China will propose a national security law for Hong Kong in response to last year’s often violent pro-democracy protests that plunged the city into its deepest turmoil since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, state news agency Xinhua has said.
The Chinese parliament will discuss the controversial new law at its annual session, Xinhua said, in a move likely to stoke unrest in the semi-autonomous region. The legislation will be introduced at the meeting of the National People’s Congress that opens on Friday.
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Xinhua said a preparatory meeting for a Chinese parliament session adopted an agenda that included an item to review a bill “on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to safeguard national security”.
The South China Morning Post newspaper, citing unnamed sources, said the laws would ban secession, foreign interference, “terrorism” and all seditious activities aimed at toppling the central government and any external interference in the former British colony.
Reporting form Beijing, Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu said the legislation signifies Beijing taking “into their own hands” the political unrest in Hong Kong that sparked nearly a year of intermittent protests beginning in June of 2019.
Those protests were initially in response to an extradition bill introduced in Hong Kong’s legislature that would allow Beijing to extradite accused individuals to the mainland to face trial. The bill was stalled and later withdrawn.
“What will happen, as we understand it, [China’s parliament] will make an amendment to the basic law, which is Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, using a legal backdoor which essentially allows it to bypass the usual legislative processes in Hong Kong,” Yu said.
“This is because, as Beijing sees, there’s simply too much opposition from pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong, so they’re going to have to put this in themselves and make this very strong imposition of their power,” she added.
Hong Kong was returned to China from British rule in 1997 under the so-called “one country two systems” arrangement, in which the region maintained some autonomy, including a separate judiciary and more civil liberties for its citizens. The arrangement is set to end in 2047.
Emily Lau, a leading member of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, told Al Jazeera that residents of Hong Kong are “very concerned, very alarmed, and very disturbed” over fears the new legislation “will take away our freedoms, will take away our personal safety and the rule of law”.
“Now it seems like [Beijing] is breaking up all the promises and they want to legislate for us,” she said.
Reporting from Hong Kong, Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown said China’s parliament appeared to be seizing on coronavirus pandemic restrictions in the semi-autonomous region, where gatherings of more than eight people are banned.
“Of course the timing of this is very significant. It may well be that a decision was taken by the leadership in Beijing to push through this legislation now because of course it’s difficult for people to protest in Hong Kong,” he said.
While protests have been smaller since the outbreak began, they have persisted through the pandemic.
On Monday, 15 veteran pro-democracy activists appeared in a Hong Kong court for the beginning of their organising and taking part in last year’s assemblies.
The arrests sparked criticism from the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United Nation’s human rights body, the latter saying non-violent activists should not be prosecuted for attending unsanctioned rallies.
The proposed legislation could be a turning point for China’s freest and most international city, potentially triggering a revision of its special status in Washington and likely to spark more unrest.
Online posts have already emerged urging people to gather to protest on Thursday night and dozens were seen shouting pro-democracy slogans in a shopping mall as riot police stood nearby.
China still spying on U.S. coronavirus vaccine efforts, Wray tells Congress
Chinese hackers are still trying to snoop on American coronavirus vaccine efforts, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress on Thursday, saying they can actually track the attempts. Mr. Wray said they’ll see a public announcement from a company on its vaccine progress, then within days they’ll see cyber penetration efforts against that company “that ties…
Chinese hackers are still trying to snoop on American coronavirus vaccine efforts, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress on Thursday, saying they can actually track the attempts.
Mr. Wray said they’ll see a public announcement from a company on its vaccine progress, then within days they’ll see cyber penetration efforts against that company “that ties back to Chinese actors.”
“They’re trying to essentially jump to the front of the line by stealing information from others,” Mr. Wray said.
He declared China the largest counterterrorism focus of the FBI, and pointed to thousands of open investigations into Chinese attempts to penetrate American institutions.
Mr. Wray first warned in early summer that China was attempting to compromise U.S. coronavirus efforts.
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China attempted to cover up scope of COVID-19, could have largely prevented outbreak: GOP report
China could have prevented two-thirds of its coronavirus cases before the end of February had it followed international health guidelines at the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan, a new congressional report concluded. The report, released Monday and authored by Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, echoes earlier findings that China made efforts…
China could have prevented two-thirds of its coronavirus cases before the end of February had it followed international health guidelines at the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan, a new congressional report concluded.
The report, released Monday and authored by Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, echoes earlier findings that China made efforts to cover up the severity of the initial spread of the virus and that the government harassed and detained journalists, scientists and health care professionals who were voicing concerns about its handling of the outbreak.
“It is beyond doubt that the [Chinese Communist Party] actively engaged in a cover-up designed to obfuscate data, hide relevant public health information, and suppress doctors and journalists who attempted to warn the world,” the report said. “Research shows the CCP could have reduced the number of cases in China by up to 95 percent had it fulfilled its obligations under international law and responded to the outbreak in a manner consistent with best practices.”
The report also said that the Chinese government was “legally obliged” on Dec. 27 to inform the World Health Organization that the outbreak in Wuhan may constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Jan. 30.
The report’s conclusions take aim at the WHO, from which President Trump announced a U.S. withdrawal in May, and said that the United Nations-backed organization was “heavily influenced by the Chinese Communist Party” in its messaging of the outbreak.
“The WHO has been complicit in the spread and normalization of CCP propaganda and disinformation,” the report stated, citing outside experts. “By repeating as truth statements that were misleading, if not lies, the WHO negatively impacted the global response.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican and ranking member of the Democrat-led committee, said in a statement Monday that “it is crystal-clear that had the CCP been transparent, and had the head of the WHO cared more about global health than appeasing the CCP, lives could have been spared and widespread economic devastation could have been mitigated.”
There have been over 31 million reported cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. More than 961,000 people have died from the virus, with 199,525 deaths in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. The global population currently stands at 7.8 billion.
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China slams US ‘bullying’, warns of action over TikTok, WeChat |NationalTribune.com
China has accused the United States of “bullying” and threatened to take “necessary” countermeasures after Washington banned downloads of the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of the messaging super-app WeChat. “China urges the US to abandon bullying, cease its wrongful actions and earnestly maintain fair and transparent international rules and order,”…
China has accused the United States of “bullying” and threatened to take “necessary” countermeasures after Washington banned downloads of the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of the messaging super-app WeChat.
“China urges the US to abandon bullying, cease its wrongful actions and earnestly maintain fair and transparent international rules and order,” the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on Saturday.
“If the US insists on going its own way, China will take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”
The United States Commerce Department announced the bans on Friday, citing national security grounds although China and the companies have denied US user data is collected for spying
Under Friday’s order, the Tencent-owned WeChat app would lose functionality in the US from Sunday onwards. TikTok users will be banned from installing updates but could keep accessing the service through November 12.
The timeframe gives TikTok’s parent group ByteDance some breathing space to clinch an agreement over the fate of its US operations.
“We disagree with the decision from the Commerce Department, and are disappointed that it stands to block new app downloads from Sunday and ban use of the TikTok app in the US from November 12,” ByteDance said in a statement.
“We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order.”
START HERE | Should TikTok be banned? (10:50)
TikTok says it has 100 million US users and 700 million globally.
‘Very very popular’
Friday’s order follows weeks of deal-making over TikTok, with US President Donald Trump pressuring ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US operations to a domestic company to satisfy Washington’s concerns over TikTok’s data collection and related issues.
California tech giant Oracle recently struck a deal with TikTok along those lines, although details remain foggy.
Trump said on Friday said he was open to a deal, noting that “we have some great options and maybe we can keep a lot of people happy,” suggesting that even Microsoft, which said its TikTok bid had been rejected, might continue to be involved, as well as Oracle and Walmart.
Trump noted that TikTok was “very, very popular,” said “we have to have the total security from China,” and added that “we can do a combination of both”.
The bans are in response to a pair of executive orders issued by Trump on August 6 that gave the Commerce Department 45 days to determine what transactions to block from the apps he deemed pose a national security threat. That deadline expires on Sunday.
The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from US digital networks amid escalating tensions with Beijing on a range of issues from trade and human rights to the battle for tech supremacy.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the Commerce Department’s order “violates the First Amendment rights of people in the United States by restricting their ability to communicate and conduct important transactions on the two social media platforms”.
INSIDE STORY | Why does Trump want to ban Tiktok? (24:11)
The action against WeChat, used by over 1 billion people worldwide, bars the transfer of funds or processing of payments to or from people in the US through it. Users could also start to experience significantly slower service or sporadic outages from Sunday night.
WeChat developer Tencent Holdings’ called the order “unfortunate” but said it “will continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the US ways to achieve a long-term solution”.
WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the US, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, ex-pats and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.
The order does not ban US companies from doing businesses on WeChat outside the US, which will be welcome news to US firms such as Walmart and Starbucks that use WeChat’s embedded ‘mini-app’ programmes to facilitate transactions and engage consumers in China, officials said.
The order will not bar transactions with Tencent’s other businesses, including its online gaming operations, and will not prohibit Apple, Google or others from offering TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the US.
WeChat users have sued to stop the ban, and a federal judge in California on Friday set an emergency hearing for Saturday at 1:30 pm Pacific time.
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