The Week Ahead: Darker side to holiday revelry

HONG KONG is to throw a lavish New Year's party for 50,000 on Friday night, not so much as a gesture of confidence in what the new year will bring, but rather to attract revellers away from the tiny nightclub district where 22 people were crushed to death in the opening minutes of 1993.

There will be fortune-tellers, carnival games, a light show and live rock music at the event in Victoria Park, which is being organised by the colony's urban council and 14 private companies. But in case these counter-festivities fail to draw the crowds, police are taking no chances: they will restrict access to Lan Kwai Fong nightlife district to prevent any repetition of the tragedy.

In India too, there is a darker side to the holiday season. MPs reconvene on Wednesday and Thursday after a Christmas break to debate a scathing all-party report on the country's worst financial scandal. The report lays into the Finance Ministry, the central bank, stockbrokers and banks for their parts in a scandal in which money was siphoned illegally from the securities market to fuel a boom on the Bombay stock exchange.

In a more conciliatory atmosphere, Israel and the Vatican sign an accord in Jerusalem on Thursday calling for full diplomatic ties and a joint Jewish- Catholic commitment to fight anti-Semitism. The pact follows 17 months of talks that were given a fair wind by progress in the Middle East peace process. It is expected to lead to the exchange of ambassadors by the end of April.

Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Yossi Beilin, and the Vatican's Under-Secretary for Foreign Relations, Monsignor Claudio Celli, are to approve the text on 'fundamental principles' in Rome on Wednesday and will travel together to Jerusalem for the signing ceremony.

Russians have to hand in all their foreign banknotes by Friday: from Saturday, all transactions in foreign cash will be banned. This is the authorities' latest attempt to cut down the sway of the mighty dollar, and it is expected to be of only limited success. And Friday is the last day that Russians can use their small-denomination rouble notes, the only ones that still bear the face of Lenin. From Saturday, they will be weighed down by coins.

Spain's two main unions, feeling weighed down by the country's 23 per cent unemployment, have combined to call a general strike today. The two union leaders have buried their traditional political rivalries to speak as one: 'The top priority has to be employment,' said the veteran socialist union leader Nicolas Redondo. 'The motto will be jobs and solidarity,' echoed his pro-Communist counterpart, Antonio Gutierrez.

Looking for a new holiday destination? Consider a new-year trip to Taiwan. From Saturday, Americans, most Europeans, Japanese, Americans, Australians and New Zealanders will no longer need a visa for visits of up to five days.

Also on Saturday, New Year's Day, Britain hands over reponsibility for the defence of Belize to the Belizeans, Belgium hands over the EU presidency to Greece and Lisbon takes over from Antwerp as the 1994 European City of Culture. New Year celebrations may be flatter than usual at the French fashion and perfume house Yves Saint Laurent: on Thursday all its 'Champagne' scent products are to be destroyed. An appeals court sided with the champagne producers who want to ban anything other than their own precious bubbly from being sold as champagne. Better to stick to the real thing then. Cheers.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
World Book Day
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner - Night Shift

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A leading Leicestershire based chilled food ma...

Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant - ACCA, ACA or ACMA - Construction Sector

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant (ACCA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - PR and Broadcast - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has an exciting op...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor - Shifts

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot