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An anti-extradition bill protester throws Molotov cocktails during clashes at a march to demand democracy and political reforms, at Kowloon Bay, in Hong Kong, China August 24, 2019.

Tyrone Siu | Reuters

Hong Kong protesters threw bricks and gasoline bombs at police, who responded with tear gas, as chaotic scenes returned to the summer-long anti-government protests on Saturday for the first time in nearly two weeks.

Hundreds of black-clad protesters armed with bamboo poles and baseball bats fought with police officers wielding batons on a main road following a march against “smart lampposts” that was sparked by surveillance fears.

The chaotic scenes unfolded outside a police station and a nearby shopping mall as officers in riot gear faced off with protesters who set up makeshift street barricades.

The violence interrupted nearly two weeks of calm in Hong Kong, which has been gripped by a turbulent pro-democracy movement since June.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd after repeated warnings “went futile,” the government said in a statement. By early evening, most of the protesters had dispersed, though clashes flared up in other neighborhoods.

Earlier in the day, some protesters used an electric saw to slice through the bottom of a smart lamppost, while others pulled ropes tied around it to send it toppling and cheered as it crashed to the ground.

The protest march started peacefully as supporters took to the streets to demand the removal of the lampposts over worries that they could contain high-tech cameras and facial recognition software used for surveillance by Chinese authorities.

The government in Hong Kong said smart lampposts only collect data on traffic, weather and air quality.

The protesters chanted slogans calling for the government to answer the movement’s demands. The protests began in June with calls to drop a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to China to stand trial, then widened to include free elections for the city’s top leader and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.

“Hong Kong people’s private information is already being extradited to China. We have to be very concerned,” organizer Ventus Lau said ahead of the procession.

The semiautonomous Chinese territory has said it plans to install about 400 of the smart lampposts in four urban districts, starting with 50 this summer in the Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay districts that were the scene of Saturday’s protest march.

Hong Kong’s government-owned subway system operator, MTR Corp., shut down stations and suspended train service near the protest route, after attacks by Chinese state media accusing it of helping protesters flee in previous protests.

MTR said Friday that it may close stations near protests under high risk or emergency situations. The company has until now kept stations open and trains running even when there have been chaotic skirmishes between protesters and police.

Lau said MTR was working with the government to “suppress freedom of expression.”

Also Saturday, Chinese police said they released an employee at the British Consulate in Hong Kong as scheduled after 15 days of administrative detention.

Simon Cheng Man-kit was detained for violating mainland Chinese law and “confessed to his illegal acts,” the public security bureau in Luohu, Shenzhen, said on its Weibo microblog account, without providing further details.

The Chinese government has said that Cheng, who went missing after traveling by train to mainland China for a business trip, was held for violating public order regulations in Shenzhen, in a case that further stoked tensions in Hong Kong, a former British colony.

The British government confirmed his release.

“We welcome the release of Simon Cheng and are delighted that he can be reunited with his family,” the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement, adding that Cheng and his family had requested privacy.

Cheng, a Scottish government trade and investment officer, was a local employee without a diplomatic passport.

The Global Times, a Communist Party-owned nationalistic tabloid, said Thursday that he was detained for “soliciting prostitutes.” China often uses public order charges against political targets and has sometimes used the accusation of soliciting prostitution.

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France’s Macron and Finland’s Rinne deliver Brexit ultimatum

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PARIS, FRANCE – SEPTEMBER 18: French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Finland’s Prime Minister Antti Rinne prior their meeting at the Elysee Presidential Palace on September 18, 2019 in Paris, France.

Chesnot | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The U.K. has until September 30 to make written proposals to replace the controversial Irish backstop or its relationship with the EU is over, the leaders of France and Finland agreed Wednesday.

The ultimatum comes as frustration grows in EU circles ahead of the October 31 departure date. Several European officials and leaders have argued that they had reached a deal with the previous U.K. government, called the Withdrawal Agreement, and if the current British leadership does not want to leave the bloc under those terms, then it’s up to the U.K. to make new proposals – something that the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has not yet done.

“If the U.K. wants to discuss alternatives to the existing Brexit agreement then these must be presented before the end of the month,” the Finnish Prime Minister, Antti Rinne, told reporters on Wednesday, according to Sky News.

“If not by then, then it’s over,” Rinne added about the U.K.’s relationship with the other European countries.

His remarks came after a meeting with the French President, Emmanuel Macron – a hard-liner during the Brexit process.

The U.K. government has reportedly sent proposals to the European Commission on Thursday, according to Reuters. A spokesperson for the European Commission, however, said Thursday that the institution received “documents” from the U.K., which will be analyzed Thursday and Friday. The European Commission did not specify what these documents were.

Earlier on Wednesday, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said: “It is not good enough to explain why the (Irish) backstop needs to be removed. We need legally operational solutions in the Withdrawal Agreement to reply precisely to each of these problems.”

The U.K. government, under the leadership of Boris Johnson, is against the Withdrawal Agreement due to one sticking point: the Irish backstop. This is an insurance policy that would essentially prevent a hard border in the area splitting Northern Ireland (part of the U.K.) and the Republic of Ireland (an EU member state). Boris Johnson, and other Brexit supporters, believe this so-called backstop could break up the United Kingdom, given that there would be different sets of rules in Northern Ireland compared to Scotland or England.

The EU keeps arguing that their intention is not to trigger the Irish backstop; rather its aim is to reach a trade deal as soon as possible, but it needs the Irish backstop in the exit deal to protect its single market in the event a deal is not reached.

The U.K. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said that a deal is possible at an upcoming European summit on October 17. However, European leaders want to discuss the U.K.’s proposals ahead of that summit and, have hence asked the U.K. to submit these proposals by the end of September.

In an exclusive interview with CNBC Friday, Finland’s Antti Rinne said a no-deal Brexit is likely.

This chance of a no-deal Brexit increases if there are no proposals by the end of the month. Despite the EU’s willingness to reach an agreement on the U.K.’s departure, as well as legislation from the U.K. Parliament against a no-deal Brexit, the lack of an agreement means a no-deal Brexit is likely.

The only ways to prevent a no-deal Brexit on October 31 are: if there is an agreement between the U.K. government and the EU that is then approved by the U.K. parliament; or if the U.K. requests another extension and the other 27 European countries approve that request.

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OECD cuts growth outlook to post-crisis low

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The trade war between the United States and China has plunged global growth to its lowest levels in a decade, the OECD said on Thursday as it slashed its forecasts.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said that the global economy risked entering a new, lasting low-growth phase if governments continued to dither over how to respond.

The global economy will see its weakest growth since the 2008-2009 financial crisis this year, slowing from 3.6% last year to 2.9% this year before a predicted 3.0% in 2020, the OECD said.

The Paris-based policy forum said the outlook had taken a turn for the worse since it last updated its forecasts in May, when it estimated the global economy would grow 3.2% this year and 3.4% in 2020.

“What looked like temporary trade tensions are turning into a long-lasting new state of trade relationships,” OECD chief economist Laurence Boone told Reuters.

“The global order that regulated trade is gone and we are in a new era of less certain, more bilateral and sometimes assertive trade relations,” she added.

Trade growth, which had been the motor of the global recovery after the financial crisis had fallen from 5% in 2017 into negative territory now, Boone said.

Meanwhile, trade tensions have weighed on business confidence, knocking investment growth down from 4% two years ago to only 1%.

Boone said that there was evidence that the trade standoff was taking its toll on the U.S. economy, hitting some manufactured products and triggering farm bankruptcies.

The world’s biggest economy would grow 2.4% this year and 2.0% next year instead of the 2.8% and 2.3% respectively that the OECD had forecast in May.

Global Economy Screen with world map and man

Stephen Morton | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Brexit Britain

China would also feel the pain with the second-biggest economy growing 6.1% in 2019 and 5.7% in 2020, outlooks the OECD cut from 6.2% and 6.0% previously.

The OECD estimated that a sustained decline in Chinese domestic demand of about 2 percentage points annually could trigger a significant knock-on effect on the global economy.

If accompanied with a deterioration in financial conditions and more uncertainty, such a scenario would mean global growth would be cut by 0.7 percentage points per year in the first two years of the shock.

Meanwhile, uncertainty over government policies was also hitting the outlook for Britain as it lurches towards leaving the European Union.

The OECD forecast British growth of 1% in 2019 and 0.9% in 2020, but only if it left the EU smoothly with a transition period, a far from certain conclusion at this stage. The OECD had forecast in May growth of 1.2% and 1.0%.

If Britain leaves without a deal, its economy will be 2% lower than otherwise in 2020-2021 even if its exit is relatively smooth with fully operational infrastructure in place, the OECD said.

The euro area would not be spared from negative spillovers under such a scenario and would see its gross domestic product cut by half a percentage point over 2020-2021.

The OECD trimmed its forecast for the shared currency block, largely due to the slowdown in its biggest economy, Germany, which was estimated to be in a technical recession.

Euro zone growth was seen at 1.0% – down from 1.2% in May – this year and 1.0% in 2020 – down from 1.4% in May.

Boone said Germany’s economy had probably shrunk in the second and third quarters with a slump in car manufacturing, which accounts for 4.7% of German GDP, knocking three-fourths of a percentage point off German growth.

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Netanyahu urges rival Gantz to form unity government

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to supporters of his Likud party after polls closed in the Israeli parliamentary elections.

Ilia Yefimovich | picture alliance | Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Thursday on his main rival, former general Benny Gantz, to join him in a broad, governing coalition after Israel’s election ended with no clear winner.

A spokeswoman for Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, had no immediate response to the surprise offer from Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party.

The change of strategy reflected Netanyahu’s weakened position after he failed again in Tuesday’s election, which followed an inconclusive ballot in April, to secure a parliamentary majority.

“During the election campaign, I called for the establishment of a right-wing government but to my regret, the election results show that this is impossible,” Netanyahu said.

“Benny, we must set up a broad unity government, as soon as today. The nation expects us, both of us, to demonstrate responsibility and that we pursue cooperation.”

On Wednesday, Gantz said he hoped for a “good, desirable unity government”. But he has also ruled out forming one with a Netanyahu-led Likud, citing looming corruption charges against the prime minister. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

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