Taiwan heads for key poll with one eye on Hong Kong

On a slow Thursday evening in the Ling Ya night market in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, Huang Jin-yueh, 60, is despondent as she washes utensils in the sink under the harsh strip lighting of her empty restaurant.

Taiwanese meat delicacies, offal and chicken’s feet are laid out in neat rows on a road stall to tempt hungry passers-by, but the long queues that once lined up are gone.

“Business has been bad for the last four years, but in the past six months it’s been even worse. The tourists have stopped coming,” she said. Ms Huang plans to vote for Taiwan’s opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), in January’s presidential and legislative election, hoping that her economic woes can be resolved. 

German car lovers fight back with Fridays for Horsepower

Car lovers who say they are sick of being blamed for climate change have started one of the fastest growing movements in Germany.

Calling themselves Fridays for Horsepower, they have signed up more than 566,000 members — more than the total membership of the country’s biggest political party.

Their critics have dismissed them as climate change deniers, but Josh Büchner, a part-British Ford enthusiast who is one of the group’s co-founders, insists that’s not the case.

“We chose the name in response to Fridays for Future,” he says, referring to Greta Thunberg’s school strikes movement. “But our demands are not far from those of Fridays for Future.”

He says Fridays for Horsepower is committed to…

British tourist shot and killed in Buenos Aires robbery

A British tourist has been killed outside a five star hotel in Argentina in an attempted robbery. A 50-year-old man and his son, 28, were both shot as they tried to enter the luxury Hotel Faena, in the heart of Buenos Aires’ Puerto Madero district, emergency services said.

They were intercepted by two men on a motorcycle who tried to rob them as they got out of a taxi, arriving at the hotel. The robbers, who had been circling the area, also had a support vehicle nearby.

The two Brits attempted to resist the theft and were shot in the struggle, authorities said. Emergency services arrived within minutes and took both to local Argerich hospital.

The father was shot in the armpit and suffered a haemorrage after the bullet entered his chest. He died of his wounds shortly afterwards. His son received a bullet to his left leg and is reportedly out of danger: the bullet missed his femoral artery.

The perpetrators escaped after the attack and police were still searching for them on Saturday.

The luxury Hotel Faena, where the shooting took place

Local police have closed off the area and security footage from the scene is being analysed in order to identify the motorcycle and the route of escape.

The hotel, which is party of the luxury Faena Group including a hotel in Miami, released a statement expressing "deepest condolences" and promising full support in the investigation.

Armed robberies tend to rise at this time of year in Buenos Aires, when tourists flood to the city for the warmer months.

In December last year, Swedish tourist Christoffer Persson was shot during an attempted robbery, and his leg subsequently amputated due to his injuries. In the same month, a US tourist was hospitalised after a violent assault during which his camera was stolen.

Puerto Madero, where the murder took place, is the redeveloped former city docks, hailed as one of the most successful urban regeneration projects in the world, attracting huge foreign investment, young professionals, and luxury tourism.

Toxic Donald Trump ‘may ignore’ Boris Johnson’s plea not to intervene in general election

Donald Trump’s advisers fear he may not be able to stop himself intervening in the UK election when he visits London for a Nato summit next week, despite a plea from Boris Johnson.

The US president has been informed that Mr Johnson does not want him to offer his support publicly, amid fears an endorsement could end up harming the Prime Minister’s chances, and improving those of Jeremy Corbyn.

But an insider told the Telegraph that Mr Trump may simply ignore the advice on the spur of the moment because he finds it hard to understand why his support would not be welcome.

"He’s got the advice but he doesn’t have to take it, he gets to do his own thinking," a person close to the president said. "He’s…

British orphans rescued from Islamic State ‘in good spirits’ as they return home

British orphans rescued from Syria have had an emotional reunion with relatives in the UK and appear to be in “good spirits” after four years trapped in Islamic State’s caliphate.

The children were greeted by family members at the airport in London and slept in the car on the way home, said to be tired after a long journey. 

The children, whom The Telegraph is not identifying for legal reasons, boarded a plane from Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan to London on Thursday night, escorted by officials from the Foreign Office.

A day earlier they were retrieved from Syria with the help of British special forces.

“They immediately recognised the family members and family home on their arrival,” according to an account provided to a court hearing an order relating to their case.

They had breakfast with their families on Friday and seemed to be upbeat.

“They have settled into the home and appear to be as happy as they possibly could be given the circumstances of their return,” it was heard. 

They were discovered earlier this year alone in a camp for the families of suspected Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) members.

Speaking mostly in Arabic, they remembered little about their family and could not give their surname.

Their parents and siblings were killed earlier this year in air strikes on the last of Isil’s territory in eastern Syria.

The repatriation marked the first by the Government of British nationals out of the war-torn country and followed pressure by the US and partner forces on the ground. It is not yet clear whether any further evacuations will follow, however, dozens of British women and their children remain stranded in camps across Kurdish-held north-east Syria.

Speaking during a campaign stop in Workshop, Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to indicate that he was open to more repatriations, where possible. 

"I think the situation in Syria is very difficult and very dangerous and I think it has been a great success that some orphaned children have been brought back," he said.

"But I think it would be over-optimistic frankly to say that we could do it in every single case – the military, logistical difficulties involved are very considerable but what I’ve said is that where the Government can help then it should help."

The women been held with their children in the camps for months, and in some cases, years without charge. The mothers, who are in the custody of Western-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), stand accused of travelling to the war-torn country to join Isil.

The SDF has refused to try them, while the UK Government is blocking their return, making it unclear whether they will ever have their day in court. They exist in limbo in al-Hol camp, which is home to some 68,000 women and children, and nearby Roj camp, which is home to around to around 4,000.

One British woman, Naseema Begum from east London, whom the Telegraph spoke to during a recent visit to Roj camp, said she had been there since 2017. Others, including Bethnal Green schoolgirl Shamima Begum, since February. The majority arrived earlier this year after escaping from Isil’s final pocket of Baghuz.

Aid agencies with access to the camps say they are no place for children. In summer, temperatures can reach 50 degrees, in winter into the minuses. The hastily built tents barely protect them from the wind and rain.

Aside from the physical hardships, the children in the camps continue to be exposed to Isil’s violent ideology.

 

China and Sweden locked in diplomatic row over missing dissident book publisher   

Beijing and Stockholm continue to be locked in a diplomatic row after a noted literary organisation honoured Gui Minhai, who was abducted four years ago and remains under detention in China.

Mr Gui was awarded the 2019 Tucholsky prize, in recognition of his work in service of freedom of speech, given annually to a persecuted or exiled writer, by the Swedish arm of PEN international.

An empty chair symbolically represented Mr Gui at the Stockholm reception last Friday. 

But the move angered Beijing, with Chinese authorities threatening to ban Swedish minister for culture Amanda Lind, who presented the award, from entering China.

The Chinese embassy in Stockholm called her attendance at the ceremony a “serious mistake,” and threatened that “wrong deeds will only meet with bad consequences.” The embassy also called the decision to award the prize “an outright political farce,” accusing Sweden of having an “ulterior political agenda” biased against China.

Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven, however, stressed that Stockholm would not back down. “We are not going to give in to this type of threat. Never. We have freedom of expression in Sweden, and that’s how it is, period,” Mr Lofven told Swedish television.

Swedish Culture and Democracy Minister Amanda Lind presents Svenska PEN's Tucholsky Prize to detained Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai in Stockholm Credit: REUTERS

Mr Gui, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen, was abducted in Thailand in 2015 and vanished into the Chinese state, in a case that has strained ties between Beijing and Stockholm for years.

He was one of several Hong Kong-based book publishers who put out books critical of China’s Communist Party elite, all of whom disappeared around the same time. The case captured international attention given the audacity of the Chinese government to kidnap people abroad and squirrel them back to the mainland, and stoked fears of the long arm of the state to silence dissidents. 

The ruling Chinese Communist Party routinely prisons people critical of the government, including foreign nationals, typically forcing them to confess to justify prolonged detention or trumped-up charges.

In Mr Gui’s case, he appeared on Chiense state television saying he had surrendered after leaving a fatal drunk-driving accident more than a decade earlier, in a confession that many human rights experts, and his family, believe to be made under duress. Chinese authorities continue to maintain that he is a criminal 

Little is known about his whereabouts, or when he might be released. 

The Tucholsky prize is named for German writer Kurt Tucholsky who fled Nazi Germany for Sweden; past recipients include Salman Rushdie. 

The American arm of PEN plans to publish a book of Mr Gui’s poetry next year, work that has been smuggled out of prison. 

Holding Mr Gui against his will for years is “a breathtakingly blatant violation of human rights and international law,’ said James Tager of PEN America.

“Such efforts at intimidation are shameless and abhorrent. If China truly doesn’t want to be criticised over its appalling treatment of Gui Minhai, here’s a solution: release him.”

Wolf Pack rapists on trial in separate case of groping unconscious woman in car

Four of the five members of the so-called ‘Wolf Pack’, who are serving 15-year sentences for a gang rape during Pamplona’s San Fermín bull-running festival, have been put on trial for a different instance of sexual abuse.

Spain’s public prosecution office has asked for jail terms of seven years for the men on charges of abuse and invasion of privacy after a video emerged of the four taking turns to grope and kiss a young woman in a completely unresponsive state.

According to the accusation compiled by the investigating judge who ordered that the four men stand trial, Alfonso Jesús Cabezuelo, José Ángel Prenda, Antonio Manuel Guerrero and Jesús Escudero met the alleged victim at a village fair in the province of Córdoba, offering to give her a lift home.

“As soon as she got in and sat in the front passenger seat, she fell into a state of deep unconsciousness,” the investigation read.

“They all touched her breasts and [Cabezuelo] kissed her on the mouth as they all laughed at the victim.”

The original verdict sparked widespread protests Credit: Gari Garaialde/Getty Images

According to the investigating judge, the woman woke up completely naked in the back of the car, with holes ripped in her clothes and bruises on the back of her legs. 

The woman, who is due to give evidence on Tuesday, has told police she remembers nothing of the car journey, leading investigators to suspect she was drugged. 

Cabezuelo, a former soldier, was the only person she recalls still being in the car. He is also accused of hitting the woman when she refused his request for a sex act. 

The Pamplona case caused controversy in Spain when the five men were initially cleared of rape and convicted of the lesser crime of sexual abuse, because they had not used violence or intimidation when having non-consensual sex with the victim. 

On a final appeal, it was ruled that they had created an “atmosphere of intimidation” that warranted a rape conviction.

There is no evidence of whether the latest alleged victim was raped or, if so, how many times and by which of the men.

She reported the incident after police came across the videos on the accused’s phones when investigating the San Fermín case.

The four accused pleaded innocent and said they will remain silent during the trial. The defence asked for the video evidence to be discounted as it arose in the course of a separate investigation. 

Rodney Reed granted stay of execution from US court amid celebrity pressure over 1996 murder case

Texas’s top criminal appeals court on Friday halted the scheduled execution of inmate Rodney Reed, whose conviction is being questioned by new evidence that his supporters say raises serious doubt about his guilt.

The stay of execution by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals came just hours after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles had recommended delaying the lethal injection.

The 51-year-old Reed had been set for lethal injection on Wednesday evening for the 1996 killing of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. Prosecutors say Reed raped and strangled Stites as she made her way to work at a supermarket in Bastrop, a rural community about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of Austin.

Reed’s efforts to stop his execution have received support from such celebrities as Beyonce, Kim Kardashian and Oprah Winfrey. Lawmakers from both parties, including Texas senator Ted Cruz, have also asked that officials take a closer look at the evidence in the case.

In its four-page order, the appeals court said Reed’s case should be returned to the trial court in Bastrop County so it could examine his claims that he is innocent and that prosecutors suppressed evidence and presented false testimony.

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Today, I had the honor of meeting #RodneyReed in person and the privilege of sitting with him when he got the news that the highest court in Texas had issued a stay of execution and remanded the case back to the trial court for further consideration. Words cannot describe the relief and hope that swept over the room in that moment. That hope had been building over the last few weeks around Rodney’s case. We have seen Democrats and Republicans come together. We have seen grassroots activists and lawmakers link arms. We have heard people all around the globe speak up. And all because of a deep belief that every man or woman accused of a crime – especially one punishable by death – deserves the chance to have all available evidence considered. So grateful for the commitment and passion of everyone who voiced their support, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for their recommendation to issue a 120 day reprieve, and the courts for issuing a stay!

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Bryce Benjet, an attorney with the Innocence Project, which is representing Reed, said defence attorneys were "extremely relieved and thankful" to the appeals court.

"This opportunity will allow for proper consideration of the powerful and mounting new evidence of Mr Reed’s innocence," Benjet said in a statement.

The Texas attorney general’s office declined to comment Friday on whether it would appeal the order staying Reed’s execution.

Earlier Friday, the parole board had unanimously recommended a 120-day reprieve for Reed. The board rejected Reed’s request to commute his sentence to life in prison.

The parole board’s decision was to go next to Gov Greg Abbott, who hasn’t said whether he would accept or reject it or do nothing.

It is likely the stay makes Abbott’s decision moot. Since taking office in 2015, he has halted only one imminent execution, in 2018.

A man wears a shirt in support of Rodney Reed during a protest against Reed's execution on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Bastrop, Texas.  Credit: Austin American-Statesman

Since Texas resumed executions in 1982, only three death row inmates have had their sentences commuted to life in prison by a governor within days of their scheduled executions.

Reed has other appeals pending, including with the US Supreme Court. His supporters have held rallies, including an overnight vigil on Thursday in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. It was unclear if a rally planned for Sunday in front of the Texas governor’s mansion would still take place.

Reed has long maintained he didn’t kill Stites and that her fiance, former police officer Jimmy Fennell, was the real killer. Reed says Fennell was angry because Stites, who was white, was having an affair with Reed, who is black.

Fennell’s attorney has said his client didn’t kill Stites. Fennell was paroled last year after serving time in prison for sexual assault.

In their most recent motion to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Reed’s lawyers alleged prosecutors suppressed evidence or presented false evidence related to Fennell.

Prosecutors say Reed’s semen was found in the victim, his claims of an affair with Stites were not proven at trial, Fennell was cleared as a suspect and Reed had a history of committing other sexual assaults.

Reed’s lawyers say his conviction was based on flawed evidence. They have denied the other sexual assault accusations made by prosecutors.

Reed’s attorneys filed a federal lawsuit in August to compel DNA testing of crime scene evidence, including the believed murder weapon. His lawyers say the testing, which has been fought for years by prosecutors, could identify someone else as the murderer. The lawsuit is still pending.

In recent weeks, Reed’s attorneys have presented affidavits in support of his claims of innocence, including one by a former inmate who claims Fennell bragged about killing Stites and referred to Reed by a racial slur. Reed’s lawyers say other recent affidavits corroborate the relationship between Stites and Reed and show Fennell was violent and aggressive toward her.

Hong Kong justice secretary ambushed by pro-democracy protesters in London

China on Friday condemned an incident in which Hong Kong’s justice secretary was jostled by masked demonstrators in London, and accused Britain of fuelling pro-democracy unrest.

Teresa Cheng, Hong Kong’s deeply unpopular Secretary for Justice, fell while being surrounded by a crowd of jeering pro-democracy protesters as she prepared to attend a speaking event on Thursday night in London.

She regained her feet moments later and was escorted away with no visible signs of injury in video footage of the incident.

But China called it an "appalling attack" and has demanded that Britain offer security protection to the Hong Kong minister.

"If the British side does not change its wrong practices, and continues to add fuel to the fire, sow discord and instigate others, and make false countercharges, then it will bring calamity on itself," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.

Mr Geng said that failing to act on "anti-China elements" in Hong Kong will not only cause trouble in the semi-autonomous territory, but will also "cause serious interference and destruction to the international community including the United Kingdom."

He called for Britain to "bring the culprits to justice, and… safeguard the personal security and dignity of all Chinese personnel in the UK."

Former colonial ruler Britain, which handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, has urged Beijing and Hong Kong to seek a political solution for protesters and condemned the escalating violence on both sides.

Ms Cheng is in London on a visit to promote Hong Kong’s role as a dispute resolution and deal-making hub.

She is one of the most unpopular government officials in Hong Kong, seen as playing a key role in pushing forward the now-shelved extradition bill to China, which sparked the ongoing unrest.

Palestinians fire rockets after Israel assassinates Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza

Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Israelis to brace for prolonged fighting as Palestinian factions in Gaza fired barrages of rockets in retaliation for Israel’s assassination of a senior Islamic Jihad commander.

The most serious escalation in six months began early Tuesday when Israeli warplanes targeted Baha Abu al-Ata, the military commander of the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad group in Gaza. The 42-year-old militant and his wife were both killed in the strike in Gaza City. 

Mr Netanyahu called al-Ata “a ticking bomb” who was planning attacks against Israel “in the immediate short term”. “This arch-terrorist was the main instigator of terrorism from the Gaza Strip,” the prime minister said. 

Soon after the raid in Gaza, a suspected Israeli airstrike targeted another senior Islamic Jihad leader at his home in Damascus, where the group is headquartered. The official was not home but his son and granddaughter were killed, according to Syrian state media. Israel’s military refused to say if it was behind the strike.   

Islamic Jihad vowed it would go to war to avenge the attacks on its leaders and Palestinian factions quickly began filling the skies above southern Israel with rockets. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said more than 150 rockets were fired over the course of Tuesday. 

Appearing alongside Israel’s military and intelligence chiefs, Mr Netanyahu warned there may not be a quick end to the fighting. “Israel is not interested in escalation, but will do everything necessary to defend ourselves,” he said. “This could take time. Patience and composure are required. The IDF must be allowed to do its work.”

Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata was killed in Gaza by an Israeli strike Credit: Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

The IDF ordered all schools and non-essential businesses to shut in southern Israel, including in the financial capital of Tel Aviv, for the first time since the 2014 Gaza War. Israeli families fled to bomb shelters as warning sirens wailed. Several dozen people were treated for shock or minor injuries but no fatalities were reported. 

In Gaza City, Palestinian families huddled in their homes as Israeli warplanes raced overhead and carried out waves of strikes against Islamic Jihad targets. Five people were killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas health ministry, including al-Ata, his wife, and two Islamic Jihad fighters.

Islamic Jihad is a smaller and more radical faction within Gaza which cooperates with Hamas but also sometimes tries to outflank the larger militant group by taking a more aggressive stance against Israel.

Islamic Jihad is estimated to have around 6,000 fighters in Gaza, according to the Institute for National Security Studies, an Israeli think tank. It receives millions of dollars a year in support from Iran and its top leadership is based in Damascus.  

Israel and Hamas usually both look to Egypt to mediate ceasefires during rounds of fighting in  Gaza. Egyptian officials reportedly opened communications channels but there was no immediate sign of a deal. 

Mr Netanyahu approved the strike in Gaza Credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The outbreak of fighting comes at a sensitive political moment in Israel as the country struggles to form a government following a September election that saw Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party essentially tied with Blue and White, a centrist coalition led by former general Benny Gantz. 

Mr Netanyahu tried and failed to form a majority coalition and Mr Gantz has one week left to form a government of his own but the two men set aside political differences amid the violence in the south. 

Mr Gantz was informed about the planned strike ahead of time and praised it as “the right decision”. He met Mr Netanyahu Tuesday for a briefing on the security situation. 

Political analysts suggested that the fighting could make it easier for Mr Gantz and Mr Netanyahu to form a national unity government, which both sides insist they want but cannot agree on the terms. 

Several Left-wing and Arab-Israeli politicians suggested Mr Netanyahu had timed the strike to create a security crisis for his own political benefit. The prime minister said the operation to kill al-Ata was taken ten days ago by the security cabinet and the final timing was decided by senior military and intelligence officials. 

Shops and schools were closed in Tel Aviv for the first time since 2014 as Palestinians fired rockets Credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Al-Ata was responsible “for most of the terror attacks in the last year from the Gaza Strip”, according to the Israeli military. 

The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, said he moved constantly inside Gaza to try to evade Israel. “He behaved like a haunted man,” said Nadav Argaman, the head of the Shin Bet.