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U.K. Government Was Warned About Alleged Russian Infiltration; World's Biggest Shopping Event Underway; Hong Kong Protester Shot By Police Officer; Bolivian President Evo Morales Steps Down; Witnesses To Testify In Public Hearings This Week. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired November 11, 2019 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[00:00:00]

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all the around. I'm Michael Holmes.

Coming up on CNN Newsroom, chaos in Hong Kong as police opened fire on protesters, hitting at least one person during early morning clashes.

Bolivia's leadership in question after President Evo Morales resigns following weeks of protests and mounting pressure from the military.

And a CNN exclusive report finds the British government was well aware of Russian election interference, and turned a blind eye.

Welcome, everyone. A police shooting is fueling more outrage in Hong Kong after months of protests. And I should warn you, what you're going to see is very graphic. Video that shows a traffic officer with his pistol drawn, wrestling with a protester in white. Now, on the right of your screen right there, you see a different protester in black. He is shot almost point blank in the chest.

Other protesters grapple with the officer and then two more shots are fired. The wounded protester has survived for now and was taken to the hospital.

For more, CNN's Will Ripley is live for us in Hong Kong. Will, tell us what you've been able to find out about what happened? Certainly dramatic images.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and this is the location where it happened, Michael. This is the intersection where the shooting happened earlier this morning, just right by the exit of Sai Wan Ho station here on Hong Kong Island.

And what we are observing now is a very tense calm after some periods of anger with the public shouting at police officers, we saw people being arrested, there was pepper spray deployed, they raised a black flag threatening to deploy tear gas, which has not happened here just yet. But tear gas has been used in other areas of Hong Kong Island, including the city's busiest shopping district, where clashes have broken out across the city throughout the day.

What we understand about the incident that took place here was it started as these things often do, with a physical confrontation between protesters and police. Yes, the protesters are unarmed, but they are fighters. Sometimes they grab various objects and use them as weapons against the police.

And in this particular video, you can see the officers are struggling before pulling out his gun and firing three shots, live rounds, this was a traffic cop by the way, not riot police, that live ammunition hitting a 21-year-old protester, who, we're told, is in hospital right now, in critical condition, undergoing surgery. That's the latest update that we have.

The two other rounds that were fired apparently did not hit anybody. But what you have now are officers out here. They are armed with non- lethal ammunition, non-lethal ammunition still, by far, the overwhelming choice of Hong Kong police as they deal with now five plus months of almost daily unrest and disruption here. But, occasionally, live ammunition has been used at least five times, according to our count.

So you see the riot police moving away from the scene. Every time when those vehicles drive by, often the crowd will erupt with shouts and insults.

And this is the reality of life on the streets on Hong Kong, a city where a large part of the public seems to have increasingly lost trust in its police and its government, the very public institutions that are vital to maintaining law and order. And you can see the institution is really struggling to maintain law and order when you look at these debris-filled streets, which are now a common sight all over the city.

We saw protesters smashing in the doors of the MTR station. You can see Hong Kong buses basically at a standstill. This entire area is shut down. Businesses are closed. This is a city in recession, a city that's economy is struggling, perhaps the far greater and more grave issue is the fact that there are a lot of people here who say they will never trust their government again.

How do you bounce back from that? That is the unanswered question here, Michael, in the streets of Hong Kong.

HOLMES: It's just an extraordinary -- as you know well, just a few short years ago, you wouldn't have imagine this sort of thing happening, and you wouldn't imagine this sort of level of police action would happen without mainland approval, perhaps that's difficult to know.

But speak to how both sides of this protest have been escalating the aggression.

RIPLEY: Hong Kong police put out a statement in response to these accusations that they are being heavy-handed and using disproportionate or excessive force. [00:05:02]

They say they have no choice but to deploy the kind of resources that they do because of the fact that, just over there, protesters tried to set a huge amount of debris on fire, and they have to bring in the fire department.

They say that protesters that were hurling heavy objects at the police, and where there're even reports of acid being thrown from a higher level floor of a building on to protesters by presumably people who might support the police. Because, keep in mind, this is a city divided, there are many people here who are angry with the protesters, who don't agree with what the protesters are doing. And then, of course, many others who also are angry with the police for what they feel is disproportionate force.

As far as mainland involvement, Hong Kong police have denied that. They say they're operating independently, simply trying to enforce the law of the city, but they're having a hard time, as you can see, because every single day, another active disruption, another cat and mouse game, if you will, where protesters come, they trash the place, and then by the time they finish, police arrive, chase them down, arrests a few that they can. But by that point, they've just moved on to the next location, Michael.

HOLMES: Extraordinary things there. Will Ripley on the spot for us, thank you, Will, appreciate it.

Meanwhile, there has been a day of massive political upheaval and Bolivia. President Evo Morales stepping down after nearly 14 years in power, and a second vice president of Bolivia's Senate saying that she is next in line to the presidency because the others immediately in line, well, they quit too. Here was how the new former leader now announced his departure.

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EVO MORALES, FORMER BOLIVIAN PRESIDENT: To the brothers and sisters of Bolivia, to the whole world, I would like to inform here with the vice president and the Minister of Health that I have listened to the Center Workers Union, also listening to the Catholic Church. I have decided to resign from my position as president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Now, the crowd cheering and waving flags as they heard that news, the big change from the past few weeks, when protesters stormed into the streets, accusing Mr. Morales of fraud after he claimed victories in last month's election.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann with the details.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A political earthquake is rocking Bolivia after the country's long-serving staunching leftist president, Evo Morales, was forced to step down. It's been weeks of violent protests and allegations that Morales had stolen an election to become president for a fourth term. Morales had denied that and said that he was facing a coup. But after a report came out showing widespread fraud, Morales finally, on Sunday, offered to hold new elections.

The offer came too late though for the country's opposition, for the military and the police, many of whom had risen up against Morales. The head of the military said on Sunday, it was time for Morales to leave office. And within hours, Morales did just that, shocking Bolivia and much of Latin America. He said that it was coup that was forcing him for power but that he recognized that if he didn't leave, there will be bloodshed and he wanted to avoid that.

Many of Morales' critics said that he'd become too authoritarian, that he was never planning on leaving the presidency and that he was essentially becoming a dictator.

So while Morales is out, he has received offers from other countries to seek asylum there. But Morales says, while he may no longer be president of Bolivia, he's not going anywhere.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Mexico City.

HOLMES: The protesters who cried foul after Mr. Morales claimed he had won the elections last month, say they are happy he has finally stepped down. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JHANISSE VACA DAZA, BOLIVIAN PROTESTER: We were hearing more violence would happen today. But, thankfully, he has resigned, which is what a lot of the country was asking for. And there's also a bit of uncertainty as to who will be the president now, but I think we have come a long way because it's been a long time fighting this authoritarian government. So we're happy to see that we achieved victory and mainly non-violently.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: And joining me now is Brett Bruen. He is president of the Global Situation Room and former director of global engagement at the White House. Good to see you.

Now, when it comes to Evo Morales, he'd been defiant for so long. So what made him suddenly quit? He was pretty defiant in his resignation as well.

BRETT BRUEN, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL SITUATION ROOM: He was. And there's one factor. It was the loss of support of security forces, the military. This is something we did not see play out in Venezuela. The military has stood with Maduro. But without that backing, his future was certainly in doubt.

That being said, I would put some caution to those who are already writing the political gravestone of Morales.

[00:10:02]

He is going to continue play an active role. Obviously, he will to have a strong support from Cuba, Venezuela and other outside elements.

HOLMES: One thing about Morales, for all the criticisms of him, extending his term and so on and so forth, he did bring a measure of political stability. He made strides in helping the poor and so on, the economy doing pretty good. Why did that base, and particularly the indigenous people, turn on him?

BRUEN: Well, he was a symbol for the indigenous people that are two- thirds of Bolivia's population. And yet I think he had worn out his welcome. And as we've seen with other leftist leaders of Latin America, it very much became about him rather than about them. And the concentration of power, the changing of the Constitution, all of these things began to wear on the patience and the support that he enjoyed.

HOLMES: This was all sparked in part mostly by an audit of the last election. It showed some pretty serious irregularities. One presumes another election could be coming. Is there are a risk of the same?

BRUEN: I think the risk is there. But at the same time, one would hope that we have learned from some of both the errors and the efforts of manipulating the last election, that there will be measures put in place to ensure that it's more difficult for them to happen again.

It is still not clear at least at this hour who is going to be running that process. We are down because of the number of resignations in the Bolivian government to a deputy head of the assembly, a member of the opposition. If, in fact, the opposition then is running to this election, it could look very different than the last one we saw. And, obviously, we will also see a strong presence from the organization of American states, which was the body, the international body that reclaimed the irregularities had taken place.

HOLMES: You mentioned this earlier, and it is significant. The involvement of the military in the decision, or at least influencing the decision, do you see anything concerning in that? And you make the point that in Venezuela, the military not going against Maduro has kept him in power. In the case here, do you think that's a good thing or a bad thing?

BRUEN: Well, certainly, it is a step that is historically fraught in Latin America, the military stepping in to either take power or put their finger on the balance of power, shifting it in one way or another. But at the same time, it is important to point out that the military did not go out in the street, they did not use force in the same way that Maduro's security forces have. And that avoided likely a good deal of bloodshed.

HOLMES: When it comes to the future, I mean, looking forward, what is the state of the opposition in Bolivia, how are people likely to vote? They didn't like what Morales was doing, he overstayed his welcome, as you put it. Who is in the spotlight?

BRUEN: Well, at this point it is going to be a rocky road ahead. The opposition has been out of power for nearly 14 years and they can be unified in their opposition to Morales. It is much more difficult now with Morales out of the picture to unify in the same way around a candidate. It is likely that we will see some fracturing in the opposition. It will be just difficult to govern after such a long period out of power and with the number of problems that have been accumulated over the last several years. So I think we will see a very tumultuous period, both up to elections and certainly afterwards.

HOLMES: Regional reaction, how important would it be? I mean, Venezuela's Maduro, Cuba's president voicing their support. They're calling it a coup, which is ironic criticism of democracy from those two particular leaders. What do you make of regional reaction, and does it matter?

BRUEN: Well, the consequences go for beyond Bolivia. Morales was a symbol of power for a long time, up there with the likes of Hugo Chavez. And as we are seeing a resurgence of power in Argentina and Mexico by the left, the loss of that figurehead is going to be significant. And I think there are going to also be lessons taken away from what Morales did, and perhaps, in the future, efforts to engage in this mass manipulation will be given further consideration by some of those who are trying to find a way to stay in power.

[00:15:00]

HOLMES: Interesting times. Brett Bruen, thanks so much, I appreciate your time.

BRUEN: It's good to be with you.

HOLMES: Turning now to Spain's national elections, the socialist party came out on top, but failed to secure a parliamentary majority. And the far right Vox party has surged, more than doubling its number of seats in parliament. The issue of Catalan independence is at the heart of Spain's political crisis, and it has been key to the growth of Spanish nationalism.

Here is what the Vox party leader had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTIAGO ABASCAL, VOX PARTY LEADER: Today, a patriotic alternative and a social alternative have been consolidated in Spain that demands national unity, the restoration of constitutional order in Catalonia with the unstoppable application of our laws that demand equality of all standards of the entire national territory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Spain's acting prime minister and the leader of the socialist party, Pedro Sanchez, is calling on all parties to try to ease the political gridlock.

After a weekend of deadly bush fires in Southeastern Australia, forecasters say catastrophic fire conditions are on the way. Officials have just tweeted that the danger on Tuesday is now expected to be even worse than they had predicted and that prediction was pretty dire. New South Wales and Queensland are both under a state of emergency, dozens of fires are still burning but intense heat and dry winds are expected to fuel even more. And flames have produced clouds of smoke seen as far away as New Zealand.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is with us with more on this. I mean, yesterday, we were talking about this and it was a dire prediction. Now, it sounds even worse.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It can't get much worse when it comes to weather, Michael. That's the most concerning element of all of this moving forward. Of course, when you take a look at what's happening outside the Japan satellite, Himawari satellite, which is scanning this particular region in the past couple of days show you the thermal signature of the fires, the smoke plumes upwards of 120 bush fires across this particular region, to the point where the fire commissioner is saying, we've simply never had this number of fires across this region of New South Wales at the same time. Of course, it's not just New South Wales but neighboring regions also dealing with some fires across the region.

But when you took a look at the three-month deficiency here when it comes to the drought situation to see how this all began, the areas indicated in the dark red, that's the lowest amount of rainfall on record and much of New South Wales is underneath that area in the past three months. And you notice back across the western region of Australia and also into the northern territory, there had been quiet.

But we kind of broaden out the perspective into a 19-month deficiency. You notice they began to see some of the record lack of rainfall as well, and that, of course, all plays into what has been happening across this region and climatologically this at the time of year. October through January, you begin to see the fire season in Australia begin to ramp up. But the intensity of the fires, the number of people impacted, of course, the location of where this is all occurring, really, what's most impressive, because we know across New South Wales, over 7 million residents in a lot of these fires hugging near the coastal region where, of course, it is the most densely populated.

But, again, satellite imagery kind of show you how the winds have really dictated what has happened here in recent days, some days blowing all of the smoke farther towards the southern ocean, even as far as South Antarctica, other days pushing it to the north and west and north and east, and pushing into portions of New Zealand.

Now, the concern, of course, moving forward, is the front that you mentioned beginning to come in. Temperatures there, Michael, are going to be 36 degrees on Tuesday and then the front comes in 50 to 70 kilometer per hour winds, temps drop to the 20s across the region. But before that happens, of course, erratic fire weather behavior are going to be in place once again across much of New South Wales. Michael?

HOLMES: Pedram, thank you so much. Pedram Javaheri there.

All right, well, we'll take a short break. When we come back, the U.S. impeachment inquiry reaches a pivotal stage. Public hearings will be held this week on the allegations against President Trump. We'll have more on who is slated to appear. Stay with us.

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HOLMES: Welcome back

The U.S. impeachment inquiry moves into a new and potentially damaging phase for President Donald Trump this week, allegations the president withheld military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation of a political opponent, well, moved from written transcripts into public televised hearings for millions to watch.

Jeremy Diamond with more on what's ahead.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: President Trump on Sunday continuing to attack the impeachment inquiry and the Democrats who are running the process, something that he has done for weeks, of course. But this time, it comes as this impeachment inquiry prepares to move to its public face.

Several administration officials slated to head to Capitol Hill this week for public televised hearings on Capitol Hill, including the current U.S. charge d'affaires Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, as well as the State Department official George Kent, those will be the first to come on Wednesday.

As all of that is happening, of course, we are seeing Republicans trying to fine-tune their defense of the president. Several Republican senators on Sunday suggesting that, well, a quid pro quo made indeed have have happened but that it's not a problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KENTUCKY): I think we've gotten lost in this whole idea of quid pro quo and I think Senator Kennedy kind of hit the nail on the head is that if you're not allowed to give aid to people who are corrupt, there is always contingencies on aid. Even President Obama withheld aid.

I think it's a mistake to say, oh, he withheld aid until he got what we wanted. Well, if it's corruption and he believes there to be (ph) corruption, he has every right to withhold aid.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Quid pro quo, in my judgment, is a red herring. There are only two relevant questions that need to be answered. Why did the president asked for an investigation? And number two, and this is an inextricably linked to the first question, what did Mr. Hunter Biden do for the money?

(END VIDEO CLIP) DIAMOND: Meanwhile, House Republicans are working up their own efforts to defend the president, that with a witness list that they have provided to the House Intelligence Committee Democrats, demanding several witnesses, clearly many of these an attempt to divert attention away from the main allegations that President Trump is facing concerning Ukraine.

[00:25:08]

Two of those witnesses particularly notable, one of them being Hunter Biden, the former vice president, Joe Biden's son, the other being the whistleblower, the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint, of course, sparked this entire impeachment inquiry.

But Democrats would have to actually approve that list of witnesses. And so far, there is no indication that they are going to be doing that. House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff said in a letter to the top Republican on the committee that as we move to open hearings, it is important to underscore that the impeachment inquiry and the committee will not serve as vehicles for any member to carrying out the same sham investigations into the Bidens or debunked conspiracies about 2016 U.S. election interference that President Trump pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefits.

And so that seems very clear there from the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee who is running this impeachment inquiry that some of those witnesses, including Hunter Biden and the whistleblower, will not be coming forward.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, New York.

HOLMES: Well it's going to be a busy few weeks ahead in Washington and CNN will be bringing it all to you, including live coverage of the hearings this week. Those begin Wednesday. It will be Bill Taylor and George Kent. They are set to testify.

And then join us on Friday for the public hearing of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. You will see it all here live on CNN.

The British government accused of delaying a report on Russian influence in U.K. politics, coming up after the break a CNN exclusive, how sources say parliament was warned about the meddling but failed to act.

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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Time to update you on the headlines this hour.

[00:30:22]

A 21-year-old protester shot by police in Hong Kong. A warning: what you're about to see is graphic.

Video showing the traffic officer with his weapon out as he scuffles with one individual. Then a masked protester in black approaches from the right and, as you see there, the officer shoots him in the mid -- in the torso.

And two more rounds were fired. The protester now being treated in hospital, his conditions said to be critical.

In a stunning turn of events, Bolivian President Evo Morales has stepped down. Mr. Morales announcing his resignation after weeks of protests, the opposition claiming he had stolen last month's election so he would be able to serve a fourth term.

The second vice president of Bolivia's Senate says she is next in line to assume the presidency.

Spain's incumbents Socialist Party has won Sunday's general election but failed to secure a majority, while the far-right party more than doubled its seats in parliament. Socialist leader and acting prime minister Pedro Sanchez called on parties to act with generosity and responsibility to solve the political crisis.

Well, Russia's influence reaches deep into the British establishment, and successive governments in the U.K. have failed to act. That is the stark warning issued in testimony to a parliamentary inquiry on Russian filtration into British politics.

Sources are telling CNN the cross-party Intelligence and Security Committee heard from multiple witnesses, and they all alleged Russia has built a network of friendly British diplomats, lawyers, parliamentarians, and other influencers across the political spectrum.

The full parliamentary report has yet to be published, causing angry questions about the delay, with an election upcoming. The revelations are at a very sensitive time, as Britain embarks on one of its most divisive and acrimonious election campaigns in living memory.

CNN's Nina dos Santos investigates.

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NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just weeks before Britons head to the polls, a bombshell allegation. Members of Parliament say Boris Johnson's government is suppressing a report on Russian influence on U.K. politics.

The contents of the report, compiled by a cross-party Intelligence and Security Committee, are bound by secrecy, until Downing Street approve their release. The intelligence services MI-5 and 6 made contributions, as did private citizens who are experts on the field.

(on camera): I've obtained some of their written and oral statements here, and the picture that they paint is a troubling one. They say that successive governments have turned a blind eye to Moscow's targeting of political parties and research rolls inside the House of Commons, and they claim that well-connected lobbyists, lawyers, and lawmakers have worked to help Russia infiltrate the British establishment. (voice-over): One of the witnesses was the American-born financier

Bill Browder, who despite at one point being Russia's biggest foreign investor, fell afoul of the Kremlin 15 years ago. I spoke with him before the report was complete.

BILL BROWDER, FINANCIER WHO TESTIFIED TO BRITISH PARLIAMENT: The people who we've seen working to further Russian interests in the U.K. are some of the people at the highest level of the establishment.

DOS SANTOS (on camera): Can you give me names?

BROWDER: I can give you lots of names, but we started out with -- with Lord Goldsmith.

He was the U.K.'s attorney general of the Tony Blair. He claims that he was involved in a failed effort to help a Russian avoid being on the sanctions list. He also mentioned in his testimony, is a company he founded by a conservative party. That business is alleged to have helped goldsmith work.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Peter Goldsmith was the U.K.'s attorney general under Tony Blair. Browder claims that he was involved in a failed effort to help a Russian avoid being on an E.U. sanctions list.

Also mentioned in his testimony is a company co-founded by Lynton Crosby, a heavyweight in Conservative Party circles. That business is alleged to have helped Goldsmith's work.

(on camera): Are you 100 percent confident in the evidence that you have to support these claims?

BROWDER: I would not have submitted the claims if I didn't have confidence in the evidence backing it up.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Goldsmith's law firm said it would not comment on client matters but stressed that everyone has the right to legal representation.

Crosby's company said that it was enlisted by Goldsmith and did not interact with Russian parties. And Crosby's lawyer says that he was not personally aware of the research done by the entity he cofounded.

(on camera): Another witness to the inquiry accused authorities of, quote, "putting political considerations ahead of national security." In testimony delivered in the wake of the poisoning of the former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, they say that Russia has managed to do what no terrorist organization has been able to thus far: deploying a chemical weapon on U.K. soil. And they claim that Russia presents, quote, "potentially the most significant threat to the U.K.'s institutions and its way of life."

(voice-over): Analysts say it's high time that U.K. lawmakers tackled Kremlin influence.

ANDREW FOXALL, HENRY JACKSON SOCIETY: I think during the Cold War, what Russia sought to do was gather intelligence. What Russia's been doing since 1991 is trying to gather influence. And Putin has long wanted to weaken the European Union, divide the trans-Atlantic alliance, and unfortunately, western publics and western politicians are now doing those things for Putin.

DOS SANTOS: In Westminster, the row over Russia was the subject of a contentious exchange during Parliament's last session before next month's general election.

DOMINIC GRIEVE, CHAIR, BRITISH INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY COMMITTEE: So for what purpose is the prime minister still considering it? It certainly can't be the risk to national security, because the agencies themselves have said there is none.

CHRISTOPHER PINCHER, BRITISH MINISTER OF STATE: It is not as if, Mr. Speaker, the prime minister has had not one thing -- not one or two other things to do during the last several weeks, notably obtaining a good deal for Britain in withdrawing from the European Union.

DOS SANTOS: Downing Street's declined to comment and has repeatedly denied that the failure to publish the findings was politically motivated.

CNN has approached the Kremlin but not heard back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order. Order.

DOS SANTOS: With Parliament now dissolved and the report kicked into the long grass, it may be many months before the committee's conclusions see the light of day.

Nina dos Santos, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Now, despite all of that, a senior member of the British prime minister's cabinet tells the BBC Russian money is not pulling the strings of the upcoming election. We'll keep an eye on that story as it continues on towards election day.

Meanwhile, we'll take a short break here. When we come back, it is a celebrity-studded affair, and it's all to get you to take out your wallets and shop online. Why Singles Day is such a massive deal in China.

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HOLMES: The world's biggest shopping day is only about 13 hours old, and people have already spent -- wait for it -- $24 billion.

It's called Singles Day, China's global shopping festival and a sort of anti-Valentine's Day, if you like. It became a massive shopping spree, thanks to Alibaba, the e-commerce giant, and its cofounder, Jack Ma.

For 24 hours, online shoppers can rack up huge discounts for clothing, cosmetics, electronics, anything else you can think of, really. People usually spend more on Singles Day than on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. This year looks no different.

[0040:11]

David Culver is following it all for us from Hangzhou in China. I think one statistic was sales hit a billion dollars in one minute, eight seconds. Staggering numbers. Tell us how it unfolded.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the trouble with listing these numbers, Michael, because as you mentioned the 24, is that when we're in the midst of the shopping spree over the 24 hours, they change rapidly.

Behind me, you can see updates to the numbers. Now, the top number there, that's RNB (ph). But below that, we're at 27 billion 900 million. We'll probably hit 28 billion as you and I are talking right now.

So it's staggering numbers, you're right, especially when you compare it with last year. We've got ten and a half hours left to go. Last year was 30.8 billion. They're on track, certainly, to exceed that.

As you point out, when we put it in perspective as to what they see, for example, in the U.S. with Black Friday, Cyber Monday. Take those two days, take the two days in between, which a lot of shopping is done, this still trumps that.

This is more of a cultural event here. What you have to realize is it's no longer this promotional campaign, right? This is a festival as they label it. But it's also a festival in practice. It's something that people for several weeks are preparing for.

You've got a lot of the locals who have been explaining to me how they have been building up in their e-shopping carts, if you will, on Taobao and Tmall, some of the platforms that Alibaba Group owns, and they have all the items that they want.

So while today is considered an e-shopping day, the reality is it's more of an e-checkout day, because this is the moment that they're actually benefiting from all those discounts, and they're going through with their shopping accounts to finally make the payment. And we're seeing the numbers rack up behind me.

This is also a great indicator, Michael, of where consumer spending is here in China. Because there's been a lot of talk about its slowing economy. We've seen recent GDP figures show that they are at their lowest growth rate in nearly three decades. We've got the ongoing U.S.-China trade war to contend with.

So the question was, how is that impacting everyday Chinese citizens? Well, it seems like consumer spending, if you go by the Alibaba Group's spending count right now, the sales, it's doing well. Confidence seems still to be pretty strong, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. I mean, speak to -- It's becoming more of a global thing, too? I mean, how is it spreading outside of China? CULVER: I sat down just a short time ago with the chief marketing

officer here, and he explained to me that this is not just China based anymore. This has become exported in its model out to other countries. You've also got several other countries and their brands within them, really, that are benefiting from this.

So you've got 78 other countries participating. I was looking at the listing of where some of the top countries are, as far as the brands are concerned. And you've got Japan at No. 1, the U.S. at No. 2, Korea at No. 3. So this has become, indeed, a global shopping festival.

It's incredible to see the energy that goes into this and, really, how this has motivated not only Alibaba Group but also several other companies to take part, going off Singles Day and making this just a massive sales festival.

HOLMES: Extraordinary stuff. David Culver, good to see you there in China for us. If find a way, start buying things.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. WORLD SPORT is next. I'll see you in about 15 minutes with more CNN NEWSROOM.

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