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Hong Kong Protester Shot By Police Officer; Bolivian President Evo Morales Steps Down; Witnesses To Testify In Public Hearings This Week; Shifting Republican Strategy As Public Hearings Approach; Turkish Army Takes CNN Inside Syrian "Safe Zone"; Three-Wheeled Carts Become a Protest Symbol; World's Biggest Shopping Event Underway. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired November 11, 2019 - 01:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. And coming up right here on CNN NEWSROOM, there's been chaos in Hong Kong as police open 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 protest and mounting pressure from the military. And as the battle for Northern Syria presses on, CNN gets a rare embed with the Turkish military for exclusive access to the so-called Safe Zone.

Hello and welcome everyone. A police shooting is feeling more outrage in Hong Kong where protests are now in their 23rd week. And a warning, what you're about to see is graphic. A raw video which shows a traffic officer, you'll see his pistol is drawn, he's wrestling with a protester. And from the right, another protester approaches who was shot point-blank in the torso.

Other protesters grapple with the officer. Two more shots were fired. The wounded protesters did survive was taken to the hospital. For more CNN's Will Ripley is live for us in Hong Kong and joins us. Bring us up to date on what happened and what's happening now.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know, Michael, that that 21-year-old protester is in hospital and the last update from the hospital authority, he was in critical condition undergoing surgery. The outrage resulting from this, the latest Hong Kong police shooting in which live ammunition was involved.

And it's only happened, you know, fewer than a half dozen times with only two protesters hit that we're aware of. The rest of the time police have been using nonlethal ammunition like rubber bullets, or bean bags, and of course, tear gas, which was actually fired here at this location just within the last 15 or 20 minutes or so. You can see the kind of canisters littering the ground here from the

tear gas that was fired. But look at what has happened here in central Hong Kong. You don't have hundreds of thousands of people but you certainly have thousands of people. Many of them are office workers who were evacuated from work early on this Monday here in what to be, you know, regular business day here in Hong Kong, yet another example of the economy in this city suffering, businesses having to shut down because of all this unrest.

But office workers had to leave because many employers felt it was too dangerous with things like this. Protesters are setting up barricades, including what looked like containers of some sort of, you know, potentially flammable liquid. You know, we saw protesters lighting fires at some of the barricades earlier.

And look at this, the bank is shuttered. And this is what the protesters spray-painted on here, five demands, not one less. Those demands include universal suffrage, basically pardoning the 3,000-plus protesters who've been arrested so far, along with an investigation to what they call police brutality.

And of course, this shooting today just reinforces that argument amongst protesters that Hong Kong police have been using disproportionate force. I spoke with a young woman. She's a 20-year- old university student. She saw the shooting. Here's what she says happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was sitting there then suddenly two cops ran out and pushed on one people. Then, when that protester was on the floor and the cops are still shooting people. And none of the protesters are holding any gears. And I don't think it is necessary to use the gun.

RIPLEY: I see you're getting emotional even just talking about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was unfair to our people. It's wrong.

RIPLEY: Why is it unfair? Say it again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are -- we are leaving. We were leaving and we are not attacking those cops. And they just use violence to treat us.


RIPLEY: And it's just -- it's just surreal to stand here in what should be one of Hong Kong's busiest streets, the middle of Hong Kong's busiest shopping district, central Hong Kong, where people live, where people work, where public transportation is completely ground to a halt.

Look at the buses that are just sitting here. All of the people who rely on buses to get around, well, they're out of luck. Some of the buses and the trams, the historic trams of more than 100 years old have been spray painted. And of course, this is the message. Hong Kongers, get ready for a general strike.

That's what they're trying to do today, trying to have the whole city go on strike as a result of this latest Hong Kong police officer involved shooting. And it really does beg the question, Michael, with each escalation, the mood on the streets here gets darker, it feels more angry, more tense. And you have to wonder where this is going and is there any way out of it. Right now, I just don't see it.


HOLMES: Yes, just incredible scenes. Great reporting by you and the team, Will. Yes, yes, somebody is in the hospital with -- after being shot, and the economy tanking as well because of all this. Will Ripley on the spot for us in Hong Kong, I appreciate it, Will. Thanks.

Well, there has been a day of massive political upheaval in Bolivia. President Evo Morales stepping down after nearly 14 years in power. And the second vice president of Bolivia senate says she's next in line for the presidency because four others ahead of her, they quit as well. Here's Morales' announcement.


EVO MORALES, FORMER PRESIDENT, BOLIVIA (through translator): 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 Central Workers Union, also listening to the Catholic Church. I have decided to resign from my position as president.


HOLMES: You hear there crowds cheering, waving flags as they heard that news. A big change from the past few weeks when protesters stormed into the streets accusing Morales of fraud after he claimed victory in last month's elections. Morales had been Bolivia's first indigenous President. CNN's Rafael Romo takes a look at his rise to power.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Whenever Morales first came to power more than a decade ago, Bolivia's first indigenous president promised the government focusing on the needs of the poor. After his first successful campaign, he declared himself a nightmare for the U.S. in 2006.

MORALES (through translator): Let's stop the false war and have an effective war against drugs.

ROMO: Born on October 26, 1959, Morales grew up in a rural farming community. He went over voters by promising to give back to the poor and discriminated. An outspoken supporter of coca cultivation, he fought Bolivian and U.S. attempts to eradicate the staple because he believed it was part of his indigenous culture. MORALES (through translator): This coca leaf represents the Indian

crops. It represents the environment and the hope of people. It is not possible for the coca leaf to be legal Coca Cola, and to be illegal for other consumptions in our country and throughout the world.

ROMO: In 2008, he boldly kicked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration out of Bolivia. And in 2013, he threw out the U.S. Agency for International Development, accusing the agency of meddling and conspiring against his government, allegations that United States dismissed us baseless.

In 2011, he told the convention of farmworkers that he feared U.S. authorities were trying to plan something on his presidential plane to link him with drug trafficking. The leftist leaders served on unheard of three consecutive terms as president winning the ability to do so through a constitutional referendum.

MORALES (through translator): This democratic Triumph of the Bolivian people is dedicated to all the people of Latin America and of the world to fight against capitalism and against imperialism.

ROMO: A firebrand leader who like other Latin American leaders of his time, he embraced socialism as an answer to inequality, but did not shy away from controversy. Among them his support of former Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, and the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

MORALES (through translator): This triumph, brothers and sisters, is dedicated to Fidel Castro and to Hugo Chavez. May he rest in peace.

ROMO: He also said he would be willing to consider granting asylum to Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor accused of leaking classified documents. In 2015, he was forced to acknowledge a secret affair with a woman who was arrested for alleged embezzlement.

Despite separating Bolivia through an era of economic growth, the country's economy began to slow as candles surrounded him. In 2016, Morales lost the constitutional referendum that would have allowed him to run for a fourth term as president.

Reluctant to give power, he appeared to find a workaround after court ruling allowing him to run once again on October 20th of this year. Evo Morales appear to win a fourth term as President, but it was an election mired in constraints of fraud which he denied.

After a 24 hour halt, the count showed a sharp shift in his favor. Protests are filled the streets of Bolivia's administrative capital, some angry crowds calling him a dictator. The country slipped into turmoil, as calls grew louder for Morales to step down.

The military said they would not confront protesters and some police joined the revolt. Sunday, the military asked Morales to resign. Finding himself toothless, Morales relented. After nearly 14 years as president, he leaves behind the Bolivia much changed under his rule in a power vacuum in his wake. Rafael Romo, CNN.



HOLMES: Meanwhile, the United States and other countries are weighing in either Morales' resignation. Mexico's Foreign Minister tweeting this. "Mexico will keep its position of respect for democracy and its institutions. No coup. We would also offer asylum to either Morales if he decided to do so." He later said he did not.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro tweeting, "We categorically condemned the coup brought against the president brother, and then giving Evo Morales' Twitter handle there. And the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement, "We fully support the OAS and Bolivian calls for new elections and a new Electoral Tribunal that can ensure free and fair elections that will reflect the will of the Bolivian people."

Turning now to Spain's national elections. The Socialist Party came out on top but did not do well enough to secure a parliamentary majority. And the far-right Vox Party, well, it surged more than doubling its seats in parliament. The issue of Catalan independence is at the heart of Spain's political crisis these days. And it has been key to the growth of Spanish nationalism. Here's what the Vox Party leader had to say about that.


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


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.

The U.S. Impeachment Inquiry moves into a pivotal phase this week. Until now, of course, we've mainly seen written transcripts on the allegations that President Donald Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation of his political opponent.

But starting this Wednesday, the process is going to move to public televised hearings that millions of people will be able to watch. The first witnesses slated to appear are U.S. diplomat Bill Taylor, State Department official George Kent, and the ousted Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

House Republicans are demanding to hear from the whistleblower who triggered the inquiry, but the Intelligence Committee Chairman has made it clear the whistleblower will not testify publicly.

And joining me now from Washington, D.C., Nathan Gonzales CNN Political Analyst and Editor and Publisher of Inside Elections. Good to see you, Nathan. Let's start with the week ahead. Televised hearings, a lot of what will be said was in the transcripts. So what's going to be the impact seeing them say it, I guess. How's it going to make a difference?

NATHAN GONZALES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes. First, you're absolutely right that these witnesses are not a surprise to Democrats. These are witnesses that have been deposed before. And I think this is an exciting new stage or a new stage of this, because one of the core arguments of the Republicans -- the Republicans have had in the past is that these were secret proceedings.

It's like, well, they're not going to be secret anymore starting on Wednesday when we have these public hearings. And I think this is going -- this is a made for T.V. event. I think it's going to capture, soak up all of the media oxygen in the room. And on one hand, it could be a good thing.

It will allow people to hear both from lawmakers and the attorneys, but from these witnesses, and start to form their own opinions they may not have as they were reading about the situation.

But I think it's also an important stage because Democrats, I think, have to demonstrate that they're not only pursuing this investigation, but also focused on other issues, focused on kitchen table issues as we head into the election next year. And that's going to be - this is the start of a tight rope the Democrats are going to have to balance.


HOLMES: That's a good point. On Sunday, we had Senator and Trump loyalist, Lindsey Graham, saying that the process -- the whole thing is invalid if the whistleblower isn't revealed. Let's have a listen to what he said, and we'll talk on the other side.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It's impossible to bring this case forward, in my view, fairly, without us knowing who the whistleblower is, and having a chance to cross examine them about any biases that they may have. So, if they don't call the whistleblower in the House, this thing is dead on arrival in the Senate.


HOLMES: Now, Nathan, of course, you know, Democrats say the whistleblower's testimony isn't necessary because what he alleged has been corroborated by multiple people. Is that just Republican deflection to say a whole thing is invalid if he isn't known?

GONZALES: Yes, if we break that down a little bit, Senator Graham said, in my view, which I think is important, because there's nothing that prohibits this from continuing without the whistleblower being identified or coming forward, the Democrats can continue to pursue it. As far as what the senator said, this is dead on arrival in the Senate, on one hand, I don't believe right now that there are the votes to remove the President because that would require Republican senators to vote to remove the President. Right now, I don't think that's there, but we're just at the beginning stages of this process, and who knows what's going to come out.

And instead of watching the Republican senators who are up for reelection in vulnerable states, I would actually watch some Republican senators who are retiring, such as Pat Roberts of Kansas, or Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who don't have to face voters again, and they may just be, kind of, done with all of this. And those could be the ones who could end up voting against the President.

HOLMES: They might be looking for their legacy rather than just protecting the President. Some are being -- you got Republicans now sort of -- I mean, every -- the arguments have just shifted so much. I mean, a lot of Republicans now are saying, OK, there was quid pro quo, but it's no different to Joe Biden calling for the Ukrainian prosecutor to be fined (ph). I mean, the obvious difference, of course, is that everyone from European leaders to the IMF wanted that prosecutor fined because he was enabling corruption and not fighting it. What do you make of the Republican strategy as this does unfold?

GONZALES: I think Republicans are just trying to deflect, discredit, discount, you know, the whole entire process. And I think most Republicans have already made up their mind about this investigation, even though it's not over. I actually think Democrats have probably made up their mind that the President has already done things that are -- that are impeachable. It's those voters in the middle, and I think that's where this week in this T.V., this televised piece is important, because it's not just about what's being said, it's the tone. How did these lawmakers -- or the attorneys, how do they come across when they're questioning these witnesses? How do the witnesses come across? How do the Republicans come across us? They try to discredit and discount. You know, tone -- television is a whole new medium, and it's going to matter in this case.

HOLMES: That's a very good point. And, you know, of course, one of the things that you touched on this before and it's worth revisiting, you know, if the House does vote for impeachment, the trial is in the Republican-controlled Senate. And they've issued their witness list, which is pretty much a non-starter in the House, but in the Senate, they will -- they will have the power to influence who's going to be called. People like Hunter Biden, perhaps the whistleblower, and all of that's going to unfold in the middle of the Democratic primary campaign. There are political risks that are bound, aren't there?

GONZALES: Right, and Republicans will love that stuff. When they revealed that witness list, I'm sure the Republican base was eating it up. But, you know, how does it come across to voters in the middle, people who haven't already made up their mind? Does that come across as legitimate, and OK, we need to also pursue this other investigation about the -- about the Bidens, or does it just come across as too cute and just nonsensical? And, you know, until we get to the -- to the end, or at least to the middle of this, it's really tough to game out.

HOLMES: You know, it is interesting and sort of, you know, my -- in my life, I mean, we follow this, we're immersed in it. You are, I am, a lot of the people watching are, but it seems to me, just talking to people that, you know, so many Americans, they're just not following the minutia. They -- a lot of them only get their information from outlets like Fox News. I mean, do you -- do you think that the strategy by the GOP have nothing to see here, which hunt, and so on, works in terms of the election? A lot of people just found listening or are across the details.

GONZALES: Yes, well, I had a conversation about a week ago with a pollster who is -- who is in the competitive races and does this all the time, and they get the sense that, so far, the American people view this as just a continuation of the fighting that's been going on for three years. And not necessarily a constitutional crisis, or quite as big of a historic event as maybe, you know, some of us in the media have been playing it out to be. And I think that's important to remember that it -- this may not be the game-changing event that we -- that we might expect it to be. That this could just be well, you know, of course, Democrats are going after one impeachment. They've been fighting over -- fighting for the last three years. And so, it's -- I think there are a few twists and turns left in this story before we're -- before we're done.


HOLMES: It's a heck of a week ahead, Nathan, thanks so much. Nathan Gonzalez, appreciate it.

GONZALES: No problem.

HOLMES: And in fact, 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 those hearings this week. They begin Wednesday, Bill Taylor and George Kent set to testify. And then, do join us on Friday for the public hearing of the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. You'll see it all right here live on CNN.

We're going to take a short break here. When we come back, some of the major combat operations have ended in Northern Syria, but danger definitely remains. Why some say Turkish so-called "safe zone" isn't safe at all.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: I'm meteorologist Pedram Javaheri and the stage is set across North America here for a massive blast of colder air over the next couple of days. There is the front, there is the frigid air, and of course, a lot of wintry weather to be had, especially across the northern states. Certainly, going to see some travel disruptions anywhere from Chicago down towards St. Louis, and the cold air even tries to sneak in into portions of the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern United States there.

So, the conditions is such as we look at the next five days, quite a bit of rainfall, a lot of cold rain to be had across the Gulf Coast states. And then, travel north into portions of the Tennessee Valley and into the Ohio Valley, it becomes almost entirely snow, with as much as five to 15 centimeters. Now, not a significant player here when it comes to snow. What will be significant is the number of record temperatures and the impressive nature of the cold here. As much as 350 record cold temps could be set over the next couple of days, as we get multiple shots of very cold air that's set up here, as we go in towards the weekend.

So, the trend, as such in Washington D.C., dropping down to four degrees; New York City from 17 all the way down into the lower single digits. And you notice in Chicago, dipping below zero here and a high of only minus six before it warms up to almost 10 degrees below average still, even after the warming trend arrives. But you notice, Winnipeg, already feeling the cooler air, minus 12 degrees in store. Vancouver British Columbia, cloudy conditions, around 11 degrees.


HOLMES: Welcome back, one month after Turkey launched its offensive in Northern Syria, some of the major combat operations have ended, but the Turks and their allies say they're still finding explosives. They blame the largely Kurdish, Syrian democratic forces, but some civilians are blaming Turkey for the chaos.


CNN's Jomana Karadsheh got a rare embed with the Turkish military into the so-called "safe zone" in the region. She has more in this CNN Exclusive.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The guns may have fallen silent here, but the battle for this corner of Syria is far from over. There is a deceptive calm, but every step could be deadly. A few days ago, a Turkish soldier was killed in a blast doing exactly what these soldiers are doing. We joined the Turkish military on their mission to demine the town of Tal Abyad.

So, this area was cleared once before by Turkish forces, but what they're finding out is that there are cells that are still active in this region. What they do is they still come back and they plant explosives. That is why there are ongoing sweeps clearing operations taking place. And it seems right now that forces here have found a device they're about to detonate.

The team isolates the site before safely detonating the bomb. Soldiers tell us they find 10 to 100 devices every day. Left behind, they say, by an enemy determined to destroy Turkey's promise of a safe zone. We drive into town just hours after a car bomb exploded in the market. There were no casualties this time, but people are still reeling from a horrific bomb attack, just three days earlier.

People around here are telling us that they knew these victims. They were the local pharmacist, the shopkeeper and his children, a woman who was out shopping with her children. And people here, residents are terrified that this could just be the beginning of these kinds of attacks. We're scared of what's happening, all this terrorism, he says. This

man tells us a booby trap outside his home killed his son. He's now scared and has trouble sleeping at night. And this woman says her neighbors came back from Turkey expecting safety here. But these two mothers were carried away in body bags along with their children. Is this the safety that Turkey promised, she asks. And that's the point of these bombings say Turkish-backed Syrian forces.

The SDF, the mostly-Syrian Kurdish fighting force is behind these attacks says Brigadier General Hassan al-Hassien (ph). They're trying to show people that the area is not stable, not safe, so no one comes here. The SDF has infiltrated even the ranks of the Syrian rebels, he says.

Like this 20-year-old now in custody, making less than $100 a month, he was lured not by politics, but by easy money to plant bombs on behalf of the SDFP, he tells us. We can't verify his allegations and the SDF say they're baseless, denying they had anything to do with any bombings. No one has claimed any of these attacks. Over the past nine years of war, this little border town has seen it all. Changing hands multiple times, now it's Turkey's turn to try and bring stability here. It's early days, and it won't be easy, especially for the civilians who once again have to pick up the pieces of their broken lives. Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Tal Abyad, Syria.


HOLMES: All right. We're going to take a short break now. When we come back, a revolution on three wheels, how Iraq's tuk-tuk drivers are making their mark in the anti-government protests, that's coming up.



HOLMES: And welcome back everyone to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes.

Time to update you on the headlines this hour.

A 21-year-old protester has been shot by a police officer in Hong Kong. A warning -- what you are about to see is graphic.

Video showing the traffic officer with his weapon down as he scuffles with one individual. And then on the right you'll see a masked protester in black approaches, the officer shoots him in the torso. Two more rounds were then fired. The protester now in critical condition in hospital.

The Bolivian president Evo Morales has stepped down after nearly 14 years in power following accusations of election fraud. Bolivia has been rocked by protests after Mr. Morales claimed victory in last months election. The second vice president of Bolivia's senate says she is next in line to assume the presidency. Authorities in Australia warning the catastrophic fire conditions that could be coming Tuesday could be worse than -- much worse than first thought.

Dozens of bush fires already burning in New South Wales and Queensland. Dry winds and intense heat threatening to spread them even further. Fire officials urging people in high-risk areas to leave immediately.

The United States raising concerns over the ongoing violent protests in Iraq. In a statement the White House saying security forces must halt their attacks against anti-government protesters, civic activists and the media.

There were more clashes over the weekend. Human rights monitors now say 319 people have been killed since early October including four in Baghdad on Saturday alone. Some 15,000 have been injured.

CNN's Sam Kiley spoke with some of the protesters who are frustrated, angry, and scared, and say their only demand is to change the country's corrupt system and make their own voices heard.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iraqi demonstrators are defiant in the face of automatic gunfire. And it's coming from their own government's forces.

Filming this on his phone, Waleed (ph), a tuk-tuk driver, knows what he'll have to do next.

A man has been shot, Waleed races him to medics. More demonstrators pour in to confront the military. They're carried by the three- wheeled tuk-tuks, Iraq's cheapest form of transport.

(on camera): This has been going on for about four weeks. This is very much the tuk-tuk revolution.


KILEY (voice over): Waleed won't risk being identified because he is committed to this revolution long term.

He said, "Our demands are clear. We want a nation. We want our nation back because it's been lost. The government hasn't done anything and it's been 16 years -- no investments, no industries. They've done nothing good for us."

Tuk-tuk drivers on the front line are frequently hit by tear gas grenades, so some have improvised armor.

"Yesterday, I went to pick up a wounded man but they shot at me and hit my tire and that flipped me over," he said.

The moral confidence of these demonstrators is shown in the murals. While more than 300 people have been killed and over 15,000 wounded, people here have hit back with art.

(on camera): The Iraqi authorities' reaction to this revolution effectively can be summed up by the look on that famous painting by Munch, "The Scream" -- a completely incredulous misunderstanding, lack of understanding about what to do with a country that is exploding under their feet.

(voice over): Traditionally Shia-dominated areas, including Baghdad but extending south to Basra, have seen demonstrations and suffered casualties in an uprising against a Shia-dominated government supported by Iran, a Shia theocracy.

"We need a new Iraq that's not being influenced by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, U.S.A. or any other country," she said.

The government has appealed for calm, closed down the Internet and offered unspecified reforms and repeated threats to clear areas like this.

But here people want an end to the sectarian parties and religious leaders that they believe have beggared this oil-rich nation. And they're risking their lives to prove it.

Akil (ph), a medic, shows me film of a man he treated during clashes.

(on camera): Akil is now showing me a video that he took a couple of days ago. It shows a young man who's been hit in the head with a tear gas canister. The gas is coming out of his head.

Saif Zaad (ph) was hit in the chest with a tear gas canister.

"Yes, I am a Christian. But all sects are here, with no difference between Christian, Sunni, Shiite or Yazidi. There's no difference here. We'll stand as one, one Iraq," he told me.

One Iraq -- the dream of a nation, the people here, that's being carried on a motorized tricycle.

Sam Kiley, CNN -- Baghdad.


HOLMES: Well, it is a celebrity-studded affair and it's all to get you to take out your wallets and go shopping on line. Why Singles' Day is such a massive deal in China. We'll explain when we come back.



HOLMES: Welcome back.

People are spending money like crazy today. It is Singles' Day -- that is China's global shopping festival. And with billions of dollars being spent every hour it is bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. It all became a rather huge shopping spree thanks to Alibaba, that e-

commerce giant and of course, its co-founder Jack Ma. For 24 hours shoppers around the world can rack up huge discounts for clothes and cosmetics, sports cars even, liquor -- basically whatever you can think of.

David Culver joins me now from Hangzhou (ph) in China to tell us all about it. I think the last time I spoke to you, we -- in our intro said it had been $24 billion and you turned around and said well, it's now $27 billion. What is it now?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael -- just add another billion, why not? That's where we went up in the past hour or so since we last talked.

Yes, it's been going up steadily throughout the day. We really have to look at there is that first 68 seconds they hit a billion dollars in that timeframe. So those are the initial sales that took off here. A lot of folks here were waiting up until midnight, ready to log on to their apps and make those purchases.

It is a massive event. The numbers are certainly showing that. But if you put it in comparison, I mean you mentioned what Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the weekend in between -- all of that combined, this still trumps that.

And it's also a suggestion that consumer confidence here maybe a bit stronger than some analysts had expected. They're looking at this because they say they have roughly some 500 million users who will go through Taobao and T-Mall (ph) some of the Alibaba group platforms to make those purchases.

And they're able to monitor, essentially, where folks are spending their money and how they are doing it. And their comfort in doing so. And so this is expected to be higher than last year. In fact, we're nearing last year's numbers. That was about $30.8 billion, and we have got nine plus hours to go.

Also worth noting is the preference for Chinese brands this year. In fact, I was talking to the chief marketing officer here at Alibaba and he said to me, it's consumption quality that has increased here in China. That is to say that a lot of the folks who live here want better quality, and they're turning to Chinese brands that are delivering on that.

The Chinese brands in turn are seeing the demand in that market. So that's something that has been a recent trend. And that this singles' day -- double 11 as they call it here at Alibaba -- event is showcasing is that strength in the Chinese brands -- Michael.

HOLMES: All right. David Culver there -- bringing us up to date. Staggering sums of money and you can buy just about anything.

All right. Good to see you -- mate. Thank you.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM -- spending part of your day with us. I'm Michael Holmes.

"WORLD SPORT" is coming up.