Taiwan says China sending planes near island almost daily

Taiwan says China sending planes near island almost daily

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In this photo taken Feb. 10, 2020, and released by the Republic of China (ROC) Ministry of National Defense, a Taiwanese Air Force F-16 in foreground flies on the flank of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) H-6 … more >

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By

Associated Press

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – China is sending military planes near Taiwan with increasing frequency in what appears to be a stepping up of its threat to use force to take control of the island, Taiwan’s foreign minister said Wednesday.

Such flights are more frequent than reported in the media and have become “virtually a daily occurrence,” Joseph Wu told reporters.

Along with Chinese military exercises simulating an attack on Taiwan, the flights by China are causing major concern for Taiwan’s government, Wu said.

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“What it is doing now is unceasingly preparing to use force to resolve the Taiwan problem,” Wu said.

China claims the self-ruling island democracy as its own territory and threatens to use the People’s Liberation Army to bring it under its control. The sides split in a civil war in 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to the former Japanese colony as the Communist Party took control in mainland China.

Beijing has cut ties with the island’s government since Taiwan elected independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016 and has sought to isolate it diplomatically while raising the military threat. Despite that, Tsai was reelected this year by a wide margin.

Wu said China appeared to have grown in confidence following its crackdown on opposition voices in the former British colony of Hong Kong, facilitated by the national legislature’s passage of a sweeping security law.

“If international society does not give China a sufficiently clear signal, I believe China will take it that international society will not impede it in doing other things,” Wu said. “This is what we are extremely worried about.”

Wu stressed the need for coordination with allies such as Japan and the U.S., neither of which has official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but which maintain close relations. U.S. law mandates that Washington ensure the island can maintain a credible defense and treat all threats against the island as matters of grave concern.

Support among Taiwanese for political unification with China has long been weak and has fallen further following the crackdown in Hong Kong. That comes as Chinese Communist Party leader and President Xi Jinping pursues an increasingly assertive foreign policy, leading to speculation he may attempt a military confrontation in the region.

China says US orders it to close its consulate in Houston

U.S. orders China to close its consulate in Houston amid rising tension

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A firetruck is positioned outside the Chinese Consulate Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Houston. Authorities responded to reports of a fire at the consulate. Witnesses said that people were burning paper in what appeared to be trash cans, according to … more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The U.S. on Wednesday ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, citing efforts to protect American intellectual property.

The move marks the latest in a series of increasing escalation between Washington and Beijing over trade, human rights, technology and national security.

While the Trump administration did not provide details behind the reason it is closing the Chinese consulate in Houston, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed to action being taken by the White House to end alleged intellectual property theft.

SEE ALSO: Rubio: Chinese Consulate in Houston is a ‘front’ for ‘massive spy operation’

“The United States will not tolerate [China‘s] violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated [its] unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

One day prior, the Justice Department accused the Chinese government of running an elaborate cyberhacking operation aimed at stealing secrets from Western companies, including U.S. businesses racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic that began in China six months ago.

Federal prosecutors claimed that two Chinese hackers were working with the government in Beijing to steal hundreds of millions of dollars and secrets through a yearslong operation that has recently targeted biotechnology companies, including one in Maryland and another in Massachusetts.

“President Trump has said, ‘Enough, we’re not going to allow this to continue to happen,’ ” Mr. Pompeo said while on an official visit to Copenhagen.

Back in Houston, firefighters responded to calls of papers being set ablaze on the consulate’s property but were denied entry to the grounds, local news reported.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, on Wednesday said the Chinese consulate in Houston is basically a front for a massive spy operation after the State Department ordered the consulate to close.

“So this consulate is basically a front. … It’s kind of [the] central node of a massive spy operation — commercial espionage, defense espionage — also influence agents to try to influence Congress,” Mr. Rubio, the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Fox Business Network.

Mr. Rubio said the closure was “long overdue” and predicted that China would close one of the United States’ facilities in China as a response.

China has condemned the U.S.’ move to shut down the consulate.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a news conference Wednesday that “the unilateral closure of China’s consulate general in Houston within a short period of time is an unprecedented escalation of its recent actions against China.”

He warned of firm countermeasures if the U.S. does not reverse itself. Besides its embassy in Beijing, the U.S. has five consulates in mainland China, according to its website. They are in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan and Shenyang.

At the height of the coronavirus outbreak in China, the U.S. in January closed its consulate in Wuhan and has since decided to not reopen the facility.

• David Sherfinski contributed to this story, which is also based on wire reports.

AP Exclusive: Aid from top donors drops even as need soars

AP Exclusive: Aid from top donors drops even as need soars

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FILE – In this March 30, 2020, file photo, Venezuelan workers wearing protective face masks and suits as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus unload boxes of humanitarian aid as medical supplies and specialists from China arrive … more >

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By CARA ANNA

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

JOHANNESBURG (AP) – A new snapshot of the frantic global response to the coronavirus pandemic shows some of the world’s largest government donors of humanitarian aid are buckling under the strain: Funding commitments, for the virus and otherwise, have dropped by a third from the same period last year.

The analysis by the U.K.-based Development Initiatives, obtained in advance by The Associated Press, offers a rare real-time look at the notoriously difficult to track world of aid.

At a time when billions of people are struggling with the pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse – on top of long-running disasters like famine, drought or unrest – more, not less, money is urgently needed. New virus protection equipment must be bought for almost everything, from maternity wards in African villages to women’s shelters in Syrian refugee camps.

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“We have not seen substantial funding for COVID, yet the situation is going to get worse,” Rosalind Crowther, South Sudan country director for the aid group CARE, told the AP in May, saying “some donors have backtracked on earlier commitments.” The group runs two dozen health centers, more than 40 feeding centers and a safe house in one of the world’s most fragile countries following civil war.

In Somalia, a mother of twin baby boys told Amnesty International she had to give birth in her makeshift home in a camp for displaced people because no local health clinic was open. Aid workers told Amnesty researcher Abdullahi Hassan the newly reduced services were due to lack of funding.

“You can imagine how risky this is,” he told the AP.

During the first five months of this year, overall aid commitments from the largest government donors were $16.9 billion, down from $23.9 billion in the same period last year, according to the new analysis, which drew on data from the United States, the United Kingdom, European Union institutions, Germany, France, Canada and others.

Many of these donors – notably the U.K., whose aid commitments have dropped by nearly 50% from last year, according to the analysis – are struggling as their economies contract. The sheer magnitude of the crisis is another challenge as every part of the world needs help – and now.

The U.K. on Wednesday signaled more trouble, announcing it had identified $3.6 billion in cuts to planned overseas aid spending “so that we can react to the potential shrinkage in our economy.”

The reality on the ground could be even worse than the new analysis indicates: Crucially, it only shows promises of aid. Just how much of the billions of dollars pledged have reached those in need is not yet clear.

In some cases, the response to the pandemic has been alarmingly slow. In June, more than two dozen international aid groups wrote to the U.S. about its pledged coronavirus aid, saying that “little to no U.S. humanitarian assistance has reached those on the front lines” and calling the uncharacteristic delays “devastating.”

Their letter came as the U.S. promoted global leadership on the COVID-19 response with more than $1 billion committed. Aid groups are now waiting to see whether the U.S. will deliver millions of dollars this month as indicated.

This new analysis, like any measure of aid, is imperfect – it looks at data published to the International Aid Transparency Initiative, which is voluntary but widely used. It is also more current than other measures: The data was downloaded on July 10.

The drop in funding is keenly felt by aid groups on the ground.

A survey in May of 92 members of Bond, the U.K. network for nongovernmental organizations working in international development, found just 16% had received any new funding from the U.K.’s Department for International Development while fighting the pandemic in developing countries, and 41% were responding without any extra funding at all.

Some aid groups are warning the window to prevent the pandemic’s worst effects is narrowing while the global humanitarian response “remains woefully underfunded,” as Refugees International said last week.

Meanwhile, “we are concerned that we are seeing a repurposing of existing funds … rather than a release of new funding,” Selena Victor, Mercy Corps’ senior director for policy and advocacy, has said of the EU’s response.

An U.N.-run emergency delivery service that has kept tons of humanitarian aid flowing to scores of countries hurt by travel restrictions could shut down in the coming weeks because “there has been no significant funding” from donor countries, the World Food Program said. Just 19% of the $965 million request has come in.

While individual governments struggle, the largest so-called multilateral organizations including the World Bank and the Global Fund have stepped up, perhaps not yet affected by budget constraints.

Their commitments this year are $48.8 billion, or 70% greater than the same period last year, according to the analysis. That’s a positive sign but “must be sustainable to tackle the whole crisis,” according to the analysis.

The challenges remain vast as various streams of assistance, including remittances, falter. “All resources … are set to fall,” according to a separate new Development Initiatives report.

That drop could continue for months. Official development assistance – government aid for developing countries’ economic development and welfare – could shrink by almost $20 billion worldwide between last year and 2021 under a worst-case scenario that envisages an extended pandemic. The cuts could continue “as government assess domestic priorities,” that report says.

COVID-19 arrived in a world already facing a growing number of humanitarian crises, from Yemen to Myanmar to West Africa’s Sahel. Now the pandemic “threatens to create a funding vacuum,” the report says.

As of the end of June, it says, U.N.-coordinated calls for aid for this year were up 25% from last year because of additional needs created by the pandemic, reaching more than $37 billion.

Last week, the United Nations again increased its request for the pandemic response alone to $10.3 billion – the largest appeal in its history.

Only $1.7 billion has been received. Up to $40 billion might be needed.

“The response of wealthy nations so far has been grossly inadequate and dangerously short-sighted,” U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said. “Failure to act now will leave the virus free to circle ‘round the globe.”

___

Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

US sanctions Chinese companies over Muslim abuse complaints

US sanctions Chinese companies over Muslim abuse complaints

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FILE – In this Nov. 3, 2017, file photo, residents line up at a security checkpoint into the Hotan Bazaar where a screen shows Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hotan in western China’s Xinjiang region. The U.S. government has imposed … more >

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By JOE McDONALD

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

BEIJING (AP) – China said Tuesday it would take unspecified “necessary measures” after the U.S. government imposed trade sanctions on 11 companies it says are implicated in human rights abuses in China’s Muslim northwestern region of Xinjiang.

The sanctions add to U.S. pressure on Beijing over Xinjiang, where the ruling Communist Party is accused of mass detentions, forced labor, forced birth control and other abuses against Muslim minorities. Xinjiang is among a series of conflicts including human rights, trade and technology that have caused U.S.-Chinese relations to plunge to their lowest level in decades.

The Trump administration also has imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials over the accusations. Beijing responded by announcing unspecified penalties on four U.S. senators who are critics of its human rights record.

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Three of the companies cited Monday were identified by investigations by The Associated Press in 2018 and 2020 as being implicated in forced labor. One company, Nanchang O-Film Tech, supplies screens and lenses to Apple, Samsung and other technology companies. AP reporters found employees from Xinjiang at its factory in the southern city of Nanchang weren’t allowed out unaccompanied and were required to attend political classes.

U.S. customs authorities seized a shipment from the second company, Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories, on suspicion it was made by forced labor. People who worked for the third, Hetian Taida, which produces sportswear sold to U.S. universities and sports teams, told AP detainees were compelled to work there.

The Department of Commerce said the addition of the 11 companies to its Entity List will limit their access to U.S. goods and technology. It gave no details of what goods might be affected.

“This action will ensure that our goods and technologies are not used in the Chinese Communist Party’s despicable offensive against defenseless Muslim minority populations,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement.

The Chinese foreign ministry rejected the sanctions as interference in its affairs and an attempt by Washington to hurt Chinese companies.

“What the United States is concerned about is not the human rights issues at all, but to suppress Chinese companies, undermine the stability of Xinjiang, and smear China’s Xinjiang policies,” said spokesperson Wang Wenbin. “We urge the United States to correct its mistakes, revoke relevant decisions and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs.”

Wang said Beijing will “take all necessary measures” to protect Chinese businesses, but gave no indication of possible retaliation.

China has detained an estimated 1 million or more members of the Uighur and other Muslim ethnic minority groups in internment camps.

The government describes them as vocational training facilities aimed at countering Muslim radicalism and separatist tendencies. It says those facilities have since been closed, a claim that is impossible to confirm given the restrictions on visits and reporting about the region.

Veterans of the camps and family members say those held are forced, often with the threat of violence, to denounce their religion, culture and language and swear loyalty to Communist Party leader and head of state Xi Jinping.

The companies cited Monday include clothing manufacturers and technology suppliers.

Two companies cited, Xinjiang Silk Road BGI and Beijing Liuhe BGI, are subsidiaries of BGI Group, one of the world’s biggest gene-sequencing companies. The Commerce Department said they were “conducting genetic analyses used to further the repression” of Muslim minorities.

Human rights groups say security forces in Xinjiang appear to be creating a genetic database with samples from millions of people including through using blood and other samples subjects are compelled to provide. Nationwide, authorities have gathered genetic information from the Chinese public for almost two decades that the government says is for use in law enforcement.

Phone calls Tuesday to BGI’s public relations and investor relations departments weren’t answered.

The Commerce Department imposed similar restrictions last October and in June on a total of 37 companies it said were “engaged in or enabling” abuses in Xinjiang.

The department issued a warning on July 1 that companies that handle goods made by forced labor or that supply technology that might be used in labor camps or for surveillance might face unspecified “reputational, economic and legal risks.”

The Chinese foreign ministry criticized the warning, saying Beijing would take “necessary measures” to protect Chinese companies but giving no details.

Bolton: Trump lacks strategic vision, historical knowledge

Bolton: Trump lacks strategic vision, historical knowledge

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FILE – In this Sept. 30, 2019, file photo, former National security adviser John Bolton gestures while speakings at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Bolton said Monday, July 20, 2020 he believes President Donald Trump committed … more >

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By TERRY SPENCER

Associated Press

Monday, July 20, 2020

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – Former national security adviser John Bolton said Monday he believes President Donald Trump committed several impeachable offenses, but Democratic congressional leaders doomed their effort to remove him from office by rushing the process for partisan purposes.

Bolton told a Florida group in an online presentation that Trump’s business and re-election concerns drive not only his dealings with Ukraine, which led to his impeachment by the House, but also with China, Turkey and other countries.

He said he would have voted to remove the president for his Ukraine dealings, but did not delve into specifics. Bolton, a longtime adviser to Republican presidents, told the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, a nonpartisan organization that meets monthly to hear from prominent newsmakers, that life inside Trump’s White House was like “living in a pinball machine.”

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“You need to have strategic vision. It certainly helps to have philosophical foundations and you have to think through pros and cons of different policies. Almost none of that happened with President Trump,” said Bolton, who was promoting his book, “The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir.”

Trump “does not have a basic philosophy. He is not a conservative Republican. I don’t mean to say he is a liberal Democrat. He is just not anything,” said Bolton, who served as Trump’s national security adviser from April 2018 to September 2019. The president says he fired Bolton; Bolton says he resigned.

Bolton, who was being interviewed by local TV anchorman Michael Williams, gave his most searing critiques regarding impeachment for congressional Democrats, saying they pushed their effort in a “rushed, inadequate, excessively partisan way.” The Democrats weren’t interested in learning the full truth, Bolton said, they just wanted to harm Trump’s re-election chances, making it impossible to get any significant Republican support.

Bolton said the Democrats’ claim that they plowed ahead knowing their effort was doomed in the Senate because it would curtail Trump’s future actions is wrong. He said Trump’s acquittal will make him less circumspect if he wins in November.

“The whole thing ended up completely backward of where the Democrats said they wanted,” Bolton said,

Bolton, 71, is a longtime foreign policy hardliner who supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq and has called for U.S. military action against Iran, North Korea and other countries over their attempts to build or procure nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. He was President George W. Bush’s United Nations ambassador for 16 months after serving as a State Department arms negotiator and in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Bolton said Trump does not read the national security briefing presidents receive daily and during the two or three weekly in-person briefings he receives from security and military officials, Trump spends most of his time talking rather than listening and asking questions.

Bolton compared that to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he said comes to meetings well-briefed, with a deep knowledge of history and a clear vision of his goals. He said Putin believes he can play Trump, who Bolton said knows little history.

“You put somebody like that on one side of the table and Donald Trump … on the other side of the table and it is not a fair fight,” Bolton said.

Bolton criticized Trump’s dealings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying their face-to-face meetings gave legitimacy to Kim’s rule without the United States getting any concessions on that country’s nuclear weapons program. Instead, it gave Kim two years to make his weapons program stronger, he said.

“This was not a cost-free exercise,” Bolton said of the meetings.

Bolton fired back at Republicans who criticize him for releasing his book just before the election.

“If you can’t talk about the character or incompetence of a president during a presidential election, when can you talk about it?” Bolton said.

When asked about the election, Bolton said no matter who wins, Trump or his presumed Democratic opponent Joe Biden, the U.S. will be less safe for different reasons. He did not elaborate.

He said he plans to cast a write-in vote for an undetermined Republican conservative.

Separatists protest Spanish royals’ visit to rural Catalonia

Separatists protest Spanish royals’ visit to rural Catalonia

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Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia visit the Royal Monastery of Poblet, northeastern Spain, Monday, July 20, 2020. Hundreds of Catalan independence supporters are protesting Monday the visit of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia to the northeastern region … more >

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By HERNÁN MUÑOZ

Associated Press

Monday, July 20, 2020

L’ESPLUGA DE FRANCOLI, Spain (AP) – Hundreds of Catalan independence supporters protested a visit by King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia on Monday to the northeastern region, during a royal tour across Spain meant to boost morale amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The visit came amid mounting media reports accusing the king’s father, former monarch Juan Carlos I, of allegedly hiding millions of untaxed euros in offshore funds.

Prosecutors in the country’s Supreme Court are determining whether Juan Carlos can be investigated for allegedly receiving the funds from Saudi Arabia, possibly as kickbacks for a high-speed railway project. The former king hasn’t publicly addressed the allegations against him.

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The scandal is the latest to rock the Spanish royal family. In mid-March, it prompted Felipe to renounce any inheritance he could receive from his father and stripped him of the annual stipend he received. Juan Carlos abdicated on behalf of his son in 2014.

With that backdrop, the royal couple launched a visit to all of Spain’s 17 regions that was designed as a show of support for the citizens and the economy as it recovers from the first wave of the pandemic.

The Catalan leg of the tour was initially planned for last week, covering several towns and Barcelona, but the palace said it had postponed it and scaled it back to a short visit to a monastery because of the spike in virus cases in and around the regional capital.

Protesters on Monday carried photos of Felipe upside down and letters completing the sentence “Catalonia doesn’t have a king” during a march organized by ANC, the region’s largest pro-independence civil society group.

“Are the king and the queen here to promote tourism? What they promote is repulsiveness,” said protester Marta Martí. “They know we don’t want them. But they come here to test our patience.”

Tensions between separatists in Catalonia, which has a population of 7.5 million, and those in support of Spanish unity came to a head in late 2017. A banned referendum was met with police violence, and prompted the prosecution of top elected officials and activists.

“We want democracy, simply democracy,” said school teacher Marcel Barbosa, adding that the king had shown disrespect for Catalans’ demands for independence. “They know they are going to lose and that they will need to leave, that’s why we are not allowed to vote.”

The march was headed to the Royal Monastery of Poblet, which the king and the queen were visiting, but police blocked access at the main road. Some of the activists tried to reach the monastery by venturing into nearby vineyards.

Separated by a line of riot police, a dozen people expressed support for the Spanish royals. All protesters left after the end of the visit.

High-speed and regular trains in and out of the northern Catalan city of Girona were also delayed or cancelled due to “acts of vandalism,” according to a tweet by Spain’s railway infrastructure operator, ADIF. A photo circulated on messaging apps showed tires burning on railways next to a sign showing a crossed-out, upside-down image of a crown.

Quim Torra, the head of the Catalan government and a fervent separatist, on Sunday said that he’s asked the regional government’s legal services to study how a personal lawsuit can be filed against the former king and anybody who was involved in the alleged corruption.

__

AP reporter Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this story.

UK suspends extradition arrangements with Hong Kong

UK suspends extradition arrangements with Hong Kong

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FILE – In this Wednesday April 22, 2020 file photo, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab leaves 10 Downing Street, London. Britain’s foreign secretary hinted Sunday, July 19 he may move to suspend the U.K.’s extradition arrangements with Hong Kong, and … more >

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By DANICA KIRKA

Associated Press

Monday, July 20, 2020

LONDON (AP) – Britain suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong on Monday and blocked arms sales to the former British territory after China imposed a tough new national security law.

Amid growing tensions with Beijing, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons that he had concerns about the new law and alleged human rights abuses in China, particularly the treatment of the Uighur minority. He described the measures announced Monday as “reasonable and proportionate.″

“We will protect our vital interests,″ Raab said. “We will stand up for our values and we will hold China to its international obligations.″

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Britain followed the example of the United States, Australia and Canada by suspending extradition agreements with Hong Kong, which became a special administrative region of China after the U.K. returned control of the territory to Beijing in 1997.

Events in Hong Kong are particularly sensitive for the British government because China agreed to a “one country, two systems″ policy that was supposed to protect the economic and social traditions of the territory for 50 years after the handover.

Britain and other western nations believe the new security law threatens that agreement because it restricts free speech and erodes the judicial independence of Hong Kong. The law makes crimes such as promoting secession punishable by life in prison and allows some cases to be tried on the mainland.

This means people extradited to Hong Kong could end up being tried in mainland courts, Raab said.

The U.K. previously accused the Beijing government of a serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration under which Hong Kong was returned to China and announced it would open a special route to citizenship for up to 3 million eligible residents of the territory.

China’s decision to implement the security law on June 30 triggered widespread protests in Hong Kong. Police responded with water cannon, tear gas and hundreds of arrests.

The ban on arms sales extends an embargo that has been in place for mainland China since 1989. It means the government will not allow British companies to export potentially lethal weapons, their components or ammunition, as well as equipment that might be used for internal repression such as shackles, firearms and smoke grenades.

The measures announced Monday come less than a week after Britain backtracked on plans to give Chinese telecommunications company Huawei a role in the U.K.’s new high-speed mobile phone network.

The U.S. has lobbied its allies to shun Huawei because it says the Chinese government could use the company’s technology to spy on western nations. Huawei denies the allegations.

Beijing objected to the new measures even before they were formally announced by Raab.

China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, on Sunday told the BBC that Britain was “dancing to the tune” of the U.S. and rejected the allegations of human rights abuses against the mainly-Muslim Uighur people.

He accused Western countries of trying to foment trouble with China.

“People say China (is) becoming very aggressive. That’s totally wrong,” he said. “China has not changed. It’s Western countries, headed by United States – they started this so-called new Cold War on China.”

Asia Today: Outbreak in northwest China spreads to 2nd city

Outbreak in northwest China spreads to 2nd city

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Movie-goers wearing masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus are spaced apart as they watch a movie in a newly reopened cinema in Hangzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang province on Monday, July 20, 2020. China is going back to the … more >

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By

Associated Press

Sunday, July 19, 2020

BEIJING (AP) — China’s latest coronavirus outbreak has spread to a second city in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

One of the 17 new cases reported on Monday was in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, the regional government said on its official microblog. The remainder were in the regional capital of Urumqi, where all other cases have been reported since the outbreak that has now infected at least 47 people emerged earlier this month.

Authorities in Urumqi have tried to prevent the spread by closing off communities and imposing travel restrictions.

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Xinjiang is a vast, thinly populated region of mountains and deserts and had seen little impact from the pandemic that emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and was largely contained within China in March.

Another five new cases reported Monday by the National Health Commission were imported.

China also said 5,370 people had been arrested for pandemic-related crimes between January and June. More than 40% were charged with fraud, the state prosecutor’s office announced on its official microblog. Another 15% were charged with obstruction of law enforcement, with others accused of producing and selling fake and shoddy goods, creating public disturbances, and transporting and selling endangered species.

China has strengthened protection for wild animals following the emergence of the virus, which may have originated in bats before jumping to humans via an intermediary species such as the anteater-like pangolin.

No specific figures were given for those accused of violating quarantine rules and travel restrictions, although there have been relatively few such cases reported in official media.

Although faulted for allowing the virus to spread from Wuhan, China’s government has been credited with imposing rigid and sometimes draconian measures to contain the outbreak, and people have overwhelmingly complied with orders to wear masks, display certificates of good health and maintain social distancing.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

– A record surge of 40,425 reported cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours took India’s total to 1,118,043. The Health Ministry on Monday also reported another 681 deaths, taking total fatalities to 27,497. India has the third most cases and eighth most deaths in the world. A country of 1.4 billion people, India has been conducting nearly 10,000 tests per million population. More than 300,000 samples are being tested daily, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research, India’s top medical research body. With India’s national lockdown largely lifted, local governments have been ordering focused lockdowns on high-risk areas where new outbreaks are surging.

– Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state reported 275 more COVID-19 cases on Monday, a third daily figure that was below last Friday’s peak. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the impact of the lockdown on Australia’s second-largest city Melbourne should become apparent Wednesday, which is two weeks after the six-week shutdown began. “It is a wicked enemy, it is unstable and until we bring some stability to this, I don’t think we’ll be able to talk about a trend,” Andrews said. Victoria had conducted more than 1.3 million coronavirus tests among a population of 6.5 million, which represented one of the highest testing rates in the world, he said.

– South Korea has reported its smallest daily jump in local COVID-19 transmissions in two months as health authorities express cautious optimism that the outbreak is being brought under control. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday still reported 26 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 22 that were tied to international arrivals. Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said the four local cases were the first below 10 since May 19. He continued to plead for vigilance, encouraging people to avoid crowded places or even stay at home during the summer holiday period.

– Hong Kong reported 73 new coronavirus infections on Monday, 66 of which were locally transmitted, as the city grapples with a new outbreak. Of the locally transmitted infections, 27 were from unknown sources while the remaining 39 were linked to previously known clusters. Among the new patients was a doctor who visited an elderly care home. Hong Kong’s health officials said tighter anti-virus measures may be required if the trend does not come down over the next few days. Hong Kong has reported a total of 1,958 coronavirus infections, with 12 deaths.

North Korean leader berates officials over hospital project

North Korean leader berates officials over hospital project

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In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during an enlarged meeting of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang, North Korea Saturday, July 18, 2020. Independent … more >

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By KIM TONG-HYUNG

Associated Press

Sunday, July 19, 2020

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un berated construction managers for unspecified problems in building a showpiece hospital in comments reported Monday that may indicate the country is struggling to secure the supplies amid U.S.-led sanctions and a coronavirus lockdown.

During a visit to the construction site in Pyongyang, Kim lamented that his ambitious project of building a new general hospital was being carried out in a “careless manner” and without a proper budget and ordered all officials responsible to be replaced, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

The report said Kim accused construction managers of making a “serious digression” from the ruling party’s policy over the supply of materials and equipment by “burdening the people by encouraging all kinds of ‘assistance,’’’ which apparently indicated rising complaints among people who were mobilized for its construction.

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The KCNA report didn’t say when Kim visited the site and didn’t mention any comments by Kim over stalled nuclear diplomacy with the Trump administration or international sanctions over his nuclear weapons program.

In announcing the plans to build the hospital in March, Kim made a rare acknowledgement that his country lacks modern medical facilities and called for urgent improvements in the country’s health care system.

However, the country hasn’t directly linked the hospital project to the coronavirus pandemic and has steadfastly maintained that no one in its territory has been sickened by COVID-19, a claim many foreign experts doubt.

Experts say the pandemic has hurt the North’s economy, already battered by stringent U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Kim desperately sought sanctions relief during a flurry of diplomacy with the United States in 2018 and 2019. But talks have faltered since his second summit with President Donald Trump in February 2019.

Experts say the COVID-19 crisis likely thwarted some of Kim’s major economic goals by forcing the country into a lockdown that shut the border with China, its major ally and economic lifeline, and potentially hampered his ability to mobilize people for labor.

China claps back at AG Barr, accuses him of bullying and slander

China claps back at AG Barr, accuses him of bullying and slander

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U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., Thursday, July 16, 2020. The United States has become overly reliant on Chinese goods and services, including face masks, medical gowns and other … more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Chinese government Friday clapped back at Attorney General William Barr, saying his speech warning against the country’s threat to American business was bullying and slander.

Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China, said the country’s primary concern is improving citizen’s lives and keeping global stability and peace, not dominating American business.

“As an independent sovereign state, China has the right to safeguard its own sovereignty, security and development interests, to defend the achievements made by the Chinese people with hard work, to refuse any bullying and injustice against China, and to fight back against malicious slander and attacks by the U.S. against China,” Ms. Hua said at a daily briefing.

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Mr. Barr called out China the day before, accusing the country of using “a wide array of predatory and often unlawful tactics,” including currency manipulation, cyberattacks, intellectual property theft and espionage.

Ms. Hua described the attorney general’s actions as “absurd” saying their research and development in the healthcare industry makes stealing U.S. data unnecessary.

“Because everyone knows that China is in a leading position in the research and development of new coronavirus vaccines, we have first-class scientific research personnel, and we do not need to gain a leading position with theft,” she said.

• This story is based in part on wire service reports.

Alarm over new virus outbreaks as India cases pass 1 million

Alarm over new virus outbreaks as India cases pass 1 million

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A health worker takes a nasal swab of a person for a COVID-19 test at a hospital in New Delhi, India, Monday, July 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup) more >

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By Elaine Kurtenbach and Nomaan Merchant

Associated Press

Friday, July 17, 2020

MITO, Japan (AP) — New coronavirus outbreaks, even in places as far flung as China’s western Xinjiang region, are prompting worldwide moves to guard against the pandemic, as the number of confirmed cases globally approaches 14 million.

India on Friday said it had surpassed 1 million cases, third only to the United States and Brazil, with more than 25,000 deaths. That followed Brazil’s announcement Thursday evening that the country had passed 2 million confirmed cases and 76,000 deaths – 1,000 fatalities a day, on average, since late May on a gruesome plateau that has yet to tilt downward.

India’s grim milestone drove home concerns over the country’s readiness to deal with an inevitable surge that could overwhelm hospitals and test the country’s feeble health care system.

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In the technology hub of Bangalore, the government ordered a weeklong lockdown that began Tuesday evening after the cases surged exponentially.

Local governments are frantically trying to quash outbreaks and keep their economies running as the pandemic spreads in the vast countryside.

“The acceleration in cases remains the main challenge for India in the coming days,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, adding that a vast majority of cases were still being missed.

China on Friday reported nine imported cases. Health officials in Xinjiang also reported six confirmed cases of local transmission. They said another 11 people tested positive but were asymptomatic. China does not include asymptomatic cases in its caseload totals.

The Muslim-majority region is so far from Beijing that residents operate by their own, unofficial time zone and had until now been little affected by outbreaks elsewhere that appear to have been brought under control.

Health officials said all the cases emerged from among people who had earlier been placed under isolation and close monitoring in the regional capital, Urumqi. Another 135 people were being monitored in isolation.

The city of 3.5 million tightened anti-virus measures following the emergence of the new cases. It shut down a main subway line and closed off some residential compounds, ordering passengers boarding flights to show a test result and mobile phone health certificate to indicate they were virus free.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, large-scale restrictions in its capital were set to continue as new COVID-19 cases rise, with cinemas and other indoor entertainment spaces to remain closed.

“It will be very risky if we loosen the first phase of large-scale social restrictions to the second phase. So we decided to extend the social restrictions,” said Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan.

As of Thursday, 15,636 cases with 713 deaths had been recorded in Jakarta. The city imposed sweeping social restrictions on April 10 but relaxed some of them two months later. Indonesia as a whole has reported nearly 82,000 coronavirus cases and more than 3,800 deaths.

South Africa now has the world’s sixth highest reported caseload, with 324,221 cases accounting for more than half the total confirmed in Africa. Many are clustered in South Africa’s densely populated Gauteng province, home of Johannesburg and one-quarter of the country’s population.

Officials in South Korea said they might be making headway in capping outbreaks that have expanded from the capital, Seoul.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still reported 60 newly confirmed infections, including 39 linked to people arriving from abroad.

But a senior Health Ministry official, Yoon Tae-ho, told reporters that the imported cases were less of a concern than local ones because they would be caught in a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all people arriving from abroad. All are to be tested within 3 days.

More than 13.7 million infections have been confirmed worldwide and nearly 590,000 have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are likely higher for various reasons, including limited testing.

Two-week quarantines are becoming the norm, and many governments have been rolling back reopenings and tightening restrictions to try to stave off further waves of new cases.

Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, on Friday announced increased pandemic restrictions after detecting eight new COVID-19 cases in a cluster that began in a Sydney pub and was traced to a visitor from Melbourne. Around 42 cases have since been linked to that cluster.

Authorities were hoping that fresh controls might bring the infection count to a plateau, as Melbourne reported a record 428 new COVID-19 cases on Friday.

Other parts of Australia have been relaxing restrictions. The Northern Territory on Friday opened its borders to everyone in Australia apart from Sydney and Victoria state, where Melbourne is located. Travelers from those restricted places must isolate in a hotel for 14 days.

Western Australia state, which is free of community-spread COVID-19, on Thursday hosted the largest public event since the pandemic began when more than 22,000 spectators watched an Australian rules football match at Perth Stadium. Medical groups condemned the match as dangerous to public health.

The coronavirus has been surging in hot spots around the U.S., with record numbers of confirmed infections and deaths in the South and West.

Hospitals are stretched to the brink in many areas amid fears the pandemic’s resurgence is only getting started. The rebound after shutdowns imposed in April were lifted has led to requirements for masks or other facial coverings in at least half of the 50 states.

Texas reported 10,000 new cases for the third straight day and 129 additional deaths. A third of its more than 3,400 total COVID-19 fatalities came in the first two weeks of July alone.

Florida reached another ominous record, with 156 virus deaths, and a staggering 13,965 new cases.

Reminiscent of New York City at the height of the pandemic there earlier this year, in Arizona the Phoenix medical examiner’s office is stocking up on storage coolers for an influx of bodies as funeral homes hit maximum capacity, with regular morgue storage nearly two-thirds full as of Thursday.

In Texas, San Antonio health officials have turned to refrigerated trailers to store the dead, and soldiers were preparing to take over a COVID-19 wing of a Houston hospital.

In hospitals in Hildago County, about 220 miles (354 kilometers) south of San Antonio on the Mexican border, it’s not uncommon for the body of a COVID-19 patient to lay on a stretcher for 10 hours before it can be removed in the overcrowded intensive care units, said Dr. Ivan Melendez, the county public health authority.

“Before someone gets a bed in the COVID ICU unit, someone has to die there,” Melendez said.

___

Merchant reported from Houston, Texas. Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

China vows retaliatory sanctions against U.S. over Hong Kong

China vows retaliatory sanctions against U.S. over Hong Kong

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Pro-China supporters hold the effigy of U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese national flag outside the U.S. Consulate during a protest, in Hong Kong, Saturday, May 30, 2020. President Donald Trump has announced a series of measures aimed at China … more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday announced it will launch a series of retaliatory sanctions against the U.S. after President Trump signed legislation sanctioning Chinese officials and entities for Beijing’s “repressive actions” against the people of Hong Kong.

Beijing’s sanctions will target American entities and individuals, but the foreign ministry stopped short of detailing the extent.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that it “firmly opposes and strongly condemns” the U.S. move to approve sanctions over the national security law.

SEE ALSO: Trump signs law authorizing China sanctions over Hong Kong crackdown

China will make necessary responses to protect its legitimate interests, and impose sanctions on relevant U.S. personnel and entities,” the statement read.

China last month imposed the new security law expanding Beijing’s role in controlling law enforcement and political expression in Hong Kong. The law allows Chinese intelligence and security forces to be based inside the district for the first time and seeks to address terrorism, secession and foreign interference in the city.

Beijing has maintained that the law will not impede on the city’s autonomy.

Critics, however, say it does not align with the 1997 Joint Declaration between Britain and China that bound Beijing’s communist rulers to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy as a special administrative region and to leave its liberal economy and government for 50 years under the formulation “one country, two systems.”

Mr. Trump on Tuesday signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which the House and Senate approved earlier this month by veto-proof majorities, to hold accountable those involved in cracking down on freedoms in Hong Kong.

The law authorizes the State and Treasury departments to impose sanctions on those involved in imposing the Hong Kong security law and targets banks involved in significant transactions with offenders.

As US seeks production, sole US rare earth miner goes public

As US seeks production, sole US rare earth miner goes public

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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The sole miner of rare earths in the U.S. is becoming a public company amid elevated trade tensions with China, the dominant global supplier of the material used in everything from computers to cars.

MP Materials, which runs a mine and processing facility in Mountain Pass, Calif., near the border of Nevada, will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange in a deal with the blank-check company Fortress Value Acquisition Corp.

The U.S. has pushed for increased production and the Pentagon began funding development of the Mountain Pass facility earlier this year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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“This business combination and becoming a public company is a key milestone in MP Materials’ mission to restore the full rare earth supply chain to the United States of America,” said James Litinsky, the head of the Chicago hedge fund JHL Capital group.

Litinsky will become chairman and CEO of MP Materials.

The Journal reported in April that Litinsky first invested in Mountain Pass believing that the trade-standoff with China would make rare earths more valuable.

“These supply-chain issues are now front and center,” Mr. Litinsky said in a prepared statement Wednesday. While the U.S. is now grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, “the industrial policy is just as much of a long-term crisis,” he said.

MP Materials can produce refined neodymium-praseodymium, a rare earth material used in magnets that help power electric vehicles, wind turbines, robotics, drones and defense systems.

China currently controls more than 80% of that market. Labor costs and lower environmental standards has led to a flourishing rare earths industry there.

In 2018 China produced some 120,000 metric tons of rare earths, while the U.S. produced 15,000 metric tons, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Mountain Pass was once the top global supplier of rare earth minerals, but China began taking over the market in the 1990s as demand surged with the emergence of new technologies like smart phones.

Mining at Mountain pass was on and off until it closed in 2015 under bankruptcy. It resumed production in 2017 after it was acquired by a group led by Litinsky’s JHL Capital Group.

Blank-check companies like Fortress Value are created solely to find companies to invest in. They raise funds by going public themselves, and then plowing that money into what they see as a promising venture.

MP Materials will have an equity value of approximately $1.5 billion when the deal closes in the fourth quarter. Net proceeds raised from the deal will be used to retrofit and fully recommission the Mountain Pass facility.

MP Materials Corp. will be listed under the ticker symbol “MP.”

New York Times to move Hong Kong office to Seoul as Beijing’s national security law takes effect

The New York Times to move Hong Kong office to Seoul as Beijing’s national security law takes effect

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The copies of The New York Times newspaper are displayed for sale at a news stand in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. The New York Times said Tuesday it will transfer some of its staff out of Hong Kong … more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The New York Times is gearing up to move part of its Hong Kong office as China’s newly imposed national security law begins to take effect.

The publication announced the move on Wednesday and said it is sending about a third of its Hong Kong-based staff to Seoul, South Korea’s capital, after facing challenges to obtain work permits. The move will take place over the next year.

In May, China’s legislature approved the controversial law, which would allow Chinese intelligence and security forces to be based inside the district for the first time, and seeks to address terrorism, secession and foreign interference in the city.

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Critics say it does not align with the 1997 Joint Declaration between Britain and China that bound Beijing’s communist rulers to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy as a special administrative region and to leave its liberal economy and government for 50 years under the formulation “one country, two systems.” It has also sparked fears that freedoms of speech and press could be jeopardized.

“Given the uncertainty of the moment, we are making plans to geographically diversify our editing staff,” a spokeswoman for The Times told Reuters.

“We will maintain a large presence in Hong Kong and have every intention of maintaining our coverage of Hong Kong and China.”

Apple wins big EU court case over $15 billion in taxes

Apple wins big EU court case over $15 billion in taxes

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Women wearing masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus stand near new Apple store prepared for its opening in Beijing, China on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. Health experts have warned that outbreaks that had been brought under control with … more >

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By RAF CASERT

Associated Press

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) – A European Union court on Wednesday delivered a hammer blow to the bloc’s attempts to rein in multinationals’ ability to strike special tax deals with individual EU countries when it ruled that Apple does not have to pay 13 billion euros ($15 billion) in back taxes to Ireland.

The EU Commission had claimed in 2016 that Apple had struck an illegal tax deal with Irish authorities that allowed it to pay extremely low rates. But the EU’s General Court said Wednesday that ”the Commission did not succeed in showing to the requisite legal standard that there was an advantage.”

“The Commission was wrong to declare” that Apple “had been granted a selective economic advantage and, by extension, state aid,” said the Luxembourg-based court, which is the second-highest in the EU.

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The EU Commission had ordered Apple to pay for gross underpayment of tax on profits across the European bloc from 2003 to 2014. The commission said Apple used two shell companies in Ireland to report its Europe-wide profits at effective rates well under 1%.

In many cases, multinationals can pay taxes on the bulk of their revenue across the EU’s 27 countries in the one EU country where they have their regional headquarters. For Apple and many other big tech companies, that is Ireland. For small EU countries like Ireland, that helps attract international business and even a small amount of tax revenue is helpful for them. The net result, however, is that the companies often end up paying very low tax.

The ruling can only be appealed on points of law and the Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager said she will “reflect on possible next steps.”

The Irish government welcomed the ruling, saying “there was no special treatment provided” to the U.S. company. Apple likewise said it was pleased by the decision, arguing that the case is not about how much tax it pays, but in what country. Apple CEO Tim Cook had earlier called the EU demand for back taxes “total political crap.”

The ruling is an especially stinging defeat for Vestager, who has campaigned for years to root out special tax deals and better regulate the power of the big U.S. tech companies, including Google, Amazon and Facebook. Trump has referred to her as the “tax lady” who “really hates the U.S.”

Despite the setback, she vowed to carry on the fight. “The Commission will continue to look at aggressive tax planning measures under EU state aid rules to assess whether they result in illegal state aid,” she said.

Besides the tax case, Vestager has recently opened two antitrust investigations into Apple’s mobile app store and its payments operations. Under her leadership, the EU has also investigated and fined tech giants like Google for billions of dollars for abusing their dominant market position. Some EU countries are looking to impose a tax on major digital businesses.

The European Network on Debt and Development, a group that seeks to make the financial system fairer, said that Wednesday’s court ruling showed how tough any tax policy remains. “”If we had a proper corporate tax system, we wouldn’t need long court cases to find out whether it is legal for multinational corporations to pay less than 1% in taxes,” said Tove Maria Ryding, a policy manager at the group.

Even though taxation remains under the authority of its member countries, the EU is seeking to create a level playing field among the 27 nations by making sure special deals – including ultra-low tax rates with multinationals – are weeded out.

Wednesday’s ruling will hurt that.

EU Greens legislator Sven Giegold said the verdict “is a huge setback in the fight against tax dumping in Europe. “ He said EU rules ”are clearly totally insufficient to tackle the problem. This must be a wakeup call.”

The ruling comes at a time when tax income for EU nations is taking a hit because of the recession triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. With households under financial pressure, the EU wants to make sure multinationals making profits on the continent pay their fair share, too.

“In times like these, when we are passing multibillion-euro economic stimulus packages, we cannot afford to waste a single cent in tax revenue,” said EU legislator Markus Ferber of the Christian Democrat EPP Group.

Chinese UK ambassador says Huawei decision ‘unfair’

Chinese UK ambassador says Huawei decision ‘unfair’

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Associated Press

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

LONDON (AP) – China’s ambassador to the U.K. has questioned whether Britain can offer a fair business environment following its decision to ban Huawei from taking part in the country’s high-speed wireless network.

China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, tweeted that the “disappointing and wrong’’ decision by the U.K. calls into question whether the country can be a safe place for international investors.

“It has become questionable whether the U.K. can provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for companies from other countries,’’ Liu tweeted.

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Britain said it decided to prohibit Huawei from working on the so-called 5G wireless system after U.S. sanctions made it impossible to ensure the security of equipment made by the Chinese company. The U.S. and other critics of Huawei claim that the Chinese government could force Huawei to give it access to foreign networks it has helped build. Huawei denies this.

The U.S. had also threatened to sever an intelligence-sharing arrangement with Britain because of concerns that Huawei’s involvement could allow the Chinese government to infiltrate U.K. networks.

Stocks rise on vaccine hopes; S&P 500 back within 5% of high

Stocks rise on vaccine hopes; S&P 500 back within 5% of high

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A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday as investors were encouraged by news that an experimental … more >

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By STAN CHOE and DAMIAN J. TROISE and ALEX VEIGA

Associated Press

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) – Markets worldwide rallied on rising hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, and the S&P; 500 climbed back to where it was a few days after it set its record early this year.

Investors see a vaccine as the best way for the economy and human life to get back to normal, and researchers said late Tuesday that one developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna revved up people’s immune systems in early testing, as hoped. The S&P; 500 rose 0.9% to pull within 4.7% of its all-time high set in February.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 227.51 points, or 0.9%, to 26,870.10, and the Nasdaq composite gained 61.91, or 0.6%, to 10,550.49. During the morning, the S&P; 500 touched its highest level since Feb. 25, and it ended the day at 3,226.56, up 29.04.

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Several things helped lift the market, including stronger-than-expected reports on the economy and on corporate profits from Goldman Sachs and others. But the vaccine hopes were at the center of the rise, which meant the market’s leaderboard was dominated by companies that would benefit most from a return to normal life. They included cruise-ship operators, airlines, retailers and hotel chains.

Stocks of smaller companies also leaped much more than the rest of the market, an indication of rising expectations for the economy. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks jumped 3.5%, a turnaround from earlier months when big, tech-oriented companies were carrying the market.

“Investors are gaining more confidence of the longer-term direction of the market,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. “It’s not just the behemoth tech stocks that are likely to lead share prices higher, but that mid- and small-cap stocks will also benefit, not only from an economic recovery, but also from very low interest rates.”

Winners of the stay-at-home economy created by quarantines and lockdowns, meanwhile, lagged behind. Clorox, Netflix and Amazon all fell.

Wednesday’s lift for markets, though, came only after another day of choppy trading. The S&P; 500 shot to a quick 1.3% gain shortly after trading began, only to give up nearly all of it before swinging a couple more times.

It’s the latest bout of erratic trading for the market, which has been largely churning in place for weeks. The S&P; 500 is almost exactly where it was on June 8. Often, it’s swung sharply within a single day as hopes for a budding economic recovery collide with continuing increases in coronavirus counts.

On Wednesday, as Wall Street was losing its stride, Florida announced another daily death toll of more than 100 and Oklahoma’s governor said he tested positive for the coronavirus.

“People should be thinking about a balance of optimism and realism,” said Nela Richardson, investment strategist at Edward Jones.

She said there is a “long climb” to go for the economy’s reopening and pointed to other risks for the market, including U.S. tensions with China.

“We think it’s going to be a pretty bumpy road ahead,” she said.

Worries also remain high that the stock market has gone overboard in its rally: It has taken less than four months for the S&P; 500 to almost return to its record after being down nearly 34%. But it could take years for the economy and corporate profits to get back to where they were before the pandemic struck. .

Markets nevertheless climbed Wednesday, bolstered by the optimism about a possible vaccine and encouraging reports on the economy and corporate earnings.

The nation’s industrial production improved more in June than economists expected. So did manufacturing in New York state earlier this month.

Goldman Sachs rose 1.4% after it reported much stronger results for the latest quarter than analysts expected. Financial stocks in general did well, with those in the S&P; 500 up 1.9%.

Other areas of the market where profits are closely tied to the strength of the economy were also particularly strong. Industrial stocks rose 2.6% for the biggest gain among the 11 sectors that make up the S&P; 500, and energy producers gained 2%.

Royal Caribbean Cruises surged 21.2% to lead a group of stocks that stand to gain if shoppers and travelers get back to life as it was before the pandemic. American Airlines rose 16.2%, Gap jumped 12.7% Live Nation Entertainment rose 11.7% and Hilton Worldwide added 10.1%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.63% from 0.61% late Tuesday. It tends to move with investors’ expectations for the economy and inflation.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX returned 1.8%, while the CAC 40 in Paris advanced 2%. Britains FTSE 100 picked up 1.8%.

In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 advanced 1.6% after the Bank of Japan kept its ultra-easy monetary stance unchanged. It forecast that the economy would improve later in the year, assuming there is no major “second wave” of outbreaks of the new coronavirus.

South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.8%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was nearly unchanged.

Stocks in Shanghai slipped 1.6% after President Donald Trump signed a bill and executive order that he says will hold China accountable for its oppressive actions against the people of Hong Kong.

The legislation and order are part of an escalating diplomatic offensive against China that is adding to chronic tensions over trade and other issues.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 91 cents to settle at $41.20 per barrel. Brent oil, the international standard, picked up 89 cents to settle at $43.79 per barrel.

___

AP Business Writer Elaine Kurtenbach contributed.

UK to exclude Huawei from role in high-speed phone network

U.K. to exclude Huawei from role in high-speed phone network

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In this Wednesday, July 1, 2020, file photo, a man wearing a face mask to protect against the new coronavirus looks at his smartphone as he walks past a Huawei store in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, file) more >

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By Danica Kirka

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s government on Tuesday backtracked on plans to give Chinese telecommunications company Huawei a limited role in the U.K.’s new high-speed mobile phone network in a decision with broad implications for relations between London and Beijing.

Britain imposed the ban after the U.S. threatened to sever an intelligence-sharing arrangement because of concerns Huawei equipment could allow the Chinese government to infiltrate U.K. networks.

U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden gave telecoms operators until 2027 to remove Huawei equipment already in Britain’s 5G network.

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“This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one,” he said.

He said that from the end of this year, telecoms operators mustn’t buy any 5G equipment from Huawei.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was under pressure from rebels in his own Conservative Party who criticized China’s new Hong Kong security law and its treatment of ethnic Uighurs, as well as Huawei’s links to the Chinese government. Ten Conservative lawmakers sent a letter to Johnson demanding that he remove Huawei from “the UK’s critical national infrastructure.”

Johnson in January sought to balance economic and security pressures by agreeing to give Huawei a limited role in Britain’s so-called 5G network, excluding the company from core components of the system and restricting its involvement to 35% of the overall project.

But the move set up a diplomatic clash with the Americans, who threatened to cut off security cooperation unless Britain dumped Huawei. Amid continued pressure to remove Huawei from communication networks entirely, the U.S. in May imposed new sanctions that will bar companies around the world from using American-made machinery or software to produce chips for the Chinese company.

The back and forth has put Huawei at the vortex of tensions between China and Britain.

Last fall, the U.K. called on China to give the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights free access to the Xinjiang region, where most of the country’s Uighur people live.

More recently, Johnson’s government has criticized China’s decision to impose a sweeping new national security law on Hong Kong. Britain accused the Beijing government of a serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration under which the U.K. returned control of Hong Kong to China in 1997, and announced it would open a special route to citizenship for up to 3 million eligible residents of the city.

China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, last week decried what he described as “gross interference” in Chinese affairs.

“Britain can only be great,” he said, when it has an independent foreign policy, adding that it sets a bad precedent to “make your policy in the morning and change it in evening.”

“It also sends out a very bad message to the China business community,” Liu said, suggesting Chinese companies might think twice about investing in Britain. “They are all watching how you handle Huawei.”

Rana Mitter, an Oxford University history professor specializing in China, said that the security law — combined with broader resentment about the way China handled information about the coronavirus — created increased wariness among Britain’s politicians and the public.

But for China, it is the way Britain has handled the Huawei issue that is the major problem. Even if Britain decides that buying Huawei isn’t a good idea, this could have been done more discreetly, Mitter said.

“There is a sense, I suspect, in Beijing that the Huawei row has made China lose face,” he said. “And this is one of the things that clearly does not go down well with China, which is, of course, a proud country, the world’s second biggest economy with the capacity to use that economic power when it wants to, and also a country which in general feels on the back foot at the moment because of the COVID pandemic and the world’s reaction to that.”

Before the decision, Huawei announced that its U.K. chairman would step down early. John Browne’s term was due to end in March but ex-boss of energy company BP is now expected to depart in September.

US grapples with pandemic as WHO warns ‘no return to normal’

US debates school reopening, WHO warns ‘no return to normal’

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By ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON and ADAM GELLER

Associated Press

Monday, July 13, 2020

MIAMI (AP) – The resurgence of the coronavirus in the United States ignited fierce debate Monday about whether to reopen schools, as global health officials warned that the pandemic will intensify unless more countries adopt comprehensive plans to combat it.

“If the basics aren’t followed, there is only one way this pandemic is going to go,”said the director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “It’s going to get worse and worse and worse.”

Debate over the risks the virus poses, and how best to fight it, were spotlighted in Florida after it shattered the record among U.S. states for the largest single-day increase, with more than 15,000 newly confirmed cases.

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Officials and health experts in hard-hit Miami pushed back against pressure, both from Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump, to bring students back to classrooms next month.

“We just absolutely cannot risk the health of children, their well-being and safety, or any of our colleagues,” said Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade union and a middle school teacher herself. “We’re probably going to have to go to a full shutdown mode. I can’t see the schools reopening except with the 100% virtual model.”

Parents have until Wednesday to notify the Miami-Dade school district of their decision whether they will send their kids to school this fall or have them study online from home.

“Children can get the virus in their bodies and get contaminated just like anybody else,” said Florida International University epidemiologist Dr. Aileen Marty, who has been advising the Miami school district on its reopening plans.

DeSantis has argued that children have not proven to be vectors for the disease and that if retailers like Walmart can be reopened safely, then schools should be able to as well. But he made those arguments with a notable caveat, saying that each county should make its own decision on reopening in consultation with local health officials.

WHO officials cautioned that decisions on reopening schools should be made without political considerations, as part of a comprehensive strategy for battling COVID-19.

“We can’t turn schools into yet another political football in this game. It’s not fair on our children,” Dr. Michael Ryan, the organization’s emergencies chief, said Monday.

The debate is hardly limited to Florida.

In Detroit, where summer school classes for hundreds of students opened Monday, protesters blocked a school bus yard with tree branches.

“When I visited schools this morning I knew we were doing the right thing for children,” schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said, in a post on Twitter.

“COVID is not going away. Many of our children need face-to-face, direct engagement,” he said.

But lawyer Shanta Driver said she planned to file a lawsuit to stop the in-person instruction.

“I’m not going back until this pandemic is defeated. There is not a safe way to return to school while this virus is spreading uncontained,” said teacher Benjamin Royal.

Officials in California’s two largest school districts, Los Angeles and San Diego, announced Monday that students will stick to online learning from home when school resumes next month, rather than return to classrooms.

The districts cited research about school safety experiences from around the world, along with state and local health guidance.

“One fact is clear: Those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither,” the districts said in a joint statement. Los Angeles, the second largest school district in the U.S., has about 730,000 students and San Diego serves about 135,000 students.

Shortly after the districts made their announcement, California Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded closure of bars and indoor dining statewide and ordered gyms, churches and hair salons closed in most places.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said schools will be allowed to reopen in parts of the state where infection rates average 5% or less for two weeks. Students and teachers will be screened for illness, must wear face masks and keep 6 feet apart when possible.

“Common sense and intelligence can still determine what we do even in this crazy environment,” Cuomo said. “We’re not going to use our children as guinea pigs.”

In North Carolina, which reported its highest one-day number of cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Roy Cooper has asked school districts to prepare three re-opening plans that include options for in-person and fully remote learning. His decision is expected later this week.

But teacher Becky Maxam, whose husband is considered high-risk for the virus because of a genetic heart condition, said she doesn’t plan to return if her Charlotte middle school reopens.

“I’m not going back if we’re opening up. I can’t risk my family,” Maxam said. “I think we should be virtual until we find a vaccine or cases go down much more than what they are.”

The debate over what to do about schools came as a pair of WHO experts were in China for a mission to trace the origin of the pandemic. The virus was first detected in central China’s city of Wuhan late last year. Beijing had been reluctant to allow a probe but relented after scores of countries called on the WHO to conduct a thorough investigation.

China has argued that the virus might have originated outside of China and has angrily denied allegations that it covered up the scale of the outbreak as infections first began to spread.

Trump has harshly criticized the WHO over its response to the coronavirus pandemic and accused it of bowing to Chinese influence. The Trump administration formally notified the U.N. last week of its withdrawal from WHO, although the pullout won’t take effect until July 6, 2021.

Also Monday, the United Nations warned that the pandemic could cause 130 million more people worldwide to go hungry this year.

U.N. officials estimate there were about 690 million people in 2019 who went hungry worldwide, with the majority in Asia and Africa.

“While it is too soon to assess the full impact of the lockdowns and other containment measures,” the agency said that, at a minimum, another 83 million would go hungry as a result of the pandemic.

The WHO’s Tedros said noted Monday that the most recent surge in cases had come in the Americas. The United States and Brazil alone account for more than a third of all global deaths from the disease.

In Japan, more than 30 Marines tested positive at the Futenma U.S. air station on Okinawa, where infections among American service members have rapidly risen to more than 90 since last week. Okinawa is home to more than half of about 50,000 American troops based in Japan.

In other parts of the world, the number of infections has been rising dramatically in India, South Africa and Brazil, whose virus-denying president has tested positive.

India, which has the most confirmed virus cases after the United States and Brazil, on Monday reported a record daily surge of 28,701 new cases reported in the past 24 hours. Authorities in several cities are reinstating strict lockdowns after attempting to loosen things up to revive an ailing economy.

In South Africa, which accounts for over 40% of all the reported coronavirus cases in Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa reimposed a ban on alcohol sales and a nighttime curfew to reduce the number of people needing emergency treatment so hospitals have more beds to treat COVID-19 patients.

“There is no way that we can avoid the coronavirus storm. But we can limit the damage that it can cause to our lives,” Ramaphosa said in a letter to the nation Monday.

___

Geller reported from New York. Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report.

___

Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

China sanctions Cruz, Rubio, Smith, Brownback for criticism

China sanctions Cruz, Rubio, Smith, Brownback for criticism

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Monday, July 13, 2020

BEIJING (AP) – China said Monday it will impose sanctions on three U.S. lawmakers and one ambassador in response to similar actions taken by the U.S. last week against Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses against Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Rep. Chris Smith and Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback were targeted, as was the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. The four have been critical of the ruling Communist Party’s policies toward minority groups and people of faith.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the U.S. move had “seriously damaged China-U.S. relations” and that China was determined to uphold its national sovereignty against what it sees as interference in its internal affairs.

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China will respond further according to the development of the situation,” Hua said.

She did not spell out the sanctions beyond saying they would correspond to the American ones. The U.S. prohibited any property transactions by Americans with four senior Chinese officials and barred three of them from entering the U.S.

There was no indication that any of the sanctioned Americans had plans to travel to China.

The sanctioned Chinese officials include Chen Quanguo, who heads the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where more than 1 million members of Muslim minority groups have been incarcerated in what China terms de-radicalization and retraining centers.

Critics have likened the camps to prisons to which inmates are sentenced with little due process and where they are compelled to denounce their religion, language and culture and pledge allegiance to the Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping. An Associated Press investigation has also discovered allegations that women in Xinjiang’s predominantly native Uighur ethnic group were forced to use birth control or undergo involuntary sterilizations.

Ties between China and the U.S. have deteriorated steadily over the coronavirus pandemic, human rights, Beijing policy toward Hong Kong and trade. The Trump administration has also slapped visa bans on Chinese officials deemed responsible for barring foreigners’ access to Tibet, along with those seen as enforcing a clampdown on civil rights in Hong Kong.

Despite such moves, former national security adviser John Bolton has alleged in a new book that Trump told Xi he was right to build detention camps in Xinjiang.

Additional visa restrictions are being placed on other Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention or abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs and members of other minority groups.

In addition to Chen, Xinjiang’s party secretary and a member of the national-level Politburo, the other sanctioned officials were Zhu Hailun, party secretary of the Xinjiang political and legal committee; Wang Mingshan, party secretary of the Xinjiang public security bureau; and Huo Liujun, a former top official in the region’s police force.

They and their immediate family members are banned from entering the United States.

China has sought to crush any hint of separatist tendencies among Uighurs, which critics say amounts to a campaign of cultural genocide. Uighurs are mostly Muslim and their Turkic language, Muslim religion and central Asian culture make them distinct from China’s Han majority.

While China says it is bringing prosperity and development to the vast, resource-rich region, many among Xinjiang’s native ethnic groups say they are being denied economic options in favor of migrants from elsewhere in China.

Last December, Xinjiang authorities announced that the camps had closed and all the detainees had “graduated,” a claim difficult to corroborate independently given tight surveillance and restrictions on reporting in the region. Some Uighurs and Kazakhs have told the AP that their relatives have been released, but many others say their loved ones remain in detention, were sentenced to prison or transferred to forced labor in factories.

In October 2019, the United States imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in” the detention of Muslims in Xinjiang. It also blacklisted more than two dozen Chinese companies and agencies linked to abuses in the region – including surveillance technology manufacturers and Xinjiang’s public security bureau – effectively blocking them from buying U.S. products.

China’s officially atheist Communist government at first denied the existence of the internment camps in Xinjiang, but now says they are vocational training facilities aimed at countering Muslim radicalism and separatist tendencies.

Australia to offer residence option to 10,000 Hong Kongers

Australia to offer residence option to 10,000 Hong Kongers

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Journalists take picture and video over the water-filled barriers after an opening ceremony for China’s new Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July 8, 2020. China’s new national security office in Hong Kong got off to an … more >

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By

Associated Press

Saturday, July 11, 2020

SYDNEY (AP) – The Australian government says it will offer around 10,000 Hong Kong passport holders currently living in Australia a chance to apply for permanent residence once their current visas expire.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government believes China’s imposition of a new tough national security law on the semi-autonomous territory means pro-democracy supporters may face political persecution.

“That means that many Hong Kong passport holders may be looking for other destinations to go to and hence why we have put forward our additional visa options for them,” Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television on Sunday.

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In order to obtain permanent residency, applicants would still have to pass “the character test, the national security test and the like,” Tudge said.

“So it’s not automatic. But it’s certainly an easier pathway to permanent residency and of course once you’re a permanent resident, there’s then a pathway to citizenship there,” he said. “If people are genuinely persecuted and they can prove that case, then they can apply for one of our humanitarian visas in any case.”

Morrison announced last week Australia suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and extended visas for Hong Kong residents from two to five years.

The move comes after China bypassed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to impose the sweeping security legislation without public consultation. Critics view it as a further deterioration of freedoms promised to the former British colony, in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.

The national security law prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.

China’s foreign ministry said it reserved the right to “take further actions” in response to moves by Canberra. “The consequences will be fully borne by Australia,” spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing on Thursday.

UN approves aid to Syria’s rebel area through 1 crossing

UN approves aid to Syria’s rebel area through 1 crossing

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FILE – In this Aug. 15, 2018 file photo, local residents receive humanitarian aid from the Russian military in the town of Al-Rastan, Syria. Over the last two days, members of the UN Security Council have been haggling over cross-border … more >

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By EDITH M. LEDERER

Associated Press

Saturday, July 11, 2020

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Russia scored a victory for its ally Syria on Saturday by forcing the Security Council to limit humanitarian aid deliveries to the country’s mainly rebel-held northwest to just one crossing point from Turkey, a move that Western nations say will cut a lifeline for 1.3 million people.

Russia argues that aid should be delivered from within the country across conflict lines, and says only one crossing point is needed.

U.N. officials and humanitarian groups argued unsuccessfully – along with the vast majority of the U.N. Security Council – that the two crossing points in operation until their mandate expired Friday were essential for getting help to millions of needy people in Syria’s northwest, especially with the first case of COVID-19 recently reported in the region.

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The Security Council vote approving a single crossing from Turkey was 12-0, with Russia, China and the Dominican Republic abstaining.

The vote capped a week of high-stakes rivalry pitting Russia and China against the 13 other council members. An overwhelming majority voted twice to maintain the two crossings from Turkey, but Russia and China vetoed both resolutions – the 15th and 16th veto by Russia of a Syria resolution since the conflict began in 2011 and the ninth and 10th by China.

Germany and Belgium, which had sponsored the widely supported resolutions for two crossing points, finally had to back down to the threat of another Russian veto. The resolution they put forward Saturday authorized only a single crossing point from Turkey for a year.

In January, Russia also scored a victory for Syria, using its veto threat to force the Security Council to adopt a resolution reducing the number of crossing points for aid deliveries from four to two, from Turkey to the northwest. It also cut in half the yearlong mandate that had been in place since cross-border deliveries began in 2014 to six months.

Before adopting the resolution Saturday, the council rejected two amendments proposed by Russia, including one suggesting that U.S. and European Union sanctions on Syria were impeding humanitarian aid. That contention was vehemently rejected by the Trump administration and the EU, which noted their sanctions include exemptions for humanitarian deliveries. It also rejected an amendment from China.

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, said after the vote that from the beginning Moscow had proposed one crossing – from Bab al-Hawa to Idlib – and that Saturday’s resolution could have been adopted weeks ago. He said Russia abstained in the vote because negotiations over the resolution were marred by “clumsiness, disrespect.”

Polyansky accused Western nations on the council of “unprecedented heights” of hypocrisy, saying they were ready to jeopardize cross-border aid over the references to unilateral sanctions.

He said cross-border aid to Syria’s northwest doesn’t comply with international law because the U.N. has no presence in the region, which he described as being controlled “by international terrorists and fighters” that make it impossible to control and monitor who gets aid.

German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen retorted that while Russia talks about delivery of aid across conflict lines, “in practice it doesn’t” happen.

He said his side fought to maintain multiple crossing points for aid, including the Al-Yaroubiya crossing point from Iraq in the northeast that was closed in January, because that is what is needed for efficient delivery of aid to millions in need – and he asked Polyansky “this is clumsy?”

“This is what we tried to do over these past weeks, to get the optimum to the population,” Heusgen said.

U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft told the council: “Today’s outcome leaves us sickened and outraged at the loss of the Bab al-Salaam and Al Yarubiyah border crossings.”

“Behind those locked gates are millions of women, children, and men who believed that the world had heard their pleas. Their health and welfare are now at great risk,” she said.

Still, Craft called the authorization of access through Bab al-Hawa for 12 months “a victory” in light of Russia and China’s “willingness to use their veto to compel a dramatic reduction in humanitarian assistance.”

“This solemn victory must not end our struggle to address the mounting human needs in Syria – that fight is far from over,” Craft said.

Belgium and Germany said in a joint statement that 1.3 million people, including 800 000 displaced Syrians, live in the Aleppo area, including 500,000 children who received humanitarian aid through the Bab al-Salam crossing – and now have that aid cut off.

“Today is yet another sad day. It is a sad day for this council, but mostly, it is a sad day for the Syrian people of that region.,” they said. “Both Yarubiyah and Bab al-Salam were vital crossings to deliver, in the most efficient way possible, the humanitarian help, those people deserve.”

In a later statement, they added: “One border crossing is not enough, but no border crossings would have left the fate of an entire region in question.”

India says Indian, Chinese troops disengaging from standoff

India says Indian, Chinese troops disengaging from standoff

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By ASHOK SHARMA

Associated Press

Saturday, July 11, 2020

NEW DELHI (AP) – India’s external affairs minister said Saturday that Indian and Chinese troops are disengaging from a monthslong standoff along the countries’ undemarcated border following a clash last month that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s remarks came a day after China’s ambassador to India said that Indian and Chinese front-line troops are disengaging in accordance with an agreement reached by their military commanders.

“It’s very much a work in progress,” Jaishankar said, adding that both sides agreed on the need to disengage because troops are deployed very close to each other.

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The Chinese ambassador, Sun Weidong, said Friday that the two countries should be partners rather than rivals and handle their differences properly to bring their ties back on the right track.

Indian officials say a standoff between the two armies began in early May when large contingents of Chinese soldiers entered deep inside Indian-controlled territory at three places in Ladakh.

The situation turned deadly when the rival troops engaged in hand-to-hand fighting in the Galwan Valley, where India is building a strategic road connecting the region to an airstrip close to China. India says that 20 of its soldiers were killed in the June 15 clash and that there were casualties on the Chinese side as well.

China hasn’t confirmed any casualties on its side.

Through video conferencing on Friday, senior foreign ministry officials from the two countries reviewed the progress made in the disengagement process by the two armies at the disputed border, known as the Line of Actual Control.

The disputed border covers about 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) of frontier and stretches from Ladakh in the north to the Indian state of Sikkim in the northeast.

India and China fought a border war in 1962 that also spilled into Ladakh. The two countries have been trying to settle their border dispute since the early 1990s, without success.

Kazakhstan health ministry rejects claims about ‘unknown pneumonia’ possibly deadlier than COVID-19

Kazakh health ministry rejects China’s warning of ‘unknown pneumonia’ deadlier than COVID-19

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Kazakh Control of Virus Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times more >

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By Shen Wu Tan

The Washington Times

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Kazakhstan Ministry of Health on Friday denied claims from Chinese officials about an “unknown pneumonia” that could be deadlier than the coronavirus sweeping across the country.

The Chinese embassy on Thursday had issued a warning on its website to citizens of the Central Asian country that the pneumonia had killed 1,772 people.

However, the country’s health ministry described the report by the embassy as “not consistent with reality.”

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“The Kazakhstan Ministry of Health and other institutions are conducting a comparative study on the pneumonia virus, and no definitive determination has been made,” the embassy said in a statement.

New cases of the pneumonia have been rising significantly since mid-June, the embassy said, noting that authorities are reporting hundreds of new cases daily in some areas. The increase in cases reportedly has been localized in the regions of Atyrau, Aktobe and Shymkent, which collectively have almost 500 new cases and more than 30 critically ill patients.

In June alone, the unknown pneumonia killed 628 people, some of whom were Chinese citizens, the embassy’s warning says.

The health ministry in Kazakhstan attributes the increase in pneumonia cases due to the inclusion of classifying pneumonia cases where COVID-19 was diagnosed clinically but not laboratory confirmed, which follows guidelines from the World Health Organization.

“In this regard, Kazakhstan, like other countries of the world, keeps records and monitoring of this kind of pneumonia, in order to make timely managerial decisions aimed at stabilizing the incidence and prevalence of COVID-19,” the ministry said on its website.

As of Friday, the coronavirus had infected more than 54,700 people and killed more than 260 in Kazakhstan, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows.

Hours after posting the warning, the Chinese embassy appeared to drop the words “new” and “unknown” from the statement, according to Radio Free Europe, although several media outlets already reported on the “unknown pneumonia.”

The embassy’s message urges Chinese citizens in Kazakhstan to pay attention to the situation and to take precautionary measures such as minimizing outings, avoiding crowded public places, practicing good hygiene and wearing face masks when going out.

Cyprus: US military training won’t harm Russia, China ties

Cyprus: US military training won’t harm Russia, China ties

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By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS

Associated Press

Friday, July 10, 2020

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – Cyprus’ government said Friday that a U.S. decision to provide education and training to the island nation’s armed forces won’t hamper relations with either Russia or China.

Cypriot Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides said “there’s no question” of disrupting the country’s ties with Russia and that inclusion in the U.S. training program doesn’t mean “that we cut relations with other countries.”

Petrides’ remarks echoed President Nicos Anastasiades who hailed the U.S. decision but noted that Cyprus’ relations with Russia and China “will never be perturbed.”

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“A small country like Cyprus strives to build the best possible relations with all permanent Security Council member states,” Anastasiades said at a gas terminal groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the U.S. would for the first time provide military education and training funding to Cyprus following congressional approval.

“This is part of our efforts to enhance relationships with key regional partners to promote stability in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Pompeo said.

The announcement prompted criticism from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, whose spokesman Hamit Aksoy said the move would neither help efforts to reunify ethnically split Cyprus nor “ensure peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Turkey cut diplomatic ties with Cyprus after the island nation was cleaved along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup aiming at union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and deploys more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north.

Cyprus is striving to bolster relations with the U.S., but not at the expense of its ties to Moscow or Beijing on whose support it often counts in the United Nations.

The centerpiece of improved Cyprus-U.S. ties is the Eastern Mediterranean Energy and Security Partnership Act that U.S. lawmakers approved last year.

Military training funding for Cyprus was included in the legislation which underscores U.S. support for a partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel based on recently discovered offshore gas deposits in the region.

The act would also lift a 33-year-old arms embargo on Cyprus on the condition that the island nation denies Russian warships access to its ports for “refueling and servicing,” according to the U.S. State Department.

WHO: Droplets, contact still ‘dominant’ methods of COVID-19 transmission

WHO: Droplets, contact still ‘dominant’ methods of COVID-19 transmission

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The logo and building of the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, 15 April 2020. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP) **FILE** more >

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By David Sherfinski

The Washington Times

Friday, July 10, 2020

The scientist serving as the technical lead for the World Health Organization’s coronavirus response said on Friday that droplets and contact are still the “dominant” roots of COVID-19 transmission after the group allowed this week that airborne particles indoors could spread the disease.”

There may be other modes of transmission which we don’t rule out,” Maria Van Kerkhove said at a briefing. “Aerosol transmission is one of the modes of transmission that we have been concerned about since the beginning, particularly in health care settings.”

In those settings, she said, they recommend health care workers take special precautions with protective equipment.

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“Outside of health care settings, there is the possibility that there could be aerosolized particles in specific settings like indoor settings where there are crowded conditions, where there’s poor ventilation, and where people are spending prolonged periods of time,” she said.

She said more research into the issue is warranted.

On Thursday, the WHO issued a new brief acknowledging that the coronavirus can spread via airborne transmission indoors, after previously emphasizing that droplets people forcefully expel through sneezing or coughing are prime spreaders.

“It’s not a guidance document — it’s a brief,” Ms. Van Kerkhove said. “This is a living review, which means it will be updated regularly.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Friday at an AIDS conference that there is “still some question” about aerosol-based transmission but that there is “likely some degree of aerosol.”

More than 200 scientists had recently written an open letter calling for national and international groups to recognize the potential for airborne spread of COVID-19.

The WHO has been under fire for its response to the pandemic in recent weeks and months.

The group is in the midst of sending a team to China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, as it investigates the origins of the outbreak.

President Trump notified the United Nations and Congress this week that the United States was withdrawing from the WHO, though the exit wouldn’t take effect until July 2021.

Mr. Trump and others have said the health group was too eager to accept China’s narrative about the origin and scope of the virus.

WHO advance team heads to China to begin COVID-19 investigation

WHO advance team heads to China to begin COVID-19 investigation

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In this Friday, May 15, 2020 file photo, people line up for coronavirus testing at a large factory in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province. In June 2020, China reported using batch testing as part of a recent campaign to … more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Friday, July 10, 2020

A World Health Organization advance team has departed for China to begin an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.

The new virus, which has infected more than 12.3 million and killed over 555,000 globally, is believed to have originated at a market in Wuhan, China, late last year and made the jump from animal to human.

However, U.S. officials, including President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have suggested that the virus could have originated in a Wuhan laboratory. China has strongly denied the allegations.

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WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said Friday that two agency-backed specialists, one in animal health and one in epidemiology, will work with Chinese scientists to establish the parameters of the inquiry.

“They have gone, they are in the air now, they are the advance party that is to work out the scope,” she said during a news briefing.

Ms. Harris explained that “one of the big issues that everybody is interested in, and of course that’s why we’re sending an animal health expert, is to look at whether or not it jumped from species to a human and what species it jumped from.”

She said the WHO believes the virus is similar to the virus in a bat, but it has yet to determine if it was transmitted through an intermediate species.

“This is a question we all need answered,” she said.

Senior German diplomat meets China’s envoy over Hong Kong

Senior German diplomat meets China’s envoy over Hong Kong

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Friday, July 10, 2020

BERLIN (AP) – Germany’s Foreign Ministry says it invited China’s ambassador to meet with one of its top diplomats to again express Berlin’s concerns about the situation in Hong Kong.

The ministry confirmed a report by daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that Deputy Foreign Minister Miguel Berger met Friday in Berlin with Ambassador Wu Ken, China’s envoy to Germany.

A national security law imposed on semi-autonomous Hong Kong by Beijing last month law criminalizes what the government considers separatist activities.

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“The (German) federal government, together with its EU partners, has repeatedly expressed its concern that the law seriously undermines the extensive autonomy of Hong Kong and negatively affects the independence of the justice system and the rule of law,” the ministry said in a statement.

China envoy: Indian, Chinese troops disengaging after clash

China envoy: Indian, Chinese troops disengaging after clash

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By ASHOK SHARMA

Associated Press

Friday, July 10, 2020

NEW DELHI (AP) – China’s ambassador to India said Friday that Indian and Chinese front-line troops are disengaging in accordance with an agreement reached by military commanders following a clash last month that left at least 20 soldiers dead in the Galwan Valley.

Ambassador Sun Weidong said the two countries should be partners rather than rivals and handle differences properly to bring their ties back on the right track.

In video remarks released in New Delhi, the Chinese envoy said the two countries have the wisdom and capability to properly handle differences.

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“We should seek common development as partners rather than opponents or adversaries. Why should we fight against each other, which will only hurt those close to us and gladden the foes?” he said.

Indian officials say a standoff between the two armies began in early May when large contingents of Chinese soldiers entered deep inside Indian-controlled territory at three places in Ladakh.

The situation turned deadly when the rival troops engaged in hand-to-hand fighting in the Galwan Valley, where India is building a strategic road connecting the region to an airstrip close to China. India says 20 of its soldiers were killed and there were casualties on the Chinese side as well.

As part of an understanding reached in a series of meetings between army commanders from the two sides, soldiers have started pulling back at some points in the troubled area.

Senior foreign ministry officials of the two countries through video conferencing on Friday reviewed the progress made in ongoing disengagement process by the two armies at the disputed border that the two countries call the Line Of Actual Control.

The sides reaffirmed that they “will ensure complete disengagement of the troops along the Line of Actual Control and de-escalation from IndiaChina border areas for full restoration of peace and tranquility” in accordance with bilateral agreements and protocols, said a statement issued by India’s External Affairs Ministry.

The Chinese envoy said the boundary question remains sensitive and complicated.

“We need to find a fair and reasonable solution mutually acceptable through equal consultation and peaceful negotiation. Pending an ultimate settlement, we both agree to work together to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas,” he said.

The disputed border covers about 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) of frontier and stretches from Ladakh in the north to the Indian state of Sikkim in the northeast.

India and China fought a border war in 1962 that also spilled into Ladakh. The two countries have been trying to settle their border dispute since the early 1990s, without success.

Russia skeptical about nuclear pact extension prospects

Russia skeptical about nuclear pact extension prospects

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FILE – In this Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020 file photo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, attends a meeting with Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde in Moscow, Russia. Lavrov said Friday, July 10 that contacts with the U.S. negotiators leave little … more >

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By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV

Associated Press

Friday, July 10, 2020

MOSCOW (AP) – Russia’s top diplomat said Friday he’s not very optimistic about prospects for an extension of the last remaining U.S.-Russia arms control agreement because of Washington’s focus on making China sign up to the pact.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that Russia only wants to keep the New START treaty as much as the U.S. does and will protect its security regardless of the pact’s fate.

“We only need the extension as much as the Americans do,” Lavrov said during a conference call with foreign policy experts. “If they categorically refuse, we will not try to persuade them.”

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The New START treaty was signed in 2010 by U.S. President Barack Obama and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The pact limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.

After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year, the New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries. It’s set to expire in February 2021 unless the parties agree to extend it for another five years.

Russia has offered its extension without any conditions, while the Trump administration has pushed for a new arms control agreement that would also include China. Moscow has described that idea as unfeasible, pointing at Beijing’s refusal to negotiate any deal that would reduce its much smaller nuclear arsenal.

Lavrov dismissed the U.S. suggestions that Russia help convince Beijing to join nuclear arms cuts, saying that Moscow respects the Chinese position and considers it “undiplomatic” to push it on the issue. He reaffirmed that Russia would welcome other nuclear powers, including Britain, France and China to join nuclear arms cuts, but emphasized that it should be their own decision.

The minister noted that American and Russian negotiators last month held a round of nuclear arms control talks in Vienna and are poised to continue the discussions, but added that the U.S. insistence on having China join the talks leaves little hope for their success.

“I’m not particularly optimistic about the New START in view of the course taken by U.S. negotiators,” he said.

Lavrov emphasized that Russia is ready for the treaty to expire in February, adding that “we are absolutely confident that we can guarantee our security for a long perspective, even in the absence of this treaty.”

He noted that Russia hasn’t decided yet whether to remain in the Open Skies Treaty allowing observation flights over military facilities after the U.S. pullout.

Trump declared an intention to pull out of the agreement in May, citing Russian violations. Russia denied breaching the pact, which came into force in 2002, and the European Union has urged the U.S. to reconsider.

“We will make a final decision on whether to stay in it after we weigh all the consequences of the U.S. withdrawal,” Lavrov said.

Asked whether global stability could benefit if Democrat Joe Biden wins the U.S. election, Lavrov refrained from comment.

“It’s the American people’s business, a U.S. domestic affair,” he said. “I wouldn’t engage in guesswork. The situation is unpredictable.”

He noted that while the Democrats traditionally have shown more interest in arms control deals, Russia-U.S. ties went into a quick tailspin under President Barack Obama’s administration.

Russia-U.S. relations have plunged to the lowest levels since Cold War times after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, its support for pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine and Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Commenting further on U.S.-China tensions, Lavrov voiced concern about their impact on global stability, noting that Russia isn’t going to benefit from them in any way.

Asked if Russia could be a broker in U.S.-China relations, he said it could do so if asked.

“If they ask us, if they show such interest, we won’t refuse to do so,” Lavrov said. “We’ve established contact with both parties. We are always ready to try to help, but, of course, we won’t push our services on anyone.”