sri Lankan Minister on Monday said the United National Party’s deputy leader, Sajith Premadasa, is likely to be a good match to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former Defence Secretary who will be fielded in the presidential election on behalf of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) headed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mr. Premadasa has the support of the people on the ground and would be a good match against Mr. Gotabaya, said V. Radhakrishnan, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Special Areas Development.

“Ground level support is there for Sajith Premadasa. But ultimately, [UNP leader and Prime Minister] Ranil (Wickremasinghe) has to decide. If he comes to a decision and makes a good choice both (Mr. Gotabaya and Mr. Premadasa) will be equal candidates. It will be a tough fight,” Mr. Radhakrishnan told The Hindu.

Mr. Radhakrishnan, who was in the city, said Tamils and upcountry people would like the candidature of Mr. Premadasa, should he be chosen. “His father [late president] Ranasinghe Premadasa, in 1989, gave citizenship to us. So, people still have an affinity to him,” he said.

Mr. Radhakrishnan is part of the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA). It was only after the UNP announces its candidate that the TPA would be able to decide on who to support. “Whoever has the capability to work for our community, uplift of our community, we will support him. Till then we can’t decide whom to support, because this is a Presidential election,” he said.

The Minister said Tamils were going to look at what Mr. Gotabaya is going to offer. “All the governments are cheating the Tamils from 1948. Everyone expected President Sirisena and PM Ranil to bring about a change. That too has not happened,” he said.

“Their (Tamils’) demand is for self-ruling opportunities. They want autonomy. They don’t have a problem with the Sinhalese, Muslims,” he said, adding the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which provided for devolution of power to the provinces, was not being implemented properly.

While Andal’s Thiruppavai is an offering to Lord Krishna, the verses in this work were taken to be references to Ramanuja, by Vaishnavite scholar Prativadhibhayankaram Annangarachar swami. Basing her lecture on his interpretations, G. Satyabhama said that the malai (hill) referred to by Andal signifies the Vedas. The tip of this hill is dharma tattva. Interpreting the word malai (hill) as a reference to the Vedas is justified, because of the story of Sage Bharadvaja. He studied the Vedas, and could not understand their depth, and kept asking for an extension in his life so that he could study them thoroughly.

But despite living for hundreds of years, he still could not grasp the entire meaning of the Vedas. Indra then pointed to three hills, and said that Bharadvaja’s knowledge was like some sand from those hills, meaning to say, that the Vedas could never be fully understood. Seeriya singam (ferocious lion) again is a reference to Ramanuja. This lion subsists by reading the works of Thirumangai Azhvar, says Ramanuja Nootrandadi, a work in praise of Ramanuja. Ramanuja realised the purpose of his birth. He realised that he was on this earth to save people from samsaric bonds and to guide them to moksha. This pasuram of Andal is about Narasimha, and so she talks about the hairs on Narasimha’s mane standing up. Is there a Ramanuja connection here? Yes, for Ramanuja had a lovely tuft of hair, and when he went forth to argue with his opponents, his lustre frightened them off. Andal speaks of a simhasana in her pasuram.

This can be taken to mean the three Vedas, which served as the basis for Ramanuja’s arguments. It also refers to Ramanuja using all srutis — bheda, abheda and ghataka srutis in his works and in establishing validity of Visishtadvaita.

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