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Pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong say they make take legal action against the secretary general of the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo) amid a bitter procedural row over controversial amendments to extradition laws allowing renditions to mainland China.
Pro-democracy members of LegCo are accusing Kenneth Chen of misconduct in public office after he helped pro-Beijing lawmakers in their bid to seize control of a committee scrutinizing the amendments.
They say a letter from the secretariat paved the way for the ouster of Democratic Party lawmaker James To as chairman of the committee, after he allowed extensive filibustering in the committee by the pro-democracy camp, who oppose the amendments.
Pro-democracy lawmakers say the secretariat lacks authorization to write to lawmakers about To, and accuse it of taking part in a political coup with pro-Beijing LegCo members. Pro-Beijing lawmaker Abraham Shek says he has replaced To as committee chair.
“He revoked my appointment as chairman, but not using a legal, written form,” To told reporters after a meeting of the committee was declared not to have been, in fact, a meeting of the committee.
“On that basis, [Shek] issued the notice canceling [a planned] meeting this afternoon, but that is invalid because it wasn’t issued by me,” he said.
Pan-democratic camp convenor Claudia Mo said the members could apply for a judicial review.
“[This is] an act of subversion by the LegCo secretariat, who is supposed to serve the entire legislature and not just one sector of pro-Beijing lawmakers,” Mo told government broadcaster RTHK.
“The fact that they would just bypass all the necessary rules and regulations in order to achieve what their bosses want is more than preposterous.”
A call for calm
LegCo president Andrew Leung called for calm on Monday as To declared that he was still presiding over the bills committee, calling for discussions to resolve the dispute. However, he claimed that the secretariat had acted neutrally, and in accordance with LegCo rules, something the pro-democracy camp disputes.
“Everyone needs to take a step back, or maybe sit down and discuss a way out of this dilemma,” Leung said. “This shouldn’t continue to be handled in a confrontational manner.”
The dispute came as a delegation of veteran democrats from Hong Kong visited Canada in a bid to highlight the dangers of the amendments to Hong Kong’s Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.
Democratic Party founder Martin Lee, former pro-democracy student leader and ousted lawmaker Nathan Law were among the delegation calling on the Canadian government to take note of the harm that could be done to Hong Kong.
“The Fugitive Offenders Ordinance [amendments] won’t just target Hong Kong people; it will also affect Canadians,” Lee said during the trip, which will include meetings with Canadian lawmakers and government officials. “I hope that the Canadian government and the [overseas Chinese] community will stand with us and call on the Hong Kong government to stop them.”
“Chinese Canadians may have moved to Canada, but the Chinese government still regards you as a Chinese citizen,” Lee warned, adding: “China’s criminal law applies to both Chinese citizens and foreign nationals.”
Taking to the streets
Pro-democracy leaders and rights activists in Hong Kong have warned of mass demonstrations if the government presses ahead in the face of public opposition.
Last month, tens of thousands of people took to the city’s streets in protest over the amendments, which would allow rendition of criminal suspects to mainland China in the absence of an extradition agreement.
The planned changes to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance will allow the Hong Kong government to respond to case-by-case requests for extradition in the absence of a bilateral treaty.
The most likely jurisdiction to use the proposed provision is the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which currently has no bilateral arrangement with Hong Kong.
Journalists have warned that the new law could both threaten the safety of journalists, who have traditionally used the city as a safe haven, and have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Hong Kong.
Under the terms of the 1997 handover to China, Hong Kong was promised the continuation of its traditional freedoms of the press, of speech and association, as well as an independent judiciary and separate legal system, under the “one country, two systems” framework that has sheltered peaceful critics of Beijing until now.
But pro-democracy politicians and rights activists say they have little faith in the Hong Kong government’s promises that rendition requests from Beijing will be subjected to stringent human rights protections.
The march came after a Hong Kong court jailed four founding members of the 2014 Occupy Central movement, handing down jail terms of 16 months to Hong Kong University law lecturer Benny Tai and retired sociology professor Chan Kin-man on public order charges that included “inciting others to cause a public nuisance.”
Currently, suspects must be wanted for a crime that is an offense both in Hong Kong and another jurisdiction with which it has an extradition treaty, and requests are limited to a list of 46 serious crimes including murder, assault, and sex offenses.
But under the proposed changes, citizens of the democratic island of Taiwan and other countries traveling through Hong Kong could also be placed in jeopardy, should Beijing decide that it wanted to accuse them of a crime.
Democratic politicians have also pointed to the arrests of several Canadian nationals on Chinese territory since the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on Dec. 1, 2018, and to the 2015 cross-border detentions of five booksellers, including a Swedish and a U.K. national, wanted for selling books banned in mainland China to customers there, despite the fact that their actions were entirely legal in Hong Kong.
One of the five booksellers, Lam Wing-kei, has fled Hong Kong for fear he could be redetained and sent back to China if the amended law gets through LegCo.
China’s justice system has a record of arbitrary detention, torture, and other ill-treatment, of serious violations of fair trial rights, and of various systems of incommunicado detention without trial, the New York-based Human Rights Watch has warned.
The amendments being proposed in Hong Kong would heighten the risk for human rights activists and others critical of China being extradited to the mainland for trial on fabricated charges, and would be a “devastating blow” to the city’s freedoms, it said. (RFA)
Diwali is arguably one of the most auspicious and celebrated holidays in South Asia. It is celebrated over the span of five days, where the third is considered most important and known as Diwali. During Diwali people come together to light, lamps, and diyas, savour sweet delicacies and pray to the lord. The day has various origin stories with the main them being the victory of good over evil. While the North celebrates the return of Lord Rama and Devi Sita to Ayodhya, the South rejoices in the victory of Lord Krishna and his consort Satyabhama over evil Narakasura.
Narakasura- The great mythical demon King
Naraka or Narakasur was the son of Bhudevi (Goddess Earth) and fathered either by the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu or Hiranyaksha. He grew to be a powerful demon king and became the legendary progenitor of all three dynasties of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa, and the founding ruler of the legendary Bhauma dynasty of Pragjyotisha.
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Narakasura was created, grew up to be strong and powerful but he was not satisfied with it, so he decided that he would worship Lord Brahma. He performed severe penance and was driven by the power of his penance; Lord Brahma appeared before him. Narakasura knew his mother loved him dearly so he asked Lord Brahma to grant him a boon that he would only die by the hands of his mother, Bhumidevi. Lord Brahma smile and ultimately granted him the boon.
Narakasura burst out laughing as Lord Brahma vanished. He thought no mother would kill their child so Lord Brahma had made him immortal. Drunk and maddened by his own power Narakasura brought all the kingdoms under his control and targeted Swargalok (Heaven). Even Indra (King of Gods) and demi-gods had to retreat in front of Narakasura. He kidnapped and took 16,000 women from the palaces as prisoners. Troubled by Naraksura's deeds the gods rushed to Lord Vishnu for a solution.
Lord Krishna and Devi Satyabhama were born to kill Narakasura
Lord Vishnu was born as Lord Krishna and Narakasura's mother Bhumidevi took the avatar of Krishna's wife Satyabhama. As Satyabhama, Bhumidevi was unaware of the knowledge of Naraksura being her son. Aditi the mother of all gods approached Satyabhama crying for help with bloodied ears as Narakasura had torn off the glowing earrings from the ears of Aditi.
Satyabhama was furious on gaining the knowledge of Narakasura's atrocities she asked Krishna to fight the demon king while she fights alongside him. Krishna agreed and they attacked the great fortress of Narakasura, riding his mount Garuda with his wife Satyabhama.
The furious battle unleashed. Krishna defeated Narakasura's general Mura and came to be known as Murari (the killer of Mura). Narakasura used several divine weapons against Krishna, but Krishna slew all those weapons effortlessly. The demon hurled a shakti towards Krishna, which mildly hurt Krishna and he fell unconscious. Upon this sight Satyabhama was enraged, she furiously pulled out a weapon of her own and hurled it at Narakasura's chest. Anxious Satyabhama turned to her fallen Lord, Krishna got up with a smile and he was completely fine. He was only playing his part. It was Satyabhama who was an incarnation of Bhoomidevi, whose hands were destined to slay Narakasura.
ALSO READ: Choosing Environment-Friendly Diwali
Lord Krishna and Goddess Satyabhama had put an end to the Narakasura's kingdom of evil. As Narakasura lay on his deathbed he realised that Satyabhama was no one but an avatar of his own mother. He requested a boon from his mother, for no one to mourn his death. Instead, he wished for people to celebrate it with light and colours. They freed the 16,000 women who later married Lord Krishna to restore them of their honour in society, retrieved Mother goddess's earrings. This day is celebrated as 'Naraka Chaturdashi' popularly known as Choti Diwali - the day before Diwali as the triumph of good over evil.
Keywords: Diwali festival, goddess Laxmi, demon king, Lord Krishna, Satyabhama, the festival of light, Naraksura, Narak Chaturdashi
For all the great inventions that we have at hand, it is amazing how we keep going back to the safety pin every single time to fix everything. Be it tears in our clothes, to fix our broken things, to clean our teeth and nails when toothpicks are unavailable, to accessorize our clothes, and of course, as an integral part of the Indian saree. Safety pins are a must-have in our homes. But how did they come about at all?
The safety pin was invented at a time when brooches existed. They were used by the Greeks and Romans quite extensively. A man named Walter Hunt picked up a piece of brass and coiled it into the safety pin we know today. He did it just to pay off his debt. He even sold the patent rights of this seemingly insignificant invention just so that his debtors would leave him alone.
Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement in the 70s. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Later, he even invented the sewing needles and a couple of other important inventions but never kept any of the patent rights.
When the punk rock tradition took over in the seventies, safety pins became a fashion rage. They were used as piercings and to patch clothes together. Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement. In some cultures, the safety pins have become symbols of good luck.
Keywords: Safety-pins, Punk Rock, Brass, Accessories, Walter Hunt
In South India, Deepavali marks the end of the monsoon and heralds the start of winter. The festival is usually observed in the weeks following heavy rain, and just before the first cold spell in the peninsula. The light and laughter that comes with the almost week-long celebration are certainly warm to the bones, but there is still a tradition that the South Indians follow to ease their transition from humidity to the cold.
Just before the main festival, the family bathes in sesame oil. This tradition is called 'yellu yennai snaana' in Kannada, or 'ennai kuliyal' in Tamil, which translates to 'sesame oil bath'. The eldest member of the family applies three drops of heated oil on each member's head. They must massage this oil into their hair and body. The oil is allowed to soak in for a while, anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour. After this, they must wash with warm water before sunrise.
Women applying oil to the heads of men Photo credit: Indians in Kuwait
In some parts of the peninsula, soap is not used to wash off the oil because it nullifies its effects. Some cultures who do not like the oil to remain in any way on their skin wash it off with shikakai and herbs, which is a paste that is traditionally used as a substitute for soap. Sometimes, the oil is heated with flowers and spices as well and is less sticky than in its pure form.
The purpose of this ritual is to cleanse the body, detoxify it, and produce heat in it. Sesame is a very heaty substance and tends to heat up the body. This heat, or 'usshna' in Kannada, prepares the body to face the sudden cold that comes to the peninsula immediately after Diwali. South India has no smooth transition weather-wise from monsoon to winter. There are a few days of stable, rainless weather, and suddenly the cold winds descend.
In many ways, the celebration of Diwali is centered around preparing for winter, considering the amount of heat and light the rituals consist of – lighting lamps, bursting crackers, and consuming warm treats. Those who practice these rituals earnestly find the shift in seasons and weather quite pleasant.
Keyboards: Sesame Oil Bath, Diwali Ritual, Traditional Sesame Oil Bath