Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

China’s President Xi Jinping looks powerless in the face of economic forces

August 26, 2015


While China’s stock markets plunged in June, the government took a number of steps to actively intervene and stop the slide. On Monday, China shares dropped 9%, with ripple effects quickly felt across the globe, and the slide continued Tuesday morning. So far, the government has not responded as aggressively this time, as some question whether Xi Jinping is equipped to manage the Chinese economy and whether too much attention has been focused on the fight against corruption at the expense of the country’s financial management.

Before Monday’s crash, Michael Forsythe and Jonathan Ansfield of the New York Times wrote:

Mr. Xi has positioned himself as the chief architect of economic policy — usually the prime minister’s job — and has vowed to reshape the economy, exposing himself to blame if growth continues to sputter. At the same time, Mr. Xi is making enemies with an anticorruption drive that has taken down some of the most powerful men in the country and sidelined more than a hundred thousand lower-ranking officials.

Senior party officials are said to be alarmed by the state of the economy, which grew at the slowest pace in a quarter century during the first half of the year, and now seems to be decelerating further. In a sign of its anxiety, the leadership this month implemented the biggest devaluation of the Chinese currency in more than two decades, sending global markets into plunges.

Mr. Xi’s reputation was also dented this summer by panicked official efforts to prop up the Chinese stock market after a sharp dive in share prices. His government had promoted the market as a good investment to the public for months.

[…] “Everyone understands that the economy is the biggest pillar of the Chinese government’s legitimacy to govern and win over popular sentiment,” said Chen Jieren, a well-known Beijing-based commentator on politics. “If the economy falters, the political power of the Chinese Communist Party will be confronted with more real challenges, social stability in China will be endangered tremendously, and Xi Jinping’s administration will suffer even more criticism.” [Source]

Likewise, in Slate, Joshua Keating writes about the confluence of stock market woes with global tensions of which China is at the center:

These ongoing tensions are worrying enough in normal times, but are even more dangerous when China’s leaders feel insecure and challenged by domestic enemies. Which is how they must feel right now. The economic turmoil of the past few weeks has dealt a blow to the image of China’s leaders as competent stewards of the country’s economic rise, and President Xi Jinping looks powerless in the face of economic forces. Reports are already emerging about grumbling within senior ranks of the Communist Party over whether Xi and his advisers are up to the task of managing China’s next economic transition. If Xi feels threatened by a lack of support at home, he could ramp up his purge of potential rivals.

The bigger fear if there’s a long-turn economic downturn is social instability. Under the country’s unspoken post-Tiananmen grand bargain, China’s population hasn’t significantly challenged the autocratic one-party state, so long as the party continues to deliver economic progress and increasing prosperity. This is not to say that Chinese society is entirely harmonious—while the authorities have been adept at managing dissent, the country still sees tens of thousands of “mass incidents” every year, sparked by causes ranging from labor disputes, to environmental degradation, to land seizures. But thanks to steady growth, public anger over economic conditions hasn’t been a major problem over the last 25 years. It could be soon: Chinese investors, who were strongly encouraged by the state-run media to put money in the market during the country’s boom, are already venting their anger online. [Source]

China’s geopolitical role is currently in the spotlight as the country prepares for a major military parade to mark the end of World War II and to showcase Beijing’s power. But the economic troubles threaten to sideline China’s achievements in recent decades. Fergus Ryan reports in The Guardian:

The V-Day celebrations, due to occur on 3 September, are designed to be a showcase of Xi’s power and credibility and are clearly aimed at a domestic audience. But increasingly, when it comes to the economy, his and the government’s credibility are taking a hammering. Beijing’s reputation as skilful and competent economic managers – built up over years of breakneck economic growth – is in tatters after a two-month long stock market rescue operation has faltered.

More so than anywhere else, China’s stock market is disconnected from the economic fundamentals of the country, experts say, but nonetheless the rapid decline shows that market sentiment has fallen off a cliff.

“It is a key moment for China. The equity market in freefall, the banking system increasingly starved of liquidity, rising capital outflows, and a rapidly slowing economy,” Angus Nicholson, of IG Group, wrote in a note on Monday.

Global markets were already reeling from last week’s data, which showed the country’s manufacturing output had dipped to its lowest point since the global economic crisis. Experts say there’s a sense that it no longer matters what the government says or does, as the market is now adjusting to what it believes the reality is. [Source]

Chinese authorities issued notice to state media to censor negative market reports

Authorities have attempted to manage the response to the stock market crash by censoring news and social media posts. Propaganda officials have issued directives to the media on how to report the news, according to the South China Morning Post’s George Chen:

And Baidu search results have been censored as well, according to the Feichang Dao blog and Chen.

Read more about the individuals who are tasked with helping Xi manage the economy, from Bloomberg.
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From Monday, August 24, 2015 and earlier:



Without a Free Press and Checks and Balances, China’s Economic and Stock Market Problems Largely Not Discussed in Media

August 26, 2015


CNN Money

Global stocks have been on one hell of a ride in recent days, and everyone is looking for a scapegoat.

International media have tended to focus on fears of an economic slowdown in China, and extreme volatility in the country’s stock market. Chinese state media, meanwhile, have emphasized the threat of a possible U.S. interest rate hike when discussing the selloff.

Both worries are legitimate. China is hugely important to the world economy, and a sharp slowdown would have far-reaching consequences. At the same time, plenty of countries stand to be negatively impacted by a Federal Reserve rate hike.

But how can the same story generate such a divergent tone and focus? In China, the answer is simple: Information is tightly controlled, and media can face penalties for breaking ranks and undermining the government’s messaging apparatus. The idea is that restrictions are needed to maintain social order.

What’s happening in the country’s stock market is the perfect example.

Compared to Western media, Chinese media outlets have taken a much rosier view of market events. On Wednesday morning, the homepage of China Daily, a state-run newspaper, barely mentioned the stock market panic, leading instead with stories about President Xi Jinping’s push to support economic growth in Tibet and the development of China’s youth.

The handful of China Daily stories that did mention stocks were short on analysis — one reported how China’s national and local leaders regard the stock market, concluding that they don’t see the current situation leading to a financial crisis.

While levels of coverage vary from day to day, China Daily sticks to the official government line. The newspaper did republish central bank statements from Tuesday announcing moves to boost the economy, for example.

Related: China acts to boost economy after stocks crash

Official state news agency Xinhua gave slightly more prominent placement on its homepage to coverage of China’s stock volatility and the global rout. But the agenda was apparent: The agency quoted experts saying that market panic is due to poor global economic sentiment, and that fears over China are overblown.

Chinese journalists routinely receive confidential propaganda directives about how certain stories should be covered.

California-based China Digital Times, which collects such memos, published one from late June that instructed Chinese media to avoid verbs like “slump” or “spike,” and warns journalists not to conduct in-depth analysis or speculate on a bull versus bear market.

The memo, published as China’s stock markets started to slide, also directed reporters to stick to information vetted and released by the China Securities Regulatory Commission, and to halt all expert interviews.

In China, consumers are often forced to reply on state media. Foreign news sources, and many social media platforms, are off limits. Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB, Tech30) and Twitter (TWTR,Tech30) are blocked in China, for example.

Related: China’s stock market crash…in 2 minutes

Includes video:



An investor monitoring stock data in Beijing yesterday. Jumpy investors see the latest market turmoil as a potential forerunner of a new full-blown crisis.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESS PHOTO AGENCY

China’s Party-Run Media Is Silent on Market Mayhem

By Chris Buckley
The New York Times

HONG KONG — After China’s stock markets crumpled, prompting a global sell-off, People’s Daily, the premier newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, had other things on its mind.

There was no mention of the market mayhem on the newspaper’s front page on Tuesday, when it featured a report about economic development in Tibet. Indeed, there was not a single reference to the stock markets throughout the entire 24 pages of the paper, which dwelled instead on the forthcoming 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II.

The silence continued on Wednesday, when the paper again did not report on the stock market upheavals, although it did have articles about Chinese central bank decisions and Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s restatement of confidence in the broader economy, despite the effects of what he called global “market volatility.”

Read the rest:



From Monday, August 24, 2015 and earlier:



Cambodian Senator Accused of Treason, Arrested for Remarks on Facebook

August 15, 2015


The Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodian authorities arrested an opposition senator Saturday, two days after Prime Minister Hun Sen accused him of treason for comments posted on Facebook.

Armed police handcuffed Hong Sok Hour, who was the subject of a two-day manhunt as a result of the comments that criticized a 36-year-old border agreement with Vietnam.

Opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour speaks at the CNRP’s headquarters in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Interior Ministry spokesman Gen. Khieu Sopheak said the senator was arrested in an early morning raid at the home of an opposition lawmaker on the outskirts of the capital where he was hiding. He was taken to police headquarters for questioning before heading to a court to face charges, the spokesman said.

More than 100 protesters gathered at the Phnom Penh courthouse to demand the senator’s release, a call echoed in a joint statement from the minority group of opposition senators. The statement expressed “deep disappointment” over the arrest, which they said ignored Hong Sok Hour’s parliamentary immunity and his right to freedom of speech.

The arrest was the latest in a string of attacks on Hun Sen’s political opponents. In recent weeks, Hun Sen has used his public speeches to deliver what amounts to arrest orders, which are generally carried out quickly.

On Thursday, Hun Sen accused Hong Sok Hour of posting material about the 1979 border agreement. Hun Sen was foreign minister at that time in a government installed by a Vietnamese occupation force that invaded Cambodia to oust the murderous Khmer Rouge regime.

“This is a crime that amounts to treason,” Hun Sen said during a speech at a graduation ceremony. “An act of treason like this cannot be tolerated.”

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has been seeking political benefit by accusing Vietnam of encroaching on Cambodian soil — a politically sensitive topic that has ramped up tensions at the border.

The opposition says the courts, under Hun Sen’s influence, are pressuring them to drop the border issue by jailing their activists on insurrection charges in connection with a violent protest last year.

Hun Sen has been in power for almost three decades, and while Cambodia is formally democratic, his government is authoritarian and known for intimidating opponents.


rime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday ordered the arrest of opposition senator Hong Sok Hour for “treason” over a fake treaty the senator posted to Facebook that purported to show Heng Samrin, as Cambodia’s head of state in 1979, pledging to dissolve the border between Cambodia and Vietnam.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Mr. Hun Sen said he was browsing Facebook late on Wednesday night but had trouble sleeping after coming across the post from Mr. Sok Hour.

“There is a post on Facebook concerning a fake treaty, which cannot be pardoned and needs action taken,” the prime minister said. “The senator not only posted this fake treaty, but also made some commentary. So we cannot pardon him.”

Mr. Hun Sen said Mr. Sok Hour posted a fake treaty purporting to show Mr. Samrin and then-Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong agreeing that “the two parties will negotiate and sign off on dissolving the borders of the two countries.”

The prime minister said Mr. Sok Hour had been caught red-handed “faking a national public document” and could be arrested by the police, despite his immunity from arrest or prosecution as a senator.

The Constitution allows police to disregard immunity when a lawmaker is caught in the act of committing a crime, and Mr. Hun Sen said that the CPP’s 46 senators in the 61-seat body could easily vote to strip Mr. Sok Hour’s immunity.

“It is not difficult to deal with a Senate member, as the voices from the CPP are over two-thirds, [they can] strip his immunity,” Mr. Hun Sen said.

“They already accused the government of using fake maps, and we did not react. Now it’s posted [online], and it’s a red-handed crime that he shall be arrested for immediately.”

Mr. Sok Hour, a senator for the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP)—a legacy opposition party that exists for legal reasons—has played a central role in the CNRP’s recent campaign to uncover Vietnamese encroachments into Cambodia.

Last month, he traveled to Paris to collect border maps the CNRP says it will use to check if border posts have been correctly placed by the government, after the opposition claimed the government had illegally ceded land to Vietnam.

In his speech Thursday, the prime minister warned Mr. Sok Hour, a French citizen, not to flee overseas or seek safety in a foreign embassy, saying that his Facebook post was treasonous and could cause a war to break out with Vietnam.

“Every embassy should not accept anyone running into their embassy…. Every embassy should not interfere, as this is national treason,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “Please, citizens, do not blame the government, because national treason cannot be pardoned.

“If there is a movement created because of incitement to break up the countries, causing a dispute with the neighboring countries, who would be held accountable if war occurs?” he said.

“Pochentong [Phnom Penh International Airport] and all the other checkpoints have been blocked. So arrest this person, and do not let him run into a foreign embassy.”

Soem Vuthy, deputy Phnom Penh police chief, said the National Police were handling the case. National Police officials could not be reached.

About an hour after Mr. Hun Sen’s morning speech, SRP President Kong Korm said by telephone that Mr. Sok Hour had been arrested at the CNRP’s Phnom Penh headquarters.

However, Mr. Sok Hour’s personal assistant, Sambath David, said that Mr. Korm’s claims were wrong and that the senator was in hiding.

“He has not been arrested yet. He is in hiding now and I can say that he is in a safe place,” he said.

Mr. Sok Hour’s personal telephone rang Thursday but no one answered. Teav Vannol, a fellow SRP senator, said he did not know where Mr. Sok Hour was hiding.

“I tried to call him today but I could not get through to him. I do not know where he is. The only confirmation I have got so far is that he is in a safe place,” Mr. Vannol said.

French Embassy spokesman Nicolas Baudouin said by telephone that the French citizen was not at the embassy.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy did not respond to a request for comment. However, the SRP issued a statement rejecting Mr. Hun Sen’s claims that Mr. Sok Hour’s Facebook post was an act of treason.

“The Sam Rainsy Party’s permanent committee has examined [this] and thinks that the use of an unofficial document and Hong Sok Hour’s interpretation in his status as a senator is not treason as alleged by the prime minister,” the party said.

“If the use of the document and the interpretation was not correct, Hong Sok Hour can correct it before the public.”

(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)

Harvest of Facebook user data prompts calls for tighter privacy settings

August 9, 2015

Software developer exploits loophole to obtain thousands of names, pictures and locations of users who link their mobile phone number with account


Image Credits: Marco Paköeningrat / Flickr.

Facebook has been urged to tighten its privacy settings after a software engineer was able to harvest data about thousands of users – simply by guessing their mobile numbers.

The developer obtained the names, profile pictures and locations of users who had linked their mobile number to their Facebook account but had chosen not to make it public.

Security experts said the loophole would allow hackers to build enormous databases of Facebook users for sale on internet black markets. “They should be attempting to prevent the widescale hoovering up of data, and I’m disappointed to hear that they appear to have failed on this occasion,” said Graham Cluley, a computer security analyst.

Reza Moaiandin, the software engineer who discovered the flaw, exploited a little-known privacy setting allowing anyone to find a Facebook user by typing their phone number into the social network.

By default, this Who can find me? setting is set to Everyone/public – meaning anyone can find another user by their mobile number. This is the default setting even if that user had chosen to withold their mobile number from their public profile.

Using a simple algorithm, Moaiandin generated tens of thousands of mobile numbers a second and then sent these numbers to Facebook’s application programming interface (API), a tool that allows developers to build apps linked to the social network. Within minutes, Facebook sent him scores of users’ profiles.

All the information Moaiandin received was publicly available, but the ability to link the profiles to mobile numbers on such a large scale leaves the system open to abuse.

Cluley said Facebook should make it “as difficult as possible” for third parties to scoop up even the publicly shared information belonging to Facebook’s 1.5bn users.

“If Facebook cares about its community, it should perhaps do more to lead them in the right direction – perhaps ensuring that users have to choose whether they want to make their phone numbers publicly accessible, rather than that being a default,” he said.

Moaiandin, the technical director of Leeds-based technology company, compared it to “walking into a bank, asking for a few thousand customers’ personal information based on their account number, and the bank telling you: ‘Here are their customer details.’”

He alerted Facebook to the vulnerability in April through its “bug bounty” scheme and then again on 28 July, when a Facebook security engineer said it had measures to prevent suspicious behaviour. The Facebook employee added: “We do not consider it a security vulnerability, but we do have controls in place to monitor and mitigate abuse.”

Facebook insists it has strict rules that limit how developers are able to use its API and that it takes action against anyone who breaks them.

Moaiandin said it could take minutes to find the mobile number of a celebrity or high-profile politician if that person had connected their phone to Facebook and not selected “friends-only” under the “Who can find me?” privacy settings.

The developer also urged Facebook to introduce a second layer of encryption, as Apple and Google have in place, which would have prevented him from finding the users’ information.

Security researcher Brian Honan said people needed to be more aware of how much information they shared online. “The issue is a combination of social networks not gathering and retaining as much information on people as they do, and people being more aware of the risks they face when posting so much details online,” he said.

A Facebook spokeswoman said: “The privacy of people who use Facebook is extremely important to us. We have industry-leading proprietary network monitoring tools constantly running in order to ensure data security and have strict rules that govern how developers are able to use our APIs to build their products. Developers are only able to access information that people have chosen to make public.

“Everyone who uses Facebook has control of the information they share, this includes the information people include within their profile, and who can see this information. Our Privacy Basics tool has a series of helpful guides that explain how people can quickly and easily decide what information they share and who they share it with.”

Man jailed for 30 years in Thailand for insulting the monarchy on Facebook

August 8, 2015


A Thai soldier stands guard beneath a portrait of King Bhumibol Adulyadej outside Government House in Bangkok, Thailand. Photograph: Diego Azubel/EPA


A Thai man has been jailed for 30 years for insulting the monarchy on Facebook, in one of the toughest known sentences passed under the junta-ruled kingdom’s draconian royal defamation law.

Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 87, is protected by rules known as lèse-majesté (injured majesty), under which anyone convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.

On Friday Bangkok’s military court found Pongsak Sriboonpeng, 48, guilty of posting messages and pictures defaming the monarchy in six posts on the social media site.

He was sentenced to 10 years on each count with the 60-year jail term halved after he pleaded guilty, his lawyer, Sasinan Thamnithinan, said.

“It’s broken the record,” she said about the severe jail term, adding that because Pongsak was arrested while Thailand was still under martial law there was no right to appeal against the sentence the military court passed.

Lèse-majesté convictions have surged since Thailand’s generals seized power from the elected government in May 2014.

According to iLaw, a local rights group that monitors such cases, there were just two ongoing prosecutions for royal defamation before the coup. Now that number is at least 56.

Critics of the law say it has been used as a weapon against political enemies of the royalist elite and their military allies and now targets those opposed to the coup.

In another conviction this week, a military court in the northern province of Chiang Rai sentenced a man with a history of mental illness to five years in jail for lèse-majesté.

Samak Pantay, 48, was found guilty of slashing a portrait of the king and queen in July last year, lawyer Anon Numpa said.

“He confessed to the charge so the judge commuted the sentence to five years,” he said, adding that Samak had been medically certified as mentally ill for “more than 10 years”.

Thailand’s ultra-royalist generals have long used their self-appointed position as defenders of the monarchy to justify coups and political interventions in the country’s often turbulent politics.

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej well wishers. Getty

But both Thai and international media must heavily self-censor when covering lèse-majesté and the monarchy – even repeating the details of charges of perceived defamation offences could mean breaking the law.

Thai authorities rarely provide details of cases, leaving rights groups to follow prosecutions across the country.

In April a businessman was jailed for 25 years for posting Facebook messages deemed to be defamatory to the monarchy, in a ruling that rights groups described as one of the harshest known.

In the same month, Thailand’s ruling military replaced martial law with new powers that retain much of the same authority but allow civilians to appeal to a higher tribunal for lèse-majesté crimes, which are still, however, tried at a military court.


Chinese government in an uproar over sex tape made in Chinese store in Beijing and circulated on the Internet

July 16, 2015


Communist authorities said distribution of tape on the internet was ‘against socialist core values’

China’s Communist authorities have said the distribution of a sex tape on the internet purportedly shot in a fitting room in one of Beijing’s trendiest shopping malls is “against socialist core values”, after the footage went viral.

The Cyberspace Administration of China said it had summoned executives from the country’s top social network service providers after censors took the clip down.

The footage shows a young couple, a man in black and a naked woman, apparently having sex in the changing room of a Uniqlo store in the capital.

The clip rapidly went viral on China’s Twitter-like Weibo and mobile messaging service WeChat, with scores of people going to take selfies outside the outlet, some mimicking the poses seen in the footage.

The administration ordered senior managers of Weibo’s operator Sina and Tencent, owner of WeChat, to cooperate in an investigation, the agency said in a statement.

“The viral circulation of the obscene fitting room video on the internet has severely violated socialist core values,” it cited an unnamed official as saying.

The organisation also suggested that the incident could have been a publicity stunt.

“Highly concerned Web users have reprimanded the acts that are suspected vulgar marketing or event marketing and have called for severe punishment,” the official said.

Sina and Tencent must “further improve their social responsibility awareness”, the official added.

China’s Communist Party oversees a vast censorship system, dubbed the Great Firewall, that aggressively blocks sites or snuffs out content and commentary that is pornographic, violent or deemed politically sensitive.

Popular social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are inaccessible in the country, as is YouTube.

Several Western news organisations have accused Beijing of blocking access to their websites in the past, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.

Uniqlo “firmly” denied the video was a marketing ploy in a statement posted on its website.

“As a responsible international brand, Uniqlo… would like to ask consumers to abide by social ethics, maintain social justice and correctly and properly use the fitting spaces provided by Uniqlo stores,” it said.

Netizens in China face more controls — “You might as well shut down the Chinese cyberspace.”

July 10, 2015


China’s authorities can get access to records, block spread of ‘illegal’ info and cut off Internet during crisis

The Chinese authorities will be able to access records and block dissemination of private information deemed illegal in China under a proposed cyber security law that could further curtail freedom for netizens and affect how foreign firms do business in the country.

The draft law will also empower local governments to cut Internet access during emergencies such as public protests or riots similar to the ethnic unrest in July 2009 that killed nearly 200 people in restive Xinjiang region.

The full text of the law was released on Monday by the Chinese parliament but reported by Chinese media on Wednesday. Public feedback is being sought until early next month and could lead to revisions before the law is passed.

A statement by the National People’s Congress said the 68-article law is needed to “safeguard national cyberspace sovereignty, security and development”.

China has been touting its concept of “cyberspace sovereignty” to rebut critics. It bans Google services and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and employs state-sponsored censors to monitor and remove politically damaging materials. It has also been accused of using hackers against foreign countries.


  • 1. Government will define and establish national and industry standards for technical systems and networks that technology vendors must observe.2. Internet service providers must support and assist the government in dealing with criminal investigations and matters of national security.3. Collection of user data by ISPs must comply with principles of legality, justice and necessity. Collected data must be adequately protected and breaches reported promptly.

    4. User data collected in China must be stored on Chinese territory, but exemption could be given for business purposes.

    5. Real-name registrations must be enforced strictly, especially on messaging applications.

    6. Employees of telecom operators must pass background checks. The Cyberspace Administration of China will review the firms’ practices and procurement processes, and provide help to implement the law.

Proponents of the law, mostly Chinese officials and cyber security experts, say it would beef up China’s defence against cyber attacks, protect users’ Internet data and ensure social stability amid public security threats. They also say the law largely formalises rules or practices already in place, such as requiring Chinese social media sites to make their users register with real names.

But the proposed legislation still sparked concerns among rights groups and netizens over tightening censorship.

Researcher Maya Wang from Human Rights Watch told The Straits Times that the ultimate effect of the law is that it will “further stifle the Internet, which is the only means people have to publicly express their opinions in China”.

Chinese netizens have scoffed at the proposed law, calling it a development that would put China on a par with reclusive North Korea.

“You might as well shut down the Chinese cyberspace,” wrote microblogger Teluner yesterday on the Twitter-like Weibo portal.

China has stepped up cyber security efforts after revelations in 2013 by former Central Intelligence Agency contractor Edward Snowden that China was among the countries targeted by US intelligence agencies. Another factor is the new Chinese leadership’s beliefs that tighter cyberspace control would help preserve the Communist Party’s rule.

President Xi Jinping heads a task force within the Communist Party that oversees cyber security and the promotion of information technologies across various sectors. It was set up early last year.

A national security law was passed on July 1, which contains cyber-related clauses aimed to make technology used in China “secure and controllable”.

The cyber security law contains similar clauses.

Cyber security expert Adam Segal from the Council on Foreign Relations in New York believes the new law could affect China’s relations with the United States.

Both countries have sparred over cyber security issues.

“Just weeks after the Strategic and Economic Dialogue ended, and months before President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States, cyber security and information technology are becoming an even greater source of tension in the bilateral relationship,” Mr Segal wrote in a blog yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2015, with the headline ‘Netizens in China face more controls’.

Is Your Brain Wired For China? Or Do You Think Like A Hongkonger?

July 2, 2015

By Annalisa Merelli

It’s no secret that people from Hong Kong see themselves as separate from the people of mainland China, even though the independently-administered city is meant to be absorbed fully by China in 2047. Last year’s so-called “Umbrella Movement” made that clear in the eyes of the rest of the world as well.


Hong Kongers, who sometimes refer to themselves as Hongkies, are proud of the differences between their lifestyles and habits and those of the mainland Chinese, and visiting mainlanders are often held up in Hong Kong for displaying what are considered poor manners.

Hong Kong design studio Local Studio has decided to sum up some of the differences between Mainland China and Hong Kong in a series of illustrations which, according to the website Shanghaiist, has gone viral. Titled “Hong Kong is not China”, and reminiscent of the the popular Paris vs New York tumblr (now a book), the illustrations juxtapose iconic elements of the two cultures to highlight the differences.

(Image by Local Studio HK)

Some of the images are straightforward and factual, and while critical of the lack of freedom of speech in China, it is hard to argue that they don’t depict the reality of government and media in China and Hong Kong.

(Image by Local Studio HK)

(Image by Local Studio HK)

(Image by Local Studio HK)

(Image by Local Studio HK)

(Image by Local Studio HK)

Other illustrations, however, attack Chinese products and habits—reflecting a series of stereotypes that do little to dispel Hong Kongers’ reputation on the mainland as snobbish.

(Image by Local Studio HK)

(Image by Local Studio HK)

(Image by Local Studio HK)

(Image by Local Studio HK)

(Image by Local Studio HK)

Some of the metaphoric images could be considered downright offensive.

(Image by Local Studio HK)

(Image by Local Studio HK)

(Image by Local Studio HK)

There is one thing, however, the authors of the campaign believe they have in common with mainland China (and presumably, they are not happy about it):

(Image by Local Studio HK)

Thailand student charged over anti-coup protest in Bangkok

June 24, 2015


Student Natchacha Kongudom flashes a three-finger salute inspired by the movie “The Hunger Games” in front of a billboard of the film outside the Siam Paragon cinema in Bangkok. (Reuters Photo)

BANGKOK (AFP) – A Thai student was on Wednesday charged over a peaceful anti-coup protest in Bangkok last month, her lawyer said, as dozens of activists gathered in support of other demonstrators summoned by the police.

The May 22 rally marking a year since Thailand’s generals seized power was a rare act of defiance against the junta, quashed when the police dragged away and held overnight dozens of students at the protest.

Supporters of seven activists expected to face charges over the protest gathered outside a police station in downtown Bangkok on Wednesday, cheering them on and holding up photos of the protesters being pulled away by the police last month. An eighth anti-coup protester was charged over the May rally at the city’s military court.

Natchacha Kongudom, 21, was charged for violating a junta order banning political gatherings of more than five people, said Mr Pawinee Chumsri, one of the lawyers representing the activists. “She was arrested this morning while at hospital, taken to the military court and charged,” Pawinee told AFP. The charge carries a penalty of up to six months in prison and a fine of 10,000 baht (S$400).

“She was arrested this morning while at hospital, taken to the military court and charged,” Pawinee told AFP. The charge carries a penalty of up to six months in prison and a fine of 10,000 baht ($300).

The communications arts student is being detained at a prison in Bangkok but has been granted bail and is expected to be released later today, Pawinee added.

Thai pro-democracy activists demonstrate outside Pathumwan Police Station in Bangkok as they mark the one-year anniversary of Thailand’s military coup on May 22, 2015. Photo by EPA
Meanwhile the seven other activists, including four students, were locked in a stand-off with authorities, refusing to enter the police station unless they could also press charges against police for their treatment at the rally last month.

Thailand’s military seized power in a May 2014 coup, ending months of sometimes violent protests against the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

It was the latest twist in nearly a decade of bitter political conflict pitting supporters of the Shinawatra family in the northern provinces against the largely Bangkok-based royalist elite, including large portions of the military.

Yingluck’s older brother Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup, but parties allied to the Shinawatras have won every election since 2001.

Earlier today, which marks 83 years since the end of an absolute monarchy in Thailand, police said three students were arrested and briefly detained for laying flowers at the capital’s Democracy Monument while another was arrested over a Facebook post marking the date.


European cyber police unit to take on Islamic State propaganda

June 22, 2015


The Islamic State group controls some 300,000 square kilometres (115,000 square miles), terrifying residents with a gruesome brutality that analysts say has become central to its existence

THE HAGUE (AFP) – European policeagencyEuropol said Monday it was launching acontinent-widecybercrime unit to combat social media accountspromotingjihadist propaganda, particularly those of the Islamic State (IS) group.The unit, set to start operating fromEuropol’s Hague-based headquarters next month, will comb tens of thousands of social media accounts connected with IS and report them to the companies behind the websites,Europol chief Rob Wainwright said.He declined to name Facebook and Twitter “for privacy reasons,” but said: “These are the leading social media companies. There’s only three or four, so that’s who we are talking about.”

The team “will focus on publicly-available material and combine what we see on social media with more traditional intelligence sources,” Wainwright told AFP in a telephone interview.

Initially consisting of some 15 to 20 members, the cyber squad will focus on key figures who put out thousands of tweets and run accounts used to lure would-be jihadists to Iraq and Syria, as well as to recruit jihadists’ brides.

A recent US study identified at least 46,000 Twitter accounts linked to supporters of the IS group, three-quarters of them tweeting in Arabic.

Since the IS group called on Muslims to come to the caliphate it declared a year ago, foreign fighter numbers have jumped, with the United Nations reporting a 71 percent spike in the nine months to April.

The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation in London said the number of foreigners fighting in Syria and Iraq topped 20,000 by January — with nearly a fifth of them from western Europe.

“The IS is the most well-connected terrorist organisation that we’ve seen online,” Wainwright pointed out.

“They are manipulating the Internet and social media, which has become a cornerstone in the lives of many young people,” he said.

Europol will draw on a decade of experience in monitoring extremist websites and well as “deep knowledge of extremist content and good linguistic capabilities including our knowledge of Arabic,” to combat the problem.

Wainwright said once an extremist account had been detected, the companies would be informed and it would be taken down in “a matter of a few hours.”


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