BEIJING

People take pictures of paramilitary officers marching in formation in Tiananmen Square in Beijing
People take pictures of paramilitary officers marching in formation in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

May 26, 2019

By Cate Cadell

BEIJING (Reuters) – It’s the most sensitive day of the year for China’s internet, the anniversary of the bloody June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square, and with under two weeks to go, China’s robot censors are working overtime.

Censors at Chinese internet companies say tools to detect and block content related to the 1989 crackdown have reached unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition.

“We sometimes say that the artificial intelligence is a scalpel, and a human is a machete,” said one content screening employee at Beijing Bytedance Co Ltd, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to media.

Two employees at the firm said censorship of the Tiananmen crackdown, along with other highly sensitive issues including Taiwan and Tibet, is now largely automated.

Posts that allude to dates, images and names associated with the protests are automatically rejected.

“When I first began this kind of work four years ago there was opportunity to remove the images of Tiananmen, but now the artificial intelligence is very accurate,” one of the people said.

Four censors, working across Bytedance, Weibo Corp and Baidu Inc apps said they censor between 5,000-10,000 pieces of information a day, or five to seven pieces a minute, most of which they said were pornographic or violent content.

Despite advances in AI censorship, current-day tourist snaps in the square are sometimes unintentionally blocked, one of the censors said.

Bytedance declined to comment, while Weibo and Baidu did not respond to requests for comment.

SENSITIVE PERIOD

The Tiananmen crackdown is a taboo subject in China 30 years after the government sent tanks to quell student-led protests calling for democratic reforms. Beijing has never released a death toll but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

June 4th itself is marked by a cat-and-mouse game as people use more and more obscure references on social media sites, with obvious allusions blocked immediately. In some years, even the word “today” has been scrubbed.

In 2012, China’s most-watched stock index fell 64.89 points on the anniversary day https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-stocks-tiananmen-idUSBRE8530F720120604, echoing the date of the original event in what analysts said was likely a strange coincidence rather than a deliberate reference.

Still, censors blocked access to the term “Shanghai stock market” and to the index numbers themselves on microblogs, along with other obscure references to sensitive issues.

While companies censorship tools are becoming more refined, analysts, academics and users say heavy-handed policies mean sensitive periods before anniversaries and political events have become catch-alls for a wide range of sensitive content.

In the lead-up to this year’s Tiananmen Square anniversary, censorship on social media has targeted LGBT groups, labor and environment activists and NGOs, they say.

Upgrades to censorship tech have been urged on by new policies introduced by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). The group was set up – and officially led – by President Xi Jinping, whose tenure has been defined by increasingly strict ideological control of the internet.

The CAC did not respond to a request for comment.

Last November, the CAC introduced new rules aimed at quashing dissent online in China, where “falsifying the history of the Communist Party” on the internet is a punishable offence for both platforms and individuals.

The new rules require assessment reports and site visits for any internet platform that could be used to “socially mobilize” or lead to “major changes in public opinion”, including access to real names, network addresses, times of use, chat logs and call logs.

One official who works for CAC told Reuters the recent boost in online censorship is “very likely” linked to the upcoming anniversary.

“There is constant communication with the companies during this time,” said the official, who declined to directly talk about the Tiananmen, instead referring to the “the sensitive period in June”.

Companies, which are largely responsible for their own censorship, receive little in the way of directives from the CAC, but are responsible for creating guidelines in their own “internal ethical and party units”, the official said.

SECRET FACTS

With Xi’s tightening grip on the internet, the flow of information has been centralized under the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department and state media network. Censors and company staff say this reduces the pressure of censoring some events, including major political news, natural disasters and diplomatic visits.

“When it comes to news, the rule is simple… If it is not from state media first, it is not authorized, especially regarding the leaders and political items,” said one Baidu staffer.

“We have a basic list of keywords which include the 1989 details, but (AI) can more easily select those.”

Punishment for failing to properly censor content can be severe.

In the past six weeks, popular services including a Netease Inc news app, Tencent Holdings Ltd’s news app TianTian, and Sina Corp have all been hit with suspensions ranging from days to weeks, according to the CAC, meaning services are made temporarily unavailable on apps stores and online.

For internet users and activists, penalties can range from fines to jail time for spreading information about sensitive events online.

In China, social media accounts are linked to real names and national ID numbers by law, and companies are legally compelled to offer user information to authorities when requested.

“It has become normal to know things and also understand that they can’t be shared,” said one user, Andrew Hu. “They’re secret facts.”

In 2015, Hu spent three days in detention in his home region of Inner Mongolia after posting a comment about air pollution onto an unrelated image that alluded to the Tiananmen crackdown on Twitter-like social media site Weibo.

Hu, who declined to use his full Chinese name to avoid further run-ins with the law, said when police officers came to his parents house while he was on leave from his job in Beijing he was surprised, but not frightened.

“The responsible authorities and the internet users are equally confused,” said Hu. “Even if the enforcement is irregular, they know the simple option is to increase pressure.”

(Reporting by Cate Cadell. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

Source: OANN

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama arrives for his visit to the Tibet Institute Rikon in Rikon
FILE PHOTO: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama arrives for his visit to the Tibet Institute Rikon in Rikon, Switzerland September 21, 2018. REUTERS/ Arnd Wiegmann

May 26, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China should hold talks with Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad told Chinese officials during a trip to the Himalayan region where he criticized Beijing for interfering in religious freedom.

Branstad visited Tibet last week, the first such trip by a U.S. ambassador since 2015, amid escalating trade and diplomatic tension between the two countries.

His visit followed the passing of a U.S. law in December that requires the United States to deny visas to Chinese officials in charge of implementing policies that restrict access to Tibet for foreigners, legislation that was denounced by China.

Branstad met Chinese government officials and Tibetan religious and cultural figures, and “raised our long-standing concerns about lack of consistent access” to Tibet, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said in an emailed statement on Saturday.

“He encouraged the Chinese government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, to seek a settlement that resolves differences,” an embassy spokeswoman said.

“He also expressed concerns regarding the Chinese government’s interference in Tibetan Buddhists’ freedom to organize and practise their religion,” she said.

Beijing sent troops into remote, mountainous Tibet in 1950 in what it officially terms a peaceful liberation and has ruled there with an iron fist ever since.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in early 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, and Beijing still brands him a dangerous separatist. China says its leaders have the right to approve his successor, as a legacy from China’s emperors.

But the 83-year-old Nobel peace laureate monk, who lives in exile in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala, has said that his incarnation could be found in India after he dies, and that any other successor named by China would not be respected.

Tibetan tradition holds that the soul of a senior Buddhist monk is reincarnated in the body of a child on his death.

China’s Foreign Ministry said last week that the government welcomed Branstad’s visit, but that China hoped the ambassador would not take any “prejudices” with him on the trip.

In December, China criticized the United States for passing the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, which seeks to promote access to Tibet for U.S. diplomats and other officials, journalists and other citizens by denying U.S. entry for Chinese officials deemed responsible for restricting access to Tibet.

The U.S. government is required to begin denying visas by the end of this year.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: OANN

Illustration picture showing U.S. dollar and China's yuan banknotes
A U.S. dollar banknote featuring American founding father Benjamin Franklin and a China’s yuan banknote featuring late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong are seen among U.S. and Chinese flags in this illustration picture taken May 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Illustration

May 25, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States has called on China to curb the development of its state-owned enterprises (SOEs), a demand that China sees as an “invasion” on its economic sovereignty, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said on Saturday.

Trade tensions between Washington and Beijing escalated sharply earlier this month after the Trump administration accused China of having “reneged” on its previous promises to make structural changes to its economic practices.

Washington later slapped additional tariffs of up to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to retaliate.

As trade talks stalled, both sides have appeared to be digging in. China has denied it had walked back on its promises but reiterated it would not make concessions to “matters of principles” to defend its core interests, although no full details were given.

“At the negotiating table, the U.S. government presented a number of arrogant demands to China, including restricting the development of state-owned enterprises,” Xinhua said in a commentary.

SOEs in China enjoy not only explicit subsidies but also hidden benefits such as implicit government guarantees for debts and lower interest for bank loans, analysts and trade groups say.

“Obviously, this is beyond the scope of trade negotiations and touches on China’s fundamental economic system,” Xinhua said.

“This shows that behind the United States’ trade war against China, it is trying to invade China’s economic sovereignty and force China to damage its core interests.”

The commentary added the United States has made unfounded accusations including that Beijing had forced technology transfers from foreign firms operating in China, saying this is all evidence that the U.S side is “forcing China to change its development path.”

(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Ryan Woo; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

Nigeria's Onome Ebi sits on the pitch during their women's first-round group F soccer match against Brazil at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
Nigeria’s Onome Ebi sits on the pitch during their women’s first-round group F soccer match against Brazil at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 12, 2008. REUTERS/Ceerwan Aziz

May 25, 2019

LAGOS (Reuters) – Defender Onome Ebi was named to play at her fifth women’s World Cup when she was included on Saturday in Nigeria’s squad for next month’s finals in France.

Ebi, 36, first competed at the 2003 women’s World Cup in the U.S. and then at subsequent editions in China, Germany and Canada.

She is the first African to achieve the feat.

Three-time African women’s Footballer of the Year Asisat Oshoala will be the Super Falcons’ key player as they take on Norway in Reims on June 8 and then South Korea and hosts France in Group A.

She featured for Barcelona in the women’s Champions League final defeat to Olympique Lyonnais in Budapest last week.

The Nigerian squad features 15 foreign-based players in a much-changed look since Swedish-born coach Thomas Dennerby took over 18 months ago.

Nigeria have been past the first round only once in seven previous World Cup finals appearances.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Alaba Jonathan (Bayelsa Queens), Chiamaka Nnadozie, Tochukwu Oluehi (both Rivers Angels)

Defenders: Ngozi Ebere (Arna Bjornar), Onome Ebi (Henan Huisanhang), Faith Michael (Pitea IF), Osinachi Ohale (Vaxjo), Chidinma Okeke (FC Robo)

Midfielders: Halimatu Ayinde (Eskilstuna United), Rita Chikwelu (Kristianstand), Ogonna Chukwudi (Djurgardens), Evelyn Nwabuoku (Rivers Angels), Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene (Eskilstuna United), Amarachi Okoronkwo (Nasarawa Amazons)

Forwards: Rasheedat Ajibade (Alvadsnes), Chinwendu Ihezuo (Henana Huisanhang), Anam Imo (Malmo FC Rosengard), Uchenna Kanu (Southeastern University), Alice Ogebe (Rivers Angels), Desire Oparanozie (En Avant Guingamp), Francisca Ordega (Shanghai W), Asisat Oshoala (Barcelona), Chinaza Uchendu (Sporting Braga).

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Clare Fallon)

Source: OANN

A leader of localist group Hong Kong Indigenous Ray Wong leaves a court in Hong Kong
Ray Wong, one of the leaders of localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, leaves a court in Hong Kong, China, September 23, 2016, with nine other defendants after pleading not quilty on charges relating to Mongkok riots during Lunar New Year. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

May 25, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has made “solemn representations” to Germany after it granted refugee status to two Hong Kong activists facing rioting charges in the Chinese-ruled city, demanding it correct its “mistakes”, state news agency Xinhua reported on Saturday.

Xinhua said the Hong Kong office of China’s foreign ministry summoned Germany’s Acting Consul General to Hong Kong David Schmidt for an emergency meeting on Friday, where a representative expressed “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition”.

The two Hong Kong activists – Ray Wong, 25, and Alan Li, 27 – were former members of Hong Kong Indigenous, a group advocating Hong Kong’s independence from China. They were charged for rioting linked to a protest that turned violent in February 2016.

The pair, who later skipped bail and fled to Germany in 2017 via Taiwan, told Reuters this week they were granted refugee asylum status in Germany in May 2018.

“(China) urges the German side to recognize its mistakes and change its course, and not to accept and condone criminals, and interfere in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs,” Xinhua said.

The German consulate said this week it was aware that the two Hong Kong residents were staying in Germany, although it could not provide details on individual cases.

Hong Kong activists have become increasingly defiant in recent years, concerned about creeping interference from Beijing despite a promise of special autonomy for the city, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Scores of activists have been jailed on various charges including contempt of court and public nuisance. Critics said Hong Kong authorities have brought such charges to stifle freedom of expression and assembly.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has also expressed “deep regrets and strong objections” to the German authorities.

Hong Kong authorities deny persecuting activists.

(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan delivers a speech at the opening ceremony for the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan delivers a speech at the opening ceremony for the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China, April 26, 2019. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo

May 25, 2019

By Drazen Jorgic

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan warned against the risk of conflict in the region, following a visit to Islamabad by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif as tensions between Washington and Tehran escalated.

Strains have increased between Iran and the United States, which is a firm backer of Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, in the wake of this month’s attack on oil tankers in the Gulf region that Washington has blamed on Iran.

Tehran has distanced itself from the bombings, but the United States has sent a aircraft carrier and an extra 1,500 troops to the Gulf, sparking concerns about the risks of conflict in a volatile region.

Khan, who has been seeking to improve Pakistan’s strained relations with neighbor Iran, said he was concerned about the “rising tensions in the Gulf”, but did not specifically name the United States or Saudi Arabia.

“He underscored that war was not a solution to any problem,” Khan’s office said in a statement late on Friday, citing the premier.

“Further escalation in tensions in the already volatile region was not in anyone’s interest. All sides needed to exercise maximum restraint in the current situation.”

Washington has been seeking to increasingly tighten sanctions against Iran, as relations continue to worsen under President Donald Trump.

At the end of the two-day visit to Pakistan, Zarif told Iranian state-run newswire IRNA that U.S. allegations against Tehran were increasing tensions.

“These actions are also a threat to global peace and stability,” he said.

Earlier this month, four tankers, including two belonging to Saudi Arabia, were bombed near the United Arab Emirates’ Fujairah emirate, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs, located just outside the Strait of Hormuz.

Washington has accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of carrying out the attacks, and the Trump administration has declared a national security-related emergency that would clear the sale of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries, bypassing congressional approval.

Pakistan’s relations with Iran have also been strained in recent months, with both sides accusing each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border.

(Reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan delivers a speech at the opening ceremony for the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan delivers a speech at the opening ceremony for the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China, April 26, 2019. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo

May 25, 2019

By Drazen Jorgic

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan warned against the risk of conflict in the region, following a visit to Islamabad by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif as tensions between Washington and Tehran escalated.

Strains have increased between Iran and the United States, which is a firm backer of Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, in the wake of this month’s attack on oil tankers in the Gulf region that Washington has blamed on Iran.

Tehran has distanced itself from the bombings, but the United States has sent a aircraft carrier and an extra 1,500 troops to the Gulf, sparking concerns about the risks of conflict in a volatile region.

Khan, who has been seeking to improve Pakistan’s strained relations with neighbor Iran, said he was concerned about the “rising tensions in the Gulf”, but did not specifically name the United States or Saudi Arabia.

“He underscored that war was not a solution to any problem,” Khan’s office said in a statement late on Friday, citing the premier.

“Further escalation in tensions in the already volatile region was not in anyone’s interest. All sides needed to exercise maximum restraint in the current situation.”

Washington has been seeking to increasingly tighten sanctions against Iran, as relations continue to worsen under President Donald Trump.

At the end of the two-day visit to Pakistan, Zarif told Iranian state-run newswire IRNA that U.S. allegations against Tehran were increasing tensions.

“These actions are also a threat to global peace and stability,” he said.

Earlier this month, four tankers, including two belonging to Saudi Arabia, were bombed near the United Arab Emirates’ Fujairah emirate, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs, located just outside the Strait of Hormuz.

Washington has accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of carrying out the attacks, and the Trump administration has declared a national security-related emergency that would clear the sale of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries, bypassing congressional approval.

Pakistan’s relations with Iran have also been strained in recent months, with both sides accusing each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border.

(Reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

Illustration photo of a China yuan note
A China yuan note is seen in this illustration photo May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

May 25, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s banking and insurance regulator on Saturday said it did not expect a persistent decline in the yuan and warned speculative short sellers they would suffer “heavy losses” if they bet against the currency.

Xiao Yuanqi, the spokesman for the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), also said Beijing must look out for hot money moving in and out of the country, as well as large amounts of capital flowing into the frothy real estate market.

The yuan has lost more than 2.5% against the dollar since the festering China-U.S. trade dispute intensified earlier this month. It is now less than 0.1 yuan away from the 7-per-dollar level authorities have in the past indicated as a floor.

Xiao was speaking on behalf of Guo Shuqing, CBIRC’s chairman, at a finance forum in Beijing.

(Reporting by Cheng Leng and Ryan Woo; Writing by Yawen Chen; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

Illustration photo of a China yuan note
A China yuan note is seen in this illustration photo May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

May 25, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s banking and insurance regulator on Saturday said it did not expect a persistent decline in the yuan and warned speculative short sellers they would suffer “heavy losses” if they bet against the currency.

Xiao Yuanqi, the spokesman for the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), also said Beijing must look out for hot money moving in and out of the country, as well as large amounts of capital flowing into the frothy real estate market.

The yuan has lost more than 2.5% against the dollar since the festering China-U.S. trade dispute intensified earlier this month. It is now less than 0.1 yuan away from the 7-per-dollar level authorities have in the past indicated as a floor.

Xiao was speaking on behalf of Guo Shuqing, CBIRC’s chairman, at a finance forum in Beijing.

(Reporting by Cheng Leng and Ryan Woo; Writing by Yawen Chen; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

Illustration photo of a China yuan note
A China yuan note is seen in this illustration photo May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

May 25, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s banking and insurance regulator on Saturday said it did not expect a persistent decline in the yuan and warned speculative short sellers they would suffer “heavy losses” if they bet against the currency.

Xiao Yuanqi, the spokesman for the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), also said Beijing must look out for hot money moving in and out of the country, as well as large amounts of capital flowing into the frothy real estate market.

The yuan has lost more than 2.5% against the dollar since the festering China-U.S. trade dispute intensified earlier this month. It is now less than 0.1 yuan away from the 7-per-dollar level authorities have in the past indicated as a floor.

Xiao was speaking on behalf of Guo Shuqing, CBIRC’s chairman, at a finance forum in Beijing.

(Reporting by Cheng Leng and Ryan Woo; Writing by Yawen Chen; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN


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