For foes abroad, deadly Capitol clashes prove a tempting target

For foes abroad, deadly Capitol clashes prove a tempting target

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China, Iran and Russia criticized the U.S. after a group of pro-Trump forces stormed the Capitol. Some U.S. voices fretted openly that the siege presented a propaganda windfall for foreign adversaries. (ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS) more >

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By Guy Taylor

The Washington Times

Thursday, January 7, 2021

China called it a “collapse” of the U.S. political system that would “destroy” America’s global image. Iran went with the “annihilation of Western democracy,” while Russia said the situation was proof the U.S. system is “no longer charting the course” for the world.

As the world came to grips with the clashes that consumed Washington this week, American adversaries were having a field day Thursday, pouncing on the opportunity to portray the U.S. as a hypocritical power facing crisis and decline.

The state-controlled press in China, which has felt the sting of constant criticism from the Trump administration, was filled with powerful imagery of an angry pro-Trump mobs ransacking one of the Western democracy’s most sacred buildings and commentary on the dysfunction and distrust in American politics.

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“A landmark night in US history: Capitol riots nation’s Waterloo, destroy global image,” declared a top headline of the Global Times, which is closely tied to the ruling Communist Party.

The publication’s lead editorial chastised U.S. politicians for framing the “Capitol chaos as an attack on U.S. democracy, as if the country’s democracy is still intact.”

Even some U.S. voices were openly fretting that this week’s events presented a propaganda windfall for the country’s adversaries.

China’s laughing. They’re loving this tonight,” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said in the floor debate just hours after demonstrators had been cleared from the chamber.

“In Beijing, they’re high-fiving,” Mr. Rubio said, “because they point to this and say, ‘This is proof that the future belongs to China; America’s in decline.’” Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei were also rejoicing in “what’s happening to ‘The Great Satan,’” Mr. Rubio added.

Longtime Council on Foreign Relations President Richard N. Haass tweeted after Wednesday’s events that “it will be a long time before we can credibly advocate for the rule of law. … This is a domestic crisis [with] enormous [foreign policy] impact.”

In Moscow, the head of Russian parliament’s international affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachev, declared the era of global “celebration of democracy is over.”

“This is, alas, actually the bottom, I say this without a hint of gloating,” Mr. Kosachev said, according to Reuters. “America is no longer charting the course, and therefore has lost all its rights to set it. And especially to impose it on others.”

Officials in China Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying suggesting that Washington had lost the moral high ground to criticize Beijing over the tactics the government used to crack down on pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.

She recalled in a press briefing in Beijing how U.S. figures like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, had described a temporary occupation of Hong Kong’s regional legislature by protesters as a “beautiful sight to behold.”

“If you still remember how some U.S. officials, lawmakers and media described what’s happened in Hong Kong, you can compare that with the words they’ve used to describe the scenes in Capitol Hill,” Ms. Hua said. “They all condemned it as ‘a violent incident’ and the people involved as ‘rioters,’ ‘extremists’ and ‘thugs’ who brought ‘disgrace.’”

“What’s the reason for such a stark difference in the choice of words? Everyone needs to seriously think about it and do some soul-searching on the reason.”

Foreign affairs analysts said it was inevitable that U.S. adversaries would seek to exploit this week’s events, particularly given the wealth of images and video capturing the clash between protesters and police and the violation of the seat of American democracy.

China’s leaders “will get lots of mileage from pictures of rioters storming the [Capitol],” Scott Kennedy, a senior China analysts with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, tweeted Thursday morning, even while noting that the protesters had been evicted and that the U.S. legislature had quickly returned to its debate deciding the 2020 presidential election.

“If Chinese could see tonight’s House of Rep debate whether the election was fair, with principled speeches on both sides, they’d know why I still feel lucky to live in a democracy,” he wrote.

Others took a more humorous approach, noting what they said was the U.S. propensity to intervene in the domestic matters of other countries which exhibited the same political instability.

Mohamad Safa, Lebanon’s permanent representative to the United Nations, scored a lot of retweets Thursday with his observation that, “if the United States saw what the United States is doing in the United States, the United States would invade the United States to liberate the United States from the tyranny of the United States.”

• Bill Gertz and Ben Wolfgang contributed to this report.

China arrests nuns, stunning clerics with ‘unusual’ move: ‘There is no freedom of expression’

China arrests nuns, stunning clerics with ‘unusual’ move: ‘There is no freedom of expression’

'It is highly unusual for nuns to be detained. Normally they are left alone'

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A Chinese flag hangs near a Hikvision security camera outside of a shop in Beijing on Oct. 8, 2019. U.S. President Donald Trump has stepped up a conflict with China over security and technology by issuing an order barring Americans … more >

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By Douglas Ernst

The Washington Times

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Beijing is flexing its intimidation muscles in the wake of a new national security law by arresting nuns who serve Hong Kong’s 400,000 Catholics.

Multiple sources, all but one who chose to remain anonymous out of fear for their safety, spoke to Reuters of the previously undisclosed house arrests in May.

The women were detained during a visit home to Hebei province, yet never charged with an actual crime.

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“It is highly unusual for nuns to be detained,” one cleric told Reuters for the exclusive published Wednesday. “Normally they are left alone.”

“We are at the bottom of the pit — there is no freedom of expression anymore,” the former Bishop of Hong Kong, 88-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, said in a written statement. “All these things are normal in mainland China. We are becoming like any other city in China. … For any word you say, [Beijing] can say you’re offending the National Security Law.”

Senior members of the clergy said the arrests are likely an effort to influence who will become the city’s next bishop since the position has not been filled for two years.

The Liaison Office, the main arm of the Chinese government in Hong Kong, didn’t respond to questions for Reuter’s article.

Inquiries as to the nuns’ status were ignored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.

A Vatican spokesman and the acting head of the local church, Cardinal John Tong, also declined to comment for Reuters’ story.

China restricts US official travel to Hong Kong

China restricts U.S. official travel to Hong Kong

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China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying gestures during a press conference held at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. China is imposing restrictions on travel to Hong Kong by some U.S. officials and others in retaliation … more >

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Associated Press

Thursday, December 10, 2020

BEIJING (AP) — China is imposing restrictions on travel to Hong Kong by some U.S. officials and others in retaliation for similar measures imposed on Chinese individuals by Washington, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

U.S. diplomatic passport holders visiting Hong Kong and nearby Macao will temporarily no longer receive visa-free entry privileges, spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

U.S. administration officials, congressional staffers, employees of non-governmental organizations and their immediate family members will face “reciprocal sanctions,” Hua said.

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She was apparently referring to U.S. sanctions that bar certain Chinese and Hong Kong officials from traveling to the U.S. or having dealings with the U.S. financial system over their roles in imposing a sweeping National Security Law passed this summer that ushered in a crackdown on free speech and opposition political activity in Hong Kong.

Hua said the move was taken “given that the U.S. side is using the Hong Kong issue to seriously interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine China’s core interests.”

Those sanctioned “have performed egregiously and are primarily responsible on the Hong Kong issue,” she said at a daily briefing.

China once again urges the U.S. side to immediately stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and not go further down the wrong and dangerous path,” Hua said.

China had long threatened to retaliate against the U.S. sanctions and other actions seen as hostile.

Earlier, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Trump administration officials are “digging a hole” for the next U.S. administration’s relationship with China through actions targeting the country and its officials.

Steps such as restricting visas for the 92 million members of the ruling Communist Party and their families have “again exposed the sinister intentions of extreme anti-China forces in Washington to hijack China-U.S. relations for their own political gain,” Xinhua said in an editorial.

The U.S. State Department last week cut the duration of such visas from 10 years to one month, another example of the increasingly hard-line stance adopted by the administration in its waning days. That came in addition to the sanctions targeting specific Chinese and Hong Kong officials over their actions in Hong Kong, the northwestern region of Xinjiang and elsewhere.

While President-elect Joe Biden has signaled he intends to keep pressure on China, he’s also expected to seek a return to more conventional, less confrontational style of diplomacy. Rolling back Trump-era measures could be difficult however, while giving Republicans the chance to renew accusations that Biden is softening Washington’s stance toward Beijing.

“By relentlessly challenging the bottom line of China-U.S. relations on issues concerning China’s core interests, anti-China politicians are not only digging a hole for the next administration’s relationship with China, but also eying their own personal political gains,” Xinhua said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has castigated China on almost a daily basis over its policies toward Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea.

Dozens of officials from mainland China and Hong Kong have been hit with visa bans and other sanctions and new restrictions have been imposed on Chinese diplomats, journalists and academics. Chinese tech giant Huawei has been shut out of the U.S. market and the U.S. has lobbied other countries to follow suit, often successfully.

On Wednesday, Pompeo accused U.S. universities of caving to Chinese pressure to blunt or bar criticism of the the Chinese communist party, which he said was “poisoning the well of our higher education for its own ends.”

Chinese responded by vowing to impose countervailing measures against American officials, saying U.S. accusations and punitive measures only solidified the Chinese people behind their leaders.

Perhaps with an eye toward Biden, who takes office Jan. 20, Xinhua held open the possibility of better relations if Washington changed its approach.

“Today, China and the United States should also uphold the spirit of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” Xinhua said. “The two must focus on managing their differences, with the top priority being a smooth transition toward stronger China-U.S. relations.”

Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam jailed

Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam jailed

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A bird flies as Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong, right, and Ivan Lam, left, are escorted by Correctional Services officers to get on a prison van before appearing in a court, in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Prominent Hong … more >

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By Zen Soo

Associated Press

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

HONG KONG (AP) — Three prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activists were sentenced to jail Wednesday for a protest outside police headquarters as authorities stepped up a crackdown on opposition to tighten control by Beijing over the territory.

The activists — Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam — are among more than 10,000 people who have been arrested since June 2019 on charges related to protests against a proposed extradition law that expanded to include demands for greater democracy.

Beijing responded to the protests by imposing a sweeping national security law to crack down on dissent, which prompted more public opposition.

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Wong, 24, is known abroad for his role as a student leader of the 2014 “Umbrella Revolution” protests in Hong Kong. He was sentenced to 13 1/2 months in jail after pleading guilty to organizing and taking part in the June 21, 2019, demonstration outside Hong Kong’s police headquarters over the extradition bill and police use of force against protesters.

Chow was sentenced to 10 months by the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts after pleading guilty to participating and inciting other protesters. Lam pleaded guilty to incitement and was sentenced to 7 months.

The crackdown has prompted accusations Beijing is violating the autonomy it promised when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997. It also has triggered warnings the ruling Communist Party is damaging Hong Kong’s appeal as a global business center and one of Asia’s most dynamic cities.

Other democracy advocates including media tycoon Jimmy Lai have also been arrested under the security law.

The jailing of Wong, Chow and Lam drew a rebuke from Hong Kong’s final British governor, Chris Patten. He said in a statement that it “is another grim example of China’s determination to put Hong Kong in handcuffs.”

Amnesty International said the three “must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

“Once again, the government has used the politically motivated charge of ‘inciting others to protest’ to prosecute people who have merely spoken out and protested peacefully,” said the group’s Asia-Pacific regional director, Yamini Mishra.

“By targeting well-known activists from Hong Kong’s largely leaderless protest movement, authorities are sending a warning to anyone who dares openly criticize the government that they could be next.”

Ant Group could raise nearly $35B in record share offering

China’s Ant Group could raise nearly $35B in record share offering

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A newsstand vendor, wearing a mask to protect against the coronavirus, sits near QR codes for Alipay and WeChat, two popular online payment systems in Beijing, China on Tuesday, July 21, 2020. Ant Group, the financial technology arm of e-commerce … more >

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Associated Press

Monday, October 26, 2020

HONG KONG (AP) — China’s Ant Group will try to raise nearly $35 billion in its initial public offering in Shanghai and Hong Kong, which would make it the largest share offering in history.

Alibaba-affiliated Ant Group, which operates a suite of financial products including the widely-used Alipay digital wallet in China and one of the world’s largest money market funds, will hold dual listings in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Its Shanghai stock was priced at 68.8 yuan ($10.26) each, while its Hong Kong stock is priced at 80 Hong Kong dollars apiece ($10.32), according to filings on Monday.

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The company will raise about $34.5 billion from the share offering, which is expected to surpass oil company Saudi Aramco’s $29 billion share sale last year, making Ant Group’s offering the biggest in the world.

Ant Group would be valued at about $280 billion. If the company exercises its greenshoe option, which would allow it to sell more shares than initially planned, it could raise another $5.17 billion, taking its valuation to about $320 billion.

China defends Confucius Institutes now under fire from US

China defends Confucius Institutes now under fire from US

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Friday, October 16, 2020

BEIJING (AP) – Following scathing political attacks from the Trump administration, China on Friday defended its Confucius Institutes as apolitical facilitators of cultural and language exchange.

The administration last week urged U.S. schools and colleges to rethink their ties to the institutes that bring Chinese language classes to America but, according to federal officials, also invite a “malign influence” from China.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian disputed that characterization and accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. politicians of acting out of “ideological prejudice and personal political interests” and having “deliberately undermined the cultural and educational exchanges and cooperation between China and the U.S.”

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The U.S. politicians should “abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum thinking … and stop politicizing related programs of educational exchange, obstructing normal cultural exchanges between the two sides, and damaging mutual trust and cooperation between China and the U.S.,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.

Patterned after the British Council and Alliance Francaise, the Confucius Institutes are unique in that they set up operations directly on U.S. campuses and schools, drawing mounting scrutiny from U.S. officials amid increased tensions with China.

In letters to universities and state education officials, the State Department and Education Department said the program gives China’s ruling Communist Party a foothold on U.S. soil and threatens free speech. Schools are being advised to examine the program’s activities and “take action to safeguard your educational environments.”

More than 60 U.S. universities host Confucius Institutes through partnerships with an affiliate of China’s Ministry of Education, though the number has lately been dropping. China provides teachers and textbooks and typically splits the cost with the university. The program also brings Chinese language classes to about 500 elementary and secondary classrooms.

In last week’s letters, U.S. officials drew attention to China’s new national security law in Hong Kong, which critics say curtails free expression and other liberties. The letters cite recent reports that some U.S. college professors are allowing students to opt out of discussions on Chinese politics amid fears that students from Hong Kong or China could be prosecuted at home.

Such fears are “well justified,” officials said, adding that at least one student from China was recently jailed by Chinese authorities over tweets he posted while studying at a U.S. university.

At least 39 universities have announced plans to shutter Confucius Institute programs since the start of 2019, according to a log published by the National Association of Scholars, a conservative nonprofit group.

Other nations have also sought to curb China’s influence in their schools, with regional educational departments in Canada and Australia cutting ties with the institutes.

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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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.

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.

Virus rebounds around the world, deaths top 600,000

Virus rebounds around the world, deaths top 600,000

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A street artist spray paints a protective face mask over an old mural featuring a Venezuelan Indigenous man, in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, July 18, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix) more >

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By GEIR MOULSON

Associated Press

Sunday, July 19, 2020

BERLIN (AP) – The coronavirus pandemic has found fresh legs around the world, as confirmed deaths pass 600,000 and countries from the U.S. to South Africa to India struggle to contain a surge of new infections. Hong Kong issued tougher new rules on wearing face masks, Spain closed overcrowded beaches and Germany reported another outbreak at a slaughterhouse.

Pope Francis said “the pandemic is showing no sign of stopping” and urged compassion for those whose suffering during the outbreak has been worsened by conflicts.

The World Health Organization said that 259,848 new infections were reported Saturday, its highest one-day tally yet.

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While the U.S. leads global infections, South Africa now ranks as the fifth worst-hit country in the pandemic with more than 350,000 cases, or around half of all those confirmed on the continent. Its struggles are a sign of trouble to come for nations with even fewer health care resources.

India, which has now confirmed more than 1 million infections, on Sunday reported a 24-hour record of 38,902 new cases.

In Europe, where infections are far below their peak but local outbreaks are causing concern, leaders of the 27-nation European Union haggled for a third day in Brussels over a proposed 1.85 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion) EU budget and coronavirus recovery fund.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there is “a lot of good will, but there are also a lot of positions” in the talks, which have have laid bare divisions about how the countries hit hardest by the pandemic, such as Italy and Spain, should be helped. She said the talks, which were initially scheduled to end on Saturday, could still end without a deal.

As scientists around the world race to find a vaccine to halt the pandemic, Russia’s ambassador to Britain on Sunday rejected allegations by the United States, Britain and China that his country’s intelligence services have sought to steal information about vaccine efforts.

“I don’t believe in this story at all, there is no sense in it,” Ambassador Andrei Kelin said when asked in a BBC interview about the allegations. “I learned about their (the hackers’) existence from British media. In this world, to attribute any kind of computer hackers to any country, it is impossible.”

Confirmed global virus deaths risen to nearly 603,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins. The United States tops the list with over 140,000, followed by more than 78,000 in Brazil. Europe as a continent has seen about 200,000 deaths.

The number of confirmed infections worldwide has passed 14.2 million, with 3.7 million in the United States and more than 2 million in Brazil. Experts believe the pandemic’s true toll around the world is much higher because of testing shortages and data collection issues.

Infections have been soaring in U.S. states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona, with many blaming a haphazard, partisan approach to lifting lockdowns as well as the resistance of some Americans to wearing masks. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday that the situation was so dire in his California city that authorities were considering a new stay-at-home order.

Even where the situation has been largely brought under control, new outbreaks are prompting the return of restrictions.

Following a recent surge in cases, Hong Kong made the wearing of masks mandatory in all public places and told non-essential civil servants to work from home. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the situation in the Asian financial hub is “really critical” and that she sees “no sign” that it’s under control.

Police in Barcelona have limited access to some of the city’s beloved beaches because sunbathers were ignoring social distancing regulations amid a resurgence of coronavirus infections. Authorities in Amsterdam urged people not to visit the city’s famous red light district and have closed off some of the historic district’s narrow streets because they are too busy.

Slaughterhouses also have featured in outbreaks in the U.S., Germany and elsewhere. Authorities in northwestern Germany’s Vechta county said 66 workers at a chicken slaughterhouse tested positive, though most appeared to have been infected in their free time. An earlier outbreak at a slaughterhouse in western Germany infected over 1,400 and prompted a partial lockdown.

Cases in the Australian state of Victoria rose again Sunday, prompting a move to make masks mandatory in metropolitan Melbourne and the nearby district of Mitchell for people who leave their homes for exercise or to purchase essential goods.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said those who fail to wear a mask will be fined 200 Australian dollars ($140).

“There’s no vaccine to this wildly infectious virus and it’s a simple thing, but it’s about changing habits, it’s about becoming a simple part of your routine,” Andrews said.

Speaking on Sunday from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis renewed his appeal for an immediate worldwide cease-fire that he said “will permit the peace and security indispensable to supplying the necessary humanitarian assistance.”

___

Moulson contributed from Berlin. Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report.

___

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

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.

Wall Street ticks higher in another day of unsettled trading

Stock indexes shake off weak start and close broadly higher

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A man wearing a face mask walks past a bank’s electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index in Hong Kong, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. Asian shares fell Tuesday as skepticism set in about the recent upbeat mood on global … more >

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By STAN CHOE and DAMIAN J. TROISE and ALEX VEIGA

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) – The stock market shook off a weak start and ended broadly higher after pinballing through another day of unsettled trading. The S&P; 500 rose 1.3% Tuesday. It had been down nearly 1% in the early going. The gains accelerated as the day went on. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.1%, lifted by gains for UnitedHealth Group and Caterpillar, among others. The bumpy trading followed another turbulent day Monday, when stocks veered from an early gain to a loss after California brought back restrictions on its economy amid a jump in coronavirus counts.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story appears below.

Wall Street is ticking higher Tuesday afternoon after pinballing through another day of unsettled trading.

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The S&P; 500 was up 0.8%, as of 3 p.m. Eastern time, after erasing an earlier loss of 0.9%. It follows up on Monday’s turbulence, when stocks veered from an early gain to a loss after California brought back restrictions on its economy amid a jump in coronavirus counts.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 442 points, or 1.7% at 26,528, lifted by gains for UnitedHealth Group and Caterpillar, among others. Big tech-oriented stocks were turning in mixed performances, though, which helped hold the Nasdaq composite to a more modest gain of 0.3%.

The latest erratic moves come as earnings reporting season kicks off for the market, and three of the nation’s biggest banks painted a mixed picture of how badly the coronavirus pandemic is ripping through their businesses.

“The earnings season is off to a very guarded start,” said J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.

He pointed to cautious forecasts from companies that see the economy possibly taking a step back because of worsening COVID-19 trends, or at least taking longer to recover than expected.

“The fact that they are prepared for bad scenarios is helping to give the market a little confidence,” he said.

Like the broader market, financial stocks drifted between gains and losses for much of the day before turning higher in the afternoon. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup said they collectively set aside nearly $27 billion during the second quarter to cover loans potentially going bad due to the recession.

But investors took very different approaches to each of them. JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, was up 0.6% after it said it made a record amount of revenue from April through June. Its profit for the latest quarter also managed to beat analysts’ expectations, even though it roughly halved from year-ago levels.

Wells Fargo, though, dropped 4.9% after it said it expects to cut its dividend. “Our view of the length and severity of the economic downturn has deteriorated considerably,” CEO Charlie Scharf said.

Citigroup fell 3.5% after CEO Michael Corbat said its overall business performance was strong last quarter, though net income dropped 73% from a year ago largely due to the $7.9 billion it had to set aside for loans potentially going bad.

Delta Air Lines lost 2.3% after its earnings and revenue for the latest quarter fell short of Wall Street’s already very low expectations. The pandemic is keeping fliers on the ground, and Delta’s passenger count plunged 93% during the quarter from a year earlier. CEO Ed Bastian said it could be two years before the airline sees a sustainable recovery.

Stocks have mostly churned in place since early June. That’s when the S&P; 500 pulled back within 4.5% of its record high set in February, after earlier being down nearly 34%. The index is now 6% below its record.

Pulling stocks higher has been a budding economic recovery, with the job market, retail sales and other measures of the economy halting their plunge and beginning to resume growth. Underlying it all is massive aid for the economy from central banks and governments around the world.

But pushing stocks down are accelerating coronavirus counts in hot spots around the world, which threatens to halt the recovery just as it got going. California demonstrated on Monday how dangerous that can be when the governor of the country’s largest state economy once again ordered bars, indoor dining and other businesses closed.

The worry is that the continuing pandemic could push states across the Sun Belt to roll back reopenings of their economies.

That’s why COVID-19 trends – along with the potential for more aid for the economy from Congress – will matter much more for markets in upcoming weeks than what companies say about their second-quarter results, said Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager at Global Investments.

“The progression of the virus should still be front and center for what is dictating and going to continue to dictate our prospects for economic growth going forward,” he said.

The stock market’s gains were relatively widespread in Tuesday afternoon trading, after it pulled out of its weak start. Smaller stocks were doing better than the rest of the market, with the small-cap Russell 2000 index up 1%.

And four out of five of the big stocks in the S&P; 500 were higher. Energy companies, raw-material producers and other companies whose profits desperately need the economy to strengthen were leading the way.

In Europe, France’s CAC 40 fell 1%, and Germany’s DAX lost 0.8%. The FTSE 100 in London added 0.1%.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.9%, South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.1% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1.1%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury dipped to 0.61 from 0.62% late Monday. It tends to move with investors’ expectations of the economy and inflation.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 19 cents to settle at $40.29 per barrel. Brent oil, the international standard, rose 18 cents to $42.90 a barrel.

UK-China ties freeze with debate over Huawei, Hong Kong

UK-China ties freeze with debate over Huawei, Hong Kong

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FILE – In this Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020 file photo, participants wave British and U.S. flags during a rally demanding electoral democracy and call for boycott of the Chinese Communist Party and all businesses seen to support it in Hong … more >

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By SYLVIA HUI

Associated Press

Sunday, July 12, 2020

LONDON (AP) – Only five years ago, then-British Prime Minister David Cameron was celebrating a “golden era” in U.K.-China relations, bonding with President Xi Jinping over a pint of beer at the pub and signing off on trade deals worth billions.

Those friendly scenes now seem like a distant memory.

Hostile rhetoric has ratcheted up in recent days over Beijing’s new national security law for Hong Kong. Britain’s decision to offer refuge to millions in the former colony was met with a stern telling-off by China. And Chinese officials have threatened “consequences” if Britain treats it as a “hostile country” and decides to cut Chinese technology giant Huawei out of its critical telecoms infrastructure amid growing unease over security risks.

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All that is pointing to a much tougher stance against China, with a growing number in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party taking a long, hard look at Britain’s Chinese ties. Many are saying Britain has been far too complacent and naive in thinking it could reap economic benefits from the relationship without political consequences.

“It’s not about wanting to cut ties with China. It’s that China is itself becoming a very unreliable and rather dangerous partner,” said lawmaker and former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith. He cited Beijing’s “trashing” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration – the treaty supposed to guarantee Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy when it reverted from British to Chinese rule – and aggressive posturing in the South China Sea as areas of concern.

“This is not a country that is in any way managing itself to be a good and decent partner in anything at the moment. That’s why we need to review our relationship with them,” he added. “Those who think this is a case of separating trade from government … you can’t do that, that’s naïve.”

Duncan Smith has lobbied other Tory lawmakers to cut Huawei out from Britain’s superfast 5G network. Not only that: He says all existing Huawei technology in the U.K. telecoms infrastructure also needs to be eliminated as soon as possible.

The company has been at the center of tensions between China and Britain, as U.K. officials review how the latest U.S. sanctions – imposed over allegations of cyber spying and aimed at cutting off Huawei’s access to advanced microchips made with American technology – will affect British telecom networks.

Johnson decided in January that Huawei can be deployed in future 5G networks as long as its share of the market is limited, but officials have since hinted that that decision could be reversed in light of the U.S. sanctions. A new policy is expected within weeks.

Huawei says it is merely caught in the middle of a U.S.-China battle over trade and technology. It has consistently denied allegations it could carry out cyber espionage or electronic sabotage at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party.

“We’ve definitely been pushed into the geopolitical competition,” Vice President Victor Zhang said Wednesday. U.S. accusations about security risks are all politically motivated, he said.

Nigel Inkster, senior adviser to the International Institute for Strategic Studies and former director of operations and intelligence at Britain’s MI6 intelligence service, said the issue with Huawei was not so much about immediate security threats. Rather, he said, the deeper worry lies in the geopolitical implications of China becoming the world’s dominant player in 5G technology.

“It’s less about cyber espionage than generally conceived because, after all, that’s happening in any place,” he said. “This was never something of which the U.K. was lacking awareness.”

Still, Inkster said he’s been cautioning for years that Britain needed a more coherent strategy toward China that balances the economic and security factors.

“There was a high degree of complacency” back in the 2000s, he said. “There was always less to the ‘golden era’ than met the eye.”

Britain rolled out the red carpet for Xi’s state visit in 2015, with golden carriages and a lavish banquet at Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth II. A cyber security cooperation deal was struck, along with billions in trade and investment projects – including Chinese state investment in a British nuclear power station. Cameron spoke about his ambitions for Britain to become China’s “best partner in the West.”

Enthusiasm has cooled significantly since. The English city of Sheffield, which was promised a billion-pound deal with a Chinese manufacturing firm in 2016, said the investment never materialized. Critics have called it a vanity project and a “candy floss deal.”

Economic and political grumbles about China erupted into sharp rebukes earlier this month when Beijing imposed sweeping new national security laws on Hong Kong. Johnson’s government accused China of a serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and announced it would open a special route to citizenship for up to 3 million eligible Hong Kong residents.

That amounts to “gross interference,” Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming said. Liu also warned that a decision to get rid of Huawei could drive away other Chinese investment in the U.K., and derided Britain for succumbing to U.S. pressure over the company.

Rana Mitter, an Oxford history professor specializing in China, said that the security law – combined with broader resentment about Chinese officials’ handling of information about the coronavirus – helped set the stage for a perfect storm of wariness among Britain’s politicians and the public.

Mitter added that Britain has careened from “uncritically accepting everything about China” to a confrontational approach partly because of a lack of understanding about how China operates.

Some have cautioned against escalating tensions. Philip Hammond, the former British Treasury chief, warned that weakening links with the world’s second-largest economy was particularly unwise at a time when Britain is severing trade ties with Europe and seeking partners elsewhere. Hammond also said he was concerned about an “alarming” rise of anti-Chinese sentiment within his Conservative Party.

Duncan Smith rejected that, saying concerns about China’s rise are cross-party and multinational. He is part of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a newly launched group of lawmakers from more than a dozen countries – from the U.S. to Australia to Japan – that want a coordinated international response to the Chinese challenge.

“We need to recognize that this isn’t something one country can deal with,” he said.

___

Kelvin Chan and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this story.

Australia to offer residence option to 10,000 Hong Kongers

Australia to offer residence option to 10,000 Hong Kongers

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‘Strategic considerations’: John Roberts’ swing votes all about politics, court watchers say

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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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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.

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.

Japan’s ruling party calls for government to cancel Xi visit

Japan’s ruling party calls for government to cancel Xi visit

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By MARI YAMAGUCHI

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

TOKYO (AP) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party adopted a resolution on Tuesday urging the government to cancel a visit to Japan by Chinese President Xi Jinping following Beijing’s imposition of a new national security law for Hong Kong.

“Under the current situation where grave concerns have been expressed from the international community about the principles of freedom, human rights, democracy … we have no choice but to urge (the government) to cancel President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan,” the Liberal Democratic Party said in its resolution, read by party diplomatic panel chief Yasuhide Nakayama.

The resolution condemned Beijing’s imposition last week of the security law for semi-autonomous Hong Kong. It said China should address the concerns of the international community, and the Japanese government should call more assertively on China to work toward building friendly relations.

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The new law makes secessionist, subversive, or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs. Critics see it as Beijing’s boldest step yet to erase the legal firewall between the former British colony and the mainland’s authoritarian Communist system.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the top spokesman for Abe’s government, said the timing is not appropriate for arranging details of Xi’s visit and nothing has been decided.

Suga said the government’s position is that Japan and China should resolve outstanding issues through high-level talks including those between the leaders. He declined to comment on the possible impact of the resolution on JapanChina relations.

China has already criticized Japan for its recent expressions of regret over Beijing’s approach to Hong Kong.

Xi’s Japan visit, initially planned for this spring, had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. But China hawks in the ruling party have repeatedly raised criticisms of Abe’s invitation of Xi as a state guest, particularly amid anti-government unrest in Hong Kong since last year.

Abe has made improved JapanChina ties one of his main diplomatic goals.

Japan and China have long had disputes over their wartime history, ownership of a cluster of islands and undersea deposits in the East China Sea.

___

Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Hong Kong security laws put foreigners at risk, China analyst Gordon Chang says

Foreigners at risk under Hong Kong’s new security laws, China analyst says

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Police detain a protester after bering sprayed with pepper spray during a protest in Causeway Bay before the annual handover march in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Hong Kong marked the 23rd anniversary of its handover to China in … more >

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By Mike Glenn

The Washington Times

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Even foreigners who criticize China could be jailed if they ever set foot in Hong Kong under the city’s controversial new national security laws, analyst and author Gordon Chang said Sunday on the Fox News Channel.

The laws, which came into effect on Tuesday, not only clamp down on personal freedoms for Hong Kong residents but give China the ability to imprison anyone it wants, Mr. Chang said.

“It demands the total obedience of people in Hong Kong (and) China demands the total obedience from everybody else in the world,” Mr. Chang said. “That really is the message here.”

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“One country, two systems” had been a principle of China’s governance of Hong Kong since it assumed control of it in 1997. While Hong Kong would be part of China, it would enjoy a high level of economic and political autonomy.

“Now 23 years in, that’s no longer the case. It’s out the window,” Mr. Chang said.

China’s government will use the law to ramp up its crackdown on dissidents in Hong Kong. But the pro-democracy movement isn’t going away and is actually more of an insurgency against a totalitarian government, Mr. Chang said.

“We know insurgencies can disappear for a time but they can come back and they usually do,” he said.

China continues to make provocative statements, including ongoing threats to mount an invasion of democratic Taiwan, he said.

“I think it has not satisfied its blood lust,” Mr. Chang said.

Canada suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong

Canada suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong

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Police detain a protester after being sprayed with pepper spray during a protest in Causeway Bay before the annual handover march in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. A new security law in effect in Hong Kong that limits civil … more >

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By Rob Gillies

Associated Press

Friday, July 3, 2020

TORONTO (AP) — Canada suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong on Friday after China imposed a new security law on the territory.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is a firm believer in the one country, two systems framework for Hong Kong and will stand up for its people.

Trudeau said Canada is also looking at other measures, including immigration. Other countries are considering offering asylum.

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About 300,000 Canadians live in Hong Kong.

China bypassed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to pass the sweeping legislation without public consultation.

The security law, which took effect Tuesday night, targets secessionist, subversive or terrorist acts, as well as collusion with foreign forces intervening in the city’s affairs.

Under Beijing’s direction, local authorities have moved swiftly to implement the law’s sweeping conditions, with police arresting about 370 people Wednesday, including 10 on suspicion of directly violating the law, as thousands took to the streets in protest.

China reviews heavily criticized Hong Kong security bill

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Police officers stand guard as people gather during a pro-democracy rally supporting human rights and to protest against Beijing’s national security law in Hong Kong, Sunday, June 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) more >

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Associated Press

Sunday, June 28, 2020

BEIJING (AP) – China’s legislature on Sunday began reviewing a controversial national security bill for Hong Kong that critics worldwide say will severely compromise human rights in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee took up the bill at the start of a three-day session, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported. China has said it is determined to enact the law, and its passage is expected by Tuesday.

The U.S. says it will respond by ending favorable trading terms granted to the former British colony after it passed to Chinese control in 1997. The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a bill to impose sanctions on businesses and individuals – including the police – that undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy or restrict freedoms promised to the city’s residents.

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The Senate bill targets police units that have cracked down on Hong Kong protesters, as well as Chinese Communist Party officials responsible for imposing the national security law. The measure also would impose sanctions on banks that do business with entities found to violate the law.

Last week, a former United Nations human rights chief and eight former U.N. special envoys urged the body’s secretary-general to appoint a special envoy on Hong Kong over what they said is a pending “humanitarian tragedy.” Britain has said it would grant passports to as many as 3 million of Hong Kong’s 7.8 million people.

Beijing has denounced all such moves as gross interference in its internal affairs.

The law would criminalize secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities and colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security. Critics say Hong Kong’s legal statutes already account for such matters and that Beijing is determined to use the law to pursue political opponents.

The central government in Beijing also would set up a national security office in Hong Kong to collect and analyze intelligence and deal with criminal cases related to national security.

Few details have been released, but it appears that Beijing will have ultimate power over government appointments, further reducing the relative independence it promised to Hong Kong in a 1984 joint declaration with Britain that is considered an international treaty.

The measures have been widely seen as the most significant erosion to date of Hong Kong’s British-style rule of law and high degree of autonomy that China promised Hong Kong would have under a “one country, two systems” principle.

China has long demanded such a law for Hong Kong, but efforts were shelved in the face of massive protests in 2003. Beijing appeared to have lost its patience in the face of widespread and often violent anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong last year, moving to circumvent the city’s own legislative council and enact the law at the national level on what critics say are weak legal grounds.

On Sunday, opponents of the bill staged a protest in Hong Kong, with police using pepper spray and arresting 53 people “on suspicion of unlawful assembly,” according to Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK.

UN experts urge world to ensure China respects human rights

UN experts urge world to ensure China respects human rights

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Friday, June 26, 2020

GENEVA (AP) – An unusually large group of independent U.N. human rights experts on Friday urged the international community to “take all appropriate measures” to monitor China and “act collectively and decisively” to ensure its government respects human rights.

Dozens of experts, who work on various mandates from the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council, raised a litany of concerns, including Beijing’s treatment of ethnic minorities in Tibet and the western Xinjiang region, allegations of excessive force against protesters and reports of retaliation against people who spoke out about the coronavirus outbreak.

The experts flagged in particular recent concerns about a new draft security law for Hong Kong that would “introduce poorly defined crimes that would easily be subject to abuse and repression” and could allow Beijing to encroach upon the city’s special status.

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The Chinese diplomatic mission in Geneva, on its website, accused the experts of “trespassing their mandates” and said “a few” of the experts had joined in on the “erroneous statement against China.”

China categorically rejects and strongly condemns the statement,” it said, insisting that “nearly 1.4 billion people live in prosperity, peace, freedom and happiness in China.” It said the rights of people in Xinjiang and Tibet are “fully protected” and touted China’s “major progress” in fighting the coronavirus.

The experts expressed concern that China hasn’t granted the same level of access to the country for them that 120 other governments have.

They urged the 47-member state council to “act with a sense of urgency to take all appropriate measures to monitor Chinese human rights practices.” They floated ideas like convening a special council session about China or creating a “mechanism” to scrutinize China’s rights situation annually.

The experts are independent and do not speak for the United Nations, though they receive some administrative and other support from the U.N. human rights office. It is unusual for so many of the experts to come together for a single appeal.

The call came a day after former U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein joined a group of former U.N. rights experts warning of a potential “humanitarian tragedy” linked to the security law on Hong Kong.

U.S. to block visas for Chinese officials over treatment of Hong Kong

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By Stephen Dinan

The Washington Times

Friday, June 26, 2020

The Trump administration slapped sanctions on top Chinese Communist Party officials Friday, barring them and possibly some family members from entering the U.S. as punishment for curtailing Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move, saying he was carrying out President Trump’s orders. The move was also called for by a congressional law.

Mr. Pompeo said the visa restrictions apply to current and former CCP officials “who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.”

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“The United States calls on China to honor its commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration — namely that Hong Kong will ‘enjoy a high degree of autonomy’ and that human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, will be protected by law and respected by governing authorities in Hong Kong,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Depending on how deeply the sanctions cut, it could be a serious hindrance to the lifestyle of some senior Chinese families — particularly if Mr. Pompeo applies the sanctions to party officials’ children who want to study at American universities.

U.S. administrations have been reluctant to impose visa sanctions on China in the past, even though the law would allow it for other infractions such as Beijing’s refusal to cooperate on the return of Chinese deportees.

But the Trump administration was pressed by members of Congress, who last year passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which required the president to certify whether China was abrogating Hong Kong’s autonomy and, if so, to impose penalties.

Among those are visa sanctions and special free trade benefits Hong Kong has enjoyed despite the 1997 handover of control from the U.K. to China.

This week the Senate approved follow-up legislation that would allow the government to freeze assets belonging to officials deemed to be involved in violating Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Mr. Pompeo in late May announced that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China. In his statement Friday he said Chinese Communist Party officials have pressured Hong Kong to arrest pro-democracy activists and to block pro-democracy candidates from politics. He also pointed to Beijing’s move to impose a national security law on the territory.

Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who sponsored the House version of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, said Mr. Pompeo made the right call.

“It is especially gratifying for me to see the administration take a stand for freedom and against tyranny,” he said.

The sanctions are the latest escalation between the U.S. and China, building on an already tense relationship over the coronavirus outbreak.

Yet the administration is delaying other sanctions over China’s treatment of its Uyghur population, apparently to avoid upsetting Mr. Trump’s attempts to strike a trade deal with President Xi Jinping.

EU, China look to ease tensions, push on with business

EU, China look to ease tensions, push on with business

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European Council President Charles Michel, right, speaks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after an EU summit, in video conference format, at the European Council in Brussels, Friday, June 19, 2020. As they brace for the worst economic … more >

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By

Associated Press

Monday, June 22, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) — Top European Union officials are holding talks Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang at a time of rising tensions between two major trading partners over the fallout from the coronavirus crisis and Beijing’s increasing control over Hong Kong.

European Council President Charles Michel, EU commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, will hold two video conferences separately, first with the premier and later with Xi.

The meetings are not expected to produce concrete results — no joint statement will be issued — but the Europeans hope it will boost slow-moving talks on an investment agreement and build some common ground for tackling thorny political issues at a face-to-face meeting, hopefully late in the year.

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The EU sees China as a “systemic rival” that offers great opportunities but also presents many challenges. The coronavirus pandemic has created new obstacles, notably what Brussels sees as a China-orchestrated campaign of disinformation about the pandemic that could put lives at risk.

The meetings come at a time when China stands accused of trying to influence European officials and Borrell has twice denied in recent months that the External Action Service — a kind of EU foreign office that he leads — has bowed to Beijing’s pressure to alter documents.

While the 27-nation EU is China’s biggest trading partner, it is often divided in its approach to Beijing. Yet the new security law for Hong Kong has galvanized the bloc. EU member countries insist the law will undermine the territory’s autonomy, which was guaranteed in the “one-country, two-systems” framework.

Monday’s meetings were originally meant to be a summit on March 30, but the coronavirus pandemic pushed it off the agenda, along with another high-level event that was due to take place in September in the German city of Leipzig.

The Europeans will hold a news conference later Monday but no Chinese officials are scheduled to take part.

Britain renews opposition to China’s national security law on Hong Kong

Britain renews opposition to China’s national security law on Hong Kong

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam listens to reporters’ questions during a press conference in Hong Kong, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Lam said she hoped that the opposition would not “demonize and stigmatize” the national security law as doing do … more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Britain on Tuesday renewed its opposition to a national security law that China is aiming to impose on Hong Kong and declared that the legislation does not align with the 1997 Joint Declaration signed by the two countries that protects Hong Kong’s autonomy.

The treaty between London and Beijing bound China’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.”

China’s legislature last month approved the strict national security law on Hong Kong that 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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Pro-Beijing lawmakers have maintained that the law will not impact Hong Kong’s autonomy, but democracies around the world — including Britain and the U.S. — quickly condemned the move citing China’s push to crush democracy in the territory.

“The imposition of the proposed law lies in direct conflict with China’s international obligations under the Joint Declaration, a treaty agreed by the U.K. and China and registered with the United Nations,” British Ambassador to the United Nations Julian Braithwaite told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

He urged China to work with the city to “ensure it maintains Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms.”

Twitter tears down nearly 24,000 accounts running Chinese influence operation

Twitter tears down nearly 24,000 accounts running Chinese influence operation

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By Ryan Lovelace

The Washington Times

Friday, June 12, 2020

Twitter tore down 23,750 accounts it linked to an operation of the Chinese government to boost the communist country’s public perception including its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

China’s influence operation on Twitter focused on the coronavirus, Hong Kong protests, Taiwan and exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, according to data shared with Stanford University from Twitter that was published Thursday.

The nearly 24,000 accounts operating at China’s behest tweeted more than 348,000 times, but most of the accounts had fewer than 10 followers, no biographies listed in their profiles and served to amplify the narrative of a core group.

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“The COVID-19-related content includes tweets cheerleading for the Chinese government, emphasizing Chinese unity, calling for global unity, and praising doctors and medical workers,” wrote the Stanford Internet Observatory in a white paper on the Chinese dataset. “It also pointedly criticizes the U.S. epidemic response, quibbles over the international perception that Taiwan’s response was superior to China‘s, and attacks Guo Wengui for allegedly spreading false news on the coronavirus and ‘discrediting China.’ “

According to Stanford’s breakdown, 47.1% of the tweets were categorized as focusing on the coronavirus, Hong Kong, and coronavirus and Hong Kong. The remaining tweets targeted Mr. Guo, Mr. Guo and Hong Kong, and other issues.

A majority of the Chinese accounts were created after October 2019, and the Chinese users downplayed the coronavirus and decried people spreading “panic bullets” about the epidemic until early February 2020. Then, in March 2020, as the coronavirus outbreak took root worldwide, the number of coronavirus-related tweets spiked, and the accounts shifted their narrative to praising China.

The segment of the Chinese influence operation aimed at English-reading Twitter users included amplifying state-run news media from China and Iran.

“For Western audiences, English-language tweets in March primarily reported news related to the outbreak,” wrote the Stanford Internet Observatory. “Some of the English-language tweets were retweets from prominent state media accounts @ChinaDaily, @globaltimesnews, and @PressTV (Iran), as well as retweets of Chinese officials such as @Amb_ChenXu and foreign ministry account @SpokespersonCHN.”

Chinese ambassador to the United Nations Chen Xu’s Twitter account is @Amb_ChenXu and the @SpokespersonCHN account of China’s foreign ministry belongs to spokesperson Hua Chunying.

Alongside the Chinese influence operation, Twitter data shared with Stanford showed Russian and Turkish influence operations on the platform as well. Both the Russia and Turkey operations involved far fewer Twitter users but they produced many more tweets. Twitter shuttered 1,152 Russian accounts that tweeted more than 3.4 million times and shutdown 7,340 Turkish accounts that tweeted more than 36.9 million times.

Chinese officials call for improved ties with US

Chinese officials call for improved ties with US

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By The Associated Press

Associated Press

Thursday, June 11, 2020

BEIJING (AP) – Beijing will honor its trade deal with the U.S. and wants to see better ties with Washington, senior Chinese officials said Thursday.

Zhu Guangyao, a former finance minister and Cabinet advisor, said the two countries should “waste no time” in improving relations to help better coordinate a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

He and other officials told reporters in Beijing that the two biggest economies are so closely entwined that they must find a way to work together because a lack of cooperation has come at a “high price.”

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“The close connection between the Chinese and U.S. economies is the result of four decades of hard work on both sides, and that is also the reflection of the wishes of consumers in China and the United States,” Zhu said.

“Such interdependence will not disappear simply because some people clamor for ‘decoupling.’”

Zhu said relations with the U.S. were “far from satisfactory” with communications at a “standstill.”

“We hope through communications we can enhance our cooperation and mutual trust,” he said.

Tensions have flared over Beijing’s handling of the new coronavirus that first surfaced in central China late last year and over the recent passage of legislation requiring the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong to implement a national security law.

The law has added to worries that the former British colony is losing the special status Beijing promised it when it took control in 1997.

President Donald Trump’s administration reacted to the move by announcing that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous and will be stripped of its preferential trade and commercial status.

The officials insisted China is following through on promises to by buy more U.S. products and other commitments.

Progress on an interim trade agreement that has helped smooth friction over trade and technology remains unclear, partly because of disruptions brought on by lockdowns to contain the pandemic.

“Objectively speaking, the epidemic has had an impact on the implementation of this agreement, but in this kind of situation, China emphasizes that we should work hard together to ensure the implementation of the Phase 1

agreement,” Zhu said.

The officials said Beijing was well equipped to overcome the economic ills worsened by the pandemic, with ample room for both monetary and fiscal policies.

Like the U.S., China has a huge domestic market that is still relatively undeveloped, with massive untapped demand, said Tang Min, an economist and State Council adviser.

Although data for May were dismal, they reflected orders cancelled at the height of the pandemic in many countries. And many Chinese consumers have been piling up savings while they stayed home during and after quarantine lockdowns.

“In June or July we’ll see an improvement, in particular the recovery of the domestic market in the latter half of the year, and the Chinese economy will have a very strong rebound,” Tang said.

Hong Kong leader says all should learn from year of protest

Hong Kong leader says all should learn from year of protest

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam listens to reporters questions during a press conference in Hong Kong, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. Lam said everyone should learn a lesson from last year’s giant anti-government protests. But she did not say what … more >

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By Zen Soo

Associated Press

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

HONG KONG (AP) — A year on from the start of Hong Kong’s anti-government protests, the leader of the semi-autonomous Chinese city said Tuesday that all sides should learn from the difficulties and challenging times over the past year.

“Everyone has to learn their lesson, including the Hong Kong government,” Carrie Lam told reporters before a weekly meeting with advisers. “Hong Kong cannot bear that kind of chaos, and the people of Hong Kong want a stable and peaceful environment to be able to live and work here happily.”

Lam did not elaborate on what lessons should have been learned.

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Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the first large-scale protest against a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed people in this former British colony, which has its own legal system, to be sent to mainland China to stand trial. Organizers pegged the turnout at more than a million people, while police estimated a crowd of 240,000.

“The mass protest on 9 June last year has been etched in the collective memory of Hongkongers,” the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized the event, wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “It also marks the beginning of our togetherness in defending our beloved city.”

The march through central Hong Kong was the start of a pro-democracy movement that saw protesters break into the legislative building and take to the streets every weekend for months, even after the extradition bill was withdrawn.

At times, violent clashes broke out between protesters and the police, leading to accusations of police brutality and sparking protester demands for an independent inquiry into police behavior.

Hong Kong saw a lull in protests during the coronavirus outbreak early this year, but as infections have ebbed, protesters have returned to the street to demonstrate against an imminent national security law for Hong Kong as well as a recently approved national anthem bill that makes it illegal to insult the Chinese national anthem.

Critics and protesters say that the national security law is a blow to the “one country, two systems” framework following the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China in 1997, which promised the city freedoms not found on the mainland.

There were calls for protests to mark the anniversary Tuesday, both at lunchtime and in the evening, though no sizable ones had materialized by early afternoon.

China blames the protests in part on foreign intervention and is hastening to enact a national security law for Hong Kong aimed at curbing secessionist and subversive activities.

Hong Kong’s problems are a result of the opposition and foreign allies “attempting to turn Hong Kong into an independent or semi-independent political entity and a pawn to contain China’s development,” Zhang Xiaoming, deputy director of the Chinese Cabinet’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said in a speech posted to the office’s website Monday.

“The more the bottom line of national security is consolidated, the greater the space will be for Hong Kong to leverage its advantages under ‘one country, two systems,’” Zhang said.

China will “unswervingly” protect its sovereignty and block any outside interference in Hong Kong’s affairs, he said.

U.K. will stand by Hong Kong amid clash with China over national security law: PM Johnson

U.K. will stand by Hong Kong amid clash with China over national security law: PM Johnson

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The United Kingdom will stand by the people of Hong Kong and provide an “alternative” if China moves forward with imposing a national security law on the city that critics fear will infringe on Hong Kong’s autonomy.

China’s legislature last week moved forward with the law on Hong Kong that 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.

The proposal of the law sparked widespread protests in the city as thousands of Hong Kong residents took to the streets, and has since been condemned by democracies around the world.

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“Hong Kong succeeds because its people are free,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in a Wednesday op-ed for The London Times.

Critics of the legislation, which include the U.S. and U.K., have claimed that it will erode Hong Kong’s freedoms granted under a 1997 treaty 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.”

“If China proceeds, this would be in direct conflict with its obligations under the joint declaration, a legally binding treaty registered with the United Nations,” Mr. Johnson said.

“Many people in Hong Kong fear that their way of life – which China pledged to uphold – is under threat,” he continued.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Tuesday said that the national security law is in violation of the principle, and said the U.K. is ready to form an alliance with western countries to resist China’s implementation of the law if Beijing moves forward.

“If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away,” Mr. Johnson said, “instead we will honour our obligations and provide an alternative.”

It remains unclear when China plans to impose the law, but it is expected to be enforced by September.

GOP lawmakers to unveil bill banning investments in defense firms linked to the Chinese military

GOP lawmakers to unveil bill banning investments in defense firms linked to the Chinese military

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A security officer wearing a face mask to protect against the COVID-19 coronavirus stands guard as plainclothes personnel march in formation outside the entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference … more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Monday, June 1, 2020

A group of Republican lawmakers is gearing up to announce legislation this week that would prohibit Americans from investing in overseas defense companies that have ties to the Chinese military.

The legislation will be unveiled by Republican Reps. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, Jim Banks of Indiana and Doug LaMalfa of California, according to a document seen by Reuters, and will require Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin to conduct a congressionally mandated report of foreign defense companies that have “substantial contracts with, ties to, or support from” China’s military.

“On one hand, Congress is asking taxpayers to help grow our military so we can compete with China. On the other hand, large U.S. investment funds are dumping U.S. dollars into China’s military industrial base,” Mr. Banks told the publication in a statement. “We need to end our cognitive dissonance and stop funding the rise of our chief global adversary.”

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The measure would also mandate that American companies divest from the Chinese firms they are involved with within six months of the legislation’s passage.

The move comes amid soaring tensions between Beijing and Washington with the Trump administration accusing Beijing of mismanaging and lying about the coronavirus crisis after it originated in China. U.S. officials say Beijing has engaged in a disinformation campaign aimed at blaming the virus on Washington in a bid to undermine America’s image around the world.

President Trump on Friday stepped up his administration’s pushback to China and announced he is preparing to impose sanctions on Beijing over its announcement of a new state security law aimed at crushing dissent and democracy in Hong Kong.

The president made the announcement after the State Department declared that Washington officially assesses that Hong Kong no longer enjoys the legal and economic freedoms China promised it would tolerate when Great Britain gave the territory back to Beijing back in 1997.

Chinese firms told to halt purchases of some U.S. ag goods

Chinese firms told to halt purchases of some U.S. ag goods

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In this Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, file photo, soybeans are offloaded from a combine during the harvest in Brownsburg, Ind. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File) more >

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By David Sherfinski

The Washington Times

Monday, June 1, 2020

Chinese officials have told some state-run agricultural companies to halt purchases of U.S. goods such as soybeans after President Trump announced limited actions in response to Beijing’s recent security crackdown on Hong Kong.

Beijing has asked some state-run firms to pause their purchases of U.S. agricultural goods, including soybeans, according to multiple outlets.

The move comes after Mr. Trump said on Friday he was ending U.S. preferential treatment for Hong Kong and that the U.S. plans to impose sanctions on officials involved in restricting freedoms in Hong Kong.

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China’s response comes as Mr. Trump and other leaders have criticized Beijing for its handling of the coronavirus, and threatens to upend the first phase of a hard-fought trade agreement the U.S. and China struck before the pandemic took hold earlier this year.

On Friday, Mr. Trump said Beijing’s new crackdown on Hong King is a “tragedy.”

“China claims it is protecting national security, but the truth is that Hong Kong was secure and prosperous as a free society,” the president said. “Beijing’s decision reverses all of that. It extends the reach of China’s invasive state security apparatus into what was formerly a bastion of liberty. China has replaced its promise formula of ‘one country, two systems’ with ‘one country, one system.’”

The Trump administration had previously said it expected China to follow through on its pledge to increase imports by about $200 billion over the next two years as part of the trade deal struck in January.

The president had previously threatened to cancel the pact, which also included rolling back U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, if China didn’t hold up its end of the deal on buying U.S. exports.