Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

China Rolls Up Welcome Mat (Donald Trump May Be Right)

May 3, 2016

Foreigners revisit assumption that openness that started under Deng could only grow

Shanghai in the 1930s was China’s most cosmopolitan city. After the Communist takeover in 1949, almost all its foreigners fled or were kicked out.
Shanghai in the 1930s was China’s most cosmopolitan city. After the Communist takeover in 1949, almost all its foreigners fled or were kicked out. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Updated May 3, 2016 2:00 a.m. ET

SHANGHAI— Henry Luce, the founder of Time magazine, was raised in China as the son of a Presbyterian missionary.

He and his family were among a population of foreigners that swelled to as many as half a million before 1949. Some were teachers, doctors and journalists. Others were merchants, engineers, architects and bankers. Within a few years of the Communist takeover almost all had fled or been kicked out. Mao harbored such loathing for Shanghai, China’s most cosmopolitan city, that he considered emptying it out completely after the revolution.

Deng Xiaoping’s “open door” economic reform policies in 1978 brought many of these groups flocking back. Many thought the openness would only grow.

It may be time to review that judgment: These days, foreigners are starting to feel less welcome. The Chinese legislature passed a law last week that puts all foreign NGOs under police administration with onerous registration and reporting requirements, essentially treating them as a security risk. Many will be forced to leave.

In line with this new mood of suspicion, a public poster campaign is warning young female government workers about “dangerous love” with foreign spies, a label frequently attached to the few foreigners who stayed on after 1949, particularly Americans.

State media regularly inveigh against “hostile foreign forces” trying to topple China’s socialist system.

Restrictions on foreign publications are tightening. Time, with a storied past in China, has joined a growing list of foreign news websites blocked by the Great Firewall. It includes the Economist, Bloomberg, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times—in addition to search engines and social-network sites like Google, Facebook andTwitter.

Christianity is in the firing line again: Authorities in eastern China, where missionaries labored before the revolution, are tearing down crosses atop churches.

Whole segments of the foreign business community complain that their prospects are narrowing. Last month, Apple Inc.—one of the great China success stories—had to shut down its online book and movie services due to new Internet restrictions.

More frivolously, the China Daily reports that the government plans to order residential compounds to switch from “exotic” English names to Chinese ones. Examples of the genre in Beijing include Merlin Champagne Town and Capital Paradise.

No, China isn’t closing for business. Compared with many other developing countries, it remains wide open. It is the world’s largest manufacturer, biggest trader and a magnet for foreign investment. About three-quarters of China’s high-tech exports come from foreign-invested companies.

China’s antiforeign turn is driven by several related trends. First, President Xi Jinping has a much lower tolerance than Deng for the unwelcome intrusion of foreign ideas about democracy, press freedom and individual rights that come along with trade and investment—what Deng called “flies and mosquitoes.”

The other day, Mr. Xi was railing against “Western capitalist values” invading the Communist Party’s own training schools.

Second, Mr. Xi is pushing ideology harder than any leader in decades. Increasingly, China sees itself in ideological confrontation with the West. In addition to stressing Marxism, Mr. Xi’s administration is seeking to revive traditional Chinese culture to counter Western ideas—thus, the hostility to crosses.

And Mr. Xi is promoting a strident form of nationalism. One aspect of this is much greater Chinese assertiveness in territorial disputes with neighbors, including Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Another is an explicit set of government policies aimed at helping Chinese firms replace their foreign rivals in the domestic market.

All of this adds uncertainty to the outlook for foreigners who have landed on China’s shores. The 2010 census put their number at almost 600,000, not including residents from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Inevitably, NGOs working on sensitive issues like legal reform, labor rights and gender equality will be monitored even more closely.

Multinationals can expect a rougher ride. U.S. tech companies, in particular, are threatened as China increasingly insists on using homegrown products in strategic sectors like banking and telecommunications.

Foreign businesses in general need to brace for the unexpected in a more politically charged atmosphere.

The new mood is reaching into Hong Kong. Businesses there were startled this year when a group of booksellers who specialized in salacious works about Chinese leaders went missing and popped up on the mainland. If, as many believe, they were abducted by Chinese security agents it raises troubling questions about the territory’s autonomy and rule of law that underpin its status as a global financial center.

The Henry Luces of our era are especially beleaguered. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has tried almost everything to break into China. In March, as part of his wooing efforts, he took off on a run through Tiananmen Square on a miserably polluted day.

Looming through the haze in the background was a portrait of Mao—the great expeller of foreigners whose ideas are making a big comeback in Mr. Xi’s more ideological China.

Write to Andrew Browne

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in gray shirt, runs past Mao’s portrait at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on a severely polluted day in March. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES/FACEBOOK

Britain’s Labour Party has secretly suspended 50 members for anti-Semitic and racist comments

May 3, 2016

The Telegraph

Labour has secretly suspended 50 members for anti-Semitic and racist comments


 Jeremy Corbyn in under increasing pressure over an anti-Semitism row Credit: PA
Labour has secretly suspended 50 of its members over anti-Semitic and racist comments as officials struggle to cope with the crisis engulfing  the party.

.Senior sources reveal that Labour’s compliance unit has been swamped by the influx of hard-left supporters following Jeremy Corbyn’s election.


Ranieri tells fans: We want to improve a lot Claudio Ranieri tells fans ‘we want to improve a lot’ Play! 01:40
The  suspensions that have been made public so far are said to be just the tip of the iceberg.


On Monday night Mr Corbyn appeared to acknowledge there was a problem for the first time, while insisting it was “not huge”. He told the Daily Mirror: “What there is is a very small number of people that have said things that they should not have done. We have therefore said they will be suspended and investigated.”

Nah Shah was suspended for comments she made about the "relocation" of Israel

Nah Shah was suspended for comments she made about the “relocation” of Israel Credit: PA
There is growing pressure on the Labour leader ahead of the local elections on Thursday, in which his party is forecast to lose more  than 100 seats.Senior figures are now so concerned about the row that they are openly discussing the possibility of an attempted coup following the EU referendum.

MPs are said to be plotting a coup to remove Mr Corbyn after the election if things go badly, with shadow chancellor John McDonnell  poised to take over.

It prompted Mr McDonnell to issue an extraordinary denial of the claims on Monday night.

He said: “Media and right wing dirty tricks and lies trying to divide me and Jeremy. They should know it only unites us even more and makes us stronger.”

Also on Sunday night shadow education secretary Lucy Powell became the first shadow cabinet minister to acknowledge the party had a problem with anti-Semitism.

She told Channel 4 News : “There clearly is an issue with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party otherwise we wouldn’t have spent the best part of the last six or seven days talking about it.

“I think it is a very small element within the Labour Party and probably a small element in wider society as well. And that’s why we are taking swift action to root it out.”

On Monday it emerged that the party suspended three councillors within  seven hours  over a series of allegedly anti-Semitic posts on Twitter and Facebook.

Two of them had called for Israeli Jews to be relocated to America while a third compared a former Premier League footballer to Hitler.

Diane Abbott clashes with Andrew Marr while defending Labour Diane Abbott clashes with Andrew Marr while defending Labour Play! 01:00

A senior source within the party told The Telegraph that the problem went much further and the compliance unit has actually suspended 50 members  in the past two months.

They include up to 20 members within the past two weeks alone, with the unit struggling to cope because it does not have necessary resources.

Only 13 Labour members have been publicly named since October after being suspended.  The source said: “There are just six people in the compliance unit with one more joining after the EU referendum and frankly, it’s  nowhere near enough.

“They can’t cope with the number of new members that have joined since Jeremy became leader, they need more resources.”

John McDonnell once called for an end to the compliance unit

John McDonnell once called for an end to the compliance unit Credit: Telegraph

Mr Corbyn is facing one of the most dangerous periods of his  leadership after he was last week forced to suspend Naz Shah, a Labour  MP, and Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London, over alleged  anti-Semitic comments.

Jonathan Arkush, the President of the Board of Deputies of British  Jews, said that Mr Corbyn’s failure to accept that there was a more  widespread problem is “an issue in itself”.

Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London

He said: “Labour will need to consider whether the compliance unit is  the right approach or whether there needs to be a stronger mechanism  to deal with what we see, to our sadness, to be a pretty serious  problem in the current party membership.”

John Woodcock, a Labour MP and critic of Mr Corbyn, said: “The Labour  party should make public the number of incidents it has had reported  in recent years to the present, we mustn’t allow any impression that  we are seeking to minimise this very serious issue or sweep it under  the carpet.”

Mr McDonnell has previously called for the  compliance unit to be scrapped altogether. His intervention was  described as “sickeningly irresponsible”.


Jeremy Corbyn denounces racism at May Day rally Jeremy Corbyn denounces racism at May Day rally Play! 00:54

It came as Emma Thompson, previously one of Labour’s key supporters, admitted she will not vote for the party in the forthcoming Mayoral  election because she no longer feels that the party reflects her  views.

Tom Watson, Labour’s Deputy Leader, voiced concerns that the anti-Semitism row could damage the party’s prospects in the local election.

Sadiq Khan, the party’s London Mayoral candidate, has also raised  concerns that he may lose because of the row.  Despite the row Mr Corbyn and his allies have sought to downplay the problem.

Diane Abbott, the shadow international development secretary, said claims that Labour has a problem with anti-semitism are a “smear” while Len McCluskey, the leader of the Unite union, accused critics of using the row to undermine the Labour leader.

One Labour MP said:”There’s clearly a problem that needs to be dealt with and it’s not right that well known figures in Labour like Jeremy and Diane and Len are constantly trying to downplay the issue when there is an problem that we need to address.

“People would have much more trust if we set out openly the scale of the issue we are facing and publish the number of people who have been suspended.”

Labour was on Monday forced to suspended three councillors within  seven hours over material on Twitter and Facebook.

Mr Aziz posted this image to Facebook

Mr Aziz posted this image to Facebook Credit: Facebook

Ilyas Aziz, a Nottingham councillor, was suspended when it emerged  that he said on Facebook that “it would be wiser to create Israel in America it’s big enough. They could relocate even now [sic]”.

Salim Mulla, a former mayor of Blackburn, was suspended a few hours  later when it was found that he had posted the same graphic proposing  Israel’s relocation to the United States.

Shah Hussain, of Burnley council, tweeted to Israeli footballer Yossi  Bennayouyn that “you and your country doing the same thing that hitler  did to ur race in ww2 [sic]”.

Speaking to The Telegraph Mr Aziz denied that the comments he posted  were anti-Semitic and insisted that the media was “trying to stir up  trouble”.

The compliance unit suspends members who are reported for “bringing  the party into disrepute”. It assesses material on social media websites and elsewhere and then launches a formal investigation.

A source close to the Labour leader said the party does not comment on the number of suspensions but added that Diane Abbott said on Sunday that there have been “12 reported incidents of anti-Semitism” in the party.

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U.S. Stocks Extend Losses as Tech Sector Slumps — Disappointing quarterly results from high-profile tech companies including Microsoft, Apple

April 29, 2016

Declines in technology companies’ stocks all but wipe out monthly gains for major indexes

The Wall Street Journal
Updated April 29, 2016 2:40 p.m. ET
U.S. stocks fell Friday, as deepening technology-sector declines threatened to wipe out monthly gains for major indexes.

The selloff in tech drove stocks toward their worst weekly loss since early February, leading some analysts and traders to question whether sentiment for the overall market could be shifting.

The tech sector, which has the largest sector weighting in the S&P 500, is on track for its second consecutive week of sharp losses. A string of disappointing quarterly results from high-profile tech companies—including Microsoft and Apple—has led to persistent selling in the group in recent sessions, making it the worst-performing sector year to date.

The tech-led declines have all but wiped out monthly gains for major indexes. As recently as April 20, the S&P 500 was up 2.1% for the month and the Nasdaq Composite was up 1.6%. The S&P 500 is now on track for a flat finish, while the Nasdaq Composite is on pace for a 2.4% decline.

“Tech is such a vibrant area everyone looks to,” said Dan Morgan, senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust Co. whose fund owns shares of multiple tech companies including Apple. “The fact that earnings weren’t as good as everyone hoped, I wonder if that changes the sentiment in the market.”

He said he was pleased that the week ended with encouraging earnings from Facebook and However, he said he’s not sure if it will be enough to stem the bleeding in either the tech sector or the overall market.

“Overall, tech was a tough cycle this quarter,” he said. “We started off this week getting a bloody nose with Apple and Twitter and last week was a tough slide.”

On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 152 points, or 0.9%, to 17679. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost 1.1%.

The S&P 500 slumped 1.1%, weighed down by tech companies. Friday’s decline put the tech sector on pace for a weekly loss of 3.9%.

Biotechnology stocks also posted big declines. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index fell 3%, putting its yearly drop at 19%. Gilead Sciences, one of the index’s worst performers, fell 8.8% after the company said late Thursday that revenue from its hepatitis C drugs fell in the first quarter. was a rare bright spot Friday, as shares gained 8.8% after it reported its most profitable quarter ever late Thursday.

The Stoxx Europe 600 declined 2.1%, following a weak session in Asia.

Haven assets extended gains Friday. Gold rose 1.9% to $1,289.20 an ounce.

U.S.-traded crude oil fell 1.5% at $45.38 a barrel, after settling at a fresh high for the year on Thursday.

The personal-consumption expenditures price index, the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation measure, rose 0.1% in March from the prior month, data showed Friday, after Thursday’s GDP report missed expectations.

In currencies, the dollar continued to fall against its developed and emerging-market peers Friday as soft economic data eroded expectations for a U.S. interest-rate increase in June.

The yen hit an 18-month high against the dollar, weighed down by disappointment over the Bank of Japan’s decision to leave its monetary policy unchanged on Thursday.

Shares of Gilead Sciences declined after the company said that revenue from its hepatitis C drugs fell in the first quarter. Above, the company’s headquarters in Foster City, Calif. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

The euro rose 0.8% to $1.1444, following four consecutive sessions of gains. The euro was bolstered Friday after data showed growth in the eurozone picked up in the first quarter.

The Chinese yuan was more than half a percent higher against the dollar, its biggest daily increase since it was de-pegged from the U.S. currency in 2005.

Stocks in Europe are up solidly for the month, while stocks in the U.S. are on track to eke out slight monthly gains. Still, markets have struggled to keep the momentum going in recent sessions, as economic and corporate readings have painted a mixed picture.

“The fundamental question dividing the market now is whether we’re rallying off the bottom, or if we are two-thirds of the way down with more losses to come,” said Neil Passmore, CEO of Hannam and Partners.

Stock markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai also fell Friday, while markets in Japan were closed for a holiday. For the month, the Hang Seng Index rose 1.4% while the Shanghai Composite fell 2.2%.

Shares in Australia, however, eked out small gains Fridays, buoyed by rising commodity prices.

Write to Corrie Driebusch at and Riva Gold at


APRIL 29, 2016

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks are skidding Friday as technology companies absorb big losses for the second day in a row. Health care companies are falling after weak first-quarter reports from drug and health insurance companies. Markets in Europe also took hefty losses.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 148 points, or 0.8 percent, to 17,682 as of 2:12 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 22 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,053. The Nasdaq composite index lost 52 points, or 1.1 percent, to 4,753. Losses over the last two days have wiped out the Dow and S&P 500’s gains from earlier this month. The Nasdaq is set to fall for the seventh day in a row.

TAKEN ILL: Health care companies fell after a bout of weak earnings reports. Biotech drugmaker Gilead Sciences said its results were hurt by big discounts and rebates on its costly hepatitis C medicines, and its stock lost $8.52, or 8.8 percent, to $88.48. Rival biotech giant Amgen reported relatively solid results, but fell $3.05, or 1.9 percent, to $157.51.

Health insurer Molina Healthcare slashed its full-year guidance because of higher medical care costs in Ohio and Texas, expenses related to recent acquisitions, and pharmacy costs, especially in Puerto Rico. It plunged $12.87, or 20 percent, to $51.35.

Molecular diagnostics company Cepheid shed $7, or 19.8 percent, to $28.40 as analysts were disappointed with its revenue projections for the second quarter.

TECH TURMOIL: Tech stocks continued to slide. Electronic storage company Seagate Technology lost $5.04, or 18.7 percent, to $21.86 after its profit fell short of estimates. Hard drive maker Western Digital dropped $6.20, or 13.5 percent, to $39.86. Apple, which is in a deep two-week slide, fell another $1.60, or 1.7 percent, to $93.23. The world’s most valuable public company is close to its lowest price of 2016.

THE QUOTE: Tech stocks are now the worst-performing group of stocks on the market this year. Dan Suzuki, senior U.S. equities strategist at Bank of America, said investors don’t like what they’re seeing in tech company results.

“A lot of investors have been disappointed by results from tech this earnings season,” he said. So they are turning to bond-like stocks such as phone and utility companies, as well as small- and mid-cap stocks, which struggled in 2015.

“Everything that was working through last year has been an underperformer this year, and vice versa,” he said.

AMAZON STRONG: E-commerce giant Amazon rose $52.83, or 8.8 percent, to $654.83. The company said revenue jumped 28 percent in the first quarter, and the company turned a far bigger profit than analysts expected. Cloud-based Amazon Web Services performed well.

Despite the broad losses, consumer stocks were trading a bit higher on the strength of Amazon stock.

BOOKED: Online travel company Expedia reported a bigger adjusted profit and greater sales than expected. Its stock added $8.24, or 7.7 percent, to $115.23.

CHANNEL CHANGER: Digital TV listing company Rovi will buy digital video recording company TiVo for about $1.1 billion in cash and stock. TiVo stock gained 54 cents, or 5.7 percent, to $9.96 and Rovi was unchanged at $17.35.

OVERSEAS: Stocks in Europe took big losses. Official data showed the eurozone economy rose by a surprising 0.6 percent in the first quarter, but investors were concerned that inflation slipped in April. France’s CAC 40 fell 2.8 percent and Germany’s DAX lost 2.7 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 shed 1.3 percent.

Japanese markets were closed for a holiday. They plunged Thursday after the Bank of Japan held off on implementing any new economic stimulus measures. The yen strengthened, and that trend continued on Friday as the dollar fell to 106.76 yen from 108.09 yen. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 1.5 percent and Seoul’s Kospi gave up 0.3 percent.

CONSUMERS CAREFUL: Consumer spending edged 0.1 percent higher in March. Consumers spent more on clothing and less on long-lasting items like cars. Consumer spending has been weak this year, but employers keep hiring.

NO DEAL: Groupon sank 62 cents, or 14.1 percent, to $3.81. The daily deals site reported strong results but left its guidance unchanged.

DRINK UP: Monster Beverage gained $15.94, or 12.5 percent, to $143.79. The energy drink company’s results surpassed analyst estimates. Monster Beverage also said it will buy back $2 billion of its own stock.

METALS: Metals prices continued to rise. Gold advanced $24.10, or 1.9 percent, to $1,290.50 an ounce and silver rose 23 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $17.82 an ounce. Gold is trading at 15-month highs. Copper picked up 5 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $2.28 a pound.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 63 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $45.40 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slid 81 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $46.96 a barrel in London.

BONDS, CURRENCY: Bond prices barely budged. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note held steady at 1.83 percent. The euro rose to $1.1445 from $1.1351.


AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at His work can be found at


  (This is from October 2014 but many still feel like they did then)

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has described the “stagnant living standards for the majority.”

The ripple effect of the president’s tax hikes is swamping take-home pay


MIT economist Jonathan Gruber testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, before the House Oversight Committee health care hearing. Congressional Democrats charged Tuesday that Republicans are seizing on a health adviser’s self-described “thoughtless” and misleading remarks to attack President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

ACA Architect: ‘The Stupidity Of The American Voter’ Led Us To Hide Obamacare’s True Costs From The Public

Guangzhou activists face up to 4.5 years in prison for supporting HK’s pro-democracy Occupy protests

April 8, 2016

Four Guangzhou activists will be facing jail terms for inciting subversion of state power after showing support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Occupy protests  in 2014.

The Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on Friday morning sentenced Xie Wenfei and Wang Mo to four-and-a-half years in jail, and Zhang Shengyu to four years, Apple Daily reported. The court had earlier found the three guilty of inciting state subversion after they held up signs in support of genuine universal suffrage in Guangzhou in October 2014, Commercial Radio reported.

pro-democracy activists

Xie, Zhang, Wang and Liang.

Three had already been detained for over a year. They were initially arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”, but the charge was later amended to inciting subversion.

Defence lawyer Chen Keyun, who represented Xie Wenfei and Wang Mo in court, said that the sentence was too heavy and that they would be lodging an appeal. He also said that universal suffrage had been “a solemn promise made by the Communist Party”, which meant that it could not be further from constituting subversion.

Blogger Liang Qinhui was also sentenced to 18 months for subversion by the same court after publishing an article demanding China implement democracy.

liang zhang activists

Liang and Zhang. Photo: Weiquan.

US, British, Belgian and Norwegian Consulates officials were not allowed into the court and could only speak to human rights activists outside. Social commentator Johnny Lau Yui-Siu said he believed the heavy sentence had to do with China’s wishes to drown out voices calling for Hong Kong independence and “separatism”, RTHK reported.

The activists were among many taken into custody after posting messages on social media and holding up banners in public to support the Hong Kong protests. “We believe that the ruling was unjust and demand that the Chinese government immediately release them – as well as all other human rights activists that supported the Hong Kong Occupy protests – rather than oppressing them for exercising their freedom of speech,” human rights group Amnesty International said following the sentencing.

In January, grassroots human rights activists known as the “three gentlemen of Guangzhou” who initiated the “non-cooperation movement” and commemoration events of the Tiananmen Massacre were also jailed on subversion charges.


Four in Mainland China That Supported Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Protests Convicted of Subversion — Two sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison

April 8, 2016
World | Fri Apr 8, 2016 8:34am EDT

A court in southern China on Friday jailed four activists who had publicly supported Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Occupy Central movement and who had criticized the Chinese Communist Party on social media, a lawyer said.

Two of them, Xie Wenfei and Wang Mo, were sentenced to four-and-a-half years by the intermediate people’s court in the city of Guangzhou after having been found guilty of “inciting subversion of state power”, their lawyer Chen Keyun told Reuters by telephone.


Chinese activists Xiewen Fei (L) and Wang Mo (R) are pictured in an undated photo.

The Guangzhou Intermediate court declined to give any details of the charges or sentences when contacted by Reuters.

Chen said Xie and Wang had held up placards on a Guangzhou street in support of Hong Kong’s youth-led Occupy Central movement that saw tens of thousands block major roads for 79 days in late 2014 to pressure Beijing for full democracy in the Chinese-controlled city.

“This does not constitute any illegal behavior. On the contrary, we think not only were they not inciting subversion to the state’s power, but they were actually safeguarding the state’s power,” said Chen. He denounced the sentence, saying the men should be free to call for universal suffrage as a fundamental right.

The pair had also openly posted messages on Twitter and Weibo criticizing the ruling Communist Party and calling for an end to one-party rule.

Two others, Zhang Rongping and Liang Qinhui, were jailed for four years and one-and-a-half years respectively on similar charges. They, too, had expressed support for Hong Kong’s Occupy movement. Their lawyers, however, weren’t reachable for comment.

Security was tight outside courthouse with a large number of police vans parked outside. Foreign reporters and diplomats were barred from the courtroom, one witness there told Reuters.

In March, the United States and 11 other countries at the United Nations criticized China’s crackdown on human rights and its detentions of lawyers and activists.

Chinese police have detained about 250 human rights lawyers, legal assistants, and activists across the country since a nationwide crackdown began last July, according to the U.N., though a number have since been released.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise of wide-ranging autonomy, including an independent legal system and freedom of speech.

(Reporting by Teenie Ho and James Pomfret; Editing by John Ruwitch and Nick Macfie)


From November 19, 2015

Two Chinese activists who publicly supported last year’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong stood trial for subversion at a court in the southern province of Guangdong on Thursday, their lawyers said.

Xie Wenfei and Wang Mo appeared at the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on Thursday charged with “incitement to subvert state power” in a trial that closed after only one day.

Xie shouted “Abolish the one-party dictatorship, build a democratic China!” repeatedly all the way from the detention center and throughout the hearing, Wang’s defense lawyer Tan Chenshou told RFA.

He was carried into the court chamber after refusing to attend the trial in protest at the detention of his lawyer, Xie Yang, Tan said.

Wang, for his part, shouted “Down with the Communist Party!” when he was brought into the court.

“Neither of them pleaded guilty. They said in their final statements that the government should be constituted through regular elections and respond to the demands of the people, and continually prove its legitimacy,” Tan said.

The indictment against Wang lists his holding up of a placard in support of the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong, as well as “sensitive” tweets on Twitter.

“They probably think [even his tweets] amount to incitement to overthrow the government,” Tan said.

But he rejected the charges against his client.

“This was a symbolic expression of his views; he used his actions to make his thoughts and ideas known, which is protected in law,” Tan said, citing the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights covenants, as well as China’s own constitution.

“The defense team will be arguing that they are not guilty.”

Xie, who is also known as Xie Fengxia, was also detained in October 2014 amid a nationwide roundup of at least 100 mainland Chinese supporters of Occupy Central.

He was wearing a black T-shirt and holding a banner in support of the 79-day pro-democracy movement on the streets of Guangzhou.

‘Very brave’

Guangzhou-based rights activist Jia Pin, who was held under criminal detention for a month around the same time, said he is a good friend of both men.

“Xie Wenfei … is a very brave person, and his rights activism and protest actions have had a big impact,” Jia told RFA ahead of the trial. “He has carried out a number of street protests, carrying banners and placards, including those in support of other activists.”

“Wang Mo has also shown great courage in his activism; one time in 2012 I remember him handing out leaflets in Nanjing about June 4, 1989,” he said.

“Also, he was constantly trying to raise awareness of [the Twitter-like service] Sina Weibo, where his account was always being shut down.”

Jia said he believes both Xie, 38, and Wang, 43, are innocent.

“All we did last year was to hold up banners, nothing more,” he said. “There was no negative effect on society whatsoever; we didn’t block traffic, nor did we hurt anyone.”

“It was all totally within the law.”

Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, so named after thousands of protesters used umbrellas to stave off pepper spray and tear gas in clashes with riot police on Sept. 28, 2014, brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the city’s streets at its height amid widespread calls for fully democratic elections.

A decree from China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), which activists and pan-democratic politicians dismissed as “fake universal suffrage,” would have required any candidates running for chief executive in 2017 to be approved by Beijing.

However, the NPC’s reform package was eventually voted down in the city’s Legislative Council last June, and the current system of election by a pro-Beijing committee still stands.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

U.S. says China internet censorship a burden for businesses

April 8, 2016
Fri Apr 8, 2016 4:59am EDT

The United States has labeled China’s internet censorship a trade barrier in a report for the first time since 2013, saying worsening online restrictions are damaging the business of U.S. companies.

Since Xi Jinping became China’s president that year, the U.S. had not listed China’s so-called Great Firewall as a trade impediment despite widespread outcry that the online blocks limit access to crucial information, email and search services such as those found on Google’s platform.

“Outright blocking of websites appears to have worsened over the past year, with eight of the top 25 most trafficked global sites now blocked in China,” the U.S. Trade Representative wrote in its annual report on foreign trader barriers.

“Over the past decade, China’s filtering of cross-border internet traffic has posed a significant burden to foreign suppliers, hurting both internet sites themselves, and users who often depend on them for their business,” the USTR said in the report, released last week.

The move could push the issue beyond a sticking point in bilateral ties over human rights and security, though with a litany of trade disputes already on the table, the degree to which it will feature in talks remains to be seen.

China has long operated the world’s most sophisticated online censorship mechanism known as the Great Firewall.

The websites for Google’s (GOOGL.O) services, Facebook (FB.O) and Twitter (TWTR.N) are all inaccessible in China. Officials say web controls help maintain social stability and national security in the face of threats such as terrorism.

Under Xi, the government has implemented an unprecedented tightening of internet controls, and sought to codify the policy within the law.

According to data from the anti-censorship group, almost a quarter of the hundreds of thousands of web pages, domains, encrypted sites, online searches and IP addresses that it monitors in China were blocked as of early April.

That was up from 14 percent at the time Xi assumed the presidency.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing on Friday that a country’s independent choice for internet governance should be respected.

“China’s internet is vigorously expanding and providing vast space for companies from other countries to grow,” Hong said. “China’s policy to attract foreign investment will not change.”

The Cyberspace Administration of China did not immediately respond to faxed questions, while the Ministry of Commerce declined to comment.

Foreign business lobbies have long complained that Chinese internet restrictions go beyond inconvenience and actually limit business competitiveness.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China said in its most recent report on China’s business environment that its members faced “severe challenges competing in China’s telecommunications and internet sectors due to investment restrictions, security controls and a range of protectionist measures”.

The lobby’s 2016 business climate survey showed 79 percent of its members reported a negative impact on business due to internet censorship.

The USTR report said much of what China blocked online did not seem to fall within the realm of what was necessary to maintain social stability and national security.

“Much of the blocking appears arbitrary. For example, a major home improvement site in the United States, which would appear wholly innocuous, is typical of sites likely swept up by the Great Firewall,” it said.

(Additional reporting by Jessica Macy Yu and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by John Ruwitch and Ryan Woo)



U.S. Adds China’s Internet Controls to List of Trade Barriers

HONG KONG — China’s notorious online controls have long been criticized as censorship by human rights groups, businesses, Chinese Internet users and others.

Now they have earned a new label from the American government: trade barrier.

United States trade officials have for the first time added China’s system of Internet filters and blocks — broadly known as the Great Firewall — to an annual list of trade impediments. The entry says that over the last decade, the limits have “posed a significant burden to foreign suppliers, hurting both Internet sites themselves and users who often depend on them for business.”

The move, which isn’t likely to have immediate repercussions, speaks to the American government’s growing concern over Chinese Internet regulations and could foreshadow more aggressive actions. It also underscores the opposing visions the world’s two largest economies have on how the Internet should work and be managed.

Read the rest:


Vatican of Pope Francis Ramps Up “Catholic” Internet Domain Name

April 6, 2016


© AFP | Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square after his weekly general audience at the Vatican on April 6, 2016

VATICAN CITY (AFP) – The Vatican has set up a new office charged with promoting the use of the .Catholic domain name, in its latest move to upgrade its communications for the digital era.

With a staff of eight IT experts, the new office will seek to expand the use of the domain name by all Church and Church-affiliated bodies with the aim of assuring Internet users they are dealing with officially sanctioned sites.

The Vatican acquired .Catholic at the end of 2013 when the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) decided to approve thousands of new personalised domains to cope with increased demand for websites.

In addition to .Catholic, the Vatican acquired the equivalent domain names in Arabic, Chinese and Russian scripts.

The Vatican’s communications department is undergoing a huge reorganisation on the orders of Pope Francis, who has a keen grasp of the importance of the online world.

The 79-year-old pontiff is one of the most prominent global figures on Twitter with some 30 million followers in nine languages.

He recently made his debut on Instagram and has acquired 2.2 million followers on the picture-sharing network in just over two weeks.

He also regularly sends out video messages via YouTube.

In his latest dispatch, a monthly prayer message for April, Francis pays tribute to small farmers around the world and offers them them his support in their struggle for survival in the face of myriad economic and environmental pressures.

“Your work is indispensable for all of humanity,” he says. “You deserve a life of dignity.”

North Korea Now Blocking Facebook, Twitter, Other Websites

April 1, 2016

APRIL 1, 2016, 2:51 A.M. E.D.T.

PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea has officially announced it is blocking Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and South Korean websites in a move underscoring its concern with the spread of online information.

The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications announcement was posted this week at the country’s main mobile service provider, Koryolink, and other places serving Internet users.

Very few North Koreans have Internet access. Typically they can see only a sealed-off, government-sanctioned intranet. But foreigners had previously been able to surf the Web with almost no overt restrictions, though most likely with behind-the-scenes monitoring of their Internet activities.

North Korea Internet –  North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)

The new restrictions will make it more difficult for visitors or the small community of foreign residents in North Korea to post real-time information about the country to the outside world, and will further limit the ability of North Koreans with Internet access to view information about their country posted elsewhere.

The government announcement named YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Voice of America and South Korean media sites as specific examples of what it is blocking “for a certain period of time.”

Facebook and Twitter had been informally blocked for months and could not be accessed Friday in a Web search from Pyongyang.

The announcement added that anyone who tries to hack onto such sites, access them in an “improper” way or distribute “anti-republic data” from them will be subject to punishment under North Korean law. It did not say what the punishment would be.

The new North Korean restrictions are similar to Internet censorship in neighboring China, which allows more access in general but also maintains strict bans on sites that Beijing deems politically sensitive or socially harmful.

They also mirror some restrictions in South Korea, which, despite being one of the world’s most Internet-crazy countries, also bans North Korean websites and a wide variety of what the government deems to be adult content.

It is estimated that more than 2 million North Koreans now use mobile phones, but with few exceptions access to the Internet is limited to officials, technicians or others who have special permission to use it, usually under close supervision.

North Korea decided in 2013 to allow foreigners in the country to use 3G on their mobile phones, which generally require a local SIM card to get onto the Koryolink mobile carrier network.

That opened the door for them to surf the net and to post to social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. More recently, even live-streaming video had been posted using the new Twitter app Periscope.

But Pyongyang, looking to maintain control over the flow of news getting out and concerned that local people may have also been finding ways onto the Web, has been quietly experimenting with Internet controls for some time.

Instagram was not on the new list of officially banned sites and was functioning normally.

In Thailand, Woman Faces Military Trial, 7 Years in Jail for Facebook Posting

March 31, 2016

From Human Rights Watch

(New York) – Sedition charges for a Facebook photo expressing symbolic support for Thailand’s political opposition shows the military junta’s utter disregard for peaceful dissent, Human Rights Watch said today. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta should immediately end its abusive use of the draconian sedition law against peaceful critics and dissenters.

Thailand’s Red Bowl Caper: Theerawan Charoensuk faces a sedition charge in Thailand’s military court for posting a photo of herself holding a plastic bowl that she received from the deposed prime ministers.

On March 29, 2016, authorities arrested 57-year-old Theerawan Charoensuk for posting her photo holding a red plastic bowl inscribed with Thai New Year greetings from former Prime Ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shonawatra. Chiang Mai military court released her on 100,000 baht (US$ 2800) bail pending a military trial. If found guilty, Theerawan could face up to seven years in prison.
“The Thai junta’s fears of a red plastic bowl show its intolerance of dissent has reached the point of absolute absurdity,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “When military courts try people for sedition for posting photos with holiday gifts from deposed leaders, it’s clear that the end of repression is nowhere in sight.”
Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan defended the charges in a media interview on March 29: “The charge [against Theerawan] is not arbitrary or groundless. She violated the law. Tell me if you think what she did was not provocative or led to division in the society. We don’t want to arrest anyone. But those people should listen to our warning not to undertake political activities.”

The junta considers any peaceful expression of dissenting opinions to be a threat to national security. The military authority also prosecutes those it accuses of being involved in anti-junta activities or supporting the deposed government.

Sedition is defined under article 116 of Thailand’s Criminal Code as:

Whoever makes apparent to the public by words, writing or any other means anything which is not an act within the purpose of the constitution or which is not the expression of an honest opinion or criticism (a) in order to bring about a change in the laws or the government by the use of coercion or violence, (b) in order to raise confusion or disaffection amongst the people to the point of causing unrest in the kingdom, or (c) have people violate the law, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding seven years.

Since the military coup in May 2014, at least 38 people have been charged with sedition – including former Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng for a speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand criticizing military rule (May 2014); Sombat Boongamanong, an activist, for Facebook and Twitter posts calling people to join anti-junta rallies (June 2014); Pansak Srithep, an activist, for saying the military should be held accountable for the 2010 political violence and calling for an end to military trials of civilians (March 2015); and 14 activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM) for staging a rally demanding a transition to democratic civilian rule (June 2015).

NCPO chairman and Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha said at a January 21 news conference that the authorities had wide leeway to arrest anyone deemed to be opposed to military rule:

Why don’t people respect the laws instead of asking for democracy and human rights all the time?… No one is allowed to oppose [the NCPO]. I dare you to try to oppose [the NCPO]…. I don’t care what the international community would think about this. I will send officials to explain to foreign embassies. I am not afraid of them. I will tell them to understand that this is Thailand and we are enforcing Thai laws.

“Thailand’s friends and neighbors should make clear that with each ludicrous new arrest, the junta’s global standing drops lower and lower,” Adams said. “They should press the junta to end its persecution of peaceful dissent and fulfill its frequent promises to restore democratic rule.”



Turkey ‘protests over EU consuls attending journalists’ trial’

March 28, 2016


© AFP/File | Editor-in-chief of Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, Can Dundar (L), and Ankara editor Erdem Gul hold hands as they arrive at the Istanbul courthouse before their trial on March 25, 2016

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey has protested to foreign missions over the presence of consuls from EU states at the espionage trial of two journalists, and their comments online, a diplomatic source said Monday.

“We have conveyed our discomfort to the concerned countries’ representatives over the comments shared on social media which may constitute interference in the independent judicial process and which do not comply with impartiality,” the source said.

The trial of two top journalists from the Cumhuriyet daily last week was attended by top diplomats including the British consul to Istanbul, who published pictures from the court on Twitter.


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