Friday briefing: Hong Kong democracy leader snatched off street | World news


Top story: Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Andy Chan arrested

Hello, Warren Murray with you at the end of a busy working week in the news.

The prominent pro-democracy figures Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow have been arrested in Hong Kong, with Wong said to have been snatched off the street and bundled into a van. Andy Chan, head of a now banned pro-independence party, was also arrested. An appeals panel has denied permission to hold a major rally that had been planned for Saturday in a continuation of the mass protests that have now lasted almost three months.

Both Wong and Chow were taken to police headquarters in Wan Chai where authorities said they were charged over a demonstration that surrounded police headquarters on 21 June. The pair are former student leaders of the “Umbrella Movement” pro-democracy protests in 2014. Chan was arrested at Hong Kong international airport while on his way to Japan, reports said. Police confirmed a 29-year-old man had been detained on suspicion of “participating in riots” and “attacking police”. Chan’s Hong Kong National party was proscribed last year on grounds of national security – the first political group to be outlawed in decades.

‘Step up the tempo’ – Brexit negotiators for Britain and the EU will meet twice a week after Boris Johnson told officials to “step up the tempo” in trying to get a deal without the Irish backstop. A growing number of senior Tory rebels have signalled they are prepared to back urgent legislation to thwart a no-deal Brexit after Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament. Our political team write that ministers privately admit they face a battle to stop anti-no-deal legislation in the Commons and will try to frustrate rebels’ efforts in the House of Lords, where the legislation will need to be passed before parliament is suspended. Jeremy Corbyn said parliament must “legislate rapidly” on Tuesday next week to try to stop a no-deal Brexit. The Labour leader pledged to launch an attempt to stop prorogation – meanwhile court challenges are under way with a judge due to announce a decision in Edinburgh this morning and legal action also being taken in Belfast and London.

HRT cancer risk – Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a direct cause of breast cancer and carries twice the risk previously thought, according to research. A million women in the UK and millions more around the world use HRT. The study published in the Lancet says one in 50 women of average weight taking the most common form – combined daily oestrogen and progestogen – for five years will get breast cancer as a result. The UK’s drug licensing body suggested women who are using or have used HRT should be vigilant for signs of breast cancer. Prof Janice Rymer from the Royal College of GPs said: “Women must be informed of the small increase in risk of breast cancer so they can weigh this up against the benefits that they may have from taking HRT.”

No single ‘gay gene’ – A study has quashed the idea that a single “gay gene” exists. Using genetic databases, researchers found five tiny differences in DNA that showed a clear link to same-sex sexual behaviour: two in both men and women, two found only in men and one found only in women. But even taken together, these five explained less than 1% of the variation in same-sex behaviour among participants – suggesting many other variants are involved in subtle ways. Overall, the researchers say, about a third of the variation in same-sex behaviour is probably explained by genetics, but it is not possible to use DNA to predict whether an individual will have same-sex partners. The authors say their findings provide “further evidence that diverse sexual behaviour is a natural part of overall human variation”.

Comey criticised over leaks – Donald Trump has seized on justice department findings that James Comey, whom he fired as FBI director, broke department rules when he shared details from memos of his interactions with the president. The inspector-general’s office said it decided not to prosecute after finding “no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the memos to members of the media”. Comey’s disclosures helped fuel the two-year Trump-Russia investigation in which Robert Mueller declined to exonerate the president of obstruction of justice.

Free at last – A man from Alabama who at 22 was jailed for life without parole for stealing $50.75 from a bakery is to be released after more than three decades. Alvin Kennard was first imprisoned in 1983 under Alabama’s old Habitual Felony Offender Act, also known as the “three strikes law”. On Wednesday a circuit judge cut the sentence to time already served. Kennard reportedly told the judge he wants to work as a carpenter. His lawyer said “hundreds” of people are still similarly imprisoned for nonviolent crimes because they don’t have attorneys.

Not quite Space Force – Donald Trump has launched Space Command or SpaceCom, reviving a military division that was shut down in 2002 as part of a government restructuring. Its operations are expected to include enabling satellite-based navigation and communications for troops in the field, providing warning of missile launches abroad, and defending against disruption by Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weapons. The president’s much-vaunted Space Force – which would join the army, navy, air force, marine corps and coast guard as a distinct service – is yet to clear Congress. Watch the skies …

Lunchtime read: Posters for films that never happened

Designer Fernando Reza has created a set of imaginary posters for films that couldn’t make it past pre-production, from Tim Burton’s Superman Lives to Alfred Hitchcock’s Kaleidoscope.

Nicolas Cage as he might have been in Superman Lives

Nicolas Cage as he might have been in Superman Lives. Photograph: Fernando Reza/Fro Design Company


Johanna Konta demonstrated her adaptability as she returned to court after a rain-affected Wednesday at the US Open to pummel Margarita Gasparyan 6-1, 6-0 in 54 minutes in one of her best performances of the year. In the men’s draw at Flushing Meadows, Dan Evans will face his friend Roger Federer in the third round after defeating Lucas Pouille.

Nikita Parris’s penalty with 15 minutes to go saved a draw for England against Belgium after the hosts stormed back from 2-0 down to lead in Leuven. Jürgen Klopp had claimed another season of English dominance in Europe was unlikely but in private the draw for the Champions League group stage may prompt a rethink. At the ceremony in Monaco, Eric Cantona received a Uefa award and in his acceptance speed said humans will soon become “eternal” unless war or crime intervene. Luke Campbell believes his advantage in height and reach can defeat the huge favourite Vasyl Lomachenko in their world lightweight title fight in London on Saturday. And Nicolas Roche was taken to hospital after being involved in a huge crash on stage six of the Vuelta a España.


Asian stocks have rebounded Friday on hopes US-Chinese talks next month might produce progress towards ending the tariff war. Benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney all followed Wall Street higher. A Chinese government statement said its penalties on US imports are adequate, suggesting Beijing might be pausing in the tit-for-tat with Trump. The FTSE is tracking around 0.2% higher at time of writing while the pound is worth €1.102 and $1.217.

The papers

Some of the papers swing the Brexit focus disparagingly on to the Labour leader: “Corbyn backs calls to shut down the streets”, says the Telegraph, while the Express says “Queen WON’T meet Corbyn” and underlines “won’t” in a way that conjures Her Majesty saying it with a stamp of the royal foot. The Metro plays it straight with “Corbyn: I’ll stop Johnson”.

Guardian front page, Friday 30 August 2019

Guardian front page, Friday 30 August 2019

“Senior Tories pledge rapid action to thwart no deal” is our splash headline in the Guardian. The i takes a similar line: “Tory rebels ready to vote down PM’s Brexit plan”. The FT’s two-decker goes like this: “Johnsons seeks to avert Commons defeat by soothing no-deal nerves”. The Times goes with “Women warned of raised cancer danger from HRT” as its lead down the page, but runs Brexit across the top, saying Labour and Tory rebels are planning a no-deal-thwarting weekend stint in parliament. The Mail’s gone with hormone therapy too: “New alert over HRT links to breast cancer”. The Mirror claims a “world picture exclusive” as it goes full width with a photo of “The president, the prince and the paedophile” – the subject matter is by now well known.

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