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Trump asks senator to resign over opposing veterans post’s nominee

The White House presented documents to reporters from an administration official who claims they exonerate Jackson from the accusations of inappropriately dispensing medication and crashing a government vehicle after a Secret Service going away party. 

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Donald Trump, Wikimedia Commons

U.S. President Donald Trump called for the resignation Saturday of Democratic Senator Jon Tester for raising concerns about Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, Ronny Jackson, who withdrew his name from consideration on Thursday.

Jackson, who is the White House physician and a Navy Rear Admiral, dropped his bid Thursday to head the country’s second-largest federal agency as lawmakers probed allegations of professional misconduct and excessive drinking.

In a pair of tweets, Trump wrote the allegations “are proving false” and that Tester, who represents the western state of Montana, should step down.

Also Read: US Lawmakers Demand To Change The CEO Of Facebook

Trump blamed Tester for the demise of Jackson’s nomination after Tester said Wednesday that 20 current and former members of the military familiar with Jackson’s office had told lawmakers that he drank on the job. They also said Jackson oversaw a toxic work environment and handed out drug prescriptions with little consideration of a patient’s medical background.

Jackson said if the allegations “had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years. Going into this process, I expected tough questions about how to best care for our veterans, but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity.”

Jackson gained a degree of fame unusual for White House physicians earlier this year when he took questions from the White House press corps on national television, describing at length about Trump's health after conducting the president's physical exam.
Jon Tester, wikimedia common

The White House presented documents to reporters from an administration official who claims they exonerate Jackson from the accusations of inappropriately dispensing medication and crashing a government vehicle after a Secret Service going away party.

Jackson was fast losing support in Congress.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers indefinitely postponed Jackson’s scheduled Wednesday confirmation hearing as they investigated the allegations.

Several news outlets reported that Jackson was known as the “candy man” for over-prescribing drug prescriptions, while CNN said that in one 2015 incident Jackson drunkenly banged on the hotel room door of a female employee in the middle of the night on an overseas trip. The U.S. Secret Service intervened to stop Jackson, according to the report, so then-President Barack Obama, sleeping in another hotel room, would not be awakened.

Jackson gained a degree of fame unusual for White House physicians earlier this year when he took questions from the White House press corps on national television, describing at length about Trump’s health after conducting the president’s physical exam.

Also Read: Tensions grow as US bombers fly over the South China sea

Trump, the oldest first-term president in American history, was plagued at the time by questions about his physical health, weight and mental stability. But Jackson gave the president a top rating. “The president’s overall health is excellent,” Jackson declared at the time.

Trump unexpectedly picked Jackson to replace a holdover from the administration of former president Obama, David Shulkin, whom Trump fired. Several lawmakers have complained that the White House did not properly vet Jackson’s background before Trump announced Jackson’s appointment. (VOA)

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U.S. Government Human Rights Report Shows ‘Amber’ Warning Light Situation in Hong Kong

"Human rights issues included substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association [and] restrictions on political participation," the report said.

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China
The flags of Hong Kong (left) and its communist ruler China, in file photo. RFA

A U.S. government human rights report is ‘an amber light’ for the human rights situation in Hong Kong, with some of the city’s traditional freedoms under threat, commentators told RFA.

The State Department highlighted several areas of concern in its 2018Human Rights Report published last week, in particular, “encroachment” by the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing on Hong Kong’s promised autonomy.

“Human rights issues included substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association [and] restrictions on political participation,” the report said.

The report cited multiple sources as saying that Chinese operativesmonitored some political activists, nongovernmental organizations(NGOs), and academics who criticized Beijing’s policies in Hong Kong,which is supposed to be separate legal jurisdiction under the terms of the “one country, two systems” framework.

China
The move came as the Hong Kong Journalists Association warned ofincreasing self-censorship among local journalists, often among mediaoutlets with business interests in mainland China. VOA

It also pointed to cross-border detentions and abductions, citing thedisappearance of businessman Xiao Jianhua and the cross-border rendition of Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai, who is a Swedish citizen.

“Xiao’s and other abductions show the Chinese Central Government’swillingness to act contrary to the rule of law and undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy,” the report said.

It said Hong Kong and Chinese officials had restricted, or sought to restrict, the right to express or report on political protest and dissent, particularly the notion of independence for Hong Kong.

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“But if Hong Kong’s human rights situation continues to deteriorate in the next couple of years … for example, if we see more kidnappings, then I think the U.S. is very likely to abolish Hong Kong’s status as a separate trading territory.” VOA

The trial of dozens of protesters, including key figures, after the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement on public order charges had”raised the cost of protesting government policies and led to concerns the government was using the law to suppress political dissent.”

The report also cited the jailing of two disqualified lawmakers, Sixtus Leung and Yao Wai-ching, last June for four weeks on “unlawful assembly” charges, following scuffles with Legislative Council security guards in 2016.

It said the banning of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party(HKNP) last September was one example, while the disqualification of six pro-democracy lawmakers for “improperly” taking their oaths of allegiance was another.

The U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) voiced concern at thetime over the ban, which relied on colonial-era legislation under theSocieties Ordinance that originally targeted criminal organizations, or “triads.”

“The UK does not support Hong Kong independence, but Hong Kong’s highdegree of autonomy and its rights and freedoms are central to its way of life, and it is important they are fully respected,” the statement said.

‘An amber light’

Hong Kong political commentator Sang Pu said the State Departmentreport had struck a note of warning to the international community.

“I don’t think this is a red light, but it is an amber light,” Sang told RFA, adding that a further deterioration could affect Hong Kong’s international reputation as an open port.

“But if Hong Kong’s human rights situation continues to deteriorate in the next couple of years … for example, if we see more kidnappings, then I think the U.S. is very likely to abolish Hong Kong’s status as a separate trading territory.”

Another red flag would be the enactment of sedition, subversion andnational security laws, as mandated by Article 23 of the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, Sang said.

Meanwhile, a national law passed by Beijing in September 2017“criminalizes any action mocking the Chinese national anthem and requires persons attending public events to stand at attention and sing the anthem in a solemn manner during its rendition,” the State Department report said, adding that Hong Kong will soon legislate to make the law apply in its own jurisdiction.

It also pointed to the effective expulsion from Hong Kong, the first since the handover, of Financial Times Asia news editor Victor Mallet, after he hosted at event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club featuring HKNP founder Andy Chan as the speaker.

The move came as the Hong Kong Journalists Association warned ofincreasing self-censorship among local journalists, often among mediaoutlets with business interests in mainland China.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Alvin Yeung, who also heads Hong Kong’s CivicParty, said he shares concerns over Hong Kong’s reputation.

“Our most important competitor, Singapore, has free trade agreements with pretty much the rest of the world, and Hong Kong is lagging behind,” Yeung said.

Also Read: North Korean Authorities Ramping Up The Levels of Strictness at Weekly Self-Criticism Sessions

“Our international image is probably that Hong Kong wouldn’t be capable of such a thing,” he said. “Other countries might not be interested in pursuing free trade agreements with Hong Kong, because there are no benefits to doing so.”

But pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung said Hong Kong remains a free society.

“We have a very high level of human rights protection,” Leung said. “I hope they aren’t going to suppress our economic freedom under the guise of human rights.” (RFA)