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A nightlong vigil on a muddy, rainy hilltop to capture Hong Kong’s change

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A nightlong vigil on a muddy, rainy hilltop to capture Hong Kong's change
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Workers remove a part of the “Pillar of Shame” statue by Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot which paid tribute to the victims of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing, at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in Hong Kong, China, December 23, 2021

HONG KONG (Reuters) – It was close to midnight when Reuters photojournalist Tyrone Siu spotted chatter among students in an online forum that a statue seen as a symbol of Hong Kong’s freedoms was being covered up by construction workers.

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) said earlier this year it wanted to remove the “Pillar of Shame” statue from its campus. The artwork of dozens of torn and twisted human torsos, commemorating democracy protesters killed during China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, had stood in the campus for over two decades.

But until Wednesday night, the university hadn’t acted on removing it.

When Siu, 34, arrived at the campus, the site of the statue was draped on all sides in white plastic sheets and surrounded by tall yellow barricades. Siu said he heard loud, metallic noises suggesting the eight-metre (26-foot) high, two-tonne sculpture would not remain there for much longer.

He said he repeatedly tried to reach several viewpoints on the ground and on higher levels in the campus, only to be shooed away by security guards.

Siu left the campus and climbed for 10 minutes in a steady drizzle and in the dark up a muddy hill nearby.

He and other journalists stayed there for five hours, until dawn broke. Then, workers emerged from the closed off area moving pieces of the statue towards a shipping container, as photo cameras clicked away from the hill about 50 metres away.

Siu shot several photographs, including one of around a dozen workers wearing yellow helmets, the type that pro-democracy protesters wore in 2019 during mass anti-government demonstrations, rolling what appeared to be the tip of the statue, wrapped up like a mummy.

“I didn’t think a lot about what I was shooting, because it was hard to see and I was very tired. I just felt lucky that something was finally moving,” said Siu, who who was part of a Reuters team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2020 for coverage of the Hong Kong protests.

“Only after seeing it again on my camera I realised it looked like they were carrying a dead body.”

That picture was widely shared on social media and was picked up by global news outlets, including the Washington Post and the BBC.

The statue had been seen as a key symbol of the wide-ranging freedoms promised to the former British colony at its 1997 return to Chinese rule. Its removal was seen as a sign of Beijing’s tightening grip on Hong Kong.

Tiananmen is a taboo topic on the mainland, but Hong Kong has traditionally held the largest annual vigils in the world to commemorate the crackdown. Before every vigil, students and activists would wipe the statue clean and lay candles nearby.

China responded to the 2019 demands for greater democracy in Hong Kong by imposing a sweeping national security law and “patriots-only” rules for the city’s institutions.

Most opposition activists and politicians have been jailed under the new law or other alleged crimes or have fled into exile. Hong Kong and Chinese authorities say the law has restored stability after a year of unrest.

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Commodities

Oil Up as Economic Growth Worries Continue

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© Reuters.

By Gina Lee

Investing.com – Oil was up on Thursday morning in Asia, recovering from early losses as concerns over tight global supplies outweighed fears over slower economic growth.

Brent oil futures jumped 1.45% to $110.69 by 12:58 AM ET (5:58 AM GMT), after falling by more than $1 earlier in the session. WTI futures rose 1.07% to $108.18 recovering from an earlier loss of more than $2 and were up 56 cents, or 0.5%, at $107.60 a barrel for July 2022.

Both Brent and WTI benchmarks fell about 2.5% on Wednesday.

“A slump in Wall Street soured sentiment in early trade as it underlined concerns over weakening consumption and fuel demand,” Rakuten Securities commodity analyst Satoru Yoshida told Reuters.

Asian stocks on Thursday followed a steep Wall Street selloff, as rising global inflation, China’s zero-COVID policy, and the Ukraine war led to fears of an economic recession.

“Still, oil markets are keeping a bullish trend as a pending import ban by the European Union on Russian crude is expected to further tighten global supply,” said Yoshida.

The European Union earlier in the month proposed a new package of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. The package includes a total ban on Russian oil imports in six months’ time, but the measures have not yet been adopted amid continued resistance to the plan from member countries including Hungary.

On Wednesday, the European Commission unveiled a €210 billion ($220.65 billion) plan for Europe to end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027.

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s U.S. crude oil supply data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed a draw of 3.394 million barrels for the week to May 13. Forecasts prepared by Investing.com predicted a build of 1.383 million barrels, while an 8.487-million-barrel build was reported during the previous week.

Crude oil supply data from the American Petroleum Institute released the day before, showed a draw of 2.445 million barrels. Capacity use on both the East Coast and Gulf Coast was above 95%, with those refineries near their highest possible running rates.

 

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Oil prices recoup early losses on China hopes, global supply fears

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Workers walk as oil pumps are seen in the background in the Uzen oil and gas field in the Mangistau Region of Kazakhstan November 13, 2021. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev

By Yuka Obayashi and Florence Tan

TOKYO (Reuters) -Oil prices rose on Thursday, recovering from early losses, on hopes that planned easing of restrictions in Shanghai could improve fuel demand while lingering concerns over tight global supplies outweighed fears of slower economic growth.

Brent crude futures for July were up $1.53, or 1.4%, at $110.64 a barrel at 0447 GMT, after falling by more than $1 earlier in the session.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for June rose 93 cents, or 0.8%, to $110.52 a barrel, recovering from an early loss of more than $2. WTI for July was up $1.57, or 1.5%, at $108.50 a barrel.

Both benchmark prices fell about 2.5% on Wednesday.

“A slump in Wall Street soured sentiment in early trade as it underlined concerns over weakening consumption and fuel demand,” said Satoru Yoshida, a commodity analyst with Rakuten Securities. [MKTS/GLOB]

Asian shares on Thursday tracked a steep Wall Street selloff as investors fretted over rising global inflation, China’s zero-COVID policy and the Ukraine war. [MKTS/GLOB]

“Still, oil markets are keeping a bullish trend as a pending import ban by the European Union on Russian crude is expected to further tighten global supply,” Yoshida said.

The European Union this month proposed a new package of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. This would include a total ban on oil imports in six months’ time, but the measures have not yet been adopted, with Hungary being among the most vocal critics of the plan.

The European Commission unveiled on Wednesday a 210 billion euro ($220 billion) plan for Europe to end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027, and to use the pivot away from Moscow to quicken its transition to green energy.

Also, U.S. crude inventories fell last week, an unexpected drawdown, as refiners ramped up output in response to tight product inventories and near-record exports that have forced U.S. diesel and gasoline prices to record levels. [EIA/S]

Capacity use on both the East Coast and Gulf Coast was above 95%, putting those refineries close to their highest possible running rates.

In China, investors are closely watching plans in the country’s most populous city, Shanghai, to ease restrictions from June 1, which could lead to a rebound in oil demand at the world’s top crude importer.

Stephen Innes from SPI Asset Management said news that Shanghai planned to gradually resume inter-district public transport from May 22 was positive for risk and supporting oil prices.

($1 = 0.9537 euros)

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Commodities

Oil falls 2% on Powell comments, hopes for Venezuela supply

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Oil pump jacks are seen at the Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas deposit in the Patagonian province of Neuquen, Argentina, January 21, 2019. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

By Stephanie Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) – After hitting seven-week highs, oil prices slumped 2% on Tuesday as Reuters reported that the United States could ease some restrictions on Venezuela’s government, raising hopes that the market could see some additional supplies.

Prices also fell after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned the economy could be hurt by attempts to reduce inflation.

Brent crude fell $2.31, or 2%, to settle at $111.93 a barrel, and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell $1.8, or 1.6%, to settle at $112.40 a barrel.

Powell suggested there could be some economic pain involved in bringing inflation down. The U.S. central bank will “keep pushing” to tighten U.S. monetary policy until it is clear that inflation is declining, he said.

“Some of those comments tempered buying enthusiasm on the oil side,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration will authorize U.S. oil company Chevron Corp (NYSE:CVX) to negotiate with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government as soon as Tuesday, Reuters reported, citing sources. There is no final U.S. decision yet on renewing Chevron’s current limited license to operate in Venezuela, the source said.

Oil prices have generally been rising as Russian supply is squeezed by bans from several countries and an economic downturn due to broad sanctions on Moscow imposed by the United States and allies.

Russia’s production dropped by 9% in April, and the country, part of the OPEC+ group, produced far below levels required under a deal to gradually ease record output cuts made during the worst of the pandemic in 2020.

This month, non-Russian deliveries into the Polish port of Gdansk hit the highest in at least seven years, as refiners in eastern Germany and Poland switched.

“Ultimately, this is a supply-side story,” said Fawad Razaqzada, analyst at City Index. “Unless OPEC and its allies ramp up production and fast, it is difficult to see how prices can go down meaningfully.”

EU foreign ministers failed on Monday in their effort to pressure Hungary to lift its veto on the proposed oil embargo. But some diplomats now point to a May 30-31 summit as the moment for agreement on a phased ban on Russian oil.

U.S. crude and gasoline stocks fell last week, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures on Tuesday. U.S. government data is due on Wednesday. [API/S] [EIA/S]

(The story corrects to remove bullet and paragraph on Brent discount to WTI as first-month Brent crude futures are for July while first-month WTI futures are for June.)

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