Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

World Internet Conference in China So China Blocks Cloud Services, Thousands of Websites

November 20, 2014


By , The Hollywood Reporter | November 19, 2014

The Chinese government is blocking access to thousands of sites and cloud services in the lead up to tech industry conference, reported the South China Morning Post on Tuesday.

Already trigger happy when it came to blocking websites it didn’t agree with, the state Internet censor has blocked sites and cloud services as disparate as Sony Mobile, retail bank HSBC and The Atlantic. No reasons were given why these sites had fallen foul of the Internet censor and have been pushed outside of the notorious “Great Firewall of China,” although the HSBC website is said to give users a backdoor access to banned site Youtube.

Media speculation suggests that the blackouts are, ironically, in preparation for the World Internet Conference in the small provincial city of Wuzhen. The first of it’s kind to be held in China, the conference will be held from Wednesday to Friday, and will focus on issues such as cyber security, international e-commerce and online anti-terrorism initiatives.

Chinese state media said that up to 1000 people from around the world will attend. Bloomberg is reporting that leaders from local Internet giants, including Alibaba and Tencent, will be in attendance along with executives from LinkedIn, SoftBank and other global tech companies.

Although the rest of China will suffer Internet blackouts to various sites and services, conference attendees will have unfettered access for three days to banned websites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

David Beckham facebook post causes furore in Vietnam

November 17, 2014


A photo David Beckham’s Facebook page of a helmet-less woman in Vietnam riding a scooter with an infant between her knees has caused a furore.

A photograph posted on David Beckham’s official Facebook page showing a woman in Hanoi taking a picture of him from her scooter while not wearing a helmet and carrying an infant between her knees has sparked widespread criticism in Vietnam.

The photo was posted online on Thursday with Beckham’s caption: “I’m all for fans taking a picture but not sure this is the safest way to do it!”

So far it has attracted over 18,000 comments.

Many commentators said they were embarrassed about the image it showed of the country.

Facebook user Van Dang Yeu wrote: “This is an ugly face of Vietnam.”

Commentator Minh Anh wrote: “A baby in her lap? That’s crazy.”

The photo attracted widespread coverage in local newspapers and television over the weekend, with many articles pointing out that the woman was breaking the law.

An article in Phap Luat newspaper quoted the chief of Hanoi’s Traffic Police as saying the woman could face a fine of 300,000 dong (around $A16) for not wearing a helmet and for using a mobile phone while driving.

Beckham was in Vietnam as part of a tour to promote a new brand of whisky.

He travelled to China, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, according to his Facebook page.

With poor law enforcement and congested roads, traffic safety is a lingering problem in Vietnam.

About 14,000 people lose their lives each year in the country as a result of road crashes.

Hagel sees progress, setbacks against militants

November 13, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the U.S. and coalition forces are making progress against Islamic State militants. But he says the American people must prepare for a long and difficult struggle.

Hagel is testifying Thursday before a House panel. He cautions there will be setbacks in the fight in Iraq and Syria. He said that since September, 16 nations have joined the military campaign and carried out more than 130 air strikes.

Hagel’s testimony comes days after President Barack Obama asked Congress for more than $5 billion to expand the U.S. mission in Iraq. The president also is dispatching up to 1,500 more American troops to the war-torn nation, potentially boosting the total number to 3,100.

Congress also must decide whether to reauthorize training and equipping of moderate Syrian rebels.


Islamic State Fighter Go Under Ground To Keep Safe During Air Strikes

NBC News

ISIS fighters are using social media to show off what they claim is an underground tunnel network that enables them to withstand U.S. airstrikes near the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

A videotape posted Monday on YouTube by the Islamic terror group’s official media arm shows a group of fighters, most of them wearing masks, digging and using the tunnels. On the tape, the fighters claim the passageways are used as “supply routes to all squads and HQs in the battle arenas,” allowing the distribution of food and heavy weapons throughout the day.

One fighter says the tunnels are curved to lessen the chances that shrapnel will injure or kill numerous fighters in the event of a missile strike. “These trenches allowed us to give up our houses,” the fighter says, adding that the tunnels are used as break rooms and bedrooms.

“The video … is an effort to portray a sense of resilience in the face of U.S. and coalition air strikes, which have impacted the tempo of the conflict inside Iraq,” said Evan Kohlmann of Flashpoint Global Partners, which authenticated the videotape, and an NBC News terrorism analyst. “ISIS wants its supporters to know that even in the midst of American air superiority, it can nonetheless still operate and fight effectively on the battlefield.”

The U.S. and other allies have been pounding ISIS positions in Anbar province, including Fallujah, and elsewhere in Iraq and Syria from the air since August, and Iraqi troops have been shelling the group’s positions in and around the city in hopes of retaking it.

Fallujah is best known to Americans as the scene of an extended battle between U.S. troops and Sunni Muslims in 2011 during the Iraq war.

Image: ISIS fighters sit in a cave.

Flashpoint Global Partners

An ISIS fighter emerges from a tunnel in a screen grab from a YouTube video published by the Islamic terror group’s media wing on Monday.


— Mike Brunker

Twitter opening office in Hong Kong despite China ban

November 7, 2014

From the BBC

Social media giant Twitter will open an office in Hong Kong next year

Social media giant Twitter has said it will open an office in Hong Kong in the first quarter of 2015.

The messaging service has been banned from operating in China since 2009 over fears that it could be used to organise protests against the government.

However, Twitter said it wanted to tap into the next phase of its growth in the Asian region by expanding in Greater China.

The office will house sales staff and joins the likes of Google and Facebook.

“Our upcoming Hong Kong office in the first quarter will enable us to pursue strategic opportunities in Greater China, such as China export advertising market, Hong Kong and Taiwan advertising markets, media partnerships, and our new Twitter Fabric integrated with MoPub for mobile developers,” the company told the BBC on Friday.

The opening would be Twitter’s fifth office in the region, with operations already in Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul and Sydney.

In August, Twitter said it was opening an office in Jakarta, with Indonesia being one of its biggest markets.

“With half of all internet, mobile and social media users worldwide in Asia today, we see many opportunities across the region,” a company spokesperson said.

News of the expansion comes as Twitter reported a disappointing 7% fall in timeline views per user – a closely watched measure of engagement – despite 23% growth in its user base in the third quarter last month.

The company also said its fourth-quarter revenue might fall short of market expectations of $448.8mn (£283mn). New York-listed Twitter shares are down almost 36% this year.

Hong Kong Democracy Stand Off: Tuesday, November 4 and Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November 4, 2014


Britain did more for HK democracy than China

By Matthew Yim Yew Fei

The writer of the letter, “Where were protesters when UK ruled, US spied?” (Oct 31), is confusing issues about the British Empire and spying by the United States with the current Hong Kong protests for universal suffrage.

When Edward Snowden ran away from the United States’ National Security Agency, the first place he fled to was Hong Kong, where he also gave journalists his first interview. To Hongkongers, it felt like Hong Kong was freer than the US.

Also, it is pointless to compare the modern era to the British Empire. Even our forefathers in Singapore were contented living under the British. It was only after the war when ideas of democracy and self-rule spread to the colonies.

Democracy is not only about electing leaders, but also about rule of law, individual rights, freedom of press and judicial independence. In this regard, Britain did more to improve democracy and provide freedom to Hong Kong than China has done.

One can argue that Hongkongers are fearful that China will take away their rights and freedom, let alone their ability to choose their own leaders.

They hear about corruption and abuse of authority in the mainland, closing down of Weibo accounts critical of Communist Party leaders, press censorship and the Great Firewall of China blocking access to Facebook, Google and other websites Beijing deems inappropriate.

Also, Hong Kong leaders selected by Beijing have so far given the impression of aloofness, and seem more interested in serving the interests of business elites and Beijing, rather than the common people.

One could conclude that the protesters would rather risk their future in leaders of their own choosing than live in a restricted regime ruled by elites.


Anti-Occupy petition submitted to Hong Kong SAR gov’t

Protesters in Hong Kong remain on the streets after more than a month. But Campaigners for an end to the disruptions believe the city’s residents have sent out a clear message against protesters.

And it’s got the evidence to prove it: a petition signed by more than 1.8 million people. On Monday afternoon, the anti-Occupy Central Alliance presented the petition to the Hong Kong SAR government.

The public’s opinion on paper. Over 1.8 million of Hong Kong’s residents have made it clear they want an end to disruptions, and a return to normal life.
After presenting their petition report to the Hong Kong SAR government, anti-Occupy leaders say they will arrange meetings with legislative councillors, and protest organizers.

“We will also try to arrange meetings with scholars, as well as Federations of Hong Kong students,” Anti-Occupy Central Alliance spokesman Robert Chow said.

The anti-Occupy Central Alliance launched its petition on October 25th. About 1.3 million signed their name in the streets, with the remaining 500,000 doing so online. Anger at the protests was shared among residents of all ages and backgrounds.

The anti-Occupy leaders say such a popular and robust petition has made Hong Kong residents’ voice of objection to the ongoing protests much louder. And it’s clear the people will back the Hong Kong SAR government and police to solve the ongoing protests with further measures.

The anti-Occupy group also called on Hong Kong residents to participate in the district-council and legislative council elections in two years, in order to help with the city’s long term development.

Includes video:


PHOTOS: Trade unions at anti-Occupy Central rally in Admiralty last night

By Laurel Chor November 4, 2014


People from the Motor Transport Workers General Union held signs against the “hogging of roads”.

Last night, different trade unions came together to hold an anti-Umbrella Movement rally in Chater Garden, Central.

Chefs came out in full uniform to voice their anger at the Umbrella Movement. 

A man wearing a Hong Kong Mass Transit Rail Way Staff General Association vest wrote about why he is against the protests.

People from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions hold signs saying “Give me back my roads, give me back my livelihood”.

Most of the crowd was elderly, though there were young people who acted as chaperones or organisers. Here, a young woman collects the papers on which people wrote their feelings about the pro-democracy protests. 

People from the Hong Kong Manufacturing Industry Employees General Union gave thumbs-up signs to the camera.

No one seemed to notice the irony of sitting under yellow umbrellas at an anti-Umbrella Movement rally.

People sat down in front of the stage, from which blinding lights were shining.

An elderly man takes a photo of the event.

“Give Hong Kong back a means to make a living”, this man’s sign demands.

The anti-“road hogging” signs doubled as much-needed shields against the stage lights.

This kid brought down the crowd’s average age slightly. 

This woman’s sign says: “Give back the roads to the people. Restore order.” 

Many wore their unions’ uniforms.

Organisers had collection boxes for people’s opinions on the Umbrella Movement.

That’s one way to hold a sign. It says “Give the roads back to the people. Defend Hong Kong.”

People from the Garment Fashion Practitioners Association holding signs saying “Give the roads back to the people, restore order.” and “Give me back my roads, give me back my livelihood”.

It was past many people’s bedtimes. 

Smiling for the camera!

Photos/Words: Laurel Chor/Coconuts Media



Britain’s spy chief: Facebook, Twitter help terrorists, criminals

November 4, 2014

Britain: New GCHQ director Robert Hannigan accuses some Silicon Valley companies of becoming ‘the command and control networks of choice’ for terrorists

Robert Hannigan takes over as Director at GCHQ

Robert Hannigan (right) took on the role of director of GCHQ (left) last month after a distinguished career as a senior diplomat Photo: Crown copyright

Technology giants such as Facebook and Twitter have become “the command and control networks of choice” for terrorists and criminals but are “in denial” about the scale of the problem, the new head of GCHQ has said.

Robert Hannigan said that Isil terrorists in Syria and Iraq have “embraced the web” and are using it to intimidate people and inspire “would-be jihadis” from all over the world to join them.

He urged the companies to work more closely with the security services, arguing that it is time for them to confront “some uncomfortable truths” and that privacy is not an “absolute right”.

He suggested that unless US technology companies co-operate, new laws will be needed to ensure that intelligence agencies are able to track and pursue terrorists.

His comments represent some of the most outspoken criticism yet of US technology giants by the security services, and come amid growing tensions following leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In an article for the Financial Times, Mr Hannigan said: “I understand why they [US technology companies] have an uneasy relationship with governments. They aspire to be neutral conduits of data and to sit outside or above politics.

“But increasingly their services not only host the material of violent extremism or child exploitation, but are the routes for the facilitation of crime and terrorism.

“However much they may dislike it, they have become the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as the rest of us.

“GCHQ is happy to be part of a mature debate on privacy in the digital age. But privacy has never been an absolute right and the debate about this should not become a reason for postponing urgent and difficult decisions.”

Mr Hannigan took on the role of director of GCHQ last month after a distinguished career as a senior diplomat. He was appointed to the role in the wake of the Snowden scandal to help bolster the public profile of the organisation and take a more active role in the debate about its work.

He highlighted the eruption of extremist jihadi material online on websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp, and said that terrorists are now able to hide their identities using encryption tools which were once only available to states.

He said that in the past, al-Qaida and its terrorists have used the internet as a place to anonymously distribute material or “meet in dark spaces”.

Isil, however, has taken a much more direct approach, using social networking services to get their messages across in a “language their peers understand”.

He highlighted the production values of videos in which they attack towns, fire weapons and detonate explosives, saying that they have a “self-conscious online gaming quality”.

He said that even the groups grotesque videos of beheadings highlight the sophistication of their use of social media. “This time the ‘production values’ were high and the videos stopped short of showing the actual beheading,” he said.

“They have realised that too much graphic violence can be counter productive in their target audience and that by self-censoring they can stay just the right side of the rules of social media sites, capitalising on western freedom of expression.”

He highlighted the use of popular terms on Twitter to broaden their appeal such as World Cup and Ebola. He said that during the advance on Mosul in Iraq the jihadists were sending 40,000 tweets a day.

Their cause has been helped by Mr Snowden as they copy his high level of encryption, with some programmes and apps even advertised as “Snowden approved”. He said: “There is no doubt that young foreign fighters have learned and benefited from the leaks of the past two years”.

Mr Hannigan said that families have “strong views” about the ethics of companies and do not expect the social networks they use to “facilitate murder or child abuse”.

The Conservatives are pushing for a communications Bill to give the security services greater access to internet communications. The move has been blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Hannigan said: “For our part, intelligence agencies such as GCHQ need to enter the public debate about privacy. I think we have a good story to tell.

“As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the spectacular creation that is the world wide web, we need a new deal between democratic governments and the technology companies in the area of protecting our citizens.

“It should be a deal rooted in the democratic values we share. That means addressing some uncomfortable truths. Better to do it now than in the aftermath of greater violence.”

Facebook rules state that organisations with a record of terrorist or violent criminal activity are not allowed to “maintain a presence” on the social network or post content in support of terrorist groups.

The company, which has declined to make an official statement, says it already works with law enforcement agencies and will disclose information either in good faith if it will prevent harm or upon court order.

Other US internet companies including Google, Twitter and Microsoft declined to comment.

Vietnamese Blogger Released from Jail Says More Critics of the Communist Government Likely to be Released As U.S. Ties Improve

October 31, 2014

By John Boudreau

Nguyen Van Hai, a Vietnamese blogger whose sentence was suspended, said his country’s push to improve ties with the U.S. will lead to more critics of the communist government being released and boost freedom of speech.

Hai, who is known as Dieu Cay, was handed a 12-year jail sentence in 2012 for spreading anti-government propaganda. He was released on Oct. 21 as a result of an agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam, he said in a telephone interview. Hai was taken directly to Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport from prison and boarded a flight for Hong Kong and then Los Angeles.

Freed Vietnamese dissident Nguyen Van Hai is greeted upon arrival at Los Angeles International Airport on 21 October 2014 in Los Angeles, California

Nguyen Van Hai

Vietnam’s government will probably release more prisoners such as Hai as a sign of goodwill as it negotiates free trade agreements with the U.S., European Union and other countries, he said. Releases could also occur as a result of Vietnam developing closer relations with the U.S. amid territorial disputes with China, Hai, 62, said.

“In order to reach those agreements, such as TPP or the FTA with the EU, at the end of this year, they will probably release some more people,” he said, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “They need to build trust. Releasing these dissidents would show an improvement in human rights.”

‘Humanitarian Reasons’

The number of Vietnamese incarcerated for criticizing their government has decreased, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Lisa Wishman said in an e-mail. She did not provide estimates of how many remain in jail. There are more than 150 dissidents being detained in Vietnam, according to Human Rights Watch.

Vietnam’s government should “release unconditionally all prisoners of conscience and allow all Vietnamese to express their political views without fear of retribution,” Wishman said in an Oct. 22 statement in Hanoi.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment.

There are no “prisoners of conscience” in Vietnam, Pham Thu Hang, deputy spokeswoman in Vietnam’s foreign ministry, said by e-mail Oct. 22. The government “decided to temporarily suspend Nguyen Van Hai’s jail term and allow Nguyen Van Hai to emigrate to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons,” she said.

Hai ran afoul of Vietnamese authorities for criticizing China’s claims to the contested Paracel Islands and calling for a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, he said. Hai was initially arrested in 2008 on charges of tax evasion, he said.

Vietnam is looking for help from other powers to counter China’s military might as both countries compete for oil, gas and fish in the South China Sea. Skirmishes between boats and deadly anti-Chinese riots occurred in Vietnam after China placed an oil rig off Vietnam’s coast in May.

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel near a drilling rig that China installed in disputed waters near Vietnam in May. Credit Reuters  

Free Trade

Earlier this month U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh that Vietnam will be able to buy non-lethal weapons from the U.S. after the partial lifting of an arms embargo in place since 1984.

Vietnam is also looking to free trade agreements, such as TPP, to bolster an economy that the World Bank estimates will grow 5.4 percent this year, a seventh year of expansion below 7 percent, and lessen its economic reliance on China. The government aims for domestic investment to reach 30 percent of gross domestic product in 2015, about the same level as this year, even as it takes steps to resolve bad debt at banks and privatize state firms, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told lawmakers on Oct. 20.

“To create trust with Western countries, Vietnam has to create democracy within Vietnam,” Hai said, speaking from his new home in Los Angeles. After trade and other agreements are signed, Vietnam could “crack down” again on those who speak out against the government, he said.

Since the clash between Vietnam and China during the summer over the Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea, Vietnamese have more leeway to criticize the country’s powerful communist neighbor, he said.

“The media can freely write about anti-China sentiment,” Hai said.

Social media sites like Facebook Inc. (FB) are giving Vietnamese an unprecedented ability to speak freely, he said.

“This has created a new media frontier that is stronger and more widespread,” Hai said. “Social networks are like a land of freedom that is difficult for the government to take control of.”

To contact the reporter on this story: John Boudreau in Hanoi at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Davis at K. Oanh Ha

China’s Web Regulator Admits Many Internet Sites Not Available in China — But the government doesn’t know how that happens…

October 30, 2014


China’s web regulator denies shutting foreign websites

BBC News

Some social media sites used across the rest of the world are blocked in China

The director of China’s internet regulator has admitted that some foreign websites cannot be visited but denied shutting them down.

Lu Wei, who heads the State Internet Information Office, also said his department was planning to strengthen measures to “govern the internet”.

Twitter, Facebook and the New York Times are not accessible in China.

The BBC’s English-language website was blocked earlier this month, joining the BBC Chinese site.

Mr Lu was responding to queries at a press conference on the forthcoming World Internet Conference due to be held in Zhejiang province.

‘Specifying behaviour’

Asked by a reporter why sites such as Facebook had been shut down, Mr Lu replied: “I have never used any of these websites so I don’t know if they have been shut down. But as for situations where some sites become inaccessible, I think it is possible.

“We have never shut down any foreign sites. Your website is on your home soil. How can I go over to your home and shut it down?”

Mr Lu however added that while China was “hospitable”, it could also “choose who can come to our home and be our guest”.

“I can’t change who you are but I have the power to choose my friends,” he said. “I wish that all who come to China will be our real friends.”

Mr Lu added that his department’s measures were “meant to protect China’s national security and China’s consumers”.

“We are going to further strengthen our rule of law, our administration, governance and usage of the internet, and use the law to specify behaviour in the online space,” he added.

China keeps a tight grip on the internet.

Posts about sensitive topics are routinely scrubbed from the popular micro-blogging service Weibo, as seen during the recent Hong Kong protests.

State media said last year that the government employed more than two million people to monitor web activity.

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Hong Kong protests bring crisis of confidence for traditional media

October 29, 2014

Young turn to social media as newspapers and TV stations owned by local tycoons take care not to offend mainland China

By in Hong Kong
The Guardian

Every time Alice Lau visits Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, she wears two photo ID badges, slung around her neck in a clear plastic sheath.

The first badge identifies her as a full-time employee of a pro-government newspaper. Every day, her employer condemns the unprecedented protests, now in their second month, for wreaking havoc on the city’s transportation networks and economic vitality. The second card identifies her as a volunteer reporter for an outspoken Facebook-based news outlet with more than 100,000 subscribers.

One badge always obscures the other. By day, she displays the first. By night, as she camps out in protest zones and faces down riot police, she displays the second. Few protesters read her newspaper, but most have probably seen her work.

Alice Lau is a pseudonym. Revealing her name or employer could get her fired, she said, and revealing her Facebook platform could invite undue scrutiny. “It’s not like I want people to think I’m a hero,” she said over iced milk tea at a McDonald’s in Admiralty district, the protest’s de facto core. “I just feel like I need to use my talents to help Hong Kong, to help my community. I’m just an ordinary citizen.”

Hong Kong’s traditional media is suffering a crisis of confidence. Many of the city’s most influential newspapers and TV stations are owned by local tycoons who, wary of jeopardising their mainland business ties, have taken great pains to maintain a conservative editorial line. The city’s young people have responded by turning to social media for news – and thus, the ongoing “umbrella movement” may be the best-documented social movement in history, with even its quieter moments generating a maelstrom of status updates, shares and likes.

Hong Kong protests
A man naps next to a pile of newspapers in Nathan Road, Hong Kong. Photograph: Jerome Favre/EPA

“Press freedom in Hong Kong is not in a good state – it’s not an authoritarian regime yet, but the pressure is on,” said Mark Simon, a senior executive at Next Media, the city’s only openly pro-democratic media conglomerate. “What’s saving the city now are these group acts of journalistic courage.”

The protests’ intensely public nature has fostered a heightened sense of caution. Although few protesters expect a Tiananmen-style crackdown, which would almost certainly spur an exodus from the city, many fear that Beijing will find ways to persecute organisers and high-profile supporters in a gradual, retroactive campaign. Many volunteer supply booths at the protest sites prominently display “no photo” signs, a plea to keep their operators’ identities under wraps.

Simon said that a crackdown, while unlikely, would be devastating for the city. “Can Hong Kong survive with [student leader] Joshua Wong in jail, or [Next Media CEO] Jimmy Lai in jail – do you think Hong Kong could survive that? I say no. It won’t work. The world’s not going to treat you the same.”

Since Beijing assumed control of Hong Kong in a 1997 handover, it has ruled the the city under a “one country, two systems” arrangement, granting it freedoms unknown on the mainland, including an independent judiciary, freedom of assembly, and an unrestricted press. Among these, the last is perhaps the most conspicuous – the city has 18 newspapers and a string of scandal-hungry TV and radio stations, many of them notorious for broadcasting unscrupulous celebrity gossip and political exposés.

The protesters demand the ability to choose the city’s top leader by “genuine universal suffrage” in 2017. Their rebuke to the alternative – a Beijing-backed electoral framework which would only allow party loyalists on the ballot – stems in part from a creeping anxiety that central authorities aim to gradually take these freedoms away.

Next Media has found itself on the frontline. Since 12 October, mobs of pro-Beijing counter-protesters have formed sporadic blockades to halt deliveries of the group’s flagship newspaper, Apple Daily. Cyber-attacks have repeatedly hobbled the paper’s website. Last week, knife-wielding assailants hijacked delivery trucks and poured soy sauce over stacks of the tabloid, ruining 15,200 copies.

Analysts say the gulf between pro-Beijing and pro-democratic media is widening. “Seven Demon Police Surround and Beat Protester for Four Minutes,” Apple Daily headlined a story about a recent instance of suspected police brutality. “Police Assaulted,” reported the pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao. The pro-establishment television station TVB, which first broadcast footage of the beating, said in an early-morning broadcast that the protester was “punched and kicked”. Later, after the report prompted a public outcry, they replaced that voiceover with another saying that the police may have “used excessive force”.

“This is a demonstration of what we’ve been fearing for years,” said Shirley Yam, vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association and a columnist for the South China Morning Post. “When the debate is not about a controversial issue like this, then you don’t feel [the self-censorship] so strongly. But when such a controversy comes around, then you can tell how the controlled press actually works – why Beijing emphasises this so much.”

Umbrella protest in Hong Kong
Protesters fill the streets in Hong Kong. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Altogether, at least 24 journalists have been assaulted while covering the protests, according to Hong Kong journalist groups – some by counter-protesters, others by police. On Saturday night, three journalists were attacked by a mob of counter-protesters during an “anti-Occupy” rally by the city’s Star Ferry pier; one, a reporter for the moderate broadcaster RTHK, was sent to hospital.

“This is uncharted territory for everyone, and that’s just the general state of affairs,” said Francis Moriarty, chairman of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club’s press freedom committee. “The police have at times confused the messenger with the message, and reporters have had to bear the brunt of it.”

The protesters see a clear worst-case scenario, just across the border. Mainland Chinese media covered the protests extensively while almost never showing the demonstrators themselves or articulating their demands. Official editorials repeatedly claim that the movement is backed by “hostile foreign forces” intent on fomenting a “colour revolution” to undermine Beijing. State TV stations interview bystanders who, speaking in Mandarin – which is not widely spoken in Hong Kong – blame the protesters for taking secret payouts to hit the streets.

After milk tea on Tuesday night, Lau stepped out into the main protest site, a sprawl of tents and pro-democracy art installations occupying a stretch of highway by the city’s government offices. Overhead, large banners hanging from a footbridge read: “Do you hear the people sing?” and: “Everyone can be Batman.” She walked past small clusters of black-clad university students sitting cross-legged on the ground, chatting and playing guitar. Nearly all of them gripped smartphones.

Lau found a secluded swath of pavement about 30 metres from the students, and pitched a small tent. The spot would be quiet, she said – a good place to get some rest. After all, she had to go to work in the morning.




Hong Kong: Police are using computer crime law to crack down on pro-democracy groups, individuals

October 27, 2014


Without the internet, protest organization looks a bit like this. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

By Jennifer Zhang

HONG KONG—Hong Kong police are using a broadly-written computer crime law to dissuade protesters from organizing on social media, a move that many advocates worry is restricting free speech in the city.

On Oct. 18, a 23-year-old man with the surname Tam—his full name has not been released—was arrested in his Tin Shui Wai home, and charged with “access to computer with criminal or dishonest intent” and “unlawful assembly,” according to police. Tam’s’ crime was to post a new thread on HKgolden, a message forum popular with pro-democracy protesters. The thread (link in Chinese to an abbreviated, cached version) was titled: “occupy Mong Kok on Friday, occupy Lung Wo Road on Saturday, and occupy Central on Sunday”

Tam’s post, which went up on Oct. 17, got dozens of responses from forum users, many of whom said they would join in. That night, thousands of protesters, including Tam, streamed into Mong Kok, re-taking an area that had been cleared hours earlier by police.

The next day, police announced Tam’s arrest, without naming him, and said he had incited others in an online forum to join the Mong Kok assembly, charge at police, and “paralyze” the railways. “Inciting others to take part in unlawful assembly in that area and charging a police cordon…is a very serious criminal offense,” Police spokesman Hui Chun-tak said. Whether Tam did encourage people to “paralyze” the railways or charge police or not is unclear—the entire message thread has been removed and only a cached snipped remains.

But his arrest worries free speech advocates in Hong Kong, who are already on alert after a summer of hacker attacks, media self-censorship and pressure from Beijing stifled pro-democracy voices in the city. The charges against Tam are based partially on Hong Kong’s “Crimes Ordinance Section 161,” which addresses computer crime and in the past has mostly been used to fight  internet fraud and hacking. Violators who use a computer “with intent to commit an offense” face up to five years in prison.

Arrests like Tam’s are a new use of the law, free speech advocates say, and its application to online communication—not just cyber-crime—is worrying. “Law enforcement appears to have abused the computer crime law by attaching the charge of ‘access to computer with criminal or dishonest intention’ to all other criminal offenses whenever the use of computer is involved,” Hong Kong internet freedom group Keyboard Warrior wrote. “While laws like this one may have been developed to serve the public interest, they can become tools for political persecution if placed in the hands of a repressive regime.”

Tam isn’t the only protester arrest that Hong Kong police have made recently signaling they are studying what people post on the internet closely. Keyboard Warrior said there are “more than a dozen netizens in Hong Kong” who have been arrested under Section 161 since the protests started. Earlier public examples include:

  • Two days before the Occupy Central fully unfolded, the police arrested the co-founder of the student group Scholarism, Joshua Wong, after he called on fellow protesters to break through barricades in front of government headquarters. Police  “seized one computer, two SD cards, one USB and one connected hardware” from Wong’s university dorm room, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported. After two days, a judge ordered Wong’s release.
  • In June, a 15-year-old school boy was arrested by police for posting a guide to storming the Legislative Council building on the internet. The boy was charged under Section 161, and the police searched his home and seized his computer and mobile phone. He was released on bail.

Andrew Raffell, a barrister and consultant at the law faculty of Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the computer crime ordinance, which was first adopted in 1993, was not originally intended to police what is written by individuals on the internet. “The police and the prosecution have been allowed to artificially extend to the point of distortion the law,” he said.

“The concern now is whether there is an increased willingness for Hong Kong authorities to extend the law’s reach and, in doing so, whether they are joining a growing trend, particularly in Asia, to use general cyber crime laws to target online speech and other activities,” said Doreen Weisenhaus, director of the Media Law Project at The University of Hong Kong.

Tam’s latest arrest seems to have had a chilling effect already. In the past few days, netizens have posted less about attending protests in Facebook groups and popular forums such as HKgolden and MemeHK.

HKgolden administrators have advised netziens not to post anything that could break the law under its new interpretation. “No matter what the court’s final ruling will be, the defendant will suffer mental distress for a long time. We hope everyone could pay more attention on this (your online speech). Thanks everyone.”


 (Includes links to articles on Hong Kong from 2 prior weeks)


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