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US imposes visa curbs on CCP officials over Hong Kong policies

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Washington DC: The US State Department has imposed its first wave of visa restrictions against Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials in retaliation for Beijing’s policies in Hong Kong, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday.

“President Trump promised to punish the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials who were responsible for eviscerating Hong Kong’s freedoms. Today, we are taking action to do just that,” Pompeo said during a press briefing. He said the CCP has stepped up efforts to undermine Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy by announcing Beijing’s authority to “supervise” Hong Kong’s governance, accusing at least one member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council of misconduct, and “moving to unilaterally and arbitrarily impose national security legislation on Hong Kong”.

“Beijing’s continued actions undermine its commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration to respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy. At the same time, Beijing continues to undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong by putting pressure on local authorities to arrest prodemocracy activists and disqualify pro-democracy electoral candidates,” he said.

Pompeo said, “Today, I am announcing visa restrictions on current and former CCP officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, as guaranteed in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, or undermining human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong. Family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.”

Friday’s announcement follows the State Department’s determination last month, in a report mandated by the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 and the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, that the city no longer warrants differential treatment from mainland China. The laws authorised the Trump administration to decide to what extent sanctions or other policy measures should be levelled on the city. Pompeo’s announcement comes on the heels of the US Senate’s passage of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which calls for sanctions against anyone responsible for undermining the city’s autonomy from China.

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Smith won’t be bothered by short-pitch barrage: Andrew McDonald

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Australia’s No.1 batsman Steve Smith won’t be too worried about short-pitch deliveries from Indian fast bowlers during the upcoming tour Down Under, said the hosts’ assistant coach, Andrew McDonald.

“I don’t think it’s a weakness, is it? They’re taking a shot at that area to get him out early and then what you’ll see after that initial potential plan they will go to a more standard try and negate the runs [plan],” McDonald said in a virtual interaction with the media.

“I think they’ve used it before and he’s done well on it before. I’m suggesting that plan hasn’t necessarily worked to its full effect.”

Smith was felled by a short ball from England’s Jofra Archer during the 2019 Ashes, which marked his return to Test cricket after serving a one-year ban. While he missed one Test because of the injury, he scored as many as 774 runs in the series at an average of 110.57.

Smith was then peppered with short deliveries by New Zealand’s Neil Wagner in the Test series between the two sides later in the year.

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PM Modi to inaugurate multi-storeyed flats for MPs

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NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the multi-storeyed flats for Members of Parliament on Monday at 11 am via video conferencing. The Speaker of Lok Sabha Om Birla will also be present on the occasion. According to an official release, these flats are located at Dr B.D. Marg in New Delhi. Eight old bungalows, which were more than 80 years old, have been redeveloped to construct 76 flats.

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Kerala clears 5-year jail for offensive social media posts

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday clarified that the new amendment made to the Kerala Police Act “will in no way be used to curtail free speech or impartial journalism”. His comments came a day after Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan signed the Police Amendment Act ordinance. As per the ordinance, the law is aimed at stopping cyberbullying, insulting and disgracing individuals on online platforms. Offenders are likely to face a jail term of up to five years or a penalty of Rs 10,000. In some cases, both the jail term and penalty may apply.

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India’s Covid final trials may end in 2 months: Health Minister

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Harsh Vardhan

NEW DELHI: Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Sunday said India’s own Covid-19 vaccine candidate could complete its final trials in a month or two. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and privately-held Bharat Biotech this month started third-stage trials of COVAXIN, in a process that would involve 26,000 volunteers. It is the most advanced Indian experimental vaccine. “We are in the process of developing our indigenous vaccines, in the process of completing our third-phase trials in the next one or two months,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said.

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